The Publican and the Pharisee and the Toddler

publican and pharisee

Today was the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, and the folks in our parish got a lesson in piety, courtesy of a toddler and her frantic father.

My daughter was actually pretty calm in church today. She spun in circles and jabbered a little. But mostly she kept to our little area. As usual, I was vigilant for any threat to decorum. I stood ready to spring into action, lest our fellow parishoners think I wasn’t in control of my child.

After biding her time to lull me into a false sense of security, our little girl made her move.

She lunged for a table at the center of the temple. The table, draped in a fine white cloth, held gold candle stands and icons and was an easy target for a handsy two-year old.

With visions of the entire table yanked to the ground, I jumped to grab her. I arrived a second too late, and crouched to grab her just as she pulled a small icon off the table. I nearly fell over in the process, increasing my embarrassment. Everyone would think I was a horrible parent, I was sure.

Then she did something unexpected.

A Publican and A Pharisee

She held the small icon in her hands and brought it to her lips, kissing the icon in veneration.

This tender, innocent moment was nearly overshadowed by my overreaction. My daughter was being what she is – a little girl exploring her world, and completely comfortable in the temple of God.

Later in the service, our priest’s homily contrasted the false piety of the Pharisee with the humble supplication of the Publican. I was a little embarrassed by my attempts to equate my daughter’s goodness with her stillness. With a single kiss, she had shown more love than all my flailing attempts to keep her still.

As we approach the Lenten season, let us all strive anew to have a simple, childlike love of God, and not strive for the praise of men.

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