My daughter, Rosie, is well aware by now that there are different rites in the Catholic church, and that there tend to be plenty of aesthetic differences from place to place within a rite as well. She’s learned about different apostolic churches not in communion with Rome as well, as I’ve taken her along to pray at Orthodox churches from time to time.
We usually go to our Byzantine Catholic church, but sometimes we end up downtown at the fancy church with the Latin Masses, and sometimes we go uptown to the bouncier Latin Catholic churches with the pianos. She’s been in Adoration chapels and watched me learn to write icons. She knows about Rosaries and that I prefer Chotki. She has been told all about the liturgical colors of the East, and that the West uses colors to mean different things.
She often plays that her teddy bears have their own rite of the Church. I’ve seen her organize baptism for a carefully swaddled little bear, with bear godparents and a bear priest chrismating the child using my candle snuffer for a wand. Once she took a bag of gluten-free garlic croutons out of the pantry for her teddy bears’ Holy Communion– thankfully she didn’t think to comingle them with any liquid before spooning them out. She approached me with her bear, a bowl and a spoon, and informed me she was going to give me Holy Communion now, and all I could do was cross my hands over my chest and open my mouth.
The other day, she began playing Bear Church in my bedroom.
Since I’m ill so often and miss liturgy due to it so many times, I’ve arranged the headboard of my bed like an iconostasis: icons of Christ and Mary are hung in the middle of the board, with icons of the archangels on either side. When I have to lie down all day, I tell myself I’m going to church, and I offer up my sickness and direct my prayers toward them. I’ve also set up a shelf of icons on the wall at the foot of my bed, so when I roll over to do my writing I have saints and angels staring down at me there as well. The room is beginning to look like a shrine, albeit a shrine with too many baskets of unsorted laundry on the floor.
One evening, Rosie came upstairs to the shrine to keep me company while I rested.
“Do you mind if I turn the lights off?” she asked.
I said no.
Rosie turned off the lights. Then she took out a bag of glowsticks on lanyards that she’d just bought at the dollar store. She struck the glowsticks until they began to glow with their eerie cold light: a purple rectangle in the dark, then a green one, a pink, a blue.
Rosie hung one of the glowsticks on my bureau, another on the closet doorknob, a third on the corner of the bed. The fourth, the blue one, she hung over the light switch. The lights on this floor of the house were all installed long after the house was built, so the wires run through casing on the outside of the walls, and the switches are in hard plastic wire casing that runs along the wall. You can hang a lanyard around the box, or balance something on top of it. Now a blue light dangled from it, swinging to and fro in the dark.
“In my bears’ church,” said Rosie, arranging her bears on the floor, “When they come in on Christmas Eve, it’s all dark except for little colored lights in the corners of the room.”
“I see,” I said as reverently as I could.
“In their church, blue is the color of most worshipfulness, so it’s the one near the door.”
“Worshipful” means “showing reverence and adoration” and also “worthy to be respected and honored.” I didn’t know what definition Rosie meant, but I nodded my head.
“In my bears’ church, blue means most worshipful, most holy, most courageous, most special,” Rosie went on. Then she began to chant.
I can’t remember half the things she chanted to her bears; it wasn’t much to do with Christmas Eve or worshipfulness. Most of it made little sense to my ears, but it was a lifting of the heart to Heaven, and therefore a prayer, a beautiful one.
“Blue is the color of life,” Rosie said when she finished her chant.
“I guess you use a lot of blue paint on the Theotokos icons in your bears’ church,” I said.
Rosie considered this. “They don’t use blue in icons very much. Here, I’ve got an idea.”
She climbed onto my bed and took down the Theotokos icon. Then she carried it to the odd plastic light switch box where the blue glowstick was hanging, and set the icon on top of it. The glowstick cast its cool light up on the face of the Blessed Mother, like the light of a votive candle.
The icon remained there for several nights, until the blue light of the glowstick had completely died out. I didn’t feel right about removing it until then.
O Holy Theotokos most worshipful, save us.
(image via wikimedia commons)