102 years ago, on a cruelly-cold December day, a small city of 10 000 people hosted 100 000 Romanians who came to support the union of Transylvania with the other two historical regions that were then forming Romania. The dream was big. It meant togetherness under one flag, freedom and prosperity.
One of my favorite moments of the Union Day was the reading of the Declaration of the Union to the masses gathered outside – by Iuliu Hossu the greek-catholic bishop, accompanied by the orthodox bishop. Unity. Faith. Love. Hospitality. Hard work. Resilience. These are the things that I celebrate today, on Romania’s National Day. Our history is complicated, sometimes cruel, like the weather on that December morning. Today, some Romanians lost hope for the future, so they are seeking more for life somewhere else. But we know that our hope is secure when we love our country while living for a Kingdom that is beyond this earth and what it has to offer.
Romania, I love you! I am thankful to be Romanian. But more than anything, I am thankful to be a child of God. This is what makes someone a good citizen of any country. The mystery and beauty of dual-citizenship is “God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) This is life. This is hope. This nurtures hospitality and sustains dreams.
In Romania, as it is in heaven, His will be done.
PS. This is the most Romanian corner of our apartment. I got the stack of bowls from an American friend who collected old Romanian wood and I slowly restored them over the summer as a good practice (started during the pandemic) of slowing down and taking time to reflect and worship while doing mindless things with my hands. The mirror on the left wall is from my grandmother on my dad’s side, with its own long beautiful history. The mirror that is reflecting my dad’s sculpted frames is from a monastery and it was thrown away. I restored it many years ago and then I painted it. I would have finished it differently in this season but each season we do what we know, and we do our best, right? And those beautiful pottery jugs on the bookcase are from northern Moldova, a little pottery place that we visited once with our youth group after camp in that region and I still remember the beautiful old rugged hands of the man who made them.
PS2. The other two photos are from last year. Bogdan took them while we were going to the December 1st parade. As a grownup I never missed the parade, I braved through rain or snow on some years. I thought it was a little thing to do to honor those who had traveled for days in less than comfortable vehicles to support the union în 2018. The reality is that they either walked or those who were better off, traveled by unheated carriages, they had to improvise food and water and there was a lot of community and sharing during those historic giant days. This year we are staying home and celebrating with our youth group and their friends on zoom.
This is the start of an unexpected December (not for a second did I anticipate in March that the virus would keep us home in December!). But isn’t this a good picture of the first Advent? The coming of the Messiah took everyone by surprise, except for those who lived their dual-citizenship well, like old Simeon or Anna who were at the Temple. They were beautiful citizens of Israel, but they were devoted citizens of heaven – with hearts clinging to the hope of God. So when they saw the Baby, they recognized the Messiah because He was familiar to them. He had been worshipped by them their whole long lives.
As we are entering this season of Advent, like Simeon and Anna, may we also live our dual-citizenship well. May our devotion be placed on the Person we are celebrating. And may this Christmas Advent prepare our hearts for the Triumphant Advent – the glorious return of the King – when He will not be dressed in humble baby clothes after being born in an obscure little town into a modest family, but He will shine more brightly than the sun and every knee will bow before Him. We wait for Him! And those with dual-citizenships know the greatest joy of anticipation because their hope is never in vain or wasted.
”Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required (circumcision on the eighth day), Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:25-38