Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Him have no more money!" - Jane cleans out Fr Al

Christ blessing the children
In the Orthodox Church, we customarily greet a priest by asking for a blessing. We cross our right hand over our left and cup them in front of us as if receiving water being poured into them, we bow slightly to the priest, and say, for example, "Good morning, Father. May I have a blessing?" 

It's a great custom, one that is being lost to some degree as we become a more casual society, greeting priests with a handshake, or as we would a peer, with, "Oh, Hi, Father." While this may be better than not saying anything at all, it's important that we as parents and teachers instruct our children that a priest is our spiritual guide and should be treated as such. For many westerners, bowing your head and asking for a blessing may seem an especially stilted or overly formal manner of greeting, but when compared to  casually greeting a Karate master at a dojo, or an admiral in the US Navy by his first name and no salute, the taboo becomes clearer. 

Instilling a sense of respect combined with approach-ability is one of the goals of teaching our children to greet the priest properly and ask for a blessing.

Father Alexander issued a challenge at the beginning of Lent, that the first child to ask for a blessing after church on Sundays would get a prize, which was sometimes a shiny dollar coin. It didn't take long for Jane to figure that one out. Now she asks for a blessing almost every time she sees him, and because of the frequency he now gives her nickels or whatever coin he has in his pocket.

Last night after church we were in the church hall and ready to head home just as Father entered. When Jane saw him, she spontaneously ran to him and gave him a hug. Very few children do this, and Father chuckled and reflexively reached into his pocket for a coin. As he did so, Jane knew exactly what he was looking for and stood there expectantly. 

As he fished for a coin, I told him, "Father, you shouldn't pay her just for a hug..." Just then he pulled his pocket out to show us there was nothing there - not even lint! (how does anyone manage that one?) He laughed, "I have nothing, I have nothing..." patted Jane on the head and went past us into the church hall.

Jane glanced behind her at Father as he walked away then turned back with wide eyes, a mischievous smile, and her hands over her mouth like she knew something, and said giggling, "Him no have more money! I got it all last day!" ("Last day", like last week or last month, is any time in the recent past.)

Steve and I looked at each other. "Jane thinks she cleaned him out!"
We weren't sure whether to be laughing at the fact that Jane thinks she took all Father's money, or alarmed at the fact that she thinks it's really funny that she took all his money.

On the flip side, now Father doesn't have to give her coins when she asks for a blessing any more.

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