Today in the course of my daily Bible readings, I read the passage in the book of Mark that is probably a favorite with almost all Christians:
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I saw to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
As I read that last line something came to mind that I haven’t thought of in years. At our mission church about 20 years ago, we had some flurry of activity happening before Vespers because our bishop was visiting. We were all relatively new converts, and everyone was going to an extraordinary amount of preparation to receive him. Eventually, all the busy people were needed inside to get everything sorted out just so, and I was alone outside with the two-year-old I was baby-sitting. He was content just to look at the world from up-high, and I was happy enough to carry him about in my arms, since I don’t baby-sit often, and so we were doing just fine.
And then, a car pulled up and the bishop got out.
I don’t think I moved or said anything. I didn’t want to holler into the church like a hillbilly, and I think I privately thought that if I didn’t move, the bishop might not see me (which I think only works with bears, come to think of it).
But of course, he did see me, and he came up and did what all of us seasoned Orthodox know bishops do — he gave a blessing. Since my hands were full, he blessed the little boy on his forehead, and both the bishop and the toddler knew it was the most natural thing in the world.
And then the people came out of the church and the real greetings started. But that’s not why I remembered that today. I remembered because as I was thinking about this passage in Mark and replacing my Bible, I suddenly realized that when I was in the right place at the right time all those years ago, I could feel the blessing the bishop gave to the child. I wouldn’t want to swear to it in court, but it seemed like I could feel the blessing pass through him and into me.
How amazing church life is sometimes. Just thought I’d share.
The image comes from Rien Poortvliet’s beautiful book “He Was One of Us”. Rien Poortvliet’s illustrations for the Gnomes book got everyone’s attention, but for some reason this book of gorgeous paintings illustrating passages in the Gospel didn’t garner as much attention. But a lot of his presentations of how things might have looked are so exactly right that they’re hard to get out of your head. You can buy it HERE.