Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One of the Great Joys of Orthodoxy

Earlier this afternoon, I received a notice from All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC.  It was very simple: Deacon David was notifying people that due to the priest's absence, a Divine Liturgy for Prophet Elias would not be served at All Saints on that date.  BUT -- the Deacon could note that Liturgies were being served on that date at at least two Greek Orthodox Churches nearby! 

It occurred to me that you really don't find that too often amongst other church bodies.

Over these last years, we experienced the hospitality of Orthodoxy in many ways -- but it is most certainly a joy to be able to go to a neighboring Orthodoxy if, for some reason, you can't go to your own.

Of course, we've experienced the same joy on regular Sundays when traveling.  This summer, we visited St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN one Sunday.  The next we were at my brother's house about 40 miles from there, but a search found an Orthodox mission of the Orthodox Church in America only six miles from my brother's house  -- and we were welcome!  When we travel to North Carolina, we have gone to Greek Orthodox communities, and to a growing community of the Antiochian jurisdiction! 

In every place, we are Orthodox!  In each place, we join with other Orthodox in receiving the Mysteries!  In every church we participate in the same Divine Liturgy!  And major events such as ground breakings, patronal feast days, consecrations celebrated across jurisdictional lines as we are all joined in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church -- not merely in word, but in practice!

   Thanks be to God for such a great joy!

   Glory to God for all things!

   Christ is in our  midst!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Not going away from any place"

The Kontakion for Ascension, and particularly the words "not going away from any place" struck me today in Orthros.  How different from those who think or teach that Jesus went "somewhere else" and is somehow no longer with us!  And how different from those that might think in terms of Jesus being "sort of" with us after the Ascension!

The promise echoed at the end of the Kontakion (and its Eikos) is powerful for us in this age, is it not?

I am with you, and there is, therefore, none against you!

When you had fulfilled the dispensation
for our sake, and united things on
earth with the things in heaven, You were
taken up thither in glory, O Christ our
God, going not away from any place, but
continuing inseparable, and to them that
love You crying out, “I am with you, and
there is, therefore, none against you.”
Glory to God for All Things!

Blessed Ascension to all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Around the world ....

Once again this year, Pascha brought great joy!

This Pascha, Bishop DEMETRIOS of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago presided! Hierarchical Liturgies are always unique, but on Pascha, this Pascha, it was indeed a blessing! Although His Grace wanted services from the books (Papadeas), the Liturgy, though shorter, was longer!  His Grace also brought a marvelous Psalti who was visiting from Greece.  This young man was truly a blessing, although more was done in Greek than English.

The Divine Liturgy was followed by dinner with Lamb and "all the fixings."  There were were, quite a gathering feasting at 3 am!!  We all pitched in and the clean up was done in short order.  In bed by 5 am, in enough time to get some rest before Agape Vespers at noon.

This year I was pleased to chant much more as I grow in this office in the church ... According to Vasili, our Protopsalti, I did very well at Agape Vespers (he told the lovely bride this!). 

Now, all of those thing are indeed wonderful, but Katherine and I once again pondered the marvel that the whole world was "wrapped" in the Paschal Liturgy and prayers.  This proclamation, truth and testimony went "round the world" as essentially the same liturgy, the same prayers, the same hymnody were prayed in many languages as each time zone was crossed.  Think of it:  where else would find such a thing?  Add to that the fact that is proclamation is carried from generation to generation, and you begin to get a sense of what it means that the "deposit of truth" is guarded throughout the ages!

We are joined in Christ in a worldwide family!  And, we, joined in that family do live for the life of the world in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is risen!
Christos Anesti!

     Ezekiel

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Come and See
Nativity


At a store meeting where I work, the manager asked what "tradition" people had for giving and the like as Christmas approached.  Now, remember, this is a retail store -- and in retail, the ultimate goal is sales, whatever else may be added in in terms of customer service and the like.  During this brief exchange, one of our associates said that their "gift exchange" is actually "buy whatever you want."  That is to say, there is no real gift exchange at all -- when they get together, they just all share how happy they were to have, well, whatever it was that they wanted.

Now THAT sort of dampened my spirits.  Although I enjoy my job, the whole frenzy at this time encourages greed, I think.  But to not even "give" -- well, now that is a secularization of the season.

That got me to thinking about the Nativity and the Fast the precedes it.  Perhaps these observations will be helpful.  Keep in mind that when you keep the Fast, and then the Feast, in the tradition of the Church, you may well have opportunity to speak to people of Christ and invite them to "Come and See!"

As Christians, as Orthodox Christians, something much different is going on.  Our focus is on the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus -- when the LOGOS took on our flesh, when the Creator indeed became as one of the created.  Over the centuries the great feast of the Incarnation has been preceded by a Fast.  During the Fast we deny the passions that so often get out of control in order that in silence we may ponder the Mystery of the Incarnation.

That Mystery is so much more than a cute baby in a manger.  And it is much more than  gifts and shopping and spending large amounts of money, perhaps exceeding what we can afford.

So it is that we are faced with a challenge that may often cause us to go "against the grain."  Rather than partying more, we pray more.  Rather than get so caught up in all the "stuff" that has become traditional, we go to the ancient hymnody, the simple chants that turn our eyes and ears to the fact that Christ in born, and we glorify Him.

Rather than watching all the things that are on TV that claim to be "Christmas", we can shut off the TV, and read together the Fathers, the Scriptures, and in the silence of that time together be joined in Christ.

In our times, it is very important to observe this Nativity Fast!  It is all too easy to be caught up in the so-called "holiday cheer" and "Seasons Greetings" and to be swept away from the Nativity instead of coming close and pondering the great and awesome mystery.  It is all too easy in our day to lose salvation in our watered down, Christless, celebrations.

When you quietly observe the Fast, even when attending the occasional party,  you may well have the opportunity to invite someone to come and see Jesus. You may be asked why you didn't take this offering or drink that beverage!

When you as a family, intentionally pray together the prayers of the Church, perhaps the Paraklesis together, the Holy Spirit works to calm the passions and direct you from the  "spirit of this season" to eternity in Christ.

When the music in your home is that of the Church, more than merely the traditions of our times, your visitors may see Jesus!

Send cards and greetings that reflect that Christ is Born!

Joined in Christ and preparing to celebrate again the Incarnation, shut out the noises that distract and wear you out:  then you can see Jesus in those around and truly enjoy His blessings.

Pray daily and constantly as you journey toward Nativity -- so that you are not merely trying to get through another Christmas, or outdo the gifts that weregiven last year!  Look to Jesus, author and perfector of faith.  He will send the Spirit to guide you in such a way that the giving and gathering, will strengthen and give true joy, rather than having you arrive at Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity, worn out and secretly looking forward to it being all over.

And  when the Feast arrives, schedule around the Divine Liturgy and other services and vigils!  When this happens, you say with words and actions, "Come and See!  Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

The Fast and the Feast find meaning only in Christ God, the Lover of Mankind. Everything else is secondary.  Receive Him! He is your Salvation!

Christ is in our midst!  Christ is born --glorify Him.

Give Glory to God for all Things!

      Ezekiel

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Focus

This morning as I prayed Morning Prayers in front of the icons, I was taken by the fact that in the midst of all the varying things going on around me, Christ Pantokrator is always there, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Blessed Theotokos hold Christ our God and directs us to Him, Savior and Lover of Mankind. Sts Constantine and Helen, patron saints of our parish, maintain their guard, interceding for us.

All of this is contrasted with the cacophany of sounds, images, thoughts, opinions and ideas that bombard us, especially through the media every day. Sound bites and half thought out commentary appeal to the passions, seeking to throw us off course and even into worry and despair. It is so easy to take our eyes off Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith as the Evil One seeks to lure us elsewhere. We find ourselves torn apart as the passions we seek to control by the blessing of the Holy Spirit seek to control us.

During this Great and Holy Lent (and throughout our lives) we would do well to fast from other images in our lives. It would do us well to limit the use of TV, Internet, radio, that we might indeed look to Jesus, our Salvation, to Christ our God. It would be better to spend more time in our icon corner, and less time glued to the TV.

In my own life, I've taken to a different discipline when driving the 28 miles to work. I may check the radio for traffic, but then I listen to a pray the hours as they are prayed in abbreviated form on Ancient Faith Radio. On the way to work, it is Matins through 9th Hour. On the way home it is Vespers and Compline ... and perhaps some practice of chant with the CD I have burned. My spirit is calmed -- and the constant panic about this or that in the world are moved to the background.

In the midst of all the changes and chances in our lives, Christ God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God the Father continues to love us and bless us with the Holy Spirit!

Just some thoughts from one lately come ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SOME THOUGHTS ON THEOPHANY BY ONE LATELY COME

During the Great Blessing of the Waters, the rich beauty of the prayers was overwhelming to me! At the Baptism of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, we not only celebrate this glorious event, but we see the wondrous intervention of God, “the Lover of Mankind” throughout history! That prayer ties together so many things from the Biblical account!

And as I listened, it struck me that we really knew nothing of this at all in my Lutheran background. Only as one lately come to Holy Orthodoxy has this ancient tradition been revealed to me, and with it, another opportunity to celebrate the presence of God in our world today.

Holy Orthodoxy has a way of seeing that God the Father is NOT “out there” somewhere, but that He is here and now involved in His creation, His world. Holy Orthodoxy celebrates the involvement of Christ our God and His union with us here and now in the Divine Liturgy. Neither of these is built on some symbolism of something “out there” or of a hope of something that could come in the future. This is present reality!

After the Priest begins the prayer, “Trinity beyond all being, beyond all goodness, beyond all godhead ….
We glorify you, only begotten Son of God, without father from your Mother, without mother from your Father. For in the preceding feast we saw you as a babe, but in the present one we see you full and perfect man, our God, made manifest as perfect God from perfect God.”

Then a recitation of a present reality:

“Today the moment of the feast is her for us and the choir of saints assembles with us, and Angels keep festival with mortals. Today the grace of the Holy Spirit … . Today the Sun that never sets … . Today the Moon with its radiant beams … . Today the stars formed of light … . Today the clouds rain down from heaven … . “ And the list goes on as we see the presents of God with us in this world at this time. The Great Blessing is a “timeless” feast as all things are come together in the mystery of the Baptism of our Lord and Savior and blessing of all waters of all times.

Throughout the remaining prayers, the verbs are in the present tense!

Frankly, none of this is regularly found in the those of the Reformation. It was, as my protopsalti said, “jettisoned!”

Not only do we give high praise for all these blessings, we pray:

Incline your ear and hear us, Lord, who accepted to be baptized in Jordan and to sanctify the waters, and bless us all who signify our calling as servants by bending of our necks. And count us worthy to be filled with your sanctification through the partaking and sprinkling of the water. And let be for us Lord, for healing of our soul and body.

For you are the sanctification of our souls and bodies and to you we give glory, thanksgiving and worship, with your Father who is without beginning, and our All-hoy, good and life=giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

It is so easy to let words that we may have heard time and again to “slip by.” The Evil One is always present to distract us in the little ways from that which our God gives! It is so easy to take these things for granted!

Still, God Father, Son and Holy Spirit continues to come to us in this world, in our day, and would fill all things with His grace, mercy and light! Rejoice! Glory to God for all things!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whose Truth are you seeking?

Conversations about “church” reveal some interesting things about people and about the age in which we live. Over the last weeks, I’ve observed a few things (they aren’t new, but I “put them together” in my thinking).

I’ve heard of a person who leads an “alternative life style” that is extremely knowledgeable in things historical and theological. This person knows the saints, can trace church history, and seems to know what is what. Further discussion reveals that this person left the Roman Catholic Church and became Episcopalian because the Episcopalians condone and endorse the alternative lifestyle.

In speaking with a visitor to our Church during Greek Fest, the conversation was amiable. She revealed some Roman Catholic background, but in further conversation indicated that she was now part of a “non-denominational Christian church.” Some of the questions raised regard how women should dress in Church, whether or not they should wear head coverings, and the like.

During a dialog during a Church Tour, the question was raised by one gentleman, “Well, how does your church deal with, well, gay rights?”

And, of course, in conversations with friends and neighbors, one will find all kinds of reasons for people being part of this or that church. Sometimes they judge that they were treated wrongly. Other times, you find that someone joined a place because that’s where the wife (or husband) went. Or it was because they had to to get married in that place.

The common thread amongst all of these? The driving force in the decisions in every case was centered on the person/s, They were seeking a “truth” that felt good, or allowed them to continue a specific behavior. In many cases, I’ve found that people look for a place where they won’t have to face up to the reality of sin in their lives.

That is to say, they are looking for “their truth” rather than The Truth revealed in Christ our God.

How many times have you heard someone say, “MY God wouldn’t do that ….!”

Our Father in heaven would have us know the Truth, the Truth that frees. “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free!” This Truth is never dependent on personal opinion or on personal likes and dislikes.

In the Light of Christ all things are revealed for exactly what they are. And in Him, in Him alone is Truth to be found and revealed.

Holy Orthodoxy takes seriously that the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth. This Church is the one founded in Christ our God. For those seeking the Truth, she is the place to be. Christ our God, the Way, and the Truth and the Life, formed the Church. She is NOT the product of well-meaning and like thinking people who decide to gather.

Those seeking The Truth in Christ are blessed, for they receive His Grace, His Mercy, the power of the Spirit. As they seek to be joined to Christ in salvation, the Light and Truth that He is and gives does an inward transformation as those who seek Him indeed deny themselves and receive Him.

We need ask ourselves “Whose or What Truth am I seeking?” When hearing the Word, “I don’t agree” or “Iwon’t agree” give way to “Yes Lord, what you will!”

Ground in Christ our God, our discussions with other can be patient as we seek to know the “why” of their questions, and as we pray for their salvation, understanding that the Holy Spirit indeed opens hearts and minds. We also must understand that fancy arguments and debates don’t change the fact that one may say “No” to Christ and His blessing! His love continues, but one can’t have love that one rejects!

“Whose truth are you seeking?”

God grant that His light enlightens each of us, that we may bring Light into the darkness of this world and those who seek light apart from Christ!

Glory to God for all Things!

Ezekiel