November 29, 2012

The Mystery of the Faith

“…holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.” (1 Tim 3:9)

When a day starts you never know how it’s going to end. That’s why I love that morning prayer, “Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and the firm conviction that Thy will governs all. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by Thee…”

My mother Alla—many of you were praying for her, and she appreciated it—fell asleep in the Lord last night. It was a peaceful end, but much quicker than the family anticipated (she had just been moved from rehab to hospice only a few hours earlier). In the middle of a busy Chancery morning I had a call from my sister-in-law that my mother was unresponsive and declining rapidly, so I dropped everything and drove to South Jersey. Her priest, my old friend Father John Shimchick, arrived and anointed her.

What we say, pray and do about death is of course at the heart of the mystery of our faith. The prayers express this so well, and I was especially struck by these words.

“As her sickness increases, so also let your plenteous grace increase in her. Do not let her faith waver, nor her hope fail, nor her love grow cold. Do not let fear of death cause her to cast away her trust in You, or to place it anywhere except in You. But looking steadfastly to You to the end, let her say, ‘Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,’ and so enter into Your everlasting Kingdom, of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

It’s a prayer for us as much as for her, reminding us once again of why we are Christians. Now begins the “normal” round of tasks, planning, family and phone calls that surround a death, but it’s good to have these few minutes to reflect a bit. A beloved mother, a rich 93 years, an Orthodox Christian who kept the “mystery of faith” to the end. What more can anyone ask? May her memory be eternal.