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not my river, not my stream…

A new friend and I were talking about the Great Fast this week. Her mother in law is Orthodox and an immigrant from Russia. Her approach to the Fast varies a bit from that of my friend. Where Susan is strict in following the guidelines of the OCA, her mother in law, a life long Russian Orthodox Christian works according to her own heritage, her own rhythm. When Susan questions her about her food choices she cites the stories of how she was raised. She sticks to what she knows, no matter where she lives. She brings the story of her life into every room, every church, every country.

And it is not only during the Fast. For example, she will not eat shellfish, she has never even tasted it. When asked why she won’t try it she explains, “It’s not my river, it’s not my stream.”

Since that conversation I’ve wandered around that phrase quite a lot. It was striking when Susan said it. It strummed something in me, pushed a little chord out of joint or maybe back into joint, echoing long after the string stopped moving.

Where the Great Fast is concerned I admit I have struggled this year. It is not for lack of understanding or motivation. Life just gets in the way. My river and my stream right now includes 4 children who are new to the concept of the Great Fast and a husband who is disinclined to join in. All things considered he’s a good sport for the most part. The kids don’t ask about dinner anymore. After 30ish days of the Great Fast they just come to the table with heavy sighs. They eat dutifully and ask again about Pascha.

This will be our first Pascha as a family. I tried to give them some idea of what to expect, something to look forward to in lieu of the traditional Sunday Morning Easter ritual we’d attempted half heartedly for the last 10 years. I described the scene to my non Orthodox husband. Since he’s been plagued with sleep issues and stomach problems both which require he eat before 7pm and go to bed at a decent hour, the idea of being up at Midnight and then attend a feast shortly after sounds less than appealing. I can understand that.

One of the things I look forward to most in becoming chrismated is being able to identify myself as Orthodox, to embrace fully the practice and take part in the Divine Liturgy as a family member. I begin to wonder though if it’s too late for my husband and my children to want this river, this stream. I begin to wonder if it’s too much to ask of them. I begin to wonder if there will be a time when we, as a family, will have those moments I already receive in Liturgy, in prayer and in fasting or will they all simply swim away when the time comes, to find their own river, their own stream?

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©2021 by Angela Doll Carlson