Thanks be to God, we arrived back in NY safely on the 18th. The typical whirlwind ensued as we unpacked and attempted to organize as quickly as possible for the upcoming semester, now in full swing. Very much enjoyed the time back home; while I cannot say it was restful (we did lots of driving in my uncle's car, which he graciously loaned us during our stay), it was wonderful to see family members, some of whom I'd not seen in over 15 years. We took a trip out to East Texas where we stayed the night with Hope's godparents; after a tragic loss of their second son, they are, God be praised, expecting again: another little boy, to be named John, God willing, after the good Vladyka of Shanghai and San Francisco. Had a good sit down over homemade quesadillas with some friends from the Tyler mission at their home, and then went out with all of them and with John of the Commonplace Book to a great little dive called the Purple Pig.
Travels then took us up to Oklahoma City for my (half-)sister's wedding. When people ask how the ceremony was, I tell them something to the effect of, "Quick." She, being one not committed to any faith to speak of, and her husband, with whom she has already had a child (a beautiful baby boy named Jibril whom I'm proud to call my nephew), being a convert to Islam, had to compromise quite a bit, as she did not want to be married in a mosque, nor he in a church. They were therefore married in an event center by a hospital chaplain in a ceremony that took no more than 20 minutes. There was a reading from the Quran--the safe equivalent, it seemed to me, of a mainline Protestant Church's reading of 1 Corinthians 13--but apart from that, there was nothing overtly spiritual about it; the primary purpose was an acknowledgment of their commitment to each other and not so much a petition to God for union. Would that it had been otherwise, but thank God that the commitment is, indeed, there nonetheless. My prayers still go up for little Jibril, however, anytime I see an icon of the good Archangel. I would appreciate yours, as well.
Last Sunday was the Sunday of Zacchaeus, and thus marked the first Sunday of the Ecclesial (and Civil) New Year in which all Orthodox Christians commemorate the same thing on the same day. Not only was I aware of this, but I was blessed to spend this morning in worship at St. Benedict Orthodox Church, the ROCOR parish in Oklahoma City, OK, and so the aligning of the calendars was brought into much starker relief for me; I heard the epistles and gospels for the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost and for the Sunday before Theophany (the latter of which I'd heard just shy of a fortnight before at SVS), but then the story of the wee little man in the Sycamore Tree came as a sort of resolution to the dissonance. A wonderful, tiny parish it is, in a quite poor area of town, with something I'd not seen, even in ROCOR parishes: the sexes worshiped separately, of course, but this separation included the choir, as well, with a handful of women at music stands on the left complementing a handful of men on the right, all of whom were conducted from a kliros on the left at the hand of their directress, who was the wife of Aaron over at the incomparable blog Logismoi, whom I also met. A joyous, peaceful morning, followed by lunch and catching up at the house of the best man at my wedding, Alan, author of the blog Rhoblogy. Audra has said it before, and it's definitely proven true again: blogs may be a commitment to keep up, and sometimes they may even intrude on other things (like sleep, which is not such a bad idea right about now), but the ability to use them to connect with flesh-and-blood people, to be able to go almost anywhere and already have an acquaintance (who, in my experience, instantly becomes a friend) is of inestimable value. I have been blessed through the people I've met on the blogosphere.
Father Anthony, the rector of St. Benedict Church, read a report on the Haitian Orthodox Mission, and how the two priests there--Fr. Jean Chenier-Dumais, and Fr. Gregoire Legouté--were receiving reinforcements following a Missions Conference of ROCOR clergy in St. Louis. We have learned that both priests stationed in Haiti survived the quake, as did the two priests there under the Ecumenical Patriarch, but the Orthodox faithful of Haiti are, like the rest of their countrymen, in a hellish situation the likes of which we cannot fathom. If you are still looking to donate something to a relief effort, I would implore you to heed the petition of Metropolitan Hilarion and donate to the ROCOR relief effort. May God grant that His Church not only survive, but that it will be strong enough to help, in whatever small, concrete way it can, to serve the sick and the dying with the love of Christ.