We had a visit from our bishop today, which also fell on Palm Sunday. The Ukrainians apparently have a hard time getting a hold of palms, so they celebrate Willow Sunday by handing out pussy willow stems to all the kids to use as swords instead of the traditional palm fronds of my former Christian experience. It seems like every Sunday in the Orthodox church is another experience for celebrating something new in the faith.
I have to admit to being a bit leary of a bishop. In our recent experience the bishops we grew close to and followed after left the church and, in their leaving, the bishops we found ourselves bound to did little to gain our trust and affection. I know that bishops are human and fall prey to the same temptations of humanity as the rest of us and if that were the only scenario at play in our mistrust of bishops, I would chastise myself and remain true to my stand under their authority. However, the bishops in the CEC did more than the usual dabbling in various sin areas (although there was plenty of that as well). They redefined the church. That is church with a small "c" as the only place in which they hold much authority to define anything is within their own communion of the CEC. An Orthodox bishop, however, is a different matter entirely. Everything they do defines the Church and illustrates her long history. There are so many questions I have after today about all the ways in which he was doing this - questions about the bells and the little rugs that got shoved under his feet, the thing he carried in lieu of the crosier I'm accustomed to seeing in a bishop's hands, the crown and I'm sure even the buttons on his vestments reflect some truth about the Church. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure exactly what the bishop himself represents to the Orthodox. In the RC church as well as the CEC the bishop is the vicar of Christ. He has a special chair to sit in reserved only for his visits (haha - no such need for that in the Orthodox church!). He is the icon of Christ to the body of Christ. But I get the feeling an Orthodox bishop plays an entirely different role.
I'm afraid maybe I was even a bit rude to the bishop in my fear of growing close even though he seemed to be a man to whom one could grow quite close. He was kind, personable, humble, quiet. He was a man there for the people. He didn't just spend time with us. He listened. He spoke with the children and he cared about what they had to say. He cared about his priests. He didn't have an aura about him of over-blown authority and he didn't say anything to redefine the church or trap us into guilt. Maybe I'm even allowing myself to like him...
I do know I love this picture. I had no intention of standing behind the bishop, he showed up after we were all set up for the picture, completely rearranged the children and put himself, Fr. Dan and Fr. Greg right there in the middle of all the people. I look at this picture and I see what is becoming our new family. I see Peggy the choir director who is always a light in my week and an encouragement to my closet Tenor husband. I see Ginny who bakes beautiful cakes and has a personality just as sweet. I see 2 year old Teddy's Yaya who I felt comfortable enough to tease today about the day she made him stumble to the kitchen for a wet rag on his face for falling asleep during Divine Liturgy (now *that's* hard core!) and what I don't see is Mr. Wawa because he is leaning next to Clifford taking pictures. I see a group of people we are really growing to know and love and, in spite of my Episcopal Anxiety, I know that we are finding a Home.