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.
Holy 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.
Life has been going at the speed of light lately. My in-laws are in town, and staying with my family. We took a mini vacation to San Antonio during their Fiesta.
Other news I had coffee with the priest of the Parish I have been attending. We had a smashing good time. I have expressed my families interest in becoming catechumens. I am not sure as to the date but in the near future we will be officially catechumens!
I am looking forward to Palm Sunday. It will be another first in the Orthodox Church. I will post on my experience next week. Also to come a post on the mission train in San Antonio.
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 I have been away from my blog for about a month. I have started a new job. Not with a new company but in a new group within the company I work for. I love my new job, but it has kept me very busy.
Much has also happened in the church hunt. We went to vespers at a mission church a few weeks back. Then back for Divine Liturgy. This is the first parish I can say I feel at home. My children have expressed the same feelings. This Parish is small, but the care given to the liturgy. Basically everything they set to do is done in excellence.
Like the saying goes all dogs have fleas. No parish is perfect I think we are going to stick around at this one for a while. I sort of feel like a broken record when visiting a new church. The first few visits and you never want to leave. The one difference in this church then the previous churches is a strong sense of community. After liturgy when we eat it is like a family around the table. This is what we have been looking for in a parish. It is all about long term. I am hopeful in a few weeks the feelings will be the same.
So 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.