In the dew-wet newness of this new year, I think of one whose prayers carried me, especially in the formative years of priestly ministry.
Oom Koosie Moses was a stalwart of the Parish of St Nicholas, Elsies River, a short man inclined to lengthy prayers. He would bless me before I left our home on Mountain Way, Matroosfontein for our seminary in Makwanda (Grahamstown).
His prayers were conversational and detailed. The state of the weather would be referenced. It was always “mooi” regardless of heavy downpour or blistering heat. On one occasion, the good Lord was thanked “for this child’s beautiful hair, just like that of a white person”.
A sigh of appreciation was expressed “for the scrumptious meal and the noble hands that made it”. The crispness of the baked potato was noted with relish, as was the tender meat. And the nuanced, “Lord, as you know, I am not much for this Moorish food, but this sister’s curry is such that it compels me to ask for more”.
The blessing extended to travelling mercies, and key markers on the road were mentioned: “Accompany die jong klong, up and over Sir Lowry Pass and all the dorpies between regret and longing until Mossel Bay.
“Be with him in that draf stappie on to the Big Bay named after the Queen of England, the lovely Elizabeth, until where he must be there, deep amongst the Bantu, protect him, O beloved. And may he return to us, still saved, redeemed and learned in your ways.”
Sometimes I felt the literal impact of Oom Koosie’s prayer in my lower back.
To relieve the ache, I would raise myself a bit and the Oom - now in full Holy Spirit-filled flight of prayer - would do a hoppity-skip as he stomped his right foot, proclaiming the name of Jesus, then jump a slam-dunking “sien hom”, smacking my head and then falling down and back into the supporting arms of my brothers, Mark and John. They would steady him each time the rite was repeated.
The blessing a week before my ordination to the priesthood involved a glass of water. Its contents was sprinkled on my head, face, body, hands and feet.
It was a re-contextualisation of an ancient rite, probably pre-Vatican II, for the anointing of the deceased: “Protect Your anointed against fierce thoughts and from wild women (a tap on my head). May his eyes behold that which is pure and blind his sight to the temptation of loveliness (a touch on my eyes and a soft slap against each cheek). May he have a heart for the poor and may he never forget the path to his mother’s home and the teachings of his youth (said as he placed his left hand on my shoulder and his right hand on my chest). May his arm be raised to rebuke the unjust (both my hands held in his). And keep his feet on your path and, should he go astray, may a thousand burning thorns plague his path and pierce his very soul. May he walk the way of the brave even unto the den that could not defeat Daniel.”
At this point, Oom Koosie slowly assumed a kneeling position, assisted by his acolytes, Mark and John, and touched and sprinkled my feet. I was then called to kneel in front of him, and he would kiss my bowed head.
The concluding “Amen, in the strong name of our dear, beloved Jesus our Saviour” was accompanied by a firm hug, arms tight around my waist, his head against my chest.
The Holy Spirit proclaimed her presence in the wetness in the lower edges of my eyes, my gratitude for these traces and signs of ancestral love and care.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.