Happy New Year to all my pals in the blogosphere =-)
December proved to be a month of emotional highs and lows, with a healthy dose of deadlines thrown in for good measure. My time was divided between work and family and one family member in particular has occupied our hearts and minds over these past 5 weeks.
My 2 year old niece was diagnosed with a malignant tumor at the beginning of the month and subsequently, undergone many tests and two chemotherapy treatments. It’s a hard time for the family and yet, as my sister will attest, it’s also been a season of unexpected gifts of compassion.
Never before has my sister and her family been in a position to receive such generosity and love from others... it is nothing short of amazing to be at the local grocery or post office when someone approaches to say, “How is your niece?” ...or “Isn’t it your sister’s little one who is on our church prayer list? How is she doing?”
Between the internet and instant messages to church prayer lists/chains, news of my sweet niece traveled faster than beauty shop gossip. I know she has prayer warriors out there lifting her name to our merciful God from Florida to Chicago to California and probably beyond.
One of those prayer warriors is Holy Great-Martyr St. Panteleimon, a physician and healer during his time on earth in the early 4th century. A group of friends & I made our way to Holy Cross Monastery recently and went to a moleben (mo LEH ben) to St. Panteleimon, asking for his intercessory prayers for my niece among others who are ill and suffering.
A moleben, a Russian term, is a service of thanksgiving and supplication in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Theotokos or a particular saint or martyr. In Orthodoxy, we believe that those who die believing and following Christ are not dead, but alive in Christ, worshipping Him in heaven and interceding for us on earth. Just as we would ask a friend to pray for us when we’re ill, so, too, we ask the saints in heaven to please pray for us!
The service was so beautiful... I wish I had photos to share, but it was not the time or place to be making pictures. It was a time for reverence and quiet and prayer. We lit the long beeswax taper candles and placed them in front of St. Panteleimon’s icon and then stood for the remaining minutes of the service.
Fr. Seraphim led the moleben while a monk and novice added harmonious refrains of “Lord have mercy” as well as St. Panteleimon’s Kontakion and readings from the Holy Gospel. While the names of our loved ones were called out through the service, I noticed the beauty of the candlelight upon the brass casings and how the sunlight, even on a cold wintry day, came into the church like a warm embrace of our Heavenly Father. There is no place on earth I would rather have been at that hour. We concluded the service by venerating a relic of St. Panteleimon and being anointed with holy oil by Fr. Seraphim.
It is that peace, that hope and love in Christ Jesus that I wish for you during our new year.