I'm beginning to settle into the pattern of our new church life. I find that I enjoy saying morning and evening prayers and am becoming more comfortable praying in front of/with our icon corner. My Protestant, Evangelical, Post-Modern self is relaxing, letting the Spirit work in ways that I previously never thought possible. For example, we recently acquired an icon of St. Xenia. She's rather obscure, as saints go and, from what I've read, lived out her faith in a way that most people would find ridiculous. But, she got it. She knew what was required of her and she did it faithfully. When I see her icon, I'm reminded of the sacrifice she made, of the life she lived and the life she chose not to live, and I pray that she can help me do the same.
I've never before made that sort of personal connection with a dead Christian (though I realize that is very much the wrong phrase). The point remains: the "great cloud of witnesses" has, up until now, been just that - a cloud. It was nice to know that a nebulous group of believers who lived through history had "gone before", but for the first time I'm beginning to see them as individuals with stories and experiences. A "great cloud" of untapped spiritual resources who all want me and my family to succeed in this crazy journey and draw closer to Christ than they did in their own time on earth.
Another saint who seems to pop into our lives a lot is St. Amelia/Emily/Emilia. She's also not very well known, in fact I wonder how much of her popularity is due to her life's work and how much is due to the prevalence of Emilys and Amys who take her as their patroness. In any case, I was struck by the bit of text that is often found on her icons: "I and the children I have born". As a young mother myself, I find that this simple phrase strikes deep. It's hard right now to imagine my daughter as doing anything great in the world when she can barely walk from the living room to the kitchen without falling over, much less this new baby who will (with God's help) be born in a few months. Yet I know that they will not always be babies, that someday they will have the opportunity to make a significant impact in the lives of others and, as their mother, it's my job to help them recognize those opportunities and give them the courage to seize them. It seems both a simple and an impossible task, and it is reassuring to know that at least one mother did it so well that she was made a saint.