Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter prayers

My first prayer of the day came this morning just before I headed out for my first attempt at running since I was bitten by that abominable cur almost two weeks ago. My prayer went something like, "God, not running is driving me nuts. You know that I need to run. Here goes....," as I laced up my sneakers and headed out the door of the guesthouse. The shoreline was a little less than a mile away, so I headed that direction.

Gray morning on the Black Sea
There was almost no one out. It was early, by Georgian standards -- only 7:15. I passed only a few people on the sidewalk as I ran toward Batumi Boulevard to run along the shore path. It was a bit chilly and drizzly, but the clouds were high and I could tell that it was going to clear up soon. The face of the sea was calm and flat. No wind. Just stillness. I ran for another mile along the water, watching the seemingly infinite horizon. The blue-gray of the clouds faded into the green of the sea almost without distinction. Then came my second prayer of the day. Something like, "That's peaceful and beautiful. Thank you."

Batumi's Catholic church
After breakfast and checking out of our guesthouse, James and I headed to the bus station to board our separate marshutkas homeward. James' left right away, but mine didn't leave for another 30 minutes. The only Catholic church in the city was just across the tracks from the station, so I shouldered my backpack and walked over to wait there.

It was nice to go into a church that had someplace to sit. (Orthodox churches don't usually have any benches or chairs.) I set my backpack down on the back bench like a wanderer releasing a burden and sat down. The day's third prayer. This one was longer. I thanked God for the blessings that he constantly gives me -- safety, health, friends, hospitable hosts, and new adventures. I thanked him for caring for humanity as a whole since the beginning of time. Then I paused for a bit, thinking about what to pray. I continued by telling God that I have no idea what in the world I am going to do when my contract is up and I leave Georgia and it's really stressing me out. I ended by thanking him for whatever is going to come next.

Inside the Dadiani chapel
Once in Zugdidi, I had a couple of hours to kill before Katherine arrived at the bus station to spend the rest of the Easter break with me. It wasn't raining, so I walked to the park by Dadiani's Palace. There were a couple of ladies sitting out in front of the church next to the palace selling candles, so I went over and bought five small beeswax candles to light in the church. I wrapped my ever-present scarf over my head and went inside. As I lit the candles for various people, I prayed for each one for specific things: for my ex-husband, true love; for my love, peace; for Tea, success in her work; for my parents, rest; and for myself, direction.

Growing up as a Baptist, I didn't light candles when I prayed. I think I may have a couple of times in Latin American countries when I attended a mass while traveling. Since being in Georgia, I have gotten used to lighting candles as I pray in the Orthodox churches that I have gone into. I like the symbolic smoke rising from the flame -- a picture of the prayer ascending to Heaven. To me, the flame acts like a reminder of this moment in time, representing the immediate, present words being uttered aloud, quietly, or silently. The smoke is the vehicle of the prayer to Heaven. Being a visual person, I like this physical representation of the spiritual occurrence.

Easter prayers -- thankfulness, petition, candles, quiet.

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

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