>A Different Kind of April Fool

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Today is my patron saint’s Feast Day, so it’s my Name Day. But most people know April 1 as “April Fool’s Day.” Mark Twain said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” And Saint Paul said, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” (I Corinthians 1:27)

Ironic coincidence, since Saint Mary of Egypt was somewhat like a “fool for Christ,” and April 1 is her Feast Day.

Her life is read as part of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete on the Wednesday evening preceding the fifth Sunday of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. That’s tonight. And this coming Sunday is the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt.

We have a “little t” tradition at my parish concerning Mary of Egypt. All the women (there are currently eight of us) who take Mary of Egypt as our patron saint will bring a flower and they’ll all go into a vase in front of her icon, making an eclectic bouquet to express our love for her. And the flowers remind us of the festivities that are coming soon—it’s the last Sunday of Great Lent—next Sunday is Palm Sunday!

Read my reflections about this Feast on my blog post last year here.

TROPARION OF ST. MARY OF EGYPT

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother Mary, for you took up the cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the angels
So, how am I celebrating my Name Day?

Well, first (on Name Day eve, actually) on Tuesday, March 31, which is the last day of my birthday “month,” I used one of my gifts –a gift card to Davis Kidd Books—where I selected Same Kind of Different As Me. Yeah, I already have about 10-12 books in the que to be read, but this one just might bump a few of the others. I’m anxious to start reading it.

Next, I’m excited to share this link to my seventh published essay, “Are These My People?” which came out Tuesday at Muscadine Lines, the Southern ezine published and edited by Kathy Rhodes, an amazing multi-tasking woman I met a just over a year ago at a Creative Nonfiction workshop.

Rhodes’ essay “An Open Letter” will appear in The Best Creative Nonfiction Volume II, edited by Lee Gutkind, published by W. W. Norton, in July 2009. In addition to editing Muscadine Lines, she is editor of the book Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology, and author of Pink Butterbeans: Stories from the Heart of a Southern Woman, a collection of 50 personal essays. Kudos to you, Kathy, and thanks for publishing “Are These My People” in the Southern Journal. Hope to see you at a conference in the future!

And finally, on Wednesday night I’ll be at St. John Orthodox Church for the Lenten Service which I mentioned earlier, the Small Compline with the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. It’s one of the most moving and somber services of Great Lent. One of my favorite memories of this service was the year I spent my Name Day at an Orthodox monastery in Michigan. The abbess, Mother Gabriella, asked me if I would like to participate in the reading of the Life of St. Mary of Egypt at the service that night. I was humbled and pleased by the invitation, but then she said, “There’s one condition. You can’t cry.”

“What? What if I can’t help it? Why is it wrong to cry?”

“Because then you’ll make all the sisters cry and we won’t be able to sing the service.” She smiled her beautiful smile that warms you all the way through. Somehow I made it through without crying. Until I was finished. I think I wept loudly afterwards. It’s hard not to have a soft heart in that environment. I’ll try to let God’s grace work on my rough edges at the service at St. John tonight.

Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us.

P.S. Tomorrow I’m off to Chattanooga for the Conference on Southern Literature. I’ll try to blog from there on Friday if I have time and a good internet connection. If not, I’ll check back in on Sunday.

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