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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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!

 

A soft place to land

So as they say all roses have their thorns.  Looking back I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision leaving the Episcopal church.  Our parish is really nice.  Ironically many of the problems we were facing in the local church have basically gone away.  I cannot tell you how much I miss assisting the priest, and many other aspects of my old life.

Missing all the good times makes it really easy to forget what is still wrong.  The national church is still in the same hornets nest it was in back in July.  Other problems we faced locally still exist.  Add to that my whole confusion about church authority.  In the end I know I made the right decision.

Still this has me in a uncomfortable situation.  More now then ever I understand the Jews when they were wandering in the desert.  Keep in mind I am not grumbling and complaining to God.  However I understand now their feelings of wanting to return to Egypt.  The Lord has a place for my family.  I know this to be true.  More now then ever I need to be patient and wait upon him for direction.

Since as long as I can remember I have been concerned about truth.  What is the truth about God.  Who was right about God.  What religion has it right, and withing the Christian church which one is correct.

Now many would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  One church is as good as another.  Or all churches are man made. We need to just have relationship with Jesus.  It seems you put 10 Christians in a room and you will have 12 different ideas.

This journey has brought me to so many different places.  In each place I thought it would be my final point.  All the while this still soft voice in the back of my heart spoke to me.  Is this truth?

I am to a point that I am fairly settled in my doctrinal beliefs.  I believe the teachings handed down to the Church by the Apostolic Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.  I believe in The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are in fact the original church founded by Jesus.  That the wholeness of Truth resides within these churches.

I am at a place were I don’t know what to do.  Being a westerner I understand the Roman Catholic Church.  I am familiar with her apparitions, Feasts, and practices.  Teachings such as purgatory, immaculate conception, and indulgences are teachings I have accepted in the past.  Not without concern or question, but out of obedience.  I have grown to accept and believe many things.  Mind you these things are not bad or wrong.  Just one understanding of the ancient teachings of the church.

In regards to Eastern Orthodoxy I must say I have a basic knowledge, but overall the church is a mystery to me.  It is like a whole new world for me to explore.  I love the discoveries I have uncovered.  Every teaching rings true within my mind and heart.  Their understanding of original sin makes sense to me.  Their views on Jesus, Mary, and the Saints feels just and balanced.

Furthermore what brought me to the Episcopal church I see in the Orthodox Church.  I see something that is unique, mystical, and very practical.  I see an ancient way of worship that not only do I feel connected with those of years gone, but God himself.

I have always thought my home was in the Catholic church.  As I grew older I realized it was not necessarily the Catholic Church, but the Holy Apostolic Church.  That There is more to all of this than what I have ever known.  That churches I once thought were part of antiquity are very much alive and well.

I believe my home is in Orthodox Christianity.  It is not what I thought I wanted,  It is not what I ever expected. It is all I ever wanted.  Far greater and magnificent then I could ever expect.

It is the home I never knew existed but what I always needed.

The chotki the Jesus prayer and the rosary

So a few weeks back I was at a Russian Orthodox Church.  The priest during him homily (lack of better word) talked about prayer.  He talked about the Jesus prayer and using the chotki.

This sparked my interest.  I have seen people wear chotkis around their wrist.  I knew they were used in prayer, and I knew that you pray the Jesus prayer.  That is basically all I knew.

So I decided to pick one up.  I have been using it almost every day for a week or two.  I have found it calming.  It helps me fall asleep at night.  Then again laying horizontal and a pillow help me fall asleep.  It is not that hard.

There is a wealth of information on the internet regarding the Jesus prayer and the use of chotkis.  With all of that I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  So I ended up purchasing some books.  One I talked about last week.  The other I will share about when I start reading it.

So far I am not really getting it.  Maybe it is one of those things that take time.  I know there is merit in this prayer, and that it is a powerful prayer.  That is why I continue.  Maybe it is because I am coming from a Roman Catholic perspective with the rosary.  That method of prayer I get, and have benefited greatly from the various meditations.

The priest at the Russian church talked about how that sometimes prayer was like being in a small boat in the middle of the ocean at night.  Sometimes it is not easy.  Maybe my “not getting it” is my midnight fishing trip.  I pray morning comes soon or heck I pray I will catch a fish.

To my subscribers (if I get any other then my wife!).  Please reply with your own personal experiences with praying the Jesus prayer.  It would be greatly appreciated.

Feast of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers (Nov. 8th)

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.

 

First time of first times

So a few weeks back we visited a Russian Orthodox church.  The experience was transcendent.  Their cantor and choir was something special.  I fell in love with the worship practices of the east.  I was deeply moved seeing young ones venerating icons.  The church has a practice of all the children coming forward first for communion.  It seems in everything they do the little ones go first.

I have deeply enjoyed the Latin Mass and didn’t think I would appreciate liturgy in my native language.  Boy was I wrong.  I found the liturgy to be like fresh water.  I was not putting so much energy into just singing the liturgy that I could meditate on what I was saying. I am sure in time that would not be a problem with the Latin Mass.  Still a joyful surprise.

Something else surprised me.  When the Divine Liturgy was over I actually felt like I was part of the whole thing.  Since leaving the Episcopal church I have not served at the Lords altar.  I have felt very much like a spectator.  Yes I have enjoyed being with my family.  More then words can describe.  At the Orthodox church I feel more like I am part of what is going on.  Maybe it is the style of worship.  I don’t know, but for the past month I have not really felt a connection.

I am looking forward to going to vespers for the first time.  More about that coming soon.

I’m not Anglican and I am not Roman Catholic then what am I?

After leaving the Episcopal church we tried a few churches.  First it was a former Episcopal Church that joined the new Personal Ordinariate.  It was a fine church.  The liturgy was exceptional.  The people were nice enough. Just one problem.  The drive was brutal to get there.  Usually it only took an hour, but given the uncertainty of expressway driving if could be more.  Plus extended distance is not something you are looking for in a church when you are trying to make friends.

We then tried a wonderful Roman Catholic parish that worship in the Extraordinary form of the Mass.  The people overall are Traditionalists.  This I like since I would consider our family very Traditional.  I was instantly in love.  I loved the Liturgy.  I love the people, and I was seeing growth in my family.  Everything was great except one thing.

One tiny little problem.  THE MASS IS IN LATIN! My wife was not jiving with this.  Especially when she is trying to wrangle a 2 year old.  It was a huge obstacle for several people in my family.  Another problem surfaced that I was not expecting. A few theological differences popped up.  Now  I was “Anglo-Catholic” and still in many ways love Roman Catholic tradition, and worship practices. Doctrinally I do not disagree with what was being taught.  It is how the church viewed these doctrines.

It’s hard to explain, and maybe sometime I will give it a go. Sometimes it was just the terminology.  We ended up back at square one.  Now what? we thought.  We decided to make a 30 mil drive to visit a Russian Orthodox church that a friend goes to.  Little did we know a small fire was about to ignite within us.

We have not been back to the Russian church, but have been visiting a Byzantine Catholic church closer to our house.

Well more on that later.