Monday, October 29, 2007
Keep in mind, though, that we have a certificate of marriage from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fairmont, MN, and one from Martin County, MN dated 23 June 1968.
Some, of course, wonder at this. Some, I think are a bit angry: after all, after nearly 40 years, why in the world do such a thing? How dare your "new church" not recognize what has been!
Keep in mind, though, that to be married civilly is not to be married in the Church. And to be married in most churches is not to receive a Mystery, a Sacrament at all.
We were eager to receive this Gift of the Church. And there was indeed blessing and warmth and relief -- a truly joyous and God blessed time!
As a Lutheran pastor, I performed hundreds of weddings over three plus decades. They all followed the same basic order, involved the same choices of this and that, had the same basic vows exchanged. If you've been to a Lutheran wedding, you know what I mean. And most of them lasted about 20 minutes; most followed a number of weeks of preparation.
However, marriage in Orthodoxy is a Mystery, a Sacrament. Permission must be had from Diocesan offices in advance. There certainly may be instruction and conversation between priest and bridal couple. But the Service itself remains essentially the same. It consists of Betrothal and Crowning. It is explicitly Trinitarian and filled with prayer and readings. And it is something we receive, a gift, a blessing that in its very act gives meaning to St. Paul's words in Ephesians 5! It looks to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for every good thing and every blessing.
In my last decades as a Lutheran and Lutheran pastor, I increasingly directed couples to the rite of marriage spelled out in the rites of the church -- although more often than not in Lutheran (and protestant) churches, marriage services were crafted with all kinds of selections, soloists and other requests.
It was truly a blessing and joy to see that such is not the case in Orthodoxy: we received what Holy Mother Church gives! We were recipients of the fullness of the Father's blessings for us. The Word and Prayer, the incense and candles, the crowning all bestowed on us the blessing of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Now, this is certainly not a theological treatise. A reflection, perhaps.
But again, I am overwhelmed by the blessings of the Church. I thought I knew a lot, but I'm continually realizing how little I knew.
And so Katherine and I rejoice in the presence of Christ, and in the blessing of the Holy Trinity in our marriage. And we give thanks to God for our Godparents and all the others who surprised us with cards and greetings.
It is good to be Home.
Glory to God in all things!
Monday, October 15, 2007
The building itself is small, and when we arrived a tad late, the lovely bride said, "No anonymous arrival here!" We entered -- and it was standing room only (literally, a few scatter chairs and benches -- wonderful!) We were in the narthex. Katherine noted that all the women had head coverings, and really did stay in the narthex -- until she located some prepared coverings.
All were attentive, although a few whispered to us, welcoming us. There were some that came later than us, but not many. The nave was small, but truly Orthodox, and it was "heaven on earth."
Always a joy is the fact that it was the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom -- done in a different style with a marvelous choir in the Russian fashion. The liturgy was done in English, with the exception of a hymn or two in Russian. "One, holy, catholic!"
Interesting to us (and different, since we hadn't been there before) was the fact that just prior to receiving the mysteries, everyone venerated icons and relics while one of the prayers before Holy Communion was said by a reader: we learned that during this time, all were asking forgiveness of one another and of the saints! Marvelous! I recall that just prior to this (if memory serves me correctly) Father Martin asked forgiveness of those present for any sin or offense he had given.
We joined those present in the light lunch following in a suite in the building across the parking lot, where we enjoyed time with brothers and sisters in Christ, and had a bit of time to spend with Theodore and Photini (the are proprietors of Archangels Bookstore, located in Maplewood, MO and on the net).
Orthodoxy is the living expression of that which we confess, when we say "I believe in one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." What a joy to confess and live that whether Greek or Serbian, Russian or Croation, American or ... and the list goes on.
This parish is over two decades old. Father Martin has been their priest for all of those years, starting, literally, with "two or three." Now the congregation numbers about 100.
As we left, I said to Katherine, "Should God bless me with priesthood, this is the kind of parish I'd like .. faithful people working out their salvation, enjoying heaven on earth, focused on that most important." I mentioned this to Father Martin and he said, "Should that day come, come and talk to me -- we could serve these people together, and maybe both get a vacation!" (Comments paraphrased but faithful here).
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic!
Glory to God in All Things!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Families struggle, and they run into rocky times as stubborn and sinfully selfish wills collide. Fact of life. It happens.
But what do we do then?
Around any flare up, one finds many opinions. People have explanations. Folks choose up sides. And then there may be "investigations" to get the facts. What was said? When was it said? Who said it? Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts. And, this may well be helpful.
But, we are the Body of Christ and members of it.
That means, that we all pray "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner." And we recognize that we are still joined in Christ in His Church. He has gathered us. As strong as the temptation may be, this isn't the time to run off into some corner with friends to sulk, or to plot, or to endlessly rumble on about what was wrong and how we, of course, were not wrong.
It is, however, time to gather again at Christ's Holy Altar. It is time to confess our sin, and to carefully prepare as we thoughtfully pray the prayers before Holy Communion. By humbling recognizing that we are indeed still brothers and sisters and Christ, we can move on.
There is definitely a time to recognize that what's happened has happened, and all the arguing in the world can't change it. We are still joined in Christ, and the Evil One is hard at work trying to divide us -- especially by egging us on to lift our noses in the air and show everyone how righteous I am! Let it go. Learn, but let it go, and be joined again in Christ our God.
As we face the ups and downs of life together, and as we are indeed hurt and attacked at times by those whom we love, think on the words of this petition from "Morning Prayers" in the Orthodox Study Bible:
Save, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who envy and affront me, and do me harm, and do not let them perish through me, a sinner.So many of the hassles that afflict and divide us in our parishes (and in our families) are just so much wasted time as our eyes are directed everywhere else but to Jesus, author and perfector of faith!
I'm reminded of a poster from the 1960's which read "What if they gave a war and nobody came." What would happen in our lives if, when some of these arguments arose, we each said, "I'm not playing."
Look to Jesus, author and perfector of faith!
And remember, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Then at least some of the family struggles would be quickly laid to rest as we realize that Christ has delivered us from the Evil One (and from ourselves!)
Consider these paragraphs:
Thus, the Church is what salvation looks like. It is here that we are Baptized into the very life of Christ, into His body. It is here that we are fed on His Body and Blood. Here in the Church we are restored to communion with God and communion with others. And it is here that the battleground to maintain that communion takes place. Thus God has given us the means to correct one another, to heal one another, to aid in the salvation, the complete restoration of each other in Christ.
Anyone who does not know that the Church is what salvation looks like has not begun to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. We cannot love one another unless there is another to love. Indeed, the New Testament, with the exception of the Book of Philemon and the Pastoral Epistles is written only to the Church. And those exceptions are written to men only in regard to their place within the Church. The New Testament belongs exclusively to the Church. If you are reading it as an individual and not as a member of the Church to whom it was written, then you are reading someone else’s mail.
Finally, the Church has always understood itself to be One (not an abstract “one,” dwelling mystically in some second storey, but a very concrete one). Those who establish fellowships and ordain leaders have not been given authority to do what they do. Reading the letters of Abraham Lincoln does not make one a U.S. Senator. Those who have authority in the Church were appointed by Christ and by those whom Christ appointed. Apostolic succession is real - though not merely mechanical. Those who sit in the seat of the Bishops must in fact teach what the Apostles taught. But to ordain men apart from this divinely appointed means comes dangerously close to the make-believe of cult-like groups who think nothing of proclaiming prophets and the like. Of course, the Orthodox Church treats with deference and respect those who lead Christian communities, and in most cases has graciously received converts from that number with respect (though some like myself, having been an Anglican, had to submit to re-ordination - I did not take this as an insult).
According to Scripture, it is only in the Church that we will find the “fullness of Him who filleth all in all.” Why would we want less than the fullness, and how could we dare to create our own organization and claim such a Divine reality to be its constitution? Those who have inherited their Church from their own fathers stand perhaps in a different quandary. But it is still a quandary to be pondered and not merely justified because it exists.
"Church" is not "what you make it" nor is it merely the latest creation of well-meaning people who think that Holy Mother Church must be "reinvented" or "made more relevant."
Thank you Father Stephen!
Read more of Father at http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/.
"In my opinion, being in Church for that first Amen is a sign, an indication of one's humility. And where humility is, its opposite is sin. The sin is not disturbing other people. The other people in Church are not the object of our worship. It is rude, to disturb other people. But it is sinful to be so presumptuous and prideful that one can jump in and sing with thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels at one's own whim. We stand before the throne of God, and when we realize that, every other consideration, all our personal likes and dislikes, become secondary."
-- Bishop BASIL, Diocese of Wichita & Mid-America
Bishop BASIL, through this statement, gave me pause. He caused me to stop and think.
He put into words something that has been at the back of my mind for a long time.
What Bishop BASIL said caused me to say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner.”
“Orthodox People Time” as Fr. Joseph Huneycutt titled this quote, is an interesting phenomena, especially to those lately come, like me. People come in at all times during services. On the one hand, the informality is delightful, in its own way. Because Orthros starts the morning at a set time, 8:30 on Sundays for instance, Divine Liturgy starts at a little different time depending on Orthros. Understandable, then, that some might come in a various points during Orthros – or even during the very beginning of the Divine Liturgy.
It is a good thing, too, that those who might be detained for good reason, will come for as much of the service or Divine Liturgy as they can.
On the other hand, we are often all too ready to make the exception the rule. Soon even the attempt to arrive “on time” has vanished in the wind, and we let all sorts of things delay us. It is a distraction to be sure, and it makes the visitor wonder when people habitually arrive late, even appearing in the pew just prior to the distribution of our Lord’s most precious Body and Blood.
As “one lately come,” as a parent, godfather, and now a grandfather, I also want to humbly point out that such behaviors teach and model to our precious children that these holy things aren’t really that important at all, since we can do all kinds of “other things” on say, Sunday morning, popping in for the last half hour of the Divine Liturgy.
All of these things are easily used of Satan to deceive us into an easy happy-go-lucky view of the most Holy Faith – and are used of that old wily foe to lull us into thinking that everything centers on “me” and “my comfort” and “what I want.” And it denies Christ, and in all reality acts as though we really only need Him as a buddy or friend when we want Him around.
All of this is not to point fingers, either. Lord be merciful to me, the sinner. For I’ve wandered in late, become distracted, too. So, dear reader, this isn’t just about “you,” – it is about us.
We are often so wrapped up in our little worlds that we don’t see the larger picture, and we don’t think all that much beyond our own little comfort zone. So, I come in late, but I don’t think of those who are already present. But even more than that, it is sinful to be so presumptuous and prideful that one can jump in and sing with thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels at one’s own whim!
And when we do these things, we become idolaters, putting ourselves at the center of the universe, thinking that everything and everyone, including the Blessed and Holy Trinity, should give way to “me.”
So we stop and think: we certainly do not want to be rude to those around – but the bigger problem is in the sin of pridefully attempting to stand before God on our own terms. That cannot be done.
“Orthodox time” is on the one hand delightful – it is a joy to see those who have been detained for good reason come, albeit a bit late! On the other hand, we must repent of our sinful and slothful attitudes when we make it a matter of habit to “drop in” at our own convenience – or merely put in an appearance.
It is such a joy to be wrapped up in the Divine Liturgy and in the other services! It is a blessing of the Holy Spirit to be able to pray in the privacy of our homes those words handed down from the apostles! To be Orthodox, to live in Christ, to submit to His will, is to experience “heaven on earth!”
Thank you, Bishop BASIL, for your fatherly Word of the Lord!