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.