Nativity is just around the corner. I cannot believe it is almost here. It seems like it has been forever in coming. At the same time the last month has just flown by. In the busyness of everything I have been trying to take time to reflect on just what is happening.
For some time now I have really been meditating on the incarnation. A deep reality has set in that honestly words fail. Words can only describe this great mystery. The iconography of the Theotokos has been a big part of this unfolding. The reality of God in flesh is so beautiful . Not only did God embrace humanity it was elevated. We are of one flesh. one spirit, and through faith and the sacraments one nature.
The Nativity of our Lord takes up real time. It is a real event that really happened. The birth of Jesus to his and our blessed mother Mary. This was a timeless event. Not just a map pin on the timeline of history. What happened in the natural is equally timely and yet timeless. The reality of God coming to humanity has always been. His mercy and grace fill all time. We can see this in sacred scripture.
The Nativity of our Lord takes up future time. I am reminded of the words from the Eucharistic cannon “Christ has died Christ has risen Christ will come again”. Yes Christ will come again. Like the 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Nativity is a reminder that Christ will come again. It is in the Nativity we wait, hope, and prepare. So I will say it again Christ will come again!
The Nativity of our Lord takes up present time. We know not time when Jesus returns. We heard these words from his mouth. St. Paul also believed Christ would return during his lifetime. Most of the Early saints did. Throughout history people have thought the return of Christ was imminent. Rightfully we all need to live as if Christ could return at any time. The reality is that we will most likely be reunited with Christ through our natural death.
We are called to pray, fast, and give alms. We are to live like every moment counts. We are to live like there is no tomorrow. The truth is we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We are to rest and take comfort in the promises left to us by our Lord. Have faith dear ones. Keep up the good fight of faith. Enjoy the Nativity liturgies. Mostly try to be present in the moment. Be it at church or at home.
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, Pascha!
Saturday I had to work a 12 hour shift. I left around 6:45 full of excitement. For that night I was to experience Easter as an Eastern Christian.
I had a basic understanding of what was to transpire. As you know understanding and knowing are two separate things. That night was a night of firsts. It was my first time experiencing Pascha. This was the first Pascha for our church. It was also the fist time any church in our area celebrated in this old Tradition.
I thought about comparing Easter practices East and West. Lucky for you I have just changed my mind on this. I can do that because this is my blog. Also this blog is a journal of my thoughts. Very little editing is done to it. It is my hope that it would be as pure as possible what I am truly thinking the at the time of writing.
The most profound aspect to what transpired that night was not realised until a conversation at a cookout Sunday afternoon. Father and I were sharing thoughts and talking about the events of holy week. We talked about our procession around the town square and court house. (Quick side note. Our parish is a mission parish. At the moment we are in a store front.)
The town is the county seat and has one of those old monstrous castle looking court houses. We made our way around the court house. Singing hymns, carrying candles, icons, and other sacred items one would carry in a procession.
The significance of this procession is multi faceted. For the sake of time I am going to focus on Orthodox Christianity in the frontier. What I had the privilege in taking part of was something that has never been done here before. Prayers and hymns were chanted for the first time. Processions were made on fresh soil. The true faith was displayed for all to see. The fullness of the Gospel is being represented in this small Western town.
Many do not know who we are. They have never heard of Orthodox Christianity. Like the flame that burns bright on Pascha so do we in our little town. It is our mission and responsibility to this community to share the fullness of the Gospel.
Let us move forward with a spirit of love, and a heart of prayer.
So yesterday was the 4th Sunday of Great Lent. I was very pleased to be there. Part of that was I am always pleased to be in the Lords house. Also I have been down with pneumonia for about a week. I feel that I am of the fast track to health now.
Sunday was marked for St. John Climacus. Or often called St. John of the Ladder. Father shared with us about the saints life and witness. As usual the readings tied into this ongoing theme in our common liturgical life. What Father shared was a homily that for me was very personal.
I have briefly shared on this blog my struggles with feeling worthy of salvation. I tend to focus on my sins and shortcomings. Thoughts of heaven and hell come to me daily. Sunday was no different. Reflecting on the Gospel readings and homily has given me some new perspective.
I am not a sum of my sins. My sins will not and cannot define me. I am a created in the image of God. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! Some things in life cannot be changed by will. They change by prayer and fasting.
It is time for me to take my Lenten journey more serious. This year I have been a bit tepid with my practice. Now is the time for me to allow Jesus to come in and do the work only he can do. I see this more clearly now. I see the path, and in this moment understand what I need to do.
So 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.
I 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.
So yesterday was the Synaxis (Feast or gathering) of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers. Now that is mouthful. As an Episcopalian we had a similar feast. Typically for me it was something that occurred once a year, and was just a short stop in my liturgical calendar.
Basically I never really put much thought into this feast. I have a Blog that I talk about feast days, and saints. Nope never a blog entry for St. Michael. I am not sure why. I guess other then Archangels mentioned in the bible I have put very little thought into angels. Maybe because they are a mystery to me. I really don’t know.
Since I was unable to attend the Divine Liturgy last night. A real bummer for me. I decided to do some reading. I am basically familiar with most of the standard feasts celebrated in the West. Rarely have I looked into Eastern writings or general information regarding the feasts of the Eastern church.
I have to say I have been intrigued on what I have read. I don’t really have any thoughts to share on it at this point. I am still meditating on some new ideas on the angels and their work. Especially in how God interacts with his natural creation. Fascinating stuff…. Really it is.
The greatest benefit from all of this is that I have decided to keep open my other blog. I have struggled with what I should do with it. I average a thousand or so visits a month. Nothing spectacular, but it is impressive to me. That blog is less personal then this one. It is mainly a place I write about the saints.
I thought about closing it down. That didn’t feel right. Many people come there and learn about many wonderful saints of our faith. I hate to see a blog die. You stumble onto a blog, and just love it. Finally after weeks of reading you get to the newest post to see it has been inactive for over 2 years. Oh man! That wasn’t going to be me. I planned on writing a final goodbye entry.
Well I am glad I didn’t Because I decided to continue writing on the saints and various feats. I am going to keep this blog for personal thoughts and the other will continue on the way it always has. Just coming from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.