The day after Thanksgiving ...
On the day after Thanksgiving, while it was still dark and the sun had not yet broken over the eastern hills of LA, a wretched very un-thankful thing occurred. Someone had gotten too impatient, standing in a WalMart line on Black Friday, waiting for a new video game. In that cleverness that comes so quickly to anger, the desperate shopper reached into her purse, took out her can of mace, and began to spray the crowd in front of her with a noxious cloud of pepper dust.
The crowd dispersed, choking. The angry shopper escaped in the mad rush. I can only assume she failed her objective of purchase.
On the same day, in the brightness of a clear afternoon, the late autumn sun shone free on an Orthodox cupola. Beneath its vaulted arches, my wife and daughter and I stared dumbfounded at a heavenly thing of beauty. It was two icons of the Theotokos, holding her Son and Lord.
The sun gleamed, and in its shining we saw, with our own eyes, the welling up of a substance on the surfaces of both icons a substance that could barely be called “oil,” so light it was, so delicate even in sight and even more so to the touch, by our trembling fingers and shuddering lips.
The oil of weeping does not proceed from the substance of the icon. Another priest has said, and I fully agree, that the oil descends from the Hand of God, and settles like manna upon this eschatological object, this icon made by our hands, upon this part of sanctified earth -- the earth we present in our uplifted hearts when we pray, “Thine own of Thine own.”
This oil, whose scent is anticipated (but not comprehended) by roses, is manna on the Sabbath day, in the rest of believers who have come to the mountain.
I looked and beheld, out of the darkness. I touched with my own grasp, into the light. And thus will not deny. I will not minimize, nor can I ignore. I will not explain, for there is nothing that can be scientifically defined. The Lord is at joyful play with our calculations, and will dance above our adult demands for rationalization. He, I think, enjoys our scientific discomfiture.
I told my friend, the priest who is now guardian of these icons that weep, this: “I have a thousand scientific questions, and not a one of them can be answered, and I rejoice that they cannot be.”
We left after kneeling on the floor in tears. We left, singing “Bohorodice D’ivo,” understanding better the greeting sung by Gabriel, who knows how to praise.
We left then, for the road and the remains of the day.
But that day of Thanksgiving will continue to lodge and grow in our memory. It captivates our imaginations, and radiates blessing in our hearts. More and more of our thoughts, and emotions, and intentions, are invaded by this single grace.
My friend will still not call the News. So this miracle may never be reported by the media outlets. Commentators will not comment; pundits will not opine. These weeping icons will not become a trending issue on the net.
It will thus escape the gravitation of the world, and will fly away from the notice of history, and into legend, where more true things reside than the sensible world would ever think.
It will ascend, like the feather of a dove, into the skyward vaults of hope.
The world, caught in the mace of black fridays, will tally its columns, and will not notice. The world cannot hope, and thus cannot see the Signs.
Inasmuch as the world would not see Him, they will not see His meaning nor His Father, and can not hope.
We, though, on the day after Thanksgiving, said “Surely the Lord is in this place.”
And it is up to us whether that place will descend from a single location in experience, to the more profound substance of our hearts … whether that place will remain in prayer and peace, kindness and eternal memory, and change our mourning into joy.