Vintage Faith: Granny’s House and the Household of God
Posted on February 12, 2017
One of the earliest ways Christians spoke about salvation history –that is, how God works in history –is with the idea of creation as the household of God. In this household, everything was set in order, and the children were both treasured and expected to grow up to be like their Father.
When I came to the ancient Christian faith, I found myself comparing the lessons I learned with my experiences at my great-grandma Granny’s house. Ancient Christian faith is a time-tested way of life, and it resonated in my memories of the way we did things in Granny’s house.
Memory is always overlaid on places. The ancients knew this and developed a system of remembering thousands of minute details by imagining them in familiar places. When St. Augustine tells people in his Confessions to throw open the fields and palaces of their memories to see the way that God has worked, he means an actual practice of forming memory by thinking of a palace or a field that one could remember no matter what.
For me, Granny’s house is such a place. It’s so impressed on my mind that I can imagine walking through every room, though I have not been in that house in over 25 years.
It’s not surprising, then, that the big ideas in the ancient faith – saints, fasting, tradition, hospitality, and devotion – wove themselves around the iron bedsteads and sewing machine and checkerboard kitchen floors of Granny’s house. The meaning of faith shines through the daily acts of care for one another that took place in those rooms.
Saints tell out the meaning of the sewing notions, and the calendar tugs up the scents of seasonal cooking in that kitchen. Everyday patterns of life with Granny show me how to live a faith that is best practiced in small acts of dailiness. This is the same faith that, writ large, looks like art and gold and cathedrals and works of wonder. But here, you can eat it with a spoon and wash your hands in it and put it on when you get dressed in the morning and preserve it when you dust and sweep and mop and tidy.
When I am overwhelmed by my inability to understand or to implement a part of the faith, I find myself back there, a little girl at the knees of my Grandma and Granny, learning how to live a life that will keep.
The ancient faith is faith that keeps.
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What part of your family’s everyday household traditions remind you of the Christian faith?