Hi There! I think I’m back.

MincemeatPie3I’m feverishly planning Thanksgiving.  It’s my first time to host it since we left California. Even during our time in Seattle, we went to Thanksgiving with others.  And extended family is coming to our tiny house.  I am in an interior panic.  Pretty cool on the outside; panic on the inside.  I’d love some mince pie (that’s the photo above) but no one else likes it.  And there is the never-ending discussion of stuffing the bird or not; sweet or savory stuffing; leave the giblets in or out; home made gravy or store bought; Barbara’s Yams or potatoes (solved it – both), pumpkin, mince, or apple pie…and on it goes.  And my house is so small.  We’ll be cozy!  And there is no snow!  We had flurries today but nothing measurable.  We all long for snow…it just isn’t our holidays without it. In addition, the economy needs it!

I haven’t blogged in a long time. I pulled away.  I found myself being too negative and complaining a lot in my posts.  I did not like my words.  I sought a cure – I left my political groups and news feeds and even left pretty much all my religious ones, too.  It saddened me that people claiming such a deep faith could be so hurtful.  I just didn’t need the added grief in my life.  And I was going through some profound disappointments in people and I realized that I have to let people go.  “It is what it is,” which is a saying I hate, but it just fits so many situations.  I can’t change people, nor can I expect more of someone because they say they are Christians.  People are people.  Some people are just ugly – on the inside – and it permeates everything.  And even though they have gone through some spiritual metanoia, of some sort, they can still cling to their hatreds and their misconceptions.  So my assumption would be that the change in faith wasn’t heartfelt or as deep.  And so I am learning to let it go.  Let it slide. It is what it is. Which is pretty much why I stopped blogging.  The old saying of, “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”

My incredible husband bought me a Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader for my birthday in August.  It was the best gift I have ever received.  I love my Kindle.  I have over 280 books downloaded on my Kindle and I can proudly say that at least 80% were free, or less than a dollar.  Yay for 99-cent books!  I just finished a series and bawled the last 30 pages or so. I will miss the characters, their struggle, and the storyline.  But I had another series just waiting for me.  And I have pre-releases waiting for me, as well as beta-reading to do for several groups.  Lots and lots to read.  And I am so happy to read.  I have found that retreating into myself, being less public, as it were, has been good for my soul.  My world has narrowed considerably and I am very okay with that.  I have a few friends I speak to on a regular basis, and my family, too.  Other than that, I am pretty secluded and it is working for me.  No need to be out and about, being a part of all the discussions and arguments.

In light of the recent events in regards to the acquittal of a policeman in the shooting of a young man, we can see how terribly fragile our hold on this culture in America we really have.  It seems like there is a veneer of sociability we present to our communities, but at the least little thing, there is anger and explosive behaviors.  So much hatred and anger.  It makes me sad.  I know there are platitudes galore in how to face these times, but I really feel that we need to heed the words, “To have change in the world, be the change you want to see in the world.”  What example of personal responsibility are we sharing with our youth?  Rioting and destroying the community we live in certainly does not help an already-depressed economy.  We are in a culture of dependence on our government for everything.  I wish more people were personally responsible for their actions and interactions within our communities.  We need to support families, be a culture who cares about every life.  Planned Parenthood doesn’t locate the majority of its operations in ghettos for no reason.  There is an agenda afoot to make us all dependent on the government for everything…for our very lives and the lives of our children – born and unborn.  The fate of our elderly is also in jeopardy. And our world has come to be a place where God is shoved aside and ignored.  Where does our treasure lay?

It is amazing to me how people will jump to conclusions about things, without a thorough knowledge of them.  Prejudice is alive and well in America, in so many, many areas and ways.  I prefer certain genres to read.  And so many people think it is terrible (Satanic, etc).  I read paranormal and distopian literature.  I love the constant good vs evil struggle that is portrayed in them.  I’ve always enjoyed a good scary story that involved werewolves or vampires, or the end of the world scenario, and the heroes struggling to save themselves from imminent doom.  There are themes that run through these stories and we can talk ad nauseum about the psychological and social models present in these types of literature, but rather than do that, I wanted to share what I have learned.

I have learned that life is a struggle.  It is a constant of light vs dark, good vs evil, man vs woman, society vs anti-society.  Look at the 60s.  That was a time of turmoil and rugged determination on both sides of many arguments…peace vs war, man vs machine, freedom from “the man,” free love vs marriage, and rock and roll exploded onto the music world.  We were at war in Viet Nam; friends were drafted and never came home. Short skirts and long hair.  I was a teenager in the 60s.  (I can’t believe my parents said no to “Woodstock”!! Ha-Ha).  And still our culture struggles.  We need to model the change we want to see in the world.  We need to share love and peace with those sitting across our tables.  If we all cocooned ourselves, became sort of “short-sighted,” and just reached out to those around us, rather than trying to affect change on a large scale, we might just change the world.  If you see someone who needs help with their grocery cart, or to get in a door, help them.  I know there are instances in everyday life where we can be the change to just one person, planting that seed that can help change the world.

And then there is Thanksgiving dinner.  We are all crammed into a little house and we are all going to be on our best behavior.  No fights, no disagreements.  (Unless someone comes over who happens to be a 49ers fan – then there could be trouble).  And we are going to be thankful.  Thankful for this incredible country we are privileged to live in, and thankful for the family and friends surrounding us, and thankful for the food on our tables.  If we can put aside animosity and be the change to those we sit at table with, we may just pull it off.  I will be panicked that my meal will come out done, on time, and delicious. I will be panicked the house is clean and there is room at our table for whomever wants to come eat with us. I will be worried my Seahawks might lose the game. But I will be thankful for leftovers, for some snow, and to be able to go back to reading my Kindle when it’s all over.  Then we pull out all the Christmas stuff.  Ha-Ha!

Peace.  Happy Thanksgiving!

The Family Altar: Establishing a Place of Prayer

I wanted to share this blog post because it was wonderful.  Enjoy!!

 

http://www.royaldoors.net/2013/06/the-family-altar-establishing-a-place-of-prayer/

The Family Altar: Establishing a Place of Prayer

June 20, 2013

icon-corner-02by Deacon Michael Hyatt

As a young junior high school student, I wasn’t fast enough to run most track and field events. But one event I could participate in was the relay race.

A large part of our training was concerned with handing off the baton. The idea was to sprint as fast as you could to the next runner on your team. His job was to meet you about fifteen yards before the hand-off and run with you, being careful to match your pace exactly. In this way, you didn’t have to stop to hand him the baton; you could continue the race without losing momentum. If everything went smoothly, the baton was passed from one hand to the next and the race progressed.

The hand-off was the single most important part of the race. Not that it was that difficult, mind you; it just led to the worst of consequences if it wasn’t managed properly. The running part was easy. You simply did your best and that was that. But the hand-off had to be conducted with care lest – horror of horrors – you dropped the baton and thereby cost your team precious time and probably the race as well.

Running too slowly was excusable; all you could do was your best. But dropping the baton was totally unforgivable. Such a tragedy would lead to the immediate scorn of your teammates and the derision of your opponents. It was something that most all of us dreaded and worked to avoid.

Recently, I asked a group of young parents in our parish what their chief priority was with their children. Not surprisingly, each of them spoke of passing on their faith to their children. Like a runner in a relay race, no one wanted to stumble. The consequences of doing so were more than any of us wanted to consider.

But as a practical matter, how do we pass on our faith to our children? How do we successfully hand off our faith to the next generation so that they can continue the race and do their part to advance the Christian mission? No doubt, there are a variety of ways. But I would suggest that one of the main ones is the practice of family prayer.

 

The Home: Icon of the Church

As an Orthodox Christian I’ve come to believe that the Kingdom of God is the central reality of life. It takes precedence over every other allegiance, over every other priority. But that Kingdom is not some ethereal, far away place. No, it is concretely manifested in the life of the Church, especially in the Divine Liturgy. In other words, if you want to experience the reality of the Kingdom, look at the Church which is the principal icon of that Kingdom. But if this is true, of what significance is the Christian home? Does it have a role in Christ’s Kingdom?

As a Protestant, I believed (though I would have never said it in quite this way) that the Church was an icon of the home. I was convinced that the Christian home was the central institution of society and everything else – even the Church – was secondary. But now, as an Orthodox Christian, I’ve come to believe that I had it all backwards: the home is an icon of the Church.

This is far more than some esoteric, theological point. It has important ramifications for our family life and especially for how we raise our children. Amazingly, this idea actually makes the home more important, not less. Let me elaborate. In the Church, Christ has established a government made up of bishops, priests, and deacons. And in like manner, He has also established a government in the home: the parents who are, in a very real sense, domestic priests. Consider the fact that the hymns sung at an Orthodox wedding as the bride and groom are led around the table are the very same ones sung at an ordination of a priest when he is led around the altar.

Parents, like priests in the Church, have a responsibility to shepherd the flock allotted to their charge (see I Peter 5:1-4). And as parents, we must rediscover our roles as domestic priests and our corresponding responsibility to pass on our faith to our children.

There are, of course, many more parallels between the Church and the home, but space permits me to mention just one: the centrality of the altar. The primary responsibility of a priest is to officiate at the altar. It is there that, representing the people, he brings their gifts of bread and wine before God’s throne as an offering of praise and thanksgiving. And, it is also there that, representing the Lord Himself, the priest returns to the people the holy food of Christ’s flesh and blood. Similarly, the family altar should be the central features of every Christian home and prayer its most important activity. The family altar is the primary place where we pass on to our children the “baton” of our faith.

But if this is true, what are some practical ways in which we can focus our family’s activities on prayer?

 

The Family Altar: A Place of Prayer

If you are to take your role as priest seriously, you must first of all construct an altar for your family. In order to do something well, you need a place to do it. Dad needs a place where he can fix broken bikes and build bird feeders. Mom needs a place where she can sew and mend clothing. The children need a place where they can play and make crafts. The family also needs a place to pray – the family altar.

This special place of prayer does not have to be fancy, but it does have to be special. Remember, it is a place where the family carries out its most vital activities: prayer, the reading of the sacred Scriptures, and the announcing of important events in the life of the family.

While each family’s altar will be uniquely theirs, most altars share certain common characteristics. Usually the altar faces the East. From ancient times Christians have seen in the rising of the sun a symbolic representation of the coming of Christ, the Sun of Justice (see Malachi 4:2). The altar can be a simple shelf mounted on a wall, a small table covered with a tablecloth or, as in my family’s case, a special dresser with a glass top. Regardless of the form it takes, most family altars include certain basic components: a few icons on the wall or on the altar itself, candles, a Bible, and prayer books. Optional items include a small incense burner, candle snuffer, and a bottle of Holy Water.

When is the right time to gather at the family altar? Anytime, of course. But through the centuries, Christians have especially gathered twice a day for corporate prayer: morning and evening. Morning prayer gives us an opportunity to bring our needs and concerns to God before we embark on the day’s activities. It also helps each person “set his mind on the things above” (Colossians 3:1) where he can address the bustle and demands of the day from a spiritual frame of reference.

Evening prayer, on the other hand, is an opportunity for use to review the day, to confess where we have failed, and to give thanks where we have succeeded.

Prayer during these two times doesn’t have to be long; ten to fifteen minutes is generally sufficient. The important thing is to be consistent. It’s far better to spend five minutes a day every day praying together than to spend fifteen or twenty minutes praying a couple of times of week. The general principle is to become faithful in little before we stretch ourselves – and our family! – to become faithful in much (see Luke 16:10).

There are, of course, other times to pray. Whenever there is a special need in the family it’s a good practice to stop what we’re doing and gather for a few moments at the family altar. In like manner, whenever something especially good happens, it’s a good idea to stop and give thanks. These times of spontaneous prayer are wonderful tools for communicating to our children the reality of God’s presence and His involvement in our lives.

Once you’ve selected the appropriate time and place, you still have one important decision left to make: what to pray at the family altar. For many people this is the most difficult. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help us. Good prayer books can be obtained from a variety of Orthodox publishing houses. Regardless of which one you use, try to get a copy for each member of your family. This will encourage everyone’s participation and give you, as the leader, the option of calling on various members of the family to lead in certain prayers (something my children love to do).

When using a prayer book, it is not necessary to say every prayer nor is it necessary to “stick to the script.” If you’re just starting out or if your children are small (and their attention spans short), you might want to pray only the Trisagion Prayers, have a short time for extemporaneous personal petitions, and then go immediately to the dismissal. In my home, we often use the prayers as a springboard for our own prayers. This is especially true when we’re praying what is referred to as the General Intercessions. For example, if we’re praying for the whole Church, we might pause after the written prayer and pray spontaneously for the specific needs of our local parish. Similarly, if we’re praying for the civil authorities, we might pause and pray for specific needs in our own community. In this way, prayer becomes a living, dynamic activity rather than a dull, repetitive one. To me, this is liturgical prayer at its best.

One final note: prayer was never intended to be a monologue. In genuine prayer God speaks to us, and we speak to Him. Both are necessary for dialogue. But how does God speak to us? Are we to expect an audible voice? Generally, God speaks to us through the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Thus, Bible reading should be an integral part of our family worship. God specifically charges parents to have His Word upon their hearts and then to pass it on to their children (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9). What better context for Bible reading than as we are gathered together as a family for the purpose of prayer.

 

A Few Miscellaneous Tips

In conclusion, let me give you three brief tips, items that will go a long way toward making your family’s experience at the family altar a meaningful one.

  1. Start small. You can’t run a marathon without training and neither can you engage in long prayers without training yourself in the short ones.
  2. Be sensitive to your children’s attention spans. Yes, it’s good to stretch them, but don’t break them! The last thing you want is for prayer to be something your children dread. Again, it’s far better to keep it brief and meaningful than to frustrate your children – and ultimately yourself – by reading long drawn-out prayers. Remember, the Publican was justified with a very short prayer: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And the thief on the cross entered Paradise with one sentence: “Remember me, O Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom.”
  3. Let everyone participate. Although you will be tempted, don’t insist on doing everything yourself. Make sure everyone has a book (even the little ones that can’t read), and let your children lead some of the prayers. If they can read, let them read the Scripture lessons. If you follow this principle, you’ll find that they look forward to prayer and, little by little, begin to own it as their prayer.

“…you don’t like reading?”

Dont like readingI am a reader.  I am an avid reader.  My local library loves me!  I am constantly online, looking through reading lists, checking on my favorite authors, making lists of books to get my library to order for me, and reading.  Ha-Ha! I read – a lot. I went to the library on Friday and picked up 7 books waiting for me. I have already read 4 of them and it is only Wednesday.  There are more books waiting for me at the library!  It has become our Saturday morning errand – dropping books off and picking books up, at the local library.  Last Friday I actually had the car, so I was able to go to the library a day early; it totally messed up our Saturday! Ha-Ha!

EverybookIreadMy husband and I are becoming such old fuddy-duddies that we will go to bed NO LATER than 9:00pm, so we can lay in bed and read until at least 10:00pm every night.  And I mean EVERY night!  We hate being out late because we miss reading time.  And on rainy or snowy weekends, we cuddle up with our blankets on the couch or recliner and read.  We have chosen to watch less TV and read more.  Our youngest son, aged 15, thinks we’re a little nuts. He stays up longer than us, but comes into our room, chatting away about various things until he finally settles into bed himself.  It has become such a part of our lives, and helped our lives to be more quiet and still, that I have not felt like posting on my blog.  I would rather be reading.

LibrarybiggerthanAnd so, for now, I will blog when the mood strikes me.  It seems to me that so much of what I share somehow strikes an angry cord in people (not sure why they bother reading my blog if I do that to them) and I really don’t have all that much of an audience, so I think I will lay aside this blog for a bit.  Perhaps when I get back into it, I will have something important or worthwhile to share.

TomorrowIn the meantime, I will work on keeping our plants alive this summer and eating some home-grown fruits and vegetables, and I will work on my “goodreads” list, my library list and I am also investigating e-readers.  Trust me, as a die-hard book lover, that is saying something.  But I realize how much easier my library trips would be if I could do it all online.  Then we might just have to re-arrange our Saturday mornings!

Blessings, all. Happy Summer!

EagleRivertrail

 

“…we hear them in our own tongues…”

 

12247844751816776100wsnaccad_feather-pen.svg.med For some reason, I have been having “writer’s block,” or at the very least a “dry spell,” in regards to my blog.  I have been reading like a crazy woman, spending time with my son and husband, and some special time with my extended family.  But I haven’t felt the urge to write much.  Not sure what is up with that.  The sunshine is glorious and things are growing, so maybe I’ve been hit with Spring Fever! Ha-Ha!

I was reading a post about a family who’s been trying to have their daughter receive communion at a local Roman Catholic parish and the priest has been denying them.  Their daughter is an infant and was baptized, chrismated, and received communion at a Melkite parish some distance away.  For their local church attendance, it seems like they are going between RC and Orthodox, as there is no Byzantine parish nearby.  It is such a hard place to be.  I have lived it.

When we relocated from So Cal to WA State up near Seattle, we were not worried about attending a Church.  We had been spoiled in So Cal by having 3 parishes, Melkite parishes, within an hour of our house in 3 different directions.  There were other Byzantine parishes within the same distance, and I lost count of the number of RC parishes around us.  But we never had to attend a Church that we were not familiar with.  We did not have to expose ourselves to other rites, or comments by other parishioners in these rites.  We were not “causing scandal” by exposing other rites to the ways of the east, or visa versa. We were safe in our own little world.

When we moved to WA, there were no Melkite parishes.  There was a Melkite mission that was more than an hour north of us, and a local Monastery (Romanian) whose pastor was a retired Melkite priest, which was about an hour south of us.  An hour in WA weather can seem an eternity; trust me!  Locally, we tried to attend an RC church. They did not know what to do with us.  We were eastern rite Catholics and the RC hierarchy just did not know where we fit in, to worship with them.  To be fair, the pastor loved our input and loved eastern Catholicism; he joyfully welcomed us.  But the diocese, some of the diocesan hierarchy (although not the Bishop) and most of the people, were not familiar nor comfortable, with us.  We then began to explore the Byzantine world there. There was a parish in the downtown area that we tried to attend. But my husband was not welcomed there by the pastor. He was uncomfortable with us.  We tried, but my husband was frustrated.  He’d spent 4 years in the seminary,  preparing to serve his community.  And no one wanted him on their altar.  He was not welcomed to even receive Our Lord with the other clergy.  His vestments were not acknowledged. It was a very dispiriting time for us.

We then relocated, yet again, to an area with just one Byzantine parish to serve the entire state.  Once again, not Melkite.  The initial pastor, when we arrived, was also flummoxed.  He just did not know how to make use of my husband.  Our Bishop corresponded with the Bishop for this parish, loaning my husband indefinitely to the parish.  The pastor still did not know what to do with us.  Then he was transferred.  We got a new priest, from Ukraine, who is not the same rite, either.  It is like the UN up on the altar these days…a Ukrainian, a Melkite, and a Ruthenian…and the parish is full of all sorts of nationalities.  But isn’t that what Church is supposed to be???

I laughingly commented on this post today that the family was truly “universal,” and isn’t that what our Church is supposed to be?  Christ instructed the Apostles to go to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And they did!  I’ve mentioned this before, but it still amazes me how exclusionary we can be to each other.  Look at all the diversity of people who followed Christ.  And when the Church was founded on Pentecost, what happened to the many different languages? Everyone could speak to each other and everyone understood one another.  What has happened?  Has our Church become so insular that we can no longer understand or speak to each other?  It makes me sad.

“They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”  (Acts 2:7-11)

I am offering prayers that this Pentecost, for all of us, the Holy Spirit once again cleans things up and removes these barriers to communication, sharing, and being Christian to each other!!!  Sharing Christ with one another….not excluding our brethren from receiving anything they should be allowed to, and welcome to, receive! Allowing the burning fire of faith instill us all with the sense of community, that “communion” brings with it.  (And for my Pentecostal family and friends, can I get an AMEN??)

Pentcost Icon 2

 

 

 

“…nothing before His love…”

Ascension174 Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension.  This is the day Our Lord ascended to His Father, Body and Soul.  This day should change how people think of eternity, and how they think of death.  As Christians, we believe Christ rose from the dead after three days.  We believe the account in the Book of Acts when we are told that He spent 40 days among His Apostles.

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God…” (Acts 1:1-3).

Ascension IconIn the Book of Acts, we hear of many of the “proofs” given to His followers that He had, indeed, risen from the dead, as He foretold.  We believe this because eyewitnesses tell us, through this written record, but also through faith.  In the west, bells are normally rung at the moment of “transubstantiation,” or the point at which Jesus becomes present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the appearance of bread and wine.  In the east, we take the moment on faith, not delineating exactly when Christ manifests Himself on the altar, but we believe He is present.  We also believe He is equally present in His Word…which is why in the east, there is a procession before the Gospel is read, with the Gospel book held high and bows are made as the priest and deacon walk by with the Gospel, the same as when the Holy Gifts are brought to the altar. We also incense at both points in our Liturgy.  God is present in His people, in His word, and in His Body and Blood during communion – each is equal in many ways for those of us in the east. It is belief that what we do here on earth is mirrored in heaven.  We believe.  We believe it all.

The Ascension, as pictured in an icon above, is about so much more than what was written down.  Christ never set aside the fact or the reality that He was God.  He never set aside the fact or reality that He was Man.  He suffered for us in his Humanity.  He suffered just as we do, in all things except for Sin.  He was the “God made man.”  When He rose after the 40 days He spent instructing and being present to His apostles, He rose fully man, and fully God.  But He rose in the aspect of His Humanity, becoming the Risen Lord, the Lord of Hosts, in His Humanity.  We strive to be like Him.  As Christians it is our goal to become as Christ-like to everyone (and to ourselves) as we can be.  We believe that becoming Christ-like is the one true path to our eternity in Heaven, sharing it with God Himself.  Because we believe all of this, and we have written records of this event, and we have historical anecdotes about this and many of the events in the life of Christ (my minor in college was Biblical archeology – trust me, we have the proofs) we need to take a leap in our logical thinking here.  Take a leap of faith, if you want to call it that.  What is the leap?  It is called, “Theosis,” or becoming like God.  It is a progression we make in our spirituality in that we believe we will be present in eternity with God in our humanity.  That means that God, who resides in the heavenly realms in His Humanity, will welcome us to the same place, in our human bodies.  Christ deified His human form by rising into Heaven in His humanity; we will, as well, be welcomed into heaven in our human forms…we will be deified, too.

So many people freak out when you talk about this. But it is a thread of philosophy running through Christianity that has an actual name – Theosis.  It is such a huge subject and such a hard truth, that if you google it, you will be amazed at how many resources touch on the subject.  One article I enjoyed is linked here: http://www.antiochian.org/content/theosis-partaking-divine-nature

The goal in life is to be forgiven, to reach the heavenly realms and reside for eternity with God.  For me, if I am allowed through those “Pearly Gates,” I will be thrilled to just be allowed in.  Nosebleed seats work great for me.  The Ascension is a promise that our human nature can participate in the divine nature.  We will be among the saints who have gone before us.  People, just like you and me, who pursued heaven above all else.  In our culture today, that is not the popular thing to say or be a part of; certainly not the subject of any reality show I know of.  And most certainly not tweeting or twittering, instagramming or posting photos of those trying to become saints!  Our children’s heroes are not those struggling with their own demons and personal sanctity; most often they are sports or singing stars.  And we need to hold up the saints as heroes in our homes, rather than the other categories more prominent in our culture.

There is a movement that is based on “your body is a temple,” (and the western aspect of Theosis) and it is called, The Theology of the Body.”  (http://thetheologyofthebody.com/)  The Roman Catholic Church is trying to teach this premise, in order for our young people, and even us older folks, to have a more profound view of their/our bodies.  (http://catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0058.html)  Our bodies will be deified through our own Resurrection experience through death. And for many people these days, they do not respect others, let alone themselves or one another’s physical bodies.  Theology of the Body promotes this sense of the sacred in humanity, that within each of us, the spark of Godliness resides.  We are children of God and within each of us resides this essence of God (in the east we refer to this as the nous, or nesting place of God present in each of us).  We have the humanity of man before the Fall of Adam and Eve (Original Man); we have the struggle of man through the humanity of and sacrifice of Christ (Historical Man), and we have our own essence of self in the resurrected bodies we present to God in heaven (Eschatological Man).  If we take this theology of Theosis and the Theology of the Body and truly look at them, through the lens of the Ascension of Christ celebrated today, it should cause us to stop in our tracks.  If we become deified and perfected through our faith in the Ascended Lord, how much more should we respect our own bodies (for they will be with us through eternity) and the bodies of others?!  They truly are the Temple of the Lord.

Elder Porphyrios

 

“…for waging war with the demons..”

cropped-header Abbot Tryphon of All Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington wrote this blog post today.  He always seems to speak to the heart of issues I have faced, or am facing. I hope you will take a moment to read these words of his.

He also has a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio (http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/morningoffering/anger5) called the Morning Offering, where you can hear the Abbot read his blog posts.  His website is: http://vashonmonks.com/wp/  I hope that when holidays and birthdays, or other days of gift giving roll around, you will consider their delicious offerings of “Monastery Blend Tea and Coffee” (the coffee is amazingly yummy), available from their website.  This is the link to the Abbot’s Blog: http://morningoffering.blogspot.com/, where you can read the blog post below.  I hope it speaks to you as much as it did to me.

ANGER
In every way we must strive to restrain anger

Abba Evagrius the Monk said that, “Anger is by nature designed for waging war with the demons and for struggling with every kind of sinful pleasure. Therefore angels, arousing spiritual pleasure in us and giving us to taste its blessedness, incline us to direct our anger against the demons. But the demons, enticing us towards worldly lusts, make us use anger to fight with men, which is against nature, so that the mind, thus stupefied and darkened, should become a traitor to virtues.”

The Fathers tell us that whenever anyone takes God’s name in vain the ramifications reverberate throughout the entire cosmos. However insignificant we may think our uttered angry words may be, they impact the whole of God’s universe. Redemption is not just about us, but the whole of the universe. My salvation and your salvation are interconnected. When a Christian falls into such sin it is especially tragic, for there are many non-believers who guard their words better than many who profess Christ.

We must strive by every means to preserve peace of soul and not allow ourselves to be disturbed by offenses from others. In every way we must strive to restrain anger and remain attentive to the mind and heart. We must make every effort to bear the offenses and insults of others, and accustom ourselves to such a disposition of spirit that their offenses not concern us. By guarding our thoughts, we can give quietness to our heart and make it as dwelling for God Himself

Abba Nilus said, “Prayer is the seed of gentleness and the absence of anger.” If we truly be of Christ we have the means to change, for it is because we have Christ in us that victory over the passions can be ours. There is simply no excuse for a Christian to lose his temper.

“Do not let the sun go down on the anger of your brother (Ephesians 4:26).”

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

 

“…ever this day be at my side…”

ArchangelOne of my favorite genres of literature is the paranormal. I know I’ve spoken of it before, but I do enjoy a good read.  I enjoy stories about fighting evil and having angelic assistance, or supernatural beings helping you.  The funny thing is that when you tell people this, they think you’re a little off.  But interestingly enough, angels and demons are very much a part of who we are, and the world in which we live.  We accept the Good News of Christ, and He warned us over and over about the “evil one” and there is more than one mention of angels in the Bible.  The Angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she would be the “God-bearer,” or “Mother of God,” the Theotokos.  She was uncertain but not fearful of the angel…just a little taken aback by his announcements to her and was more than puzzled at how God would accomplish His task with her, as she “did not know man.”  But she did not run and hide from an angel.  We should not, either.

I used to tease my sons that we had an entire troop of angels guarding us whenever we drove our van. I used to get them giggling when imagining the angels hanging onto the front of our van, or holding onto the luggage racks on the top, with their wings helping them balance and keep us safe through the crazy traffic that is Southern California (not to mention my heroic driving skills).  We would all ask our Guardian Angels to be with us as we drove those congested highways and byways.  We would pray our angel comfort someone in need, or call the angels of the doctors treating a sick person to nudge them to perform their best, and to help heal our friends and family.  Conversely, we would have our home blessed to keep out evil.  If we know and accept angels, we should know and realize the fallen angels are everywhere, too.  Each choice we make that takes us away from God was a nudge from an evil, fallen angel, working for the evil one, trying to win a soul away from God. We need to block those nudges from evil by counteracting them with prayer, and with actions.  For example, in addition to our priest blessing each and every home in our parish once a year, we would have parish-wide car blessings every year!  Every year!  Father would bless and anoint with holy water each and every vehicle, inside and out.  He would pray over them and ask the angels to watch us as we traveled.  It made us all feel better, and safer, invoking a blessing and the action of our angels.

Archangel.2There are jokes about cars and driving that have to do with angels, and one of my favorites is, “Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” Ha-Ha! I’ve always imagined my angel to be a very old, very wise, and a very strong male angel.  I don’t think a shy, young, woman would have been able to keep up! But perhaps I am wrong. I only know that there have been times when I have reached for my angel and felt a strong, protective presence. And that is something I cling to some days.

My reading of paranormal literature also keeps me on my toes. I read about all these battles and it reminds me that my life is a battle, too.  I am constantly waging a war against my worse self, reaching for my best self.  I feel nudges that push me away from God – and I have to fight those, too.  We all do.  The battle is for our eternity, for our soul.

I posted yesterday about my hurt with my community and the realization that our battles are in our community, too.  I used to tease people that sloth sits on one shoulder, gluttony on the other.  Those are rough companions.  There are many other sinful traits that people cling to because they have become habit, and are part of our comfort zones.  I know some of the issues facing us as a community revolve around the sin of pride..and part of that is the fear, I think, of being of non-importance to the people around you.  How scary to think that if you were not prideful, no one would pay attention to you.  So to cling to your “position,” you hold on to pride.  Humility and being humble in a group is the flip side of pride.  Being truly humble does not mean you allow others to walk all over you. Rather, it means you think of others, and you value others above and before self.

HumilityI do not think pride is at the root of all the issues our community faces, but it sure plays a big role.  And we are all battling the sin of pride when we allow ourselves to become more important than our faith, than our Church, than our community, than anyone else.  Who cares who does what? Get in and serve, shoulder to shoulder, with your fellow believers.  Serve others, first and always.  Do not think of self…lay self aside. I think it is amazing how much room in your life you have for others when you take yourself out of the equation.  Serving the poor in our community came to define who we were as a community in my former parish. Before we took that on in earnest, truly committing to it, we were wanderers, getting lost in the world.  We put our actions where our beliefs were and we served the poor all around us.  We got out of our own way, and we began to live what we believed.  We battled the evil all around us and we prayed…man oh man, did we pray.  We offered our time, talents, and treasure to helping those around us with less.  There was a push to not serve by many…once we talked and once they saw our commitment, they slowly joined in.  Fear kept them from diving in and helping.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of germs.  Fear of having those less fortunate “rub off” on them.  And you know what? Pride was less and less in the forefront and humility and service began to flourish.  Peace was slowly creeping into our community.

armor_of_god_modernMy prayer today is that we somehow find a way to extinguish the flame of pride and become the light of Christ.  First we have to love one another, but then we need to put our love to work, helping the poor around us.  Because our poor are always with us.  God gives us ample opportunity to serve them, we just need to stop blocking our view of opportunities to serve, with our thoughts of self, and our pride.  The healing can be incredible.  So let’s all put on the angelic armor of God, fight this ugliness, and win hearts and minds for Christ.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide.  Amen.