Cold Days

0413-450x600It has been cold here.  The whole city is covered under a thick blanket of ice.  For many the ice and cold is a nightmare.  For me I see it as therapy.  Much needed at that.   I love this weather.  I find the cold calming.  I long for the brutal cold wind of the North.  I long to hear it whip around my house.  The rattle of the windows.  The sting on my face as I work outside.   The cold and ice is gone now.  Still in my heart it remains

The Nativity of our Lord is just around the corner.  I am looking forward to it, and dreading it at the same time.  Physically I am not ready.  My house is not prepared.  Emotionally I am all over the place.  Spiritually I am anxious.  I guess this is a good way to be.

I once was the one with answers.  I was the one people went to for direction.  A pillar in the church.  Now I am none of these things.  Just a shadow.  A phantom of my past.  I hope Nativity will bring a new beginning.  The start of something beautiful.  At the same time I am ok if this is as good as it gets.

I am no longer the hopeless optimist.  I am not a pessimist either. Whatever is will be.  I am not looking for some sort of false reality.  Or living on hope of something better.  I am trying to live in the present.  To accept it and grow in it.

Lord have mercy on me.  I came into this new place in life very arrogant.   I didn’t see it at the time.  Who am I?  What exactly did I expect? I don’t know if I have any answer.  What I do know is that I am so done.  I am over worrying about what family might think of me.  I am over preconceived ideas of who I am suppose to be.  I just want to live.  Truly live.

Turning a new chapter

photo_verybig_127402I am still alive!

Ok so I have not really spent much time with this blog.  It seems that I thought I knew what I wanted to do with this blog, but never really found a way to do what it was I was trying to do.  I know that might not make much sense, but it does to me.

Basically I hoped to use this blog as a way of working out thoughts, and struggles. That really never happened.  I did share some of my thought and experiences.  I am sure that will continue.  I guess part of me never really wanted to invest to much time in what I was trying to accomplish on this blog.  Knowing that at sometime I would be received into the church, and then ultimately change the format.  Or maybe I was nervous to express thoughts and opinions out to the vast faceless internet.

So I am back, and I have BIG plans for what I am going to do.  I will be posting thought provoking meditations I hear.  I will be posting interviews with various people in ministry I am acquainted with. Who knows yet what else.  I am still working that out.

Until then peace of the Lord be always with you!

 

Christ is risen!

524610_456375864448772_412198614_nLast 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.

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.

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!