So today is Palm Sunday and we begin the countdown to Holy Pascha.
This year it became obvious to me how my life and that of my children is punctuated by the events in the life of the Church. We often talk about things that have happened and we discuss them in terms of happening before Pascha, or after Pascha, before the Kursk Root icon came, or after the Bishop or the Metropolitan visited, or when so-and-so was baptised. We'll sometimes resolve disputes over when something happened by trying to recall whether we were fasting at the time, or eating fish, or having wine or something like that.
During the pre-sanctified liturgies this Lent, Little Mark has whispered to me during the prostrations: "Is this a long one?" and "Can I come in your cave?" and "Can I come in your castle?"
When I kneel with my forehead on the floor, I put my arm around him and he nestles his face next to mine. My head-covering creates a dark space around our heads as we listen to the "Let my prayer arise" psalm. It's quiet and cozy for both of us. Margaret even joined us after she realized what Little Mark was doing.
Over the years, it has been occasionally difficult with the children during these Lenten services. The child has to learn what is happening because it's quite a bit different from what he is used to--and prostrations can be perfect opportunities to get silly. I have been spanked, tackled, tickled, drummed upon, and rolled over in the first weeks of Lent more times than I can count. Until they're used to the service, there's something about the prostrations that inspires these otherwise pretty obedient, young children to think, "OK, Mom's on the floor--get her!!"
Usually when I stand with my kids in the church I hold their hands, toussle their hair, pinch their nose or earlobes, wrap my arms around them, or caress their cheeks. All their lives they've stood around me in church being kept in line this way. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said as he described a bitch or a cat nursing her brood, "endlessly moving, but somehow at rest."
But there's something about this Season's PS liturgies that has made me a little melancholy. For all intents and purposes, this is the last Lent that I'll have to worry about those behaviors which so discouraged me when the children were younger. Very soon Little Mark will be going into the altar to serve as an acolyte. His big brother has been there for nearly three years. I'll probably take up residence in the choir soon after that since the girls are independent.
I guess this will be another one of those punctuation marks.
An ellipsis perhaps...