Friday, September 03, 2004

Your age in God-years

I don't know what I expected when I started making good on a promise to myself to get to know the saints of the Church better, but whatever it was, I bet I was wrong. It's full of surprises.

One of the saints of the day today is Martyr Basilissa of Nicomedia, who was tortured at length in an effort to get her to deny her faith. Miraculously, she was unharmed by the tortures and, seeing this, the pagan governor Alexander converted and was baptized. Basilissa herself died peacefully much later. (She was given the title of martyr by the Church, I suppose, in recognition of her sacrifice and its testament of her faith.)

So where's the surprise? At the time she was tortured, Basilissa was nine. Nine years old! When I was nine, I was getting in trouble for scratching my name into the station wagon. So much for the advantages of a modern education.

The Gospel reading for the day was of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter, who was twelve. (I won't even bother telling what I was getting in trouble for when I was twelve. It would be grim.) At the age that most of us are in the sixth grade, Jairus' daughter heard the words, "Maiden, arise."

What do years matter in God's eyes? He sees what we can't. Here were two girls who met Him, each in their own way, and left behind a story that makes each of us feel a little closer to meeting Him ourselves.

Interesting to reflect, for those who question the advisability of infant baptism, that in some faiths, neither one of these girls would've been full members of the church. I understand the hestitancy some converts to Orthodoxy feel about infant baptism -- it gave me problems for some time, but I decided to keep quiet about it, though I was unconvinced by the arguments in its favor. I remained unconvinced until the Sunday that I was close to the front of church when a newly chrismated baby was given Eucharist for the first time. She turned luminescent eyes on the priest and smiled, and the thought seemed to come to me from outside my head. "Oh my gosh. She knows." I've never been conflicted over infant baptism since.

Who can measure our age as God measures it?


Blogger Karl Thienes said...

Great post....and that is a tricky problem in re: to young martyrs...

Infant baptism, for me, wasn't a hurdle at all. "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" seems to pretty much take care of the issue!

September 3, 2004 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

If I had thought of that quote when I was a new convert, I might not have taken as long to get right with infant baptism. It's strange what things pose obstacles. I've heard some others have real difficulties with things so insignificant to me that I can't even come up with a good argument.

It seems to me that a lot of these internal conflicts have something to do with a deeper realization that you are about to be subsumed, to be taken into the Ancient Church like falling into a swimming pool, and you have the good sense to be terrified. Many people new to Orthodoxy become vocal for a while. "I *love* the rituals." "I *love* the hymns." Their newfound enthusiasm is wonderful, but it's often a good sign when they stop saying these things, and you realize that they have begun to cease being spectators and begin being celebrants -- they're letting it in. If they make it through that time, they're as good as chrismated. It's funny how many things that seemed troublesome, strange or problematic melt away when you really begin that relationship in actuality.

September 3, 2004 at 8:14 PM  

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