Outward Signs of Grace
We baptized baby Aurelia Trinity yesterday at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Mission. Her young parents Franny and Addison used to live here and came up from Juneau for the blessed event. And yes, this was literally a blessed event, there were all kinds of blessings and prayers.
When Jan, our priest, took a shell and poured the blessed water on tiny Aurelia (she's five weeks old) in her white christening gown (it had been her mother's) and the matching bonnet that covered her thatch of nearly black hair (the same color as her father's beard) the baby did not cry. "She's going to snort" my daughter Sarah whispered, "Franny says she never cries, when she's upset she snorts." Sure enough there was a snort and grunt, and Sarah said "she's screaming inside." I assured Sarah she was not, since I want Sarah to baptize my granddaughter in a few months. Sarah and her husband Brian are due to be parents on January fifth.
In her homily Jan reminded us that baptism is a sacrament, or an "outward and visible sign of inward spiritual grace."
When it was over, we prayed that God grant Aurelia "an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works."
Then we all went to our house for a potluck, I baked a ham and everyone brought salads and things like macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pies. Franny's mother sent a cake, and the sun shone through the windows and it was so bright thanks to the new snow. The dogs weren't too much of a bother, as long as no one left their plate unattended. The baby was passed from woman to woman, and her older sister, a toddler, played with the wooden trains I have gotten out of the cellar for my neighbor's grandson, he likes to play with them too when they come for dinner.
The ferry left at three, so everyone was gone by two, nearly as quickly as they arrived, and we still had an hour of daylight, so Chip and I took a walk around the Small Tracts loop. The road was white with snow, and the wind calm on a flowing tide. It was crystal clear with that dusky kind of winter light that makes everything look like a blue and white photograph.
I thought, this is what Jan meant: this is what grace must look like. Growing up in such a place, how can Aurelia help but know joy and wonder?