Saturday, March 31, 2007
Lazarus, Nature & True Repentance
Taken from H E R E.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Funny Bunny in Bulgaria?
But, a story by Petya Sabinova -- HERE -- is chock full of similar stuff that (I would guess) many Orthodox, not to mention Southern Baptist parents, ain't never heard tell of. It's really, really far from the mark. So bad, in fact, it's kinda humourous; worth a read.
Bless her heart.
Orthodox Easter floats around and rarely corresponds with the Catholic holiday like it did this year. It is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar and even Bulgarians (believe it or not) need to be told exactly when it's going to take place each year.
In the eve of Easter when the clock strikes twelve, Bulgarians circle the church three times with a lit candle. The number of times your candle goes out, is the number of sins you've committed to the year.
Orthodox Holy Week
Saturday of Lazarus - "Having fulfilled Forty Days... we ask to see the Holy Week of Thy Passion." With these words sung at Vespers of Friday, Lent comes to its end and we enter into the annual commemoration of Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection. It begins on the Saturday of Lazarus. The double feast of Lazarus' resurrection and the Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) is described in liturgical texts as the "beginning of the Cross" and is to be understood therefore, within the context of the Holy Week. The common Troparion of these days explicitly affirms that by raising Lazarus from the dead Christ confirmed the truth of general resurrection. It is highly significant that we are led into the darkness of the Cross by one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. Light and joy shine not only at the end of Holy Week but also at its beginning. All those familiar with Orthodox worship know the peculiar, almost paradoxical character of Lazarus Saturday services. It is a Sunday, i.e., a Resurrection, service on a Saturday, a day usually devoted to the liturgical commemoration of the dead. And the joy which permeates these services stresses one central theme: the forthcoming victory of Christ over Hades. Hades is the Biblical term for that unescapable darkness and destruction that swallows all life and poisons with its shadow the whole world. But now -- with Lazarus' resurrection -- "death begins to tremble." For there the decisive duel between Life and Death begins and it gives us the key to the entire liturgical mystery of Pascha. In the early church Lazarus Saturday was called "announcement of Pascha", it announces and anticipates, indeed, the wonderful light and peace of the next Saturday - the Great and Holy Saturday, the day of the Lifegiving Tomb.
Palm Sunday: The Entrance -The Saturday of Lazarus from the liturgical point of view is the pre-feast of Palm Sunday - the Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem. Both feasts have a common theme; triumph and victory. Saturday reveals the Enemy, which is Death. Palm Sunday announces the meaning of victory as the triumph of the Kingdom of God. Palm Sunday the acceptance by the world of its only King, Jesus Christ. In the life of Jesus the solemn entrance in the Holy City was the only visible triumph. Up to that day, He consistently rejected all attempts to glorify Him. But six days before the Passover, He not only accepted to be glorified, He Himself provoked and arranged this glorification by doing what the prophet Zacharias announced: "behold, Thy King cometh unto thee... lowly and riding upon an ass.."(Zac. 9:9). He made it clear the He wanted to be acclaimed and acknowledged as the Messiah, the King and the Redeemer of Israel. The Gospel narratives stress all these Messianic features; the Palms, the cry from the crowd of “Hosannah”, the acclamation of Jesus as the Son of David and the King of Israel. The history of Israel is now coming to its end, such is the meaning of this event, for the purpose of that history was to announce and to prepare the Kingdom of God, the advent of the Messiah. And now it is fulfilled. For the King enters His Holy City and in Him all prophecies, all expectations find heir fulfillment. He inaugurates His Kingdom. The Liturgy of Palm Sunday commemorates this event. With palm branches in our hands, we identify ourselves with the people of Jerusalem, together with them we greet the lowly King, singing Hosannah to Him. But what is the meaning of this today for us? First, it is our confession of Christ as our King and Lord. We forget so often that the Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated and that on the day of our Baptism we were made citizens of it and promised to put our loyalty to it above all other loyalties. We must remember that for a few hours Christ was indeed King on earth in this world of ours, for a few hours only and in one city. But as in Lazarus we have recognised the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical centre of the world and indeed of the whole of creation. For such is the biblical meaning of Jerusalem, the focal point of the whole history of salvation and redemption, the holy city of God's advent. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is a universal Kingdom, embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation. The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem came at the end of the entire process of preparation revealed in the Bible: it was the end of all that God did for men. And thus this short hour of Christ's earthly triumph acquires an eternal meaning. It introduces the reality of the Kingdom into our time, into all hours, makes this Kingdom the meaning of time and its ultimate goal. The Kingdom was revealed in this world - from that hour - its presence judges and transforms human history. And at the most solemn moment of our liturgical celebration, when we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King and confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life. We confess that everything in our life and in the world belongs to Christ, nothing can be taken away from its sole real Owner, for there is no area of life in which He is not to rule, to save and to redeem. We proclaim the universal and total responsibility of the Church for human history and uphold her universal mission.
The Way of the Cross - We, know however, that the King whom the Jews acclaimed then, and whom we acclaim today, is on His way to Golgotha, to the Cross and to the grave, we know that this short triumph is but the prologue of His sacrifice. The branches in our hands signify, therefore, our readiness and willingness to follow Him on this sacrificial way and our acceptance of sacrifice and self-denial as the only royal way to the Kingdom. And finally these branches, this celebration, proclaim our faith in the final victory of Christ. His Kingdom is yet hidden and the world ignores it. It lives as if the decisive event had not taken place, as if God had not died on the Cross and Man in Him was not risen from the dead. But we, Orthodox Christians, believe in the coming of the Kingdom in which God will be all in all and Christ the only King.
Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: The End - These three days, which the Church calls Great and Holy have within the liturgical development of Holy Week a very definite purpose. They place all its celebrations into the perspective of End; they remind us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha. So often the Holy Week is considered one of the beautiful traditions" or "customs", a self evident "part" of our calendar. We take it for granted and enjoy it as a cherished annual event which we have observed since our childhood. We admire the beauty of its services, the pageantry of its rites and, last but not least, we like the fuss about the Paschal table. Then when all this is done, we resume our normal life. But do we understand that when the world rejected its Saviour, when "Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy....and his soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death," when He died on the Cross, “normal life” came to its.
For they were "normal" men who shouted, "Crucify Him!", who spat on Him and nailed Him to the Cross. They hated and killed Him precisely because He was troubling their normal life. It was indeed a perfectly "normal" world which preferred darkness and death to light and life. By the death of Jesus, this "normal" world, this "normal" life was irrevocably condemned, or rather, they revealed their true and abnormal nature ie their inability to receive the - "Now is the judgement of this world." (John 12:31). The Pascha (Passover) of Jesus signified its end to "this world" and it has been at its end since then. This end can last for hundreds of centuries; this does not alter the nature of time in which we live as the "last time." The “fashion of this world passes away...”(1 Corinthians 7:31).
Holy Thursday: The Last Supper - Two events shape the Liturgy of the Great and Holy Thursday: the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. The Last Supper is the ultimate revelation of God's redeeming love for man. The betrayal by Judas reveals that sin, death and self-destruction are also due to love, but love directed at that which does not deserve love. The mystery of this unique day, and its liturgy where light and darkness, joy and sorrow are so strangely mixed, challenges us with the choice on which the eternal destiny of each one of us depends. "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come... having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end... "(John 13:1) To understand the meaning of the Last Supper, we must see it as the very end of the great movement of Divine Love which began with the creation of the world and is now to be consummated in the death and resurrection of Christ. God is love. (1 John 4:8) And the first gift of Love was life. The meaning, the content of life, was communion.
But through sin, if man betrayed, God remained faithful to man. He did not "turn Himself away forever from His creature whom He had made, neither did He forget the works of His hands, but He visited him in diverse manners, through the tender compassion of His mercy." (Liturgy of St. Basil) A new Divine work began, that of redemption and salvation. And it was fulfilled in Christ, the Son of God, Who, in order to restore man to his pristine beauty and to restore life as communion with God, became Man, took upon Himself our nature, with its thirst and hunger, with its desire for and love of life. And in Him life was revealed, given, accepted and fulfilled as total and perfect Eucharist, as total and perfect communion with God. He rejected the basic human temptation: to live "by bread alone." He revealed that God and His kingdom are the real food, the real life of man. And this perfect eucharistic Life, filled with God, and therefore Divine and immortal, He gave to all those who would believe in Him, i.e., find in Him the meaning and the content of their lives. Such is the wonderful meaning of the Last Supper. He offered Himself as the true food of man, because the life revealed in Him is the true Life, and the movement of Divine Love which began in paradise with a Divine "take, eat... " (for eating is life for man) comes now "unto the end" with the Divine "take, eat, this is My Body..." (for God is life of man...) The Last Supper is the restoration of the paradise of bliss, of life as Eucharist and Communion. But this hour of ultimate love is also that of the ultimate betrayal. Judas leaves the light of the Upper Room and goes into darkness. "And it was night."(John 13:30) Why does he leave? Because he loves, answers the gospel, the “silver” more than he loves the Lord. Each year, as we immerse ourselves into the unfathomable light and depth of Holy Thursday, the same decisive question is addressed to each one of us: do I respond to Christ's love and accept it as my life, or do I follow Judas into the darkness of the night?
Great and Holy Friday - From the light of Holy Thursday we enter into the darkness of Friday, the day of Christ's Passion, Death and Burial. In the early Church this day was called "Pascha of the Cross," for it is indeed the beginning of that Passover or Passage whose whole meaning will be gradually revealed to us, first, in the wonderful quiet of the Great and Blessed Sabbath, and then, in the joy of the Resurrection day.
If only we could realise that on Great and Holy Friday (Megali Paraskevi Gk.) darkness is not merely symbolical and commemorative. So often we watch the beautiful and solemn sadness of these services in a spirit of self-righteousness and self-justification. Two thousand years ago bad men killed Christ, but today we - the good Christian people -- erect sumptuous Tombs in our Churches - is this not the sign of our goodness? Yet, Good Friday deals not with the past alone. It is the day of Sin, the day of Evil, the day on which the Church invites us to realise their awful reality and power in "this world." For sin and evil have not disappeared, but, on the contrary, still constitute the basic law of the world and of our life.
And we who call ourselves Christians, do we not so often make ours that logic of evil which led the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers and the whole crowd to hate, torture and kill Christ? On what side, with whom would we have been, had we lived in Jerusalem under Pilate? This is the question addressed to us in every word of the Holy Friday services. It is the revelation of the true nature of the world which preferred then and still prefers darkness to light, evil to good, death to life. Having condemned Christ to death, "this world" has condemned itself to death and inasmuch as we accept its spirit, its sin, its betrayal of God - we are also condemned. Such is the first and dreadfully realistic meaning of Good Friday: a condemnation to death.
Great and Holy Saturday - This is the Blessed Sabbath. The "Great and Holy Sabbath" is the day which connects Good Friday, the commemoration of the Cross, with the day of His Resurrection. To many the real nature and the meaning of this "connection", or "middle day", remains obscure. For a good majority of churchgoers, the "important" days of Holy Week are Friday and Sunday, the Cross and the Resurrection. These two days, however, remain somehow "disconnected." There is a day of sorrow, and then, there is the day of joy. In this sequence, sorrow is simply replaced by joy, but according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, expressed in Her Liturgical tradition, the nature of this sequence is not that of a simple replacement. The Church proclaims that Christ has "trampled death by death." It means that even before the Resurrection, an event takes place, in which the sorrow is not simply replaced by joy, but is itself transformed into joy. Great Saturday is precisely this day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside the defeat, when before the Resurrection, we are given to contemplate the death of death itself. All this is expressed, and even more, all this really takes place every year in this marvelous morning service, in this liturgical commemoration which becomes for us a saving and transforming present.
On coming to the Church on the morning of Holy Saturday, Friday has just been liturgically completed. The sorrow of Friday is, therefore, the initial theme, the starting point of Matins of Saturday. It begins as a funeral service, as a lamentation over a dead body. After the singing of the funeral troparia and a slow censing of the church, the celebrants approach the Epitaphion. We stand at the grave of our Lord, we contemplate His death. Psalm 119 is sung and to each verse we add a special "praise", which expresses the horror of men, and of the whole creation, before the death of Jesus:
"O all ye mountains and hills, and all ye gatherings of men,"
"Mourn, weep and lament with me, the Mother of your God"
And yet, from the beginning, along with this initial theme of sorrow and lamentation, a new theme makes its appearance and will become more and more apparent. We find it, first of all, in Psalm 119 - "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord."
The death of Christ is the ultimate proof of His love for the will of God, of His obedience to His Father. It is an act of pure obedience, of full trust in the Father's will; and for the Church it is precisely this obedience to the end, this perfect humility of the Son that constitutes the foundation, the beginning of His victory. The Father desires this death, the Son accepts it, revealing an unconditional faith in the perfection of the Father's will, in the necessity of this sacrifice of the Son by the Father. Psalm 119 is the psalm of that obedience, and therefore the announcement that in obedience the triumph has begun.
But why does the Father desire this death? Why is it necessary? The death of Christ is described as His descent into Hades. "Hades" in the concrete Biblical language means the realm of death, which God has not created and which He did not want; it also signifies that the Prince of this world is all powerful in the world. Satan, Sin, Death - these are the "dimensions" of Hades, its content. For sin comes from Satan and Death is the result of sin - "sin entered the world, and death by sin." (Romans 5:12).
The entire universe after the fall had become a cosmic cemetery, it was condemned to destruction and despair. And this is why death is "the last enemy," (1 Corinthians 15:20) and its destruction constitutes the ultimate goal of the Incarnation. This encounter with death is the "hour" of Christ of which He said that "for this hour have I come." (John 12:27) Now this hour has come and the Son of God enters into Death. The Holy Fathers of the Church usually describe this moment as a duel between Christ and Death, Christ and Satan. For this death was to be either the last triumph of Satan, or his decisive defeat. The duel develops in several stages. At first, the forces of evil seem to triumph. The Righteous One is crucified, abandoned by all, and endures a shameful death. He also becomes the partaker of "Hades," of this place of darkness and despair. But at this very moment, the real meaning of this death is revealed. The One who dies on the Cross has Life in Himself, i.e., He has life not as a gift from outside, a gift which therefore can be taken away from Him, but as His own Essence. For He is the Life and the Source of all life. "In Him was Life and Life was the light of man." The man Jesus dies, but this Man is the Son of God. As man, He can really die, but in Him, God Himself enters the realm of death. This is the unique, the incomparable meaning of Christ's death. In it, the man who dies is God, or to be more exact, the God-Man. God is the Holy Immortal; and only in the unity "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation" of God and Man in Christ can human death be "assumed" by God and be overcome and destroyed from within, be "trampled down by death."
Death is Overcame by Life Now we understand why God desires that death, why the Father gives His Only Begotten Son to it. He desires the salvation of man. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the necessity of that Divine death. Death was not only destroyed by God, but was overcome and trampled down in human nature itself by man and through man.
"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Corinthians 15;21) Sabbath, the seventh day, achieves and completes thehistory of salvation, its last act being the overcoming of death. But after the Sabbath comes the first day of a new creation, of a new life born from the grave.
However, we are still in Great Saturday before Christ's tomb, and we have to live through this long day, before we hear at midnight 'Christ is Risen!', before we enter into the celebration of His Resurrection. Thus, the third lesson -- Matthew 27:62-66 - which completes the service, tells us once more about the Tomb - 'which was made secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard." But it is probably here, at the end of Matins, that the ultimate meaning of this "middle day" is made manifest. Christ arose again from the dead. His Resurrection we will celebrate the next day on Pascha (Easter). This celebration, however, commemorates a unique event of the past, and anticipates a mystery of the future. It is already His Resurrection, but not yet ours. We will have to die, to accept the dying, the separation, the destruction. Our reality in this world, is the reality of the Great Saturday; this day is the real image of our human condition. We believe in the Resurrection, because Christ has risen from the dead. We expect the Resurrection. We know that Christ's death is no longer the hopeless ultimate end of everything, Baptised into His death, we partake already of His life that came out of the grave. We receive His Body and Blood, which are the food of immortality. We have in ourselves the token, the anticipation of the eternal life. All our Christian existence is measured by these acts of communion to the life of the "new eon" of the Kingdom, and yet we are here, and death is our inescapable share. But this life between the Resurrection of Christ and the day of the common resurrection, is it not precisely the life in the Great Saturday? Is not expectation the basic and essential category of Christian experience? We wait in love, hope and faith. We wait for "the Resurrection and the life of the
world to come” (see Nicene Creed).
Every year, on Great and Holy Saturday, after this morning service, we wait for the Easter night and the fullness of Paschal joy. We know that they are approaching -- and yet, how slow is this approach, how long is this day! But is not the wonderful quiet of Great Saturday the symbol of our very life in this world? Are we not always in this "middle day," waiting for the Pascha of Christ, preparing ourselves for the day without evening of His Kingdom?
Reposted from 2005 & 2006; thanks to a FWD from Fr Mark Mancuso.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
INTERVIEW: Bishop Hilarion, Composer
on Music as Prayer
ROME, MARCH 5, 2007 - Music in church should be an avenue to deeper prayer, not a distraction, says a Russian Orthodox bishop and composer.
His Grace Hilarion Alfeyev, Bishop of Vienna and Austria, is the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Community.
His latest composition, "The Passion According to Matthew," will be premiered in Moscow on March 27 and then performed in Rome on March 29.
In an interview with ZENIT news agency, Bishop Hilarion discusses his latest composition, the central role of music in the Orthodox liturgy, Christian unity, and some thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI.
Q: When did you receive the inspiration for this musical composition? Why the Passion according to St. Matthew?
Bishop Hilarion: The inspiration came out of the blue as I was driving from Vienna to Budapest on August 19, 2006, the feast of the Holy Transfiguration, according to the Julian calendar.
I suddenly thought that I should write a musical composition on the Passion story and that this music should be based on the Orthodox liturgical texts from Holy Week.
The title, "The Passion According to Matthew," also came immediately and I had no doubt that I should use St. Matthew's account of the Passion. By choosing this title I also wanted to declare my indebtedness to J.S. Bach, whose music has always been for me a source of deepest inspiration.
In Budapest, I celebrated the service dedicated to St. Stephen of Hungary on August 20, and on August 21, I drove back to Vienna. As I was driving, the first melodies began to come, and I began to record them in my memory. As soon as I arrived, I started to put them on paper. I then worked very hard for about three weeks.
I canceled one or two international trips, I almost did not respond to phone calls and e-mails, and I could not sleep during nights, because melodies continued to come to my mind even at three o'clock in the morning.
On September 10, the main bulk of work was finished. I left music aside for a couple of months, and then returned to it again in order to make sufficient revisions and to compose new movements instead of some of the original ones which I decided to remove.
In my composition, the Orthodox understanding of the Passion story is reflected. It differs from the understanding that is characteristic of Western religious art, where accent is often laid on Christ's humanity rather than on his divinity.
Orthodox tradition avoids naturalism in depicting the Passions: On the Orthodox icon of crucifixion, Jesus is depicted dead, not in agony, and his death on the cross is contemplated not as a moment of horror, but as a moment of glory.
The same attitude is reflected in the Orthodox liturgical texts. Moreover, almost every time when these texts mention the Passion, they also mention the Resurrection.
Being based on the Orthodox liturgical texts and inspired by the Orthodox singing, my music is as much about despair as about hope; as much about suffering as about redemption; as much about death as about resurrection.
Q: Why will the concert be presented in Rome after presenting it in Moscow?
Bishop Hilarion: This was not my idea: It came from the chief conductor of the Choir of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Alexei Puzakov. He was the first musician who heard my music as I was composing it -- I played it to him from Vienna, and he listened through the telephone receiver.
He suggested that it should be performed not only in Moscow, but also in Rome, since Holy Week and Easter coincide this year for Roman Catholics and Orthodox.
In November I showed the score to Vladimir Fedoseyev, and he very kindly agreed to conduct the performance. The dates for both concerts were chosen by Fedoseyev: These were, in fact, the only dates available for the Grand Symphony Orchestra during this year.
Q: If you meet the Pope when you are in Rome for the concert, what will you say to him?
Bishop Hilarion: I would say to him that, in my view, the time has come for a much closer collaboration between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.
I do not believe that the restoration of full Eucharistic communion between East and West after almost a millennium of separation is something that is going to happen in the foreseeable future and I do not think that the theological problems that exist between us could be easily solved by the Joint Theological Commission.
But it seems to me that we should not wait until all the problems are solved and full harmony is achieved. It may never happen.
We must begin a much closer collaboration here and now, without any further delays. The challenges we are facing in Europe and elsewhere, such as relativism, militant secularism, radical Islam, are those we could and should address together.
I was deeply satisfied when I read Cardinal Ratzinger's speech during the conclave in which he declared war on relativism. I also noted that in his Regensburg lecture he went beyond the limits of political correctness because he felt that the issue he was addressing was important. The reaction that followed only confirmed that he had touched the heart of the matter.
Traditional Christianity nowadays needs to be defended from both the external challenges I mentioned, and the internal challenge of growing liberalization of doctrine and morality within some Protestant communities. I feel, and I often say openly that ecumenical relations with the Protestant world become ever more problematic and ever less hopeful.
The gap between traditional and liberal versions of Christianity is widening, and it is mostly Catholics and Orthodox who stay on the traditional side, while many Protestant communities adopt liberal standards.
Q: What role does music have in your personal prayer life?
Bishop Hilarion: Music plays a very important role in the Orthodox liturgy. As a bishop I celebrate liturgy every Sunday and on all feast days. The quality of the choir and the repertoire that it chooses is something of importance for me.
Being formed as a musician from my very early years, I cannot completely dissociate myself from music when it is sung in the church, and even as I am reading liturgical prayers, I continue to hear the singing.
Last summer I composed "The Divine Liturgy" and "The All-Night Vigil" for the choir a cappella. My main aim was to write such music that would not distract from prayer either for me or my parishioners.
Singing in the church should be oriented towards prayer and should not be turned into a concert, as often happens.
The best examples of truly prayerful singing could be found in Russian Znamenny chant, an equivalent of the Western Gregorian chant. This unison chant is simple, but it is meaningful and moving.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
THE PASSION: Symphony & Choral
DEPRESSION: A Golden-Mouthed Prescription
"Our very meeting together daily as we do, and having the benefit of hearing the divine scriptures; and beholding each other; and weeping with each other; and praying, and receiving benedictions, and so departing home, takes off the chief part of our distress."
-- On the Statues
Thanks to FWD from Fr Josiah Trenham.
DYNAMIS: The Fasting Quiz
Which do I use, my standards or God's?
What in me is resisting God's teaching, His guidance, or His correction?
What do I believe pleases God in my fasting: limiting food, added prayers, or using these means to grow in love and obedience to Him for keeping His ways?
How does my fasting serve my ego, my goals, my needs rather than the Lord's desires and goals? What of God's graces do I miss in my self-serving?
Do I justify being cross, curt, or mean when I fast?
How have I increased or decreased quarreling during the Fast?
What are the ways that I make my fasting visible to others rather than hiding my devotion to the Lord as He commands (Mt. 6:16-18)?
What efforts have I made to remove circumstances or conditions that lead others to sin? How have I made life more difficult for others? How have I eased the pain of others? What wrongs have I corrected to lighten the struggle of others?
What am I doing personally to relieve someone's hunger, to provide shelter to any homeless persons, or to assure that others receive needed clothing?
To what extent have I asked God to enlighten me in practical ways so that I might provide aid, comfort, and / or assistance to some needy person or families?
In what ways have I asked God to free me, to notice my problems or to hear me, while in the meantime I have neglected the dignity, freedom, needs or cries of others?
To what degree do I help others - as a legalistic duty rather than giving, sharing, and aiding them from my heart, in thanksgiving to God Who has so richly provided for me?
To what extent do I fast to please myself or to impress or ingratiate my fellow Christians rather than fasting in order to become more aware of God's presence?
What in the Lenten Fast is a waste of time or energy from my perspective? What about fasting do I find spiritually empty? What in me makes the Fast "one more thing to get through"? How is the Fast adding or detracting from my growth in faith, hope, and love? Am I drawing nearer to God and finding His peace in my heart? Why or why not?
This is the posting from DYNAMIS for today, Wednesday, March 28th.
Go HERE for the full posting & context.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Thanks to FWD from Kasper.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Annual Lenten Superlative Awards
“I think it’s a wonderful way to show our appreciation to those who lead the way,” said long-time member and infrequent faster, Billy Gullible. “Before coming to St Kismet’s, no one recognized my spiritual feats, perfect service attendance, swift prostrations, and longest prayer rope. Now, thanks to these awards, I have something to strive for!”
Sandy Cornfed was disappointed in last year’s Most Likely to Succeed recognition: “Early on, at the pre-Lenten Cheesefare dinner, I was voted most likely to succeed. Alas, I did horribly. I ate three cheesecakes that night … only to continue eating all through the Fast. I thought by ‘most likely to succeed’ they were speaking of my fasting! I was horrified to learn that many were actually betting on my gluttony. I mean, what kind of success is that?”
Tom Brittle, who looks like he has never eaten more than twice in his life, is currently the Ferocious Faster front runner. “Ain’t nuthin’ to it,” T-Bone says “… it’s all in the wrist.”
“Yup. If you abstain from using your wrist for the entire fast, no doubt about it: You tend to eat less.” (Suffice it to say no one’s seen Tom mowing his yard either.)
Betty Offded went home last year with the Humility Award. One would think that a memorable occasion. But, explains Betty, she was stripped of the award soon after: “All I did was place the award in a prominent place, on a lighted shelf, in my den … and the priest cried foul during my recent house blessing … and I lost the award.”
Ben Thurdonethat was actually arrested soon after his Alms Giving Award. The case is still pending, but sources say that the beggar that Ben kept giving money to was actually working for Mr Thurdonethat and it, therefore, does not count as alms giving and is actually an illegal form of tax evasion. However, Ben was commended for actually giving his award away.
Deacon Methuselah, last year's winner of the Most Graceful Prostrator in a Long Black Robe award, has finally reached the age where he is being honoured with the coveted This Side of the Grave (Life Time Achievement) award which entitles the recipient to no longer do anything strenuous other than show up for services. “It’s taken a long, long time for me to attain this state,” said the 104 year old deacon.
Not everyone is up to speed on the competition, however ...
Ernie Slack asks: “What’s a ‘prostration’ and can we eat 'em on fasting days?”
To which, Aida Walrus (always a little slow) asks: “What’s this about a fast?”
Stan Merr won last year’s Longest Lenten Confession award, but some cried foul: “Th-th-they thi-thi-thi-think that jj-j-jju-just because I stu stu stud d d d der … I c-can’t mu make a g-gu-ggood confes confes confession.”
The following will also be awarded:
Happiest Looking Faster Award
Tastes Too Good To Be Tofu Award
I Read the Rudder Religiously Award
Not to mention the most coveted --
Zero (Zilch, Nada, None) Peanut Butter Award
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Former Priestess on Priestesses
Her answer: H E R E.
Happy Feast & Many Years to the clergy & faithful of Annunciation Cathedral, Houston.
"As we begin with eagerness, O ye faithful, the sixth week of the holy Fast, let is sing a hymn in preparation for the Feast of Palms, to the Lord who comes in glory to Jerusalem in the power of the Godhead, that he may slay death. So with reverence let us prepare the branches of virtues, as emblems of victory; let us cry Hosanna! To the Creator of all!"
-- from Sunday evening Vespers of the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt
"Today Lazarus has died and Bethany laments for him: but Thou, our Savior, shalt awake him from the dead. Through the raising of Thy friend, Thou hast given us in advance an assurance of Thine own dread Resurrection, of hell’s death and Adam’s restoration to life; and we therefore sing Thy praises."
-- from Tuesday evening Vespers of the Sixth Week of the Fast
"Desiring to save the world, He is the Creator of all came to it according to His own promise, and He that, as God, is the Shepherd, for our sake appeared unto us as man; for like calling unto like, as God He heareth: Alleluia!"
-- Kontakion 10 of the Akathist of the Theotokos
"When the Absolver of all mankind desired to blot out ancient debts, of His Own will He came to dwell among those who have fallen from His Grace; and having torn up the handwriting of their sins, He heareth from all: Alleluia!"
-- Kontakion 12 of the Akathist of the Theotokos
Quotes thanks to FWD from Fr Mark Mancuso.
Friday, March 23, 2007
PICS: Sunday of Orthodoxy, Etc.
(Click to enlarge.)
Clergy process with icons at Vespers, St Joseph Antiochian Orthodox Church. (Right to left: me, Archpriest Matthew MacKay, Archpriest David Eckley, Archpriest Joseph Shahda in the shadows.)
This year's host pastor, Archpriest Matthew MacKay, during the procession.
Fathers Richard Petranek, Michael Lambakis, Basil Biberdorf, and Iulian Anitei.
From the far left: Archpriest Paul Tarazi (guest preacher), Archimandrite Gabriel Karambis, Archpriest Joseph Shahda, self, Archpriest Matthew Mackay, Archpriest David Eckley, Priest Dejan Tiosavljevic, Deacon Gregory Gibson.
Deacon Joseph Carter ... leads the Synodikon. (That's Archpriest Anstasios Raptis beside Fr Paul Tarazi; Fr Florin Craioveanu, a very tall man, is blocked from view.)
Deacons Meletios Marx & Gregory Gibson hold the Gospel Book for veneration of the faithful.
St George, from the choir loft, in the dark.
The Clergy Brotherhood of St Raphael of Brooklyn, Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, pictured here with Archimandrite Zacharias at the annual retreat.
Hey ... how'd they get in here? Just some kids I'm blessed to know.
"With fear of God and faith and love, draw near!" (That's Fr John Salem in the background.)
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Evangelizing the Who-zee-mo-whats
Thoughts I can't organize well, and are only one "unchurched" person's opinion: I don't go to a Divine Liturgy because I'm terrified. I've listened to them on AFR and we've got a Greek Orthodox church in town with new clergy who finally set up a good website with information about "all welcome, 10:00 services" kinds of things and contact information... but it's wildly intimidating.
Anyone who knows me would laugh if someone called me "shy," but even just driving by that church gets me. When you're this ignorant, it's hard to imagine anyone in that church taking you seriously. I can float around the internet and stumble across some very good information (12 Things -- Frederica is such an evangelist in that way) but there is also the hyperbole and propaganda you've got to avoid. (Some of it, pretty dangerous.) I can read Kyriacos Markides and Killistos Ware, look into the Orthodox Bible and follow up with more research... I can devour the official websites for churches and learn about your calendar, fasting, discipline and traditions...
But still I look at the beatitudes and wonder with a horrible shame what on earth someone would /think/ if they had to listen to my first confession. Not that I'm a criminal or anything, no, just regular even if I've never been baptized. Flip side, I've never been angry about God or rebelled either. Benign atheist is hardly benign -- I can only console myself with the idea I've been basically decent in such a secular life. I don't even have a tattoo. But that's not the point anyway.
I wager that if I'm in this little bubble, there have got to be others like me. It's not doing anyone any good, it can't be your fault for saying "all welcome" and putting your email address up (the churches, too, are that open) so where's the disconnect? For the unchurched, it has to be the intimidation (we don't even know what it feels like to be in a congregation at all) along with a kind of solipsism or, certainly, a fear of commitment. If we get involved with something like "a church," what if it doesn't work out? Will I just crawl back to my study and keep knowing what I "know" despite having messed up being a catechumen too? Should there be some less formal first step like a personal tour of the parish? How much time would that cost, you know? You can't treat all of us with kid gloves. You also can't pay so much time and effort to the curious few when you've already got your entire congregation to work with... and houses to bless.
Anyway, there it is. I really hope I haven't offended anyone but I do know I'm a toddler 'round these parts. You're very kind to read this.
-- Anonymous, via email
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
What Was Old Becomes New (Again)
It happens to all of us: our “old man” (Ephesians 4:22) plays tricks on us, leading us to neglect the one thing needful. Though we long for God, we fill up our lives with that which leads us far from Him.
Elder Paisios of Mount Athos writes:
The one who neglects his prayer and duties unjustifyably and works all the time building pyramids for Pharaoh) is estranged from God, becomes wild, constantly and cruelly hitting his guardian angel with kicks and disorder, until he finally drives him away. Then, he accepts the devil as his ruler, who immediately makes the following changes: 1) abolishes the prayer rope, replacing it with worldly worry beads and 2) does away with spiritual study completely, replacing it with worldly magazines and newspapers. In the end, the devil conquers him and he suffers internally and seeks amusement as Saul did, when he was alienated from God and demon possessed (Epistles, p.218) .
The temptations of contemporary society, not to mention the destructive forces of addiction, seduce us into believing them to be necessary to the point of excluding that which is necessary for our salvation (prayer, fasting, alms giving).
Truthfully, brothers and sisters, we’ve only got one chore: “The thing that will move God more on the Day of Judgment is the work each one of us has done on his old man.”
God created Man in His image and likeness to be in communion with Him. Man has free will to respond to this relationship. Although created in the image and after the likeness of God, he does not sustain communion with God. Though fashioned in God’s image, the likeness has been lost and, through sin, the image tarnished.
Understanding the image as residing in the intellect and reflecting on the parable of the Prodigal Son and how he came to himself, Georgios Mantzaridis writes:
Developing the parable of the prodigal son, and speaking of the dissipation of the father’s fortune by the younger son, [St Gregory] Palamas gives the following allegorical interpretation: man’s chief wealth is his inborn intellect. While he keeps to the path of salvation, he keeps his intellect concentrated in itself and on the first and highest Intellect, God. If, however, he is led astray into misuse, then his intellect is dispersed and adheres to earthly things, and to the pleasures of the flesh. Man is required to fight against this pathological deviation through his return to himself and elevation towards God [The Deification of Man: St Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition (TDOM)p.82].
Mantzaridis continues: “If there exists something that man can and must seek and find within himself, it is not the self which deviated but the new man in Christ, born through baptismal grace and the other church sacraments” (TDOM, p.83).
Thus, we do not come to our base nature -- the old man -- which is corrupted by sin. Rather, we come to that which is good, beautiful and true. We come to that which Adam was before the Fall; we come to the New Man, Christ, Who is within us.
We are called to “put on Christ.” We are to become like God, thereby regaining the “likeness” that we have lost by transgression. The first step in this process is that we “come to ourselves.” This coming to oneself is the first step toward repentance and reconciliation that leads to communion with God and neighbor. This is true when “man, ‘having entered wholly within himself’, becomes aware of himself and awaits within himself the coming of God and the divine transformation” (TDOM, p.85) .
Certainly, we all have some discernment. Let us not kid ourselves that we are in good standing with God even though we neglect our neighbor and we are living the life of the “old man.” Let us put on the New Man and “resolve to struggle fervently, cut off our passions, liberate our soul, and fly into Heaven” (Epistles, pp.150-151).
This reflection, a combination of two previous posts (and currently in the St George MESSENGER), is based on: Epistles, Greece: Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, 2002; and, The Deification of Man: St Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition by Georgios Mantzaridis, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997.
Monday, March 19, 2007
LENT: All Uphill from Here!
Good! or Not bad!
I didn't feel the need to ask the same question on the Fourth Sunday.
Our Boy Scout Troop used to play "Kick the Can" -- a suped up version of hide-n-seek which involves prisoners,
(We figured they'd let us know when the game was over.)
One day, we must have had a lot to talk about, we walked a long, long way down the railroad tracks till we discovered a very steep embankment ...
But of course. We had to climb it.
Did I mention the steep part?
We scrambled up the precipice at first, unhindered by fear. A little further and it got really
We looked down. Way down. Then we looked up. Straight up.
We were stuck; afraid. We couldn't go back down (and we saw no possibility of moving upward).
So there we sat. For a long. Long. Time.
We talked about our fears, possible strategies, worst case scenarios ... our dads. We pretty much freaked ourselves out. Truth be known, although we were 12 or so, we may have even cried (in a manly Boy Scout fashion, mind you).
We sat there for
Suddenly, Jimmy found some deep seated courage and took off scrambling to the top of the small mountain. It was precarious ... but he made it. We were happy for him. No way we were going to emulate him, though. We were fine right where we were, thank you: stuck, scared, and miserable.
That is ... until we saw, way off in the distance, two figures making their way down the tracks in our direction.
Oh my Guh ...
We looked up: Jimmy yelling encouragement. We also heard, faintly due to distance, voices encouraging us to come down.
Y'all? There was no way we were going back down. We'd made it this far ...
So we did what any
The two shapes in the distance? Yup. Scout Masters.
Courage was slow in coming; in other words, the adults got there before it kicked in. And, it seemed to our adolescent minds that one of the men -- in his 40's with quite a mid-life paunch -- was headed up the hill. (I can still see him flapping his arms and wiggling the invisible Hula Hoop as he meandered baby steps. Now, myself his age, I know better. He had no
Jimmy yelling ... old man coming ... stuck on the side of Mt Kilimanjaro.
Suddenly, without a word, Scott and I turned our faces upward and scrambled toward the top as if our life depended on it. Our fear was transformed into life-saving (if not fool-hearted) energy and ... well, We did it!
Which brings me round to this point -- where you and I are right now -- over the half-way mark in the Great Fast.
The Church knows our struggle, our weaknesses and shortcomings. For this reason, She not only appoints Sunday's Gospel passage ... but commemorates St John of the Ladder.
About the Ladder of Divine Ascent, St John says (and I'm paraphrasing here): Do not despair at all the hesychasts and anchorites who have made it before you ... You are following the First Martyr! Do not grow faint hearted from your falls, for they only show how much you are in need of the Physician.
In a way, we're all sittin' there on that hill. Our struggles have caused us discomfort, doubt, wounds and discouragement. The thought may even have occurred: "Why bother?"
But, brothers and sisters, we've made it this far. We have a great cloud of witnesses who've gone before us, cheering us on -- not only toward our present Pascha, but to the Eternal Banquet.
And that lion that pretends to be ascending the hill after us? Have no fear; our Lord has defanged him. He just wants us to lose heart.
Let us, having passed the midpoint of the Great Fast, persevere in faith -- not being discouraged by our falls and illnesses, but with encouragement and healing offered by the Physician of our souls!
Through the prayers of St John of the Ladder, and all the Saints, O Lord be merciful to us and save us!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
One Flew Over the Onion Dome is now available on Amazon.com
Whoever you are.
Prayer for the 4th Sunday of Lent
Hearken unto our meager supplications, O Thou Who didst not despise the Publican when he humbled himself before Thee,
but didst shew him more justified than the self-righteous Pharisee,
whose boasting and vain, empty talk, do Thou root out from our hearts;
but grant us the Publican's repentance and the humility that brings us closer to Thee,
Who liftest up the humble, and dost humiliate the exalted; and make us worthy of that bliss which is stored up for the poor in heart, in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Through the mercies of Thy Christ, with Whom Thou art blessed, together with Thine All-Holy, and Good, and Life-creating Spirit, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
-- From an ancient Ambon Prayer. (Orlov, Prayer No. 57, p. 336-7.) Provided by Fr John Shaw, who writes: "Note that in this prayer as in the one for the 1st Sunday of Lent, the theme of the Publican and Pharisee is again returned to." Source
BP: "God, Mind Your Own Bee's Wax"
Thank God for liberal clergyman. Because if they didn't exist we would have to make them up. The stuff of humour for generations, one of the most amusing of the gang is Michael Ingham, Anglican bishop of New Westminster in Greater Vancouver.
As his church dissolves into a fringe group on the margins of North American society, the bishop has issued a statement calling for, "a more positive approach to sexuality." Of course, when he speaks of being positive he really means doing anything in bed or out of it and telling God to mind His own business.
Which is fair enough if you don't believe in Him and in Jesus Christ. But if you do, your options are less flexible. It's really very simple. Christianity and non-Christianity are mutually exclusive. If you're not a Christian you can behave as you like. But if you are a Christian you are supposed to behave as a Christian.
It would be outrageous, for example, for Christians to try to redefine atheism and declare that it now meant believing in God and attending church. It doesn't. Nor does Christianity mean making things up as you go along about the faith. We're here to follow rather than edit.
Not the funny bishop though. "We must challenge the church's condemnations throughout the centuries of such things as masturbation, birth control, abortion, and homosexuality." When I was a boy we had a word for people who approved of masturbation. Mind you, I think we also had a word for people who couldn't think straight.
The whole story ... H E R E.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Food (or not) for Thought
Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The basic message is where you went wrong before you got dead.
-- Daniel, age 9
From one of those emails my wife gets from friends gone by. (Some of you, no doubt, recognize the Toll Houses :)
Gluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous. And, as gluttony calls forth greater and greater gluttony, so fasting stimulates greater and greater endurance. When a man realizes the grace that comes through fasting, he desires to fast more and more. And the graces that come through fasting are countless.
-- Saint Nikolai of Zicha
Can Married Folks Be Saved?
Some people living carelessly in the world put a question to me: "How can we who are married and living amid public cares aspire to the monastic life?" I answered: "Do whatever you may. Speak evil of no one. Tell no lie. Despise no one and carry no hate. Do not separate yourself from the church assemblies. Show compassion to the needy. Do not be a cause of scandal to anyone. Stay away from the bed of another, and be satisfied with what your own wives can provide you. If you do all this, you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven."
-- St. John Climacus - The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Friday, March 16, 2007
INTERVIEW: Orthodixie Podcast
Scroll to "Introducing the Orthodixie Podcast."
Thursday, March 15, 2007
HT: Ancient Church (note the "new" addy)
A Truth about Fear
-- Win Bulter of Arcade Fire [on their album Neon Bible].
Taken from the sidebar of THUNDERSTRUCK.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
H E R E
ST THEODORE: Mid-Fast, Mid-Week
Why did this thought sound for me in advance? Because it is as if our whole life directs its reason contemplating the eternal Pascha. For this present Pascha, even though it is great and revered, is nevertheless, as our fathers explain, only a type of that Pascha to come. For this Pascha is for one day and it passes, while that Pascha has no successor. From it pain, grief and sighing have fled away; there everlasting joy, gladness and rejoicing; there the sound of those who feast, a choir of those who keep festival and contemplation of eternal light; where there is the blessed breakfast of Christ and the new drink of which Christ spoke, I shall not drink of the fruit of this vine, until I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.
Of this he spoke to his disciples when he was about to ascend to heaven, I am going to prepare a place for you and, if I go, I will prepare a place for you. I am coming again and I will take you to myself, so that where I am you maybe also. And where I am going you know, and the way you know. And a little further on, On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. And elsewhere, Father, I wish that where I am they may be with me also, so that they may see my glory, which you gave me, because you loved from before the foundation of the world.
But because this concerns not only the Apostles, but also ourselves, he also said, I do not ask this only for them, but also for those who through their word believe in me, so that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, that they may also be one in us.
What could be more comforting than these words?
What could be more appealing?
What soul can they not soften?
What heart not prick with compunction, even should someone say that the human heart is a nature of stone?
With thoughts like these the saints bore all that they bore, considering afflictions as joys, constraints as freedoms, struggles as delights, harsh training as relaxation, deaths as lives.
I beseech you, my brother, should not we also, since we have the same aim and seek the same Pascha, bravely and courageously bear our present condition, not falling, not succumbing to despondency, but rather roused with greater fervor watching for the wicked serpent who works to deceive us by the passions, transforming himself into an angel of light, and altering things from what they are; show dark as light, bitter as sweet.
This was how he ensnared our forefather, bewitching his sight and depicting as beautiful what was not, and as a result through food casting him out of Paradise.
But let us, who have learned by experience what a deceiver he is, not leave the paradise of God’s commandments, nor, when he indicates to us that the fruit is beautiful, let the eye of soul or body be directed there, otherwise we are being caught in the snare. But let us flee by every means from looking.
What is the fruit which seems beautiful?
The love of the flesh, the evil lust of every one of the destructive passions. If we avoid experiencing them, my brothers, we shall be saved and easter * to age on age, with all the Saints in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
by St Theodore the Studite
* Here St Theodore uses a very rare verb paschazein. The only reference in Lampe is to St Theodore’s contemporary Theophanes, who uses it of the Quartodecimans, who ‘easter’ with the Jews.
From an email to the Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The Global Standard Deity & the Sun God
Chapter 21's intro note on The Global Standard Deity found in Jasper Fforde's novel Lost in a Good Book.
I read Fforde's The Eyre Affair a while back, and am just finishing (in my just before sleep reading) the second book in the series, Lost in a Good Book.
FWIW ... another [timely] quote:
The camera switched back to the studio.
"Trouble at MoleTV," continued the anchorman, "and a bitter blow for the producers of Surviving Cortez, the channel's popular Aztec conquering reenactment series when, instead of being simply voted out of the sealed set of Tenochtitlan, a contestant was sacrificed live to the Sun God. The show has been canceled and an inquiry has been launched. MoleTV were said to be 'sorry and dismayed about the incident' but pointed out that the show was 'the highest-rated on TV, even after the blood sacrifice.' Brett?"
The camera switched to the other newsreader ...
Fforde's Thursday Next novels are constantly referred to as "Harry Potter for adults ..." On the contrary, I see nothing wrong with Harry Potter FOR adults.
But, that said, it's fun reading.
There's two news stories currently making the rounds which make the excerpts above seem timely.
[Staring Into Space, Thinking of a Title]
I kid you not.
UPDATE: "I am convinced that when gays and lesbians are baptized, they become full members of the body of Christ," said Bullitt-Jonas. "They are not partial members or conditional members or second-class members."
Monday, March 12, 2007
LENT: At the Half
Those of us struggling under the leadership of Coach Cullivan knew that phrase well. It could be heard at any time, especially if we were losing at the half.
Stealing an image from yesterday's guest preacher, Camille Baba (Youth Director at St George, Wichita) ...
Brothers and Sisters in Christ -- concerning the Great Lenten Fast -- it's halftime!
Heading to the locker room, no matter the score, is always similar to the words of Forrest Gump's mama:
"My mama always said [half time] was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
Obviously, it's always better to be winning at the half.
I mean, really.
But, with few exceptions, the second half's a different experience from the first. Perspective has changed. Coming down the homestretch. Make it or break it. No pain, no gain -- etc.
Yesterday's Feast of the Cross pointed us toward the goal. No matter how far we are behind, no matter how well we have struggled, no matter our matters ... THE Matter is in sight. It requires sacrifice. Obedience is better than sacrifice. And, still, like all things God-pleasing, one goes with the other.
Obedience, sacrifice ... the Cross. It's halftime!
I remember once hearing a priest tell of a "bad Lent." It was Holy Week, Great and Holy Thursday, and he went to Confession prior to that night's "12 Gospel Service" and tearfully confessed to being slothful through the whole of the Fast. He admitted to God, before his brother priest, that he had not fasted as he ought, had let his secular job override his prayers and service attendance, had not given and forgiven more, struggled harder, sinned less ...
The priest hearing his Confession said: "Well, tonight my brother, you get to place Christ on the Cross."
[During the service, past the mid-point of the Gospel readings, in a darkened church, with great reverence the Crucifixion is re-enacted -- with a large icon of the body of Christ being placed on the Cross in the midst of the temple.]
The slothful priest, when he later did this, said he had tears streaming down his face ... NOT so much because of his sins, but in awesome wonder at God's love, forgiveness, and mercy.
Here at "halftime," as we make our way back out onto the spiritual battle field ... heading toward that great and holy day, the Passover of our Lord from death to Life -- PASCHA -- let us yet be mindful of the words of our Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom:
If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART: At a recent Lenten Retreat, Fr Paul Tarazi said that some who hear these words -- about those even at the eleventh hour (the final minutes of the game!) -- being allowed to enter into the joy of the Feast might well say:
"Then, WHY DID WE FAST?"
The answer: "So you could understand what St John Chrysostom was saying!"
It's Halftime. Our goal is in sight.
We're encouraged by the choir as we walk out onto the field:
Before Thy Cross we bow down O Master, and thy Holy Resurrection we glorify!
Pep talk's over. Press on.
Glory to God for all things!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
THE CROSS: An Instrument of Death?
On Ancient Faith Radio this week ...
Someone recently asked me a very important question about the Cross:
Why do Christians wear crosses? Why do we celebrate an instrument of death? Isn’t it similar to glorifying an electric chair or a gun?
Tune in this week to Ancient Faith Radio for an answer (times listed are Central):
Sat at 10:30am CT and 5:00pm CT
Sun at 4:00pm CT
Tue at Noon CT
Wed at 4:00am CT (for our European friends)
Thu at 5:00pm CT
Having reached the mid-point of the Fast, let us sing:
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Lord, and Thy Holy Resurrection do we glorify.
CHRIST: He Was, But Is ...
He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God...
He hungered, but He fed five thousands...
He thirsted- but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.
He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy-laden...
He prays, but He hears prayer...
He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity...
He dies, but He gives life.
-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Third Theological Oration "On the Son"
Thanks to FWD from Fr Josiah Trenham.
Friday, March 09, 2007
RECONCILIATION: Andrew's Story
Andrew was a very happy child and his parents loved him dearly.
Andrew could run, jump, and play outside – and in any room in the house …
Except the living room.
There was only one rule in Andrew’s home: Thou shalt not play in the living room.
Andrew was a contented child. But, more than anything in the world, he desired to play in the living room.
Every time he passed by the room, he longed to play there. More and more he became obsessed with the idea of playing in the forbidden space.
One day, while his parents were next door, Andrew seized the opportunity!
He entered the living room. He ran. He jumped. He flew from chair to sofa and back again. He was having so much fun! He couldn’t understand why his mother would never allow him to play in the living room. Why, this was the funnest room in the house!
Then it happened.
His mother’s favorite vase.
It lay broken – shattered – on the floor.
Andrew stopped playing. Not quite knowing what to do, he quickly swept up the pieces of the broken vase and hid them under the skirting of a chair.
Soon, his parents returned. They sensed something was wrong with their little boy, but he said everything was fine.
It wasn’t long before Andrew stopped playing.
He stopped playing in the hall, the driveway, and in the den.
He even curbed his play outside and with friends.
He stopped running and began to mope. His shoulders began to slump. He did not smile. Andrew was no longer a happy contented young boy.
When his parents would ask him about his sullenness, he would only reply: “Everything’s fine.”
His eyes would no longer look into the living room with a burning desire, but with a sad and terrible fear. There, under his father’s formal chair, lay hidden the fragments of his mother’s favorite vase.
Weeks went by. Months. Andrew’s personality sank deeper and deeper under the weight of his worry.
Then it happened.
One day, as he was moping up the hall, he saw his mother emerge from the dreaded room.
Their eyes met.
He knew … she knew …
He was terrified.
Until he saw her squat down ...
and open her arms wide.
Then it happened. The tears poured down his face and he ran and snuggled into his mother’s embrace.
“Why?” she asked. “Why did you not tell me?”
He didn’t have to say a word. His mother had seen the fear and sorrow in his eyes. It was only then that she understood why her little boy had been so melancholy.
And it was then that Andrew first knew the wonders of forgiving love.
We do the same thing, do we not? Like St Paul says, “I do not understand my own action. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, who had one rule, we break the commands of God and try to hide our sins under cover of darkness. We live in fear of being found out. It affects our mood, our relationships with those around us – and our relationship with God. Yet, like Andrew’s mother, God longs for us to be freed from the bondage of our broken and sinful lives.
He will embrace us with a mother’s love … if we but let Him.
This story is taken from a sermon, preached years ago, by the Rev'd Andrew Sloane (then Rector of Grace Church, Sheboygan, Wisconsin) -- hence the title. The picture is of the 3rd Grade Church School of St George Church, Houston, following "first confession" (along with me and Fr John Salem).