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Nativity of the Theotokos – First Feast of the Church’s New Year

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The Christian Church observes an annual calendar of feasts and fasts, which begins anew each year on the 1st of September.  The Church uses its calendar to teach the Gospel, the story of our salvation; it invites us to participate in these very same events & the reality they represent; it makes real, here & now, the Truth that is Christ.

The first feast of the new year is the Nativity of the Theotokos, where we celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary on the 8th of September.   We celebrate the birth of her who gives flesh to God Incarnate, Who is both our Creator & Redeemer, that He may be the Salvation of our souls.

Theotokos, which is Greek for “God-bearer” or “Mother of God”, was established as the title for the virgin Mary by the 3rd Ecumenical Council in 431 A.D. as an affirmation of both the divinity and the humanity of Christ. If Christ is both God & man, then the virgin is the Theotokos, otherwise Christ is not God in the flesh.

Tonight we celebrated the feast with a Vesperal Liturgy.  If you’re interested in learning more, tonight’s homily by Fr. Gregory does far more justice to the topic than I can offer. It is worth a listen.

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It’s Been a While

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night, we attended a visitation and service for the father of one of our fellow parishioners who passed last week. Neither Judy or I knew him personally, yet we were blessed to have learned a little about him, courtesy of the family members who had the courage to speak. In this regard, thank you Charles and Cheryl, Greg and the others, especially the grandsons.

Our priest, Fr. Gregory, presided over the service. We and others from our parish also had the privilege to participate in the service, singing and reading. For Judy & myself, it was the first such service as Orthodox Christians.

This morning, Fr. Stephen at ‘Glory to God for All Things‘ posted a blog titled “Envy and the Fullness of God“.  Since it begins by talking about a funeral, it seems appropriate to introduce it here.

We stand mournfully around the grave, letting the strains of the hymn find their resolution in the final chord. The priest approaches the coffin, now closed and ready for lowering into the grave. The closing of the grave begins with a single handful of dirt. The priest tosses the dirt with the words: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

Dirt. Fullness. Less. More.

Fullness seems strangely contradictory to the mood of a funeral. The pain of loss and the emptiness of a life that seems to have gone from the midst of us speak not of fullness but of scarcity. I will not hear that voice, hold you close to me or listen carefully for your footsteps.

No setting could be more stark in which to proclaim “fullness.”

But it is at the grave that we are perhaps most clearly confronted with the claims of our faith. For it is here at the grave that God made His own final assault on the myths and fears of a world dominated by death. This world of death always proclaimed the sovereignty of sorrow, the ascendancy of scarcity.

From the abundance of Paradise man falls into a world in which thorns and thistles dominate:

Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground (Genesis 3:17-19).

But now, standing at this funeral, the priest proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

What fullness? Again it is the assault of God on the world man has made. The earth is not the kingdom of scarcity, but now the Kingdom of God. The grave is not the gate of Hades, but the gate of Paradise. Fullness can again be proclaimed for the grave has been ruptured and cannot hold its prey.

[…]

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The emptiness of death has been filled with such an abundance of life that it has been trampled beneath the feet of those who walk the way of Christ. In this fullness we can do more than give – we can love even to the excess of forgiveness. My enemy has stolen nothing from the abundance that fills my life.

[…]

Envy is perhaps the most subtle of sins. Even in the desert where no one possesses anything, there is always something about another that we can find to envy. Our adversary, himself dominated by his envy of God, will always have envious suggestions to make to us.

To combat envy several things are necessary:

We must believe that God is good.

We must believe that God’s will for us in particular is good.

We must believe that God’s goodness is without limit.

We must believe that God’s goodness, shed upon someone else, does not come at our expense.

And finally, it closes with this:

Envy has no place within the Christian life. It belongs to those who drive nails into the flesh of God and taunt Him with their perceived victory. When all is said, they will stand as mute as fish, unable to cry, “Alleluia.”

Ouch.

Lots more stuff in the post – go see it in its entirety.

A Hymn of Thanksgiving

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

The following Akathist Hymn, while not written for our annual Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, nonetheless is timely for the season as well as timeless in that every day is a ‘season’ for Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Akathist of Thanksgiving

“Glory to God for All Things”

Kontakion 1

Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both Read more…

Big Stuff, Little Stuff

April 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Big stuff or little stuff – which matters most?

As a culture I think perhaps our meditation of the big stuff consists mostly of ‘how do I get this big thing, and get it NOW’. Or, in the case of the undesirable big stuff, ‘how do I get OUT of this mess I am in (with no pain)?  And NOW’.

And our little stuff contemplation is more about ‘what trinket do I “need” right now’ or ‘how can such and so have said or done this to ME’?

Indeed, my thoughts above reveal the pessimism that permeates my life. Especially when it sounds like I’m talking about somebody else. But one thing is clear to me, if not to others, is that my negativity comes from within, not from without (at least not entirely from without). I recognize these things around me because I see them in the mirror of my soul daily.

All that aside, Fr Stephen has some words about small things. And just how truly significant they are. Big things become big things because of all the little things that led to that point. And he isn’t talking about ‘things’ as I’ve described above (the ‘things’ I speak of take our attention away from the those that matter most) so much as decisions, crossroads, choices. Those things that comprise the daily warfare of the spirit. Every little thing, whether good or bad, is important and significant.

Give it a read. And the others that are there too.

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