As my last post was mutually unsatisfying, I feel like I now have something to say: Christ is risen! We've been teaching AJ to say it and how to respond. Often she returns with one or the other: "Christ is risen!" or "Indeed He is risen!" while throwing herself to the floor or into my shoulder or speaking into her hands. Sometimes she says things like "I love you, too" or "Happy birthday!"-- it just kind of depends on what strikes her in the moment.
What she does understand is the excitement that is being communicated through those words (which is why I think "happy birthday" was her first default). Whenever she hears the priest begin the service by reciting the Paschal troparion in his opening prayers she always repeats the phrase (quite loudly sometimes) "Christ is risen from the dead!" over and over again, grinning from ear to ear. It's beautiful. It's radiant. It's such a challenge as a dad, too--we are in church after all, aren't you supposed to be quiet in church? Her excitement and exuberance in worship can be a little embarrassing, but how do you look into those bright eyes and that glowing smile so full of resurrection joy and tell her to keep quiet?
Felicity and I have been re-reading the New Testament together. We've gone through Matthew and Mark so far, and I find myself being caught by the stories of children and their role in teaching adults about the Kingdom of God. St. Mark records Jesus as saying, "Truly I tell you , anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Now that I have a little child, I think I better understand what that means.
AJ beckons me into prayer. There are times when she leads me into God's presence asking "Whose that guy?" in her loudest two-year-old voice and pointing at the priest, deacon, choir director, reader, icon, or whatever has sparked her curiosity. Just this evening as we sat in the church to celebrate the vigil of mid-Pentecost, she looked up at the huge icon of the Sign and said, "Icon up there! Theotokos up there!" as Br. S. was reading the Epistle for the night. I wanted to tell her to be quiet, but I had to follow her little finger as she kept pointing saying, "Jesus up there! Crosses up there, too!" Truly this is the what it means to receive the Kingdom as a child: to see God and to give Him worship through your love and devotion.
I have learned so much this past year, but nothing prepared me for what my little girl would teach me these past few weeks since Pascha. My heart rejoices as she sings the Paschal hymns and says "Christ is risen!" with a shake of her blond head and her vibrant smile. May I be given the grace to learn more from her what it is to embrace the Kingdom of God and to live fully in it every day again and fresh like a little child: without fear, without shame, but caught in the abundance of God's love for me and my family and this world.
Christ is risen! Happy birthday!