Saint Who?

If you are unfamiliar with Sara Groves’ song, take a quick listen. I cry practically any time I hear it. Really.

December 2007: I walked into an Orthodox church for the very first time.

December 2009: I was Chrismated on a very cold and icy evening after a week of pre-Chrismation catastrophes.

December 2011: May I  introduce you to someone I have been getting to know the past few years – St. Kassiani

This is where I first found information on St. Kassiani. Including all the derivatives and spellings of her name. I have settled on the literal Latinized version of her name from the Greek. Here is where I finally found her icon. One for my home and one for the Hymnographers corner at church.

Her hymn is one of the high points of Holy Week. Upon finding out that she A) had a major hymn and B) was to be my Patron, I volunteered to sing it during Holy Week. With the words, “it’s a bear to sing,” my parish’s cantor willingly gave me that task.

Here is a beautiful recording of her hymn.

I was first given this version in Western notation. Truthfully, I don’t really like this version; not as pretty or lilting as the music in the recording. Hopefully, between the recording and a different written version at All Saints, I can present something acceptable during Holy Week.

When I mentioned to my priest that I needed to have a quick chat regarding a sponsor and Patron, I was not expecting to have my world turned upside down with the latter. I still needed guidance choosing a sponsor/God-parent, but to me, it seemed that St. Elizabeth (Mother of John the Baptist) was the logical choice for a Patron saint. I had felt a connection to her since becoming a catechumen and, in terms of my name to the Church, I would still be Laura Elizabeth.

The conversation with my priest went something like this:

Me: Fr. Peter, I need to talk with you about my Patron.
Fr. Peter: Who have you thought about?
Me: St. Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner
Fr. P: What about St. Kassiani?
Me: Who?!?!
Fr. P: Look her up! I’m surprised there aren’t more Kassianis.
Me: Um, okay. *grumble, grumble* (inner thoughts) But I want St. Elizabeth!!!!!!!!

The next Sunday, I had a chat with my Khouria about Saints and Patrons; I was still holding out for St. Elizabeth and was trying to win my preference. My pride took a hit that day, but it always needs to be knocked down a bit. I was encouraged to think of a Patron not as signing up for Team Elizabeth or Team Kassiani, but rather as someone who is interested in my life and wants to pray for me on the other side of the veil. There can be other Saints who make themselves known for specific times in life. The possibilities are endless. However, both my priest and his wife felt that St. Kassiani was choosing me. I had been under the impression up to that point that we choose our own Saints rather than Saints making themselves apparent in our lives and choosing us. I decided that bowing my will to this seemingly small issue would be an exercise for whatever obedience I will be under in the future.

The only thing that annoyed me at first regarding St. Kassiani is nothing that is her fault: I don’t know how to spell her name. In Greek it is: KACCIANH. Therefore, the literal Anglicized spelling should be: KASSIANI. The only place I found her icon has the Greek script, yet Anglicizes the spelling to “Cassiane” for the site index. What’s the big deal? Hours of internet research gone to waste because I couldn’t find an icon using any of the various spellings!!! Wait, I did find several icons…from stores in Greece! After my Chrismation, I channeled my inner Junior Higher and practiced writing my name with the different combinations. Hand-written, I definitely prefer “Kassiani” even though, to me, “Cassiani” looks better in type. Thus, I went with the “K.”

I have heard of those who have a strong connection with their Patron. “Good for them,” was all I could think. St. Kassiani was a musician and is still known for her extensive hymn writing – sure, she wrote beautiful hymns and composed, but at the time I was Chrismated I was pursuing culinary arts rather than music. St. Kassiani would probably beat her head against a wall many times over if she ever saw my pitiful attempts at lyric writing and poetry. She was a monastic, as she had hoped to be from an early age; I would still like to get married and be a mom. She spoke up under adversity, where as I typically stay silent. St. Kassiani was known to be beautiful – I’ll take the compliment.

There was definitely not a “lovey-dovey “connection” to her; she was a woman that prayed for me. Then in the past months I have been hit with one hurtful and confusing event after the other with a humongous jolt at the end of August. I am still recovering emotionally from those events. In a recent conversation with my priest, we were talking about what I should do in response to the most recent disappointment. His response was that I be “an icon of Truth.”

It was that moment that I finally found a deeper connection to my Patron beyond her surface attributes of music, words, and beauty. Truth. When faced with adversity and lies, Kassiani disregarded the opportunity for wealth, fame, and the comforts of life. She recognized arrogance and called it out regardless of what external benefits she may have risked.

My task of speaking truth was less daunting. While telling someone they are wrong and how un-invited he/she was in my life is not on any list of enjoyable things to do – I had help.

So, my patron Saint isn’t St. Elizabeth. I did have a bit of grieving, but my priest (rightly) perceived that Kassiani is calling me to know her. That she loves me and is praying for me. Maybe St. Elizabeth was one of those Saints who will always be special and someone I needed to know better last summer. She had to wait a long time for something she desired, but upon receiving her child, she gave him back to God…joyfully. Elizabeth will always be reminding me of that mentality: to give my gifts back to God, even if I have to wait a while for them to come to fruition. St. Kassian, Cassia, etc. well, she isn’t who I initially picked, but someone I need to know. She didn’t settle when riches and imperial fame were in front of her. I need to learn to not take the easy road.

My birth certificate will forever say: Laura Elizabeth. In fact, my Certificate of Chrismation that arrived from Englewood in January doesn’t even mention my Saint. At any rate, to the Orthodox world: Hi, I’m Laura (Kassiani). I think that makes me Laura Elizabeth (Kassiani). Or am I: Laura (Kassiani) Elizabeth? Either way, that’s a lot of letters and a random assortment of Greek, Byzantine, Hebrew, and Germanic root names.

And just so we can be clear, I won’t introduce myself as Kassiani or Laura Kassiani anytime soon. I’m still Laura, except now I have a few more people praying for me.

And I need all the help I can get.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anna
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 16:43:03

    *cough* No C’s in Greek *cough*


    • TallRayofSunshine
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 18:21:11

      Then what language is the first icon/ikon in that I see “C’s”… In my spare time, I’ll start taking Greek then.


      • Anna
        Dec 07, 2011 @ 22:02:15

        Well, they used Latin letters back in Byzantium for some reason. But I would hate to let you believe that you would find a “C” in the Greek alphabet.


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