I was born in Serbia during World War II. When I was Christened in the small Russian Orthodox church outside of Belgrade, my Grandfather stood as my Godfather and my Aunt Anna as my “stand-in” Godmother. An old silver cross of my Grandfather’s was my baptismal cross, and apparently I howled loudly after the dunking. That was my introduction to Orthodoxy as a tiny newborn. Throughout the war, family prayer and Russian Orthodox family prayers sung aloud, morning and evening was a daily factor in my growing awareness. Every family member sang in the church and Grandfather was the choir director. I was supposed to be named Mary but for some reason that did not happen.
"A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
Not a magician or doctor. Not a wizard. A Prophet, in communion with God. Acting on God’s behalf. One whose Powers come directly from the Holy One.
They saw a man Who was moved by compassion and by the power that comes from God, the Creator, the All Mighty, to bring a widow’s son back to life. (Luke 7:11-16)
"God has visited us!!!" they cried. Of course, they were afraid. We might expect jubilation, cheers and applause... but no ...this is fear.
I’m lucky enough to be taking a class in New Testament at a local seminary. It has forced me, among other things, to read whole Gospel books from start to finish at single sittings. That has been revelatory. For one, it has awakened me to the narrative patterns and themes that the writers brought to telling these vital stories – something important to me as a literary scholar.
I have always wondered why the young man in the classic work of Russian spirituality, The Way of the Pilgrim, drops everything after hearing the Gospel. I get a hint of how that might have worked for him in the story of a young, beautiful, wealthy 18-year-old girl, who was engaged to be married, but gave all of that up.
I was thinking about her because the church remembers her feast on Sept 24. Her name was Thecla.
My father was born and raised in rural South Carolina in the Jim Crow South post World War I. He was part of a large, close-knit family in an established community of workers and farmers and teachers and preachers, business people and entrepreneurs. My father was a great storyteller and he told us how he and his brothers, friends, and cousins would go deer hunting every year. One day, when he was a young man, he went into the woods and saw a beautiful deer. He raised his rifle and aimed it. The deer turned and looked right at him.
I don’t know if anyone else in the Axia universe spends any time watching British gardening shows. If you do, you’ll understand how I got inspired to build a small labyrinth of raised beds in our backyard. We hadn’t budgeted for anything of the sort, so we spent most of the late winter and early spring scavenging the wood from far and wide, laying it out, cutting, fitting, and fastening all the pieces into place. Then I spent months filling them with soil! This year a relative offered me a dilapidated greenhouse. We traveled several hours to take it apart, load it into our long-suffering car, haul it home, and reconstruct it. Both projects have been a lot of work with many rewards. I’ve made several pounds of pickles, for one thing.
The Transfiguration is one of those beautiful feasts that can hold a strong personal message for many of us. Here’s a reflection from another of our bloggers, Asha Mathai, on what it meant to her as she reflected on it this year.
Be transformed into something more beautiful or elevated! How many times have I blamed my misdeeds on my humanity? “I’m only human.” I made my humanity an excuse as a reason to explain why I don’t do what God is asking me to do. But the Feast of the Transfiguration, which we celebrated on August 6, helped me see how Jesus shows me how to rise above that.
I went back to look at the Transfiguration in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.