by Fr. John A. Peck
If I have any part of this story wrong, I defer to Fr. Michael Oleksa to set the record right. This is it as well as I can remember it, with apologies to him.
This really happened. As a student at St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska, I had the great privilege of spending time on a regular basis with the Dean, Fr. Michael Oleksa. He had a breadth and depth of experience that made his lectures a joy.
During one of these lectures, Fr. Michael recounted an experience of his that was so striking and profound to me that I have never forgotten it and often told it myself (as far as I can remember it without addition or accretion) to many classes of my own.
He told us that during one of his trips to Russia, he was in a long festal procession, going from one place to a distant other. Not an unusual thing in Russia, as some of these festal processions stretch for many miles and take days to complete. During this procession, Fr. Michael was carrying an icon. The weather was poor, rainy and cool, and despite the crowd huddling together, it wasn’t particularly comfortable, but a good exercise in minding one’s prayer.
The rain would start and stop, and generally make it miserable for everyone, leaving puddles of water all over the road, some not so shallow. Prayer helped, but it was a long walk. Occasionally, the procession would stop, for no discernible reason, sometimes for a long time, and then resume moving again, rather like a traffic jam during rush hour moves in fits and starts.
One of the women who was walking next to him noticed that he was carrying an icon. She promptly pulled a candle out of her pocket, lit it, and held it in front of the icon. When that one burned down, she produced another from the same pocket. This went on for awhile as the procession moved on. Clearly, she had been on processions like this before.
During one of the ‘stops’, while everyone was waiting for the procession he noticed that she was standing, ankle deep, in a puddle of rain for some time, not moving, holding her candle before the icon. Fr. Michael described motioning for her to step out of the miserable water puddle.
“Please! Step out of the puddle!”
She held up her hand with a smile and responded;
“Everything to the glory of God.”
She stood in ankle deep in a cold puddle of water. She refused to move out of it – to the glory of God. Fr. Michael expressed his surprise at learning so profound a lesson in such an unexpected way. We began to understand glory a little better, and the Cross made a lot more sense too.
To this day, I do not think I have glorified God as humbly, nor as profoundly, as that woman did (and she did), nor do I think I ever will. But I’m going to try.
If you ever think, or someone ever asks you –
“What can you do to the glory of God?”
I suggest you start humbly. I suggest you start by standing in a puddle of water – to the glory of God.
If you can glorify God just standing in a rain puddle, then what else is possible? What isn’t?!
Have you stood ankle deep in your rain puddle today?
And if, for some reason, this story does not make sense to you, may I humbly suggest you immediately see an Orthodox priest. He is a minister of glory.