The Last shall be First
I’m not sure who told me such or where I might have read it, but I seem to have understood that when an Orthodox family moves they will traditionally leave their Icons to be the very last items packed, and upon arrival at the new home they will be the very first items unpacked.
We followed this tradition and on the evening prior to the big move I made it a point to pause and look around at all of the home and all of the boxes and general emptiness that can be seen in a home compressed into a pre-moving state of being. I went from room to room and removed the various Icons that had found their way into our home over the past few years. And as I moved toward my packing box near the family altar I would venerate each one and then gently wrap them in paper before burying them into the depths of a most unwholesome and non-lenten box formerly used by Burger King to ship frozen hamburger patties. I tried to pay little attention to this seemingly sacrilegious fact.
Finally, at the Icon corner I began to take the various items down and wrap them tenderly in paper or cloth. Among which were the following: five white Chrismation candles brought me back to that wonderful day over a year ago when my family made the “leap”, the now very dirty and well used lampada which I purchased on my second visit to an Orthodox Church – much to the confusion of my concerned wife, some blessed palm and pussy willow branches from last year’s Palm Sunday, a wonderful little bottle I found engraved with grape vines which I use to hold Holy Water, the Incense and accompanying Hand Censer which I have no idea how to clean, a virtual cornucopia of candles, an array of Icons which have now become amazingly familiar and appealing to me – like old friends, and lastly a large wooden three-barred cross.
As I pulled the cross down though, I noticed something interesting. There was a very distinct outline of the cross left on the wall from the collection of soot, not doubt from all of the candles and incense burning. It was strikingly distinct and no matter how hard I tried I could not wash the soot off the wall…it would have to be painted, I was sure. Truthfully, I was none too interested in doing that for the new homeowners and so I left it as it was. I imagined that these poor folks would have to look and likely wonder at the strangeness of the image on their new wall. I suppose we had, in a sense left our mark on the home – then again perhaps it is not ours, but God’s mark and if I allow it, it may serve to remind me of the mark that has hopefully been made in the hearts of my family for all the times that we have gathered in that corner to seek God and one another more deeply.
I finished packing the home church items and handed the box to my wife as she would be making the expeditionary venture first thing in the morning and I would be following later with the BIG truck loaded with life’s so called necessities. I arrived at the new home around 11AM and walked inside the living room. On the wall above our old familiar altar was that very same three-barred cross – awaiting it seemed a new dose of soot. I was home.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:40 AM [+]