Though it was a small crowd this evening for Vespers, two babies and a toddler were among our number. It is a great joy and encouragement to have a lot of babies in the parish at this time; I can think of five right off the bat who are still infants, plus several toddlers.
Of course the older children are beloved, but there is something special about the littlest ones, who look around curiously, and whom we get to know as we watch them “grow in wisdom and stature” from week to week. Our rector mentioned at the beginning of his homily last week, how wonderful it is to hear baby sounds in the church. He chose a moment when the baby noises were quiet and happy enough that he could be heard over them.
When we came into the church this evening, the infant baptismal font was set up in the middle, but inside was a big tub containing water to be blessed during the service, not for a baptism, but because it is the midpoint between Pascha and Pentecost, when this event always happens– as it always does at Theophany, when we celebrate Christ’s baptism.
The middle of the days has come,
beginning with the Savior’s Resurrection,
and sealed by the holy Pentecost.
The first and the last glisten with splendor.
We rejoice in the union of both feasts,
as we draw near to the Lord’s Ascension:
the sign of our coming glorification.
The toddler toddled, and one little girl crawled around, or was carried by her mother from icon to icon, where she reached out eagerly to touch the faces of the saints. The choir sang the Vespers service; it was a quiet and mild evening, but the sun had not gone down. The youngest baby present had been baptized only this week; she lay sleeping in her mother’s arms. After the blessing of the water, the priest walked all around the church sprinkling the icons and us. Then we drank.
One line read out from the choir was from Isaiah 55, “Ho, everyone that thirsts, Come to the water!” And we remembered the Gospel story from Sunday, about the healing of the Paralytic, and the water of the Pool of Bethesda that an angel would stir from time to time, giving it healing properties.
This prayer, based on another event in the life of Christ, expresses the tone of the evening’s service, and our joy:
Thou didst come to the Temple, O Wisdom of God,
in the middle of the feast
to teach and edify the Jews, the Scribes, and the Pharisees.
“Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink the water of life!
He will never thirst again!
Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water shall flow from him.”
How great is Thy goodness and Thy compassion!
Glory to Thee, O Christ our God!