The hem of his garment

The Hem of His Garment

Vestments are cool.

Have you ever noticed this? William has. They sort of billow as the priest passes us, and it’s always caught William’s eye. When he was small, he just watched. Then one day, he couldn’t contain himself anymore. He had to see what the fabric felt like in his hands, and he reached out and brushed the phelonion with his fingers.

Since the parent of an autistic child has hand-blocking on auto-pilot, my hands sprung up to pull him back. Then I stopped myself.

I remembered that this is a legitimate Orthodox practice. You don’t see it in all parishes, but parishioners often reach out and brush the edge of the priest’s garments as a nod to Luke 8.

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’” Luke 8:42b-48

It would be cool if William had an innate spiritual sense that reaching for the hem of the garment of our representation of Christ would heal him. That’s probably not it; he probably just really liked the pearl-sheen, billowing fabric. But I happily accept the notion that his determination to reach for the priest’s hem is a God-given springboard to teach him something about His mercy and healing for our souls.

Know what else made my heart leap? A few weeks later, seeing another parishioner do it. Then another. And another. Now, when the priest walks by, most people within arms’ reach touch him.

Each time someone reaches out, I am reminded—we all require God’s healing. Like the one who delivered a stillborn son decades ago. Or the one who is in remission from cancer, but probably scared. The one who just lost his job and his reputation with it. The one who suffers a deep divide between her and her grown children. Each time I see it, a voice inside me cries out, “help us; heal us, O God!”

I don’t know if God will fix our problems or not. I don’t think He’s really in the business of granting wishes. But may He heal our souls, purge us of sinful pride, and make us more like Him—humble, loving, unconditionally compassionate.

That, I know, He will do.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. allthemasons says:

    My friend sent me a link to your blog this morning and this was the first post I read. My daughter Anne is moderate to low functioning autistic. She is 4.5 years old and at 2.5, lost what little vocabulary she had. She was diagnosed with regressive autism which we are told is very rare. We are Roman Catholic but have been attending a Byzantine rite parish for about a year and my husband is transferring rites within the year. Thank you for writing this blog. Anne enjoys the feel of the fabric too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mauraoprisko says:

      Oh, God bless you! I’ll say a prayer for your sweet little Anne today. We’re in this together. 🙂

      Like

  2. My daughter twirls especially when church is empty. Another parent who had, in the past, discouraged his daughter from playing with ours (you know how that goes) asked her why. She said “because I’m happy”. Since then he is a lot kinder to her & looks at her behaviour with a different view.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mauraoprisko says:

      Ugh! That ripped my heart out. Your sweet little girl. I think that sounds a lot like what my son would say if he were asked a question like that. Thank you so much for sharing.<3

      Like

  3. Jenny Dooley says:

    Praise God! My son was diagnosed at age 10 with ASD (before that was undiagnosed chaos). He is now 13 and low functioning related to his behavior, and we have always struggled in church with him so often we don’t go. He loves to reach for Father’s hem, and now realizing that he would never imitate someone else, this thought is so beautiful! He generally has such a different sense of Orthodoxy; a deeper level of understanding. I can’t believe I found your blog! I struggle so much! I can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mauraoprisko says:

      I’m deeply moved by your comment. Thank you; thank you so much! I am glad you found me, and I’m glad you commented. *hugs*

      Like

  4. bonniejohnstone says:

    The parishes I’ve attended here in Colorado and in California have all had children with special needs who are welcomed as participants in the life of the Church.
    In two parishes, a cerebral palsy boy and a downs syndrome boy are Accolites. I’m hopeful that one day my grandson who has Williams Syndrome can be one also.
    I’ve found the Church to be non-judgemental about most things (maybe I’ve been blessed these past 20 years).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mauraoprisko says:

      That is GREAT news. Our parish is actually one of the most beautifully accepting and accommodating group of people I’ve ever seen with William. But I know not everyone is so fortunate, so I try to validate that experience. I am so excited to hear about how your parish has included these special children; it gives me so much hope for William when he gets older! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

      Like

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