All For The Love Of Christ

Venerating the Kursk-Root Icon 2Treat everyone in life that you meet
As if their heart is breaking ;
Because it probably is . . .

Treat each person that you see
As if a frightened little child lives within them;
Because it probably does . . .

Treat everyone that you greet
As if they are dying inside from lack of love;
Because they probably are . . .

Treat all people that you encounter
As if their life depends on your kindness;
Because it probably does . . .

Kissing their hands . . .
Washing their feet . . .
Anointing their head . . .
Bowing to their grace . . .
Honoring God’s breath within them . . .
All for the love of Christ .

From FrNektarios Serfes
Written in October 1992

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Holy Week

photo_verybig_127402Holy week is finally here! I am so excited I just cannot contain it! My first Holy week at an Orthodox Church.  Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) was my first experience attending Bridegroom Matins.  I had no idea what to expect.  Actually that isn’t true.  I am very familiar with Western Christianity, and the richness within her.  With Ash Wednesday kicking off Lent.  To powerful Holy Week services. 

Somehow I had it in my mind that things were not so with the Eastern Orthodox.  Sure Pascha is wonderful.  That’s just it.  You always hear about Pascha, but rarely hear about the buildup before Pascha. 

Needless to say Tuesday night I was not disappointed.  The liturgy was beautiful.  The “theme” if you will was thought provoking.  The comparison was with the harlot who washed the feet of Jesus and Judas the betrayer. 

An all around unworthiness swept over me.  It was not something I would consider negative.  I would say it was a realization of the destructive nature of sin.  Not just sin generally, but my own personal sin. Like the harlot we take responsibility for our sin.  We acknowledge our place, and cry out for mercy!

Likewise we see this same story in the publican and the publican and the pharisee. Sometimes I liken myself to the woman at the feet of Jesus.  Crying and offering sacrifice (myrrh).  Other times I am self righteous and like Judas I sell Jesus out for a multitude of sins. 

Today is good friday, and as I type we are ever slowly marching towards 3 o’clock.  I was unable to make any other services this week.  Wednesdays Bridegroom Matins still echo through me.  I anxiously wait for Pascha.  Still I do not want to rush through this time.  As we enter into the darkness of the death of our Christ.

Second Visit Same Church New Experience

display_image.phpSo last Sunday was visit two at St. Seraphim in Dallas.  As the previous Sunday I really enjoyed the Liturgy.  It really has a more formal feel then the Byzantine Catholic Church I have been attending.  For the most part I am indifferent.  Like I said in my last post.  It all is to new to form an opinion.

After Liturgy a man walked up to my family and introduced himself as Deacon Gregory.  I am not sure if he goes by Deacon, Father, or Deacon Father .  So for the meantime I will address him as Deacon Gregory since that is what he introduced himself as.

Deacon Gregory welcomed us to the parish.  He asked a few questions, and invited us to the coffee hour.  He introduced us to several people.  Including his family, and another family who one of them will be my sons Sunday school teacher,  I was also introduced to Subdeacon Vladimir.  He is a very nice fellow and the one who did the icon work at the Cathedral.  I look forward to getting to know him more.

My youngest was really full of energy.  She wanted to be picked up.  Then she wanted down.  She cried a few times, but for the most part was quiet.  By 3/4 of the service I finally just let her wander from a chair to the place I was standing.  It was about 3 feet.  She seemed to do fine.  I figured if the older ladies were walking around, and lighting candles.  This little bit my daughter was doing was of no distraction.  Overall people have been kind.  I get no fowl looks from people when she cries.  Just warm smiles, and the offering of a chair.

I must say that this Sunday was an answer to prayer. I have asked many to keep us in prayer, and it seems that God’s favor was with us.  It looks as if my prayers are being answered.  I am not one who is given to emotion when it comes to the sacred, but I can honestly say I felt the presence of God strongly on Sunday.  It was about twenty or thirty minutes from the end of Liturgy.  It was so heavy it was like being under a blanket.  It was a very beautiful and peaceful experience.

I have no idea what will come this next Sunday.  I had plans on being at the Byzantine Catholic parish for a special guest an Abbot from up North.  A man I have heard talk on Catholic Answers.  I have decided to miss this, and attend again at St. Seraphim.  I am looking forward to the pilgrimage to the Cathedral once again.

The Prodigal Son and Lenten Preparations

Prodigal-Son-(Rembrandt)-779197

And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe.

And he was angry, and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him.And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends:But as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine.But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found. -Luke 15:26-32

 

I often wounder why I love this story so much.  I think it has to do with what I see as insight into the nature of God.  At times I liken myself to the prodigal son.  Other times like the faithful son.  In all of my struggles with scrupulosity, and fearful thoughts of infinite damnation.  I see hope.

It does not matter if one is the faithful or the prodigal son.  God is there for us.  Rewards are abundant to the faithful son.  Great celebration and reunification for the one who was lost.   Not only does the wayward son receives his inheritance.  He partakes in the storehouses and treasures of his father.  A true image of mercy and grace.

God will not forsake any child who calls upon him.  Such great hope in this story.  So why do I have such great struggle in my heart? Why do I fear damnation? Where does this unworthy disposition come from? I love the Lord with all my heart.  In my prayers and lectio divina I have reached heavenly places.  Experienced things I am unable to write for I know not the words to describe it.

Still I feel that I am a retched sinner.  The sins of my past that are great and burdensome  weigh heavy on my heart.  If only I truly understood the ramification of these sins.  I was but a wretched fool.  I have confessed these sins to God.  Not publicly with a priest for I was a protestant.  Such practices were not done.  I hope they are forgiven.  I hope there is hope for me.

So this year I am coming to Lent as the prodigal son.  I will come to my priest in humility and seek peace.  I will fast, and pray and surrender to our Lord this lent.  That I will arise anew with Jesus our Christ.

Peace be to you all.

 

Theophany + Baptism = Good Times

Theophany2So it’s been some time since I posted on my blog.  Partly due to laziness.  Mainly I have been suffering with the flue.  I am just about over it, and feeling good. So I slowly emerging back into productive membership in society.

So I want to talk some about Theophany.  As I was driving to church I thought to myself.  I wounder if there will be a baptism today.  I was right.  Not only a baptism but another was entering the church through Chrismation.  More on that in a bit.

So the Liturgy was wonderful.  I enjoyed the homily.  Many thought provoking nuggets came from that.  The blessing of the waters was very interesting.  Now much of it is a blur. I cannot remember any specific prayers from the Liturgy.  I remember this cool candle with 3 flames.  I remember a triune prayer of some sort.  Each flame was extinguished in the water.  One by one.  Father used what looked to be a branch or herbs as a sort of aspergillum.  He went around the church sprinkling the blessed watters.

At the end of Liturgy Father usually anoints us with oil.  Today he had some sort of herb or branch was dipping it in the water and whapping up on the top of the head.  He seemed to enjoy himself greatly.  Ok whapping might not be correct word.  How about sprinkling us with water using gusto!

The baptism was magnificent.  I love baptisms.  I cry at them like people (insert women) cry at weddings.  This time I think I stayed composed, but I could be wrong.  To witness something so powerful, and yet beautiful.  I am at a loss for words.

There were obvious similarities to Baptisms I have seen at my old Episcopal Church.  Same with Novus Ordo Catholic Churches.  I was surprised in how much of the rite was parallel to what one would experience in Pre Vatican II Roman Catholic.  Or at a parish that still worships in the Tridentine  Liturgy.

It was interesting to see this young lady accept the teachings of the church, and to reject evil.  To accept Jesus as Lord of her life.  Then to come forward be sealed with oil and baptized in a tank in the middle of the temple.  (I hope the order is correct.)

My first Theophany will be a day I will hold dear in my heart forever.

It’s a new year!

Theophany in RussiaI have been out of pocket for some time.  Sickness and vacation have kept me away from my blog and from the church I have been visiting.

This Sunday we will be celebrating Theophany.  I have experienced many Epiphany Mass’s as an Anglican, but this will be the first Theophany I have celebrated.

I look forward to the new experience.  I also am really looking forward to getting back to church.  I feel as if the life has been drained from my being.  The past few weeks have been wonderful.  Visiting family and celebrating Christmas. The vacation was much needed rest for my weary body.

I also have felt a sense of loss like I did when we first left our Episcopal Parish.  I must say I miss Christmas Mass.  I miss serving these services.  I miss the casual talk and laughter in the sacristy.  This transition has been harder then I expected.  My family still does not feel as if we have found our place.

I keep telling myself all we need to do is stay faithful, and keep moving forward.  God is with us!

So I am excited for new experiences.  I am sure I will have plenty to share sometime next week.  Monday we will be visiting a Russian Orthodox Church to celibate the Nativity.  A bit odd to do things backwards.  I guess it is the price one pays with a church that has 2 calendars.

Happy New Year to you all!

 

Could I really be legalistic?

pharisees2Recently I was reading a post from a Roman Catholic who was discussing being legalistic, and the objection from Catholic converts from Protestantism.  My first thought was why on earth is he supporting legalism.  After reading what he had to say I quickly realized his understanding of the word legalism, and mine was completely different.  Or is it?

In the dictionary being legalistic is described as: “1. Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.” This definition I can live with.  Religion in itself is not bad.  Sure many Protestants give people grief about religion.  The even criticize the person who has turned their ‘non conforming” church into religion and not relationship.

It seems the definition Wikipedia offers on being legalistic is much closer to what the average Protestant would understand it to be. “Legalism, in Christian theology, is a usually-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption.”

This obviously is something I am not in support of.  I think we can all agree on the importance of knowing the Good Shepherd as a lamb knows his shepherd.  So then what do we do with religion?  It has always been my understanding of religion as a means to be drawn us closer to God.  Growing up whenever someone would mention the Catholic church, Presbyterians, ect.  They would always turn it to some sinister plot to separate the faithful and to get them intrenched in religion.

I never understood this notion.  I still don’t understand this line of thinking.  I do believe that most of the Protestant founders were misguided, but sinister?  I doubt it.  There is a sense of sincerity in their writings.  The same goes for what I have read from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox writers.

So am I legalistic?  I guess in one sense you can say that I am.  Honestly I can say I am better for it.  Shifting from a Roman Catholic legal understanding of faith to an Orthodox understanding has been interesting.  As a Roman Catholic sees obligation an Eastern Orthodox does not see obligation, but necessity.  Eastern Orthodox are not obligated to go to church and partake in the sacraments.  They need these things like the body needs food and oxygen.  I heard someone once say the an Eastern Orthodox person does not read the bible.  They live it.

I want my faith to be something I live.  Yet I still want to know where I stand in my faith.  I like defining things like sin and confession.  I find comfort in Romish practices.  Am I leaving this way of thinking?  Yes I am.  But I am not leaving the laws of the Roman Catholic Church to define my own set of laws.  No sir.  I am taking on something that I have no word to describe.  It is the law, but more.

I no longer am obliged to be a certain way.  I am that way so that I can live fully alive.  Like the disciples we must leave what is familiar.  What is comfortable. Step out into the unknown.  To find that place of unity with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen!