Monday, May 12, 2008

Finding sanctuary

Kathleen, a lovely local woman who is taking me around Kenai, Alaska, where I am speaking at Theology on Tap tonight (7 p.m. at Paradiso's), brought me to Holy Assumption Orthodox Church yesterday. It is a National Historic Landmark, reportedly the only one in Alaska that is reachable by car.

The priest, Father Thomas, had finished the Pentecost liturgy when we arrived, but he graciously took the time to show us around the church. On my way out, I bought a pocket-sized fold-out set of two icons from the gift shop. It bore images like the two that bracket the altar in this photo.

I asked Father Thomas if he would bless the icon, expecting him to make the Sign of the Cross and pray for a few seconds, as a Catholic priest would do. Instead, he excused himself for a moment, took the icon back to the altar, prayed a blessing three times, and brought the icon back to me decorated with beads of holy water. Witnessing that was a sort of crash course for me in Orthodox sacramentality, and a very beautiful one at that.

To see a list of my upcoming talks, visit the Appearancs page at My Anchorage talk tomorrow night will be at the Snow Goose at 7 p.m.