Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baptism and my confession

Andrew and I were honoured to baptize and serve as godparents to Roberto Stathakos. The ceremony took place over the Labour Day weekend and everything went beautifully. The ceremony made clear the humbling responsibility that Peter and Angela have given us to stand beside them and help raise Roberto. The priest didn't mince words either letting us know that our job was to raise a saint. No small task, especially since he advised leading by example. I might prefer to judge our success as godparents by the measure one of the family members gave us instead, "It's your job to make sure he doesn't get any tattoos and piercings."
One of the tangible differences in an Orthodox infant baptism is the prominent role anointing plays. Now, I had made some passing jokes about slippery olive oil covered babies before in the blog, but I didn't realize that I was the one to do the oiling. As I held both hands cupped full of the blessed oil, I felt the connection to the older mythology of our cultures. I worried about leaving a spot uncovered, creating an Achilles heal perhaps by neglecting to oil it. As Roberto cried out in confusion (I suppose we could have practiced this so it wouldn't have felt so surprising for him), the more practical concern for not getting olive oil in his eyes won over my attention. Roberto was anointed, blessed and baptized and then he retreated to Andrew's towel covered arms where he was immediately quieted and comforted.
I know he looks pretty upset here, but he recovered quickly. He may forever associate church bells and possibly even me with a rather cold, odd experience, but minutes later he was sleeping warm and safe in our arms. His mother even managed to recover from her grief too.
It has felt particularly appropriate to undergo these rites as we prepare for our own child. Somehow it feels like a foreshadowing of things to come. But if the lessons I'm learning from Roberto and our journey are to apply to me, I'd like take this space to confess that I really learned my lesson last night. I was just trying to take a little shortcut - and feeling pretty proud of myself for even thinking of it - when the thing which must never happen, happened... again.

I flooded our basement. Again. Andrew warned me when he set up our washer and dryer. The basement doesn't have the proper hook ups available and the water from the washer must drain into the sink. He was very clear: the hose from the washer must always be in the sink and restrained there. Incidentally, the first time I forgot this rule coincided with the first time I used the washer. But last night, I didn't forget. I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea: you see the towels from Roberto's baptism were covered in oil and baptismal water. The oil and water had been blessed, and therefore, when cleaning the towels you shouldn't just pour the washing water down the drain. The water needs to be returned to the earth to directly give life and blessing back to the earth (use it to water your garden).

This should mean washing the towels by hand, but as I thought about the task, I remembered, "Hey, I can control where the water from my washing machine goes. I'll just put the hose into a bucket and no problem." Apparently, when cleaning holy things, God has in mind that you take the time to clean them yourself - or at least that's the lesson that I'm beginning to see. Now my time saving brilliant idea "blessed" my basement floor and carpet with about half of that holy water that should have been helping lifeforms outside of my house to grow and prosper. I have been mopping and wet-vac suctioning for hours now. This has become a hands and knees scrubbing suctioning time of penance.

For the record, "I get it. I'm sorry. No more short cuts for me."

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Dana, your insights and writings entertain me to no end! What a magical gift you possess. Thank you for brightening my day with your words! You are a joy. ellen