A change of plans

So back in the day, Solomon finished the Temple and brought in the Ark, and they had one big to-do. A major shindig. They sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they couldn’t be counted. How many must that be, for not long ago they had just gotten through numbering every male in Israel, to the point that God was irritated at their need for a census. Peeved even. PO’d to the point of letting David choose his own plague for his pride. ‘Twasn’t good. But the numbers were large. Very large.

And here they are, all the priests in the new Temple, offering up so much blood and smoke that they can’t even keep track. That is a lot of hooves.

And then, THEN, things get really wild. They’re singing and praising God and having a regular hoopla, and the glory of the Lord fills the Temple, a cloud of mercy. And the glory, the cloud, becomes so thick that the priests are kept from continuing their ministrations. (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

So God commands… do this thing… and then he drops in with so much glory that it prevents them from doing the very thing he’s commanded.

So we’re talking Old Testament here, highly allegorical, not somewhere from which we can draw many literal lessons, but it seems like we could learn something from this. I’m not entirely sure what, but there has to be a lesson there. Because there is always a lesson.

So why would God prevent? Why would he impede? Maybe to show them that their ministrations are only as good as the God they serve? Maybe to keep them from missing the point. That all of this is good, that all of this is what he wants, but it is only leading up to something. It is only a tool to bring them to the reality of God. Maybe he is teaching them resilience. Patience. Persistence. Rolling with the changes, because God, and life with God, is never static. Maybe. Maybe he’s just so overflowing with love that he can’t help but flood them out. Maybe.

What I know is that God will do that. He is not so rigid as to avoid changing the plan, not so hung up on The Things that he won’t pop in and give us an experience that completely overshadows The Things. Sometimes I think we forget that God is alive, and that we are reaching for a dynamic relationship. He is reaching for a dynamic relationship. It’s far-too easy to paint him into a box, where he lives silently, where we observe him. When the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is no box. There is no silence. And there is no Thing that our God can’t blow to bits with his very presence.

Time to open our eyes and roll with the changes,


Today… The Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

When I was 16, I helped my YoungLife leader finish a jigsaw puzzle on his living room table. It was gorgeous. The puzzle was a painting of an old man holding a golden package aloft, glowing with joy as his bundle glowed with something more ethereal. The expression on the man’s face was beyond description; the golden rays from the package filling the dark frame unbelievable.

I had no idea what I was seeing; no idea who the man was, nor what the package represented. I remember that I was enraptured with the beauty of the image, but I wasn’t observant enough to examine the details, nor to listen to Jim when he undoubtedly told me the story of the painting. I’m sure he did. I can’t imagine that he didn’t. But I didn’t listen well, and the memory goes down like one from early childhood, insanely vivid but lacking all knowledge and understanding, buoyed through the years on the waves of beauty alone.

I have looked for this painting, as puzzle or otherwise, for 25 years now. I haven’t found anything that matched the memories, or even came close, even in the age of Google-knows-all. I’m fairly certain it was one of those well-known (amongst the Christian bookstore circles) artists. Not like Monet, but more like Kincaid. A modern master of turning paint to light. There were probably a whole series of his works made into jigsaw puzzles for the contemporary Christian market of the early 90s. But to me, this one appears lost, only accessible in the recesses of my mind.

I know now, whether from the seepage of lost memories into the conscious mind, or though later revelation, or shards of both, that the old man was St. Simeon, and his golden bundle was the Christ Child.

St. Simeon was a watcher, one who was anxiously awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Legend has him waiting for a Very Long Time, and he is here in the Temple when Joseph and Mary present Christ at forty days old. Mary hands her bundle of golden light to the old man, and the tears flow down his face.

St. Simeon holds that Child up to His God, at the gates of the Temple, completing Joseph and Mary’s dedication, and the very purpose of his own life:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
to be a light to enlighten the Gentiles
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”
~Luke 2:29-32

It’s kind of beautiful. No wonder even the painting pieced together on Jim’s table struck my heart so profoundly.

In the Orthodox Church, at the Baptism and Chrismation of a baby, the last piece of the service looks a lot like this puzzle, and it is indeed the very completion of the puzzle of humanity. The priest receives the child from his mother or Godmother, strides quietly to the central altar doors, the very gates of the Temple, and holds the babe aloft just as I remember the stylized Simeon. Cradled in the loving hands of the priest, held high overhead and staring at the Icon of Christ painted in great swaths across the ceiling, the newly illumined child is dedicated to the service of God, and the priest slowly and reverently assumes the role of St. Simeon. Hands aloft, his stole rolling down around his shoulders, a perfect new creation in his care, he sings the words of the canticle, and—generally—tears flow.

When the song of Simeon is complete, the priest turns, kisses the babe, and lays him at the steps of the altar. His mother leaves her place and reclaims him, God’s child. She has brought him to the Church, and the Church has given him back to her. And with his parents, his Godparents, and his Church to lead him, this babe will be raised in the ways of God, to become a watcher. One who anxiously awaits the Messiah. One who waits on God within his own heart.

Today in the Church, we celebrate The Meeting of our Lord in the Temple. We celebrate the fulfillment of St. Simeon’s expectations, and the true salvation of our souls.

May we be the watchers,


I have long been a devotee of J.I. Rodale’s Synonym Finder, the Colossus of the thesaurus world, a reference mutant juiced up on creative steroids. Rodale, known more for his organic living evangelism, was apparently also a lover of words and the palaces that are built on them, and for that we should all be thankful. In his 1961 classic, he raises the thesaurus ideal above mere synonyms and offers up a cornucopia of choices for stuck writers. He goes beyond the literal and brings to bear the figurative, the loose, and the lovely, to free the bogged and boggled mind.

Sidenote: I fear that The Synonym Finder that lives on my shelf, or more often my table, was another of the true and actual gifts that my jackwagon of an ex-husband left in my life, and so I will here give credit where credit is due:

Thank you, jackwagon. Thank you for the loves of my life, my three beautiful girls, who make life worth living. Thank you for the faith that you brought me into kicking and screaming, that sustains me, that is Life Itself. And thank you even for this great red book that I certainly saw no worth in back in the days of our youth, but which has been my constant companion since setting sail on the writing craft.

End Credit.

So anyway, a thesaurus…

Yes, I have long-heard the cries of heresy from certain corners of the writing crowd when it comes to thesaurus usage, and I sympathize. I, too, have clutched my brain in agony at the reading of an author who has conjured words with his thesaurus, yet failed to utilize a dictionary or a mote of common sense. It is excruciating. Also, I imagine I’ve sat myself at the offending end of this teeter-totter more than once. For my indiscretions I am sorry, and will be henceforth ever-vigilant.

In this respect, when considering those wielding dubious words without license or registration, The Synonym Finder might possibly be a can of nitro added to their already leaden foot. Gasoline on a slow-burning fire. For to dive into these 1400 pages of joy without understanding—or minimally a willingness to learn and grow and a morsel of respect for your reader—well, it would likely render the guilty’s writing indecipherable and infuriating.

But I argue with the anti-thesaurus crowd on behalf of writers everywhere who DO possess the command of language required to brandish such an arsenal responsibly, for the improvement of their writing (and often themselves), for the enlightenment of their readers, and for the general betterment of humanity.

For if you possess the aptitude, or the discernment, or even the intuition to use your words well in the first place, then it is entirely possible that you could also be trusted with a further storehouse of words which may not be always living at your fingertips.

I, for one, find that the right words—no matter how at-the-ready when I’m walking through the woods or driving down the road—prefer to play hide-and-seek in the folds of my gray matter whenever I sit down to commit them to paper (or screen).

Also, I don’t know them all.

And sometimes the time is right to expand the old vocabulary, for what is a writer, if not a collector of words?

And so I am an unapologetic student of J.I. Rodale’s masterpiece. I look to it often to pull me through the punky patches of my brain, and to spark to life new and recovered chunks of my vocabulary. And I pray that this classic may never bypass my brain, but only serve as a pleasant adjunct.

Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.*

*Master of linguistics, Dogberry
(NOT an irresponsible use of TSF,
but rather,
irresponsible quoting of Shakespeare)

For the record, I didn’t use a single new-to-me word in this post. In case you were wondering. I did, however, believe that jackwagon was an Ottinger original, forged through years of card-playing and insulting banter. Turns out my husband isn’t as original as I thought. 

Today… Theophany

The Manifestation of God.

This is what we’re celebrating today. Just a few little words, loaded well over the safety line.

Theophany is here, and Christ is baptized in the Jordan, by none other than John the Baptizer himself, who–I dare say–has no interest in baptizing the Messiah himself. I imagine he was feeling a bit out of his depth that day. But what? Argue with God? Probably not.

If he had no other talents, John the Baptist was singularly good at listening to God. Wilderness, forsaking all, living an ascetic life of poverty and fasting? Alright. Locusts and Honey? Sounds like three-square. Hair shirt? Might be comfy.

But when Jesus comes striding towards John in the line for baptism, John hesitates. Even the waters are trembling at the approach of the Savior, and John is not a great deal more sure of himself. He’s been waiting for this One—the One whose would baptize not only with water, but with the very Holy Spirit of God—and when He arrives He looks to John. Now there’s a moment for panic. “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

Yep. That’s the plan. Right here, right now, God himself will enter the waters of baptism and fulfill all that John has been preparing for. Right here, right now, the waters of the cosmos—that essential ingredient in all life—will be transfigured and illumined for all. It’s more than John can imagine.

And at that moment, the Trinity is made manifest. Who God Is is revealed. The Father proclaims His Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove alights upon Him. And all is well.

In the Church today, we celebrate the Baptism, we celebrate the revealing of God to humanity, and we celebrate the Light. The Illumination. The Redemption. The coming of God fully into the world, to assume, to heal. We bless the waters, reminding ourselves that all that we see is holy; all that we see is sacred. No matter how insistent we are upon destruction and Our Own Thing–covering the sacred with layers of the profane, blankets of the inane–the speck of Light is still present, shining forth patiently, waiting for us to seek Him, waiting for us to get out of the way.

A Blessed Theophany,

Tonight… Nativity

“The snow looks light and the sky dark, but in fact the sky is lighter than the snow. Obviously the thing illumined cannot be lighter than its illuminator. The classical demonstration of this point involves simply laying a mirror flat on the snow so that it reflects in its surface the sky, and comparing by sight this value to that of the snow. This is all very well, even conclusive, but the illusion persists. The dark is overhead and the light at my feet; I’m walking upside-down in the sky.”

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

It is Christmas. The very Nativity of Christ. The Incarnation itself.

And what of us?

The mystery of God, wrapped as a babe, is a deep one. I can never hope to plumb those depths. But I can listen, right here, right now, for the reverberations of that mystery. I can sink a little deeper in. And this year, when I survey the territory, I see that Christmas is a time for me to be still and cast my eyes up and in, at the Source of the Light.

I do this and I do that, I read and I pray, I worship and I serve. I give. I take. And when I am really on top of my game, I thank. And in all this doing, I all too often persist in the illusion that somehow what I need for salvation is entirely here in front of me, below my feet.

And rightly so.

For the Birth of Christ is the redemption of this broken world, and indeed all that we need is here. We are surrounded by a sea of humanity, each one a bearer of Christ, if only we can look and see. Creation speaks. The rocks cry out. And the spiritual toolbox overflows. I have a million books full of a billion words. I have the Church of God, weaving me into the fabric of eternity. I read and I write and I pray and I love. And truly, everything I need IS here.

But how often do I allow all that is good and perfect (and all that is mean and flawed) to point me to God? How often to I follow these pointers all the way to their destination?

For my actual salvation is only truly found in relationship. No matter how expertly (or inanely) I might wield every tool in the chest, if I am not looking beyond the illumined to the Illuminator, what have I gained?

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God
has shown to the world the light of wisdom
and by it those who worship the stars
were taught by a star to adore Thee
the Sun of Righteousness
and to know thee the Orient from on high

Tonight a tiny babe is born into the world with the whole of God tucked into the folds of his swaddling. Tonight He calls me to be quiet. To carve out some moments of stillness in the bustle, silence in the noise. To sit with Him in the manger, and gaze.

And there we are. Walking upside-down in the sky, grasping for the Light where only the dim reflection is to be found. Let’s not settle. Let’s redeem it all, and reach beyond the veil.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

A Christmas Visitor

Last summer we had this crazed cardinal. He appeared one day on the back deck, chipping like a wild man. Incessantly. For weeks. Every day he would return, and every day he would march up and down the railing boards, from one end of the deck to the other, pacing, chip, chip, chipping at us like we had done him some great wrong. He would look right at the screen door, right at us—individually; there was eye contact—and holler. It was disconcerting. Every now and again you feel like an animal is truly trying to communicate with you, possibly sentient and looking to impart urgent wisdom, or anger.

After the first week, we suspected that maybe our cats had taken this proud boy’s wife in an aerial attack. He truly seemed to have a bone to pick. We apologized. He chipped. We made faces universally interpreted as repentance and sorrow. He chipped.

Another week down the line our boy recruited a friend, and we now had Papa and Mama Cardinal promenading down the deck, chipping in turn. The annoyance level ratcheted up, for the chipping doubled, and the girl we suspected cut off in the prime of her youth lived.

All day. Every day. Chip. Chip chip. Chip.

Eventually our aviary friends disappeared, without so much as a goodbye. To our clearly untrained linguistic abilities, they seemed as angry on the last day of their protests as on the first day Mr. C showed up. Weeks. Probably a full month. It was a crazy-maker.

And today I have reason to believe that our little buddy is still hanging around the homestead.

Chipping, as you might imagine, is not as effective of an attention grabber in the winter, when houses are sealed up tight against winter’s winds. I don’t know if Papa C. had been trying, and our refusal to acknowledge pushed him into desperation, or if he knew, and skipped the formalities straight away in favor of more vexatious and winter-friendly methods of grabbing the spotlight.

Whatever his impetus, for over a week, a cardinal looking suspiciously like our summer friend has been throwing himself against our windows, regular as rain, persistent as my premature ventricular beats—though he thankfully takes to the trees when the sun goes down, saving us from investigating the laws and ordinances revolving around the hunting of songbirds in Wisconsin Decembers.


This is not the bird…

What we hear is this: There is a light slamming—a familiar noise that sends the girls of the house outdoors in their socks to see if a feathered friend lays stunned in the snow in need of rescue (cats, cats, cats…)—followed immediately by a confusing screen scrabbling. By the time we dash in to see, he is plastered against the screen.

I sat on the bed for half an hour the other day just watching. What is happening, over and over again, is this: Mr. Cardinal bounces off the upper window, then hovers down to gain an awkward footing against the screened lower pane. Then he looks at us. Through this eye. Then that one. Then this one again. He is staring into our souls.


Nor are these…

And then he runs off to the nearest tree, gathers his gumption, and tries again. This bird wants in.

It happens constantly, for most, if not all of our short daylight hours. Mostly in our bedroom window. Sometimes in our bathroom. There is no privacy.

Were I not hardened against the idea that we had wronged him somehow, widowed him too young, and were his wife not happily scavenging the fallen birdseed in the front yard during most of his knocking, I admit I might consider apologizing blindly again. I will not be so easily played.


Nor this one…

This is not about avenging the death of his family. I have no idea what this is about, but if anyone has been experimenting in their basements with bird-brain-scanning technology, have I got a guinea pig for you!


He is adorable, really, and it is not often that you get to count the notched tail-feathers on the neighborhood birds. But would that I could get into his head, and find for him the Christmas present he is clearly, and unintelligibly, angling for…


Merry Christmas to all the little birdies, patient and persistent,


I didn’t read much as a kid, beyond a library of Garfield and Shel Silverstien (both quality literature I still stand by as my foundation). Over the years, there were a few school-mandated books (Island of the Blue Dolphins? This is honestly the only one I remember), but I read them begrudgingly at best, and they never had a chance to be enjoyed.  Reading was simply not something I did for fun (Excepting the aforementioned titles).

Somehow though, early on, my mother managed to get a few gems into my hands and heart, C.S. Lewis and Madeline L’Engle first among the classics that would truly stick with me through the ages. I devoured them as a child, and I have reread the tales of Narnia and the Time Quintent more times than I can remember. I’ve read them to my children. I’ve read them to myself. And every few years, I have to do it again.

Recently I was challenged to go after a childhood favorite with new eyes, a sort of practice in seeing and change and playfulness. Since there are very few to choose from (above is a fairly exhaustive list), and since Narnia has required new eyes of me many times already, it was the natural choice. So I skipped down to the basement to see if I might chance upon my childhood boxed set. And there it was.

It has seen better years. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, read considerably more times than the rest, consists at this point of as much tape as paper. And still entire folios fall out at my feet. Everything is gooed together–thanks to the wide assortment of inappropriate tape-types–and yellowing out of control, but not a single page has gone missing entirely.

And while I’m not a book-sniffer, the first crack of Lewis transports me.

  • The giant house I grew up in, a six-toed cat in my lap, an unnecessary ACE bandage wrapping my wishully-mangled forearm, and Narnia in my ‘good’ hand.
  • The northwoods cabin my first marriage incubated in, blankets piled on to supplement the budget-busting baseboard heat, back when now-adult Rachel was just a twinkle in our eyes.
  • A cardboard house at Cousin Zachary’s, where five-year-old Rachel could be found leaning out the window with the same copy of The Last Battle that followed me through life, rocketing through with the fervor of a new (young!) reader.
  • The couch–still the centerpiece of our Colfax home–that adorned the first house I owned in Menasha, me snatching chapters while children slept.
  • All the favorite read-aloud spots here in Colfax: The same couch, following us through life; any of many trampolines migrating between sun and shade as the weather dictated; under bunkbeds and atop stuffed animals; all the places the girls would gather to hear each installment of Aslan’s story, held nearly as rapt as Winnie the Pooh.

And a smattering of times and places in between, when Clive would appear for an encore anew.

I’m looking forward to this, the next trip through Narnia. In front of the fire.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

He’s not a tame lion,

Friends new and old

I spent a few primetime hours in the emergency room last night.

There has been a nefarious flipflopping in the vicinity of my ticker over the past few days, and when the frequency of the internal acrobatics reached sub-minute intervals—recorded much like timing contractions, only without the pain, and adding the joy of a stethoscope—I decided it was best to take a little trip with my lovely husband. A date, so to speak, down the halls of Menomonie’s finest (and only) emergency services department. What better way to spend the eve of the living room Christmas tree elevation? I grabbed a hunk of turkey and a slice of cheesecake and we were off.

Thankfully, there weren’t many people suffering from food comas on the Saturday following Thanksgiving to clog up the ER. We enjoyed the fluorescent interrogation lights of the hospital for less than three hours.

And in those three hours, the world got a little smaller.

I admit to certain preferences in my life, and living that life beyond city walls, out in the natural spaces of the country is certainly one of them. But I am not ignorant of the blessings of community.

We are perched on a wooded hill just three miles from the nearest metropolis, a term which here means a town of 1163 souls. This is not where the emergency services department was to be found.

Twenty miles further down the road is a notably bigger dot on the map, boasting closer to 17,000, during that blink-or-you’ll-miss-it sweet spot of months where school is in at the local university and the snowbirds are back in town basking up the spring sun in winter parkas. This is a town that can support, through the college population alone, a hospital and ER.

To Menomonie we went last eve, my heart all aflutter.

Once triaged into the inner sanctum, we were greeted in record time by two EMTs and an EKG.

The first face through the door was Nick, an EMT from our neck of the woods in Colfax. Nick was on scene the day our youngest collapsed in the kitchen years ago. He was at the helm of the gurney that wheeled Grandma out to the hospital one scary Thanksgiving past. And he was on the bench beside me two winters back as we watched our kiddos lap the pool for two hours each and every evening at swim team practice. It was good to see his black goatee striding in to measure my heartbeats.

Hot on Nick’s heels was Katy, working through her practicals and reaching for her advanced EMT status with each beat of my kerflopping heart. Katy has been a regular face in our lives for years, showing up at theatrical performances and musical events aplenty, sharing close space with many of our close friends. It was going to be a party, for sure.

Nick and Katy jawed sweetly while they hooked me up, taking a few notches off the stress-o-meter. Their EKG caught an act or two of my cardio show on paper, and Nick shortly wheeled their circus back out the door with a wave. Katy stuck around to regale me with a barrage of questions to further her studies. In the interest of science. What a nice little reunion.

Then Nurse Tom came in. Finally an unfamiliar face. But not for long. Tom attended to the business of my heart, but quickly spied my cross and asked if I was Orthodox. Why, yes, yes I am.

“Well. Small world. I drive by an Orthodox Church every day on my way to and from work.”


It should be noted that there aren’t many Orthodox churches around here outside of the Twin Cities. But despite my church being nearly an hour from my home, and from Menomonie, Nurse Tom indeed drives by our little onion dome in the sticks on every day’s commute. He grew up with the folks I worship with, cavorted with my choir director, has partaken of the renowned cabbage rolls. What are the chances?

But wait. There’s more…

Until 4 years ago, Nurse Tom worked in Barron, closer to his own home and my own church. With whom, you ask? With none other than my decade-long buddy Dr. Rick, pyrotechnics expert of our homeschooling group. Can you feel the planet shrinking?

Looking to wow me, Tom intoned, “Ah, but did you know that Dr. Rick was once a dancer?”


Yes, yes I did. I’ll see you your ‘once a dancer’ and raise you an “Ah, but did you know he’s still a Morris dancer?”


And, hey Katy, don’t you…

“Yeah, I play music for his Morris dance group all the time.” And the circle is complete. Tom is in awe (probably mostly that any man over twenty, much less fifty, can manage the workout that is Morris), and Rick is confirmed as the world’s humblest man.

And while I was being wheeled off to get my chest x-rayed (and watching my inter-rib gymnastics play out in bright green waves on the portable monitor in my lap), Scott further learned that Nurse Tom is a fellow Volunteer Firefighter. They share an affinity for barn fires. Who knew?

Dr. Whatsisname (Dommer? Demmler? Diamler?), unfortunately, couldn’t be drawn into our little round of Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon, but still managed to connect and top off the evening with his uncanny ability to read me and speak my language. I can’t say as I’ve ever had so much fun in the ER.

In the midst of our bedside conversations about mindfulness and keeping an eye on my heart, I looked past my new friend Dr. Whatsit, and saw that I’ve truly found my place in the world. This community is something special. And I am grateful to be here, where that world is still small. A Thanksgiving miracle, leftovers and all.

As for the thumper in my chest, it seems it’ll keep on tickin.’ All signs lead to me having a long, happy life, though questionably pocked with internal Morris dances of my very own, for my private entertainment. I’ll strap on a fancy monitor for a few days this week, and lay all fears of a cardiac explosion to rest. I can’t wait.

If you need me, I’ll be the one with the wires dragging through the cranberry sauce,

Today… The Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple


We’re at the beginning of Advent, just one week in, preparing for the Birth of Christ, and today we see Mary taking her first steps towards bearing the God of heaven. As usual, a timely reminder.

She was the promised one, Mary. She was the child God blessed the barren Joachim and Anna with in their old age, the child they vowed to give back to the Lord as soon as she was weaned and able to live without them.

And so today we celebrate the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple as young Mary strides fearlessly towards the priest Zachariah, towards her salvation and that of the world, as if she knew that she would one day carry the Son of God within her very womb. That in just a little over a decade, she would give birth to the Savior of the universe. Did she know? Did this toddler have a grasp on the divine? Was she young enough, fresh enough, close enough to the earth to hear the rumblings of her God, walking her down His paths?

The icons of this feast depict Mary stepping up onto the dais, without a sidelong glance at her encouraging parents. She is reaching for the priest, but really – really – young Mary is reaching for God. She is reaching for things no one can imagine, and only this young girl can sense. Tradition tells us that she didn’t just go peacefully, but she took things one step farther: she threw herself into the arms of the Zachariah; threw herself at the future that awaited her in the Temple. The Theotokos didn’t have many misgivings.

And upon receiving Mary, what does Zachariah do? He takes her to the Holy of Holies, to the cusp of the very place where even he is only allowed once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies, where God once dwelt, where the Ark of the Covenant once held the very presence of God. The Holy of Holies that has laid empty for ages, awaiting a new Ark, a new vessel for God to indwell. And Zachariah watches as she enters. And as she dances with joy like only a three-year-old might.

She dances, this child, on the very place of the Ark that once held God in tablets of stone and a vessel of manna. And she prepares herself to become the Living Ark, the Ark who will contain the Living God. The Living Ark who dances with God.

And today we celebrate the promise kept my Joachim and Anna. We celebrate the love and wisdom and humility of one high priest. We celebrate the faith of a small child. And with the angels, we are amazed.

Beholding the entry of the Most Pure,
the angels were struck with amazement:
“How does the Virgin enter into the Holy of Holies?”
(refrain of the canon, ode 9)

In peace, and dancing,