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My Icon Corner Revisited

Hello, my dear sisters! We are beginning the second month of becoming accustomed to our new vocations as Myrrhbearing Lay Sisters. I did something wonderful this morning that I have never done before, and it so profoundly affected me that I wanted to share it with you. So far, we have all been trying our best to pray our collective prayer rule each morning and evening, indivicually, yet together as a group. I believe it’s probably going well for most of us since it’s not too very long or difficult. I have noticed that I've developed my own particular rule of prayer for myself up to this point, as I'm sure we all have, and I possess some old habits associated with prayer that have become very predictable and almost too comfortable. I have been a bit non-chalant about how and where I address the Almighty and this change in my prayer-life had created a bit of a change in my focus as well.

I admit I love how “all-encompassing” it is as we pray for those closest to us, then for those in our extended community, and finally for those in every conceivable need throughout the world at large. We pray for the graces to be a blessing to the Monastery as well as to our families and each other and to be able to anoint the Body of Christ, the Church, with our myrrh, that is, our spiritual gifts and obediences. Before this prayer became part of my day, I admit that my focus had been rather narrow, and certainly not as broad as praying for "all of humanity". Until this morning, I’ve been praying these prayers each day as I usually say my daily prayers, with my morning coffee on the couch and again in my bed before sleep in the evening. I like to get up before the kids and send my husband off for the day to spend some alone time with the Lord. I say certain prayers, read a bit from a spiritual book or scripture passages, and then plan my day , week etc.before anyone or anything interferes with my train of thought. Lately, though, something from scripture had caught my eye, and I decided to try something different.

Job 1:5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for

them to be purified. Early in the morning, he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them,

thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s

regular custom.

As the mom of five adult children, I was struck to see that Job had undertaken this custom of burning incense just in case his children had “sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” What a wonderful fatherly thing to do! I wanted to do the same for my babies, who aren't babies anymore.

Now years ago, I had adopted the custom of establishing an icon corner in my home as a place set aside specifically for God. I taught my children to pray there when they were little. Each morning and evening, we would gather there before the icons and Christ on the cross, and it was there that they learned to say their prayers, venerate the icons, do their lenten prostrations,offer gifts of flowers and prayers…and sometimes legos…to Christ and his mother, and just sit a while to be alone with Jesus. They saw the icons of their patron saints on that wall and the icon of the season, a print in a dollar-store frame, which we would change according to the feast or fast.

They kept their beads and prayerbooks, a coin jar for the poor, and little battery-operated candles there as well. I had an incense burner and little triangular pieces of incense, a hanging lamp for votives, as well as a pillar candle. It was all still there as it had been, but the children no longer need me to model prayer for them; they pray on their own now. Slowly, we stopped gathering, and so I stopped praying before the icon corner, the one I set up specifically as a sign of the dedication of our home to God. I was praying on the couch. This suddenly made no sense to me.

So, today, after my family had left for work or for school, I lit the incense and the candle and stood before the icon corner and prayed my morning offering there. I inhaled the sweet smell and thought of Job as I prayed for my children, my spouse, my brothers and sisters, and all of you, and I offered my prayer in a deeper and more heartfelt way than I had ever done while sitting on my couch. I looked at the faces in each of the icons of our saintly patrons, I beheld the Body of Christ on the Cross, and spoke to Christ and His mother as if they were standing before me. I remembered each of you to them thoughtfully and completely, with my whole being. I liked this new way and I’ll think I’ll do so again tomorrow.

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