Taught with Gladness

After two or three weeks' rest, returning to school is tough.  My feet aren't used to so much standing, or my vocal cords ready to talk talk talk for hours on end.  (Yes, I know I should be letting my students do most of the talking.  But if I asked them to summarize the plot of the Iliad, we wouldn't get very far.)

So, although I would prefer that vacation last through the end of the Christmas season, which came at last night's Liturgy, it's a special blessing to pause midway through this first exhausting week and hear the prayers over the water, to drink it and be sprinkled (or doused, depending on your proximity to the priest) and revel in the renewal of creation that occurred when Christ deigned to be baptized by a mortal.

The Blessing of the Waters is a miraculous and inspiring event, whether it occurs on the shores of the Jordan or in the midst of a crowded nave in suburbia.  The effusively exclamatory language of the prayers never fails to move me (the rubrics for one state that the priest begin the prayer in "a great voice".)  But last night I happened to be paying very close attention during one of the Old Testament readings because I guessed, correctly, that the reader was having trouble and wanted me to take over.  And listen to what I heard:
Seek ye the Lord, and when ye find Him, call ye upon Him; and when He draweth nigh to you, let the ungodly forsake his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return unto the Lord, and he shall find mercy; for He will abundantly pardon your sins. For My counsels are not as your counsels, neither are your ways as My ways, saith the Lord. But as the heaven is far from the earth, so is My way far from your ways, and your thoughts from My thoughts. For as the rain or snow shall come down from heaven, and shall not return until it have watered the earth, and it bring forth and bud, and give seed to the sower, and bread for food, so shall My word be: whatsoever shall go forth out of My mouth, it shall by no means turn back until all that I have willed is accomplished; and I will prosper thy ways and My commandments.

For ye shall go out with joy, and be taught with gladness: for the mountains and the hills shall leap out as they welcome thee with joy, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands with their branches. And instead of the briar shall come up a cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up a myrtle tree: and the Lord shall be for a name, and for an everlasting sign, and shall not fail.

Esaias 55 : 6-13