We went to church for the feast of the Meeting of Our Lord even though it was the middle of the week. The girls did fairly well for so late at night after the long car ride, but in the middle of the liturgy Veronica got to her usual up-too-late state: wiggles. She simply can't be still and twists in our arms, making my arms begin to shake from the strain. At 30 pounds, she isn't a baby anymore. She likes to turn and face forward, so that my arms are like a chair. I assume she likes to see what's going on, but my weary arms - oh!
At one point, she twisted in John's arms in this way, and I saw him standing next to me holding her forward - with the icon of the Meeting of Our Lord on the wall beside him. I couldn't help but notice the similarity of his awkward position with that of St. Simeon. Of course, this is also the way that the Theotokos holds Christ in many of her icons. I think it is an iconographic technique, sort of like cheating out onstage, so that the audience can see everyone.
But, in that moment, I was struck by the spiritual nature of my children. I so often get wrapped up in trying to teach them to pray, to whisper, to just please be quiet in church. But these children are also gifts of God, made in his image, and pure in heart.
Parenthood has been hard for me - there is a self emptying in being a mother that I am continually fighting. Fr. Nikolai told us after the liturgy that our struggle is not simply to pray in the liturgy, but to show our squirming children the love of Christ in the liturgy - to respond to them as Christ would. Lord have mercy! Then he added that getting through a night time liturgy quietly is our children's struggle. It is easier to love their struggle when you remember it is for their salvation.
Lu whispered to me when we entered the church that night, "Mommy, the icons look different tonight!" I thought so, too.