Hope everyone’s having fun reading through A Year of Every Tuesday with me. This book being set up as separate short stories was a challenge at times, but it allowed me to cover a lot of little ideas that had been floating around. This second story allowed me to do two things that I had really wanted to do:
- Show more of a church service
- Ask the girls a very important question
Sacraments and humanity
I love baptisms. They’re so important, but they’re also so human. There is (capital m) Mystery. There are centuries of Church teaching, and the edict of the Risen Christ that we baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But there is also a person — young or old, it hardly matters — at the nexus of promise and fulfillment, of God’s commandment and our “amen.” Coming forward under their own power or brought in the arms of godparents, offering themselves or being offered to God in a sacrament — what could be more profound? So getting a chance to tell something about a baptism — its rubrics and prayers — was a blessing to me.
But I also wanted to show the life of a church at such times. It’s always on my mind that there are people I know who may never see an Orthodox service. I would like them to know that these services which are so profound and awe-inspiring often have human touches in them as well. People come and go, and we kind of know each other but we don’t. There are different characters, different personalities. And the proceedings tend to lead to moments of poignancy, drama and even comic relief.
Jonah, however, was made of stronger stuff. He was more surprised than shocked by being swooshed through water three times, and after some brief squawks that sounded a lot like “Hey,” he was willing to let himself be consoled by his godparents without any more comments. Still wriggling, he was dried off with a white towel, bundled into a garment that was even whiter, and brought back to be anointed with holy oil.
After the baptism, the focus shifts to a certain question that Abigail was asked. Or thought she was asked — in the end, it turns out it was a misunderstanding. Still, it leads the girls into a kind of “what if” discussion that I think is very important for Christian children to figure out: If someone asked you why you believe in God, what would you say?
The answers vary, as they would be bound to do. The girls are contemplating the signs of God’s existence that they’ve experienced and that are meaningful to them, and of course those are different for different people.
I think going through all this is not only a good idea, but almost necessary in the highly secular culture that most of us live in. Maybe it’s unlikely that anyone would put the question to them quite that directly. But as they grow, children these days will be exposed to more and more challenges to a Christian perspective. I think it’s important to know what you believe, and be able to articulate at least somewhat why you believe it.
That was the thought exercise that drove this story, and it was very interesting to consider how my five different characters would answer. None of the answers is wrong, really. Maybe any of them would be convincing to the right person. But Maggie’s may be the weakest one, and that ends up being something we find out more about, as the book continues. We’re finally beginning to find out a little about her bad year, and why relations with her mother are so strained. Nothing has gone wrong yet, but hearing that Maggie has such a rose-colored view of her family may indicate that there was a problem just waiting to happen.
“It’s just all so … perfect. … Mom has talked about having maybe eight kids, or nine! Not everyone could handle that, but she’s just so amazing, and it makes me feel peaceful just knowing that we’ll always be like this.”
Maggie drew a breath, smiling. “You can’t be part of something that is so beautiful and not believe that God made it happen. …”
Next week: The girls spend a fine evening in “Adventures at the Broadmere.”