Sunday, November 9, 2008
In the past, we've attended Holy Trinity in Raleigh, but decided to take daughter Tracey to this parish, which serves liturgy and other services in English. However, it is decidedly a house of prayer for all nations -- Greeks, Russians, Serbs ... well the list goes on -- all joined in Christ our God! Some 300 families make up this growing parish, and they are looking to building a new Temple, dedicated to the glory of God.
But, more's to say: Father Nicholas was formerly a Lutheran pastor in the LCMS! He and his family came home some twenty years ago. Father Philip, a military chaplain who will be deployed to Iraq after the first of the year, is relatively new to Orthodoxy and new as a priest -- and a cousin of Jaroslave Pelikan ... know amongst Lutherans and Orthodox alike.
The great joy, however, is that we are all joined in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, visibly joined in Christ. On the way, our daughter, still looking East, and wishing there were an Orthodox parish in Goldsboro, asked "Will you, belonging to a Greek Orthodox parish, be able to commune at this parish?" Of course, the answer was yes ... for in spite of various jurisdictions and ethnic backgrounds, we are indeed in a Eucharistic fellowship (I suppose there are some exceptions ... but we are essentially one!)
Now, Tracey (our daughter) has some Orthodox contacts who live in and near Goldsboro -- which may be an encouragement as she seeks the Way -- and may help her to have more frequent contact with an Orthodox community!
What a joyful day!
I encourage all who may read these words to come and see --- to experience the living reality of Christ's Church!
Glory to God for all Things!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Bishop DEMETRIOS of Mokissos presided at a Heirarchical Divine Liturgy welcoming our new priest, Father Achilles!
Father Achilles comes to us from St. Nicholas Parish in St. Louis, and is not a stranger to many of us. He was Deacon, then assisting priest at St. Nicholas, and now he comes to us with his lovely wife and children.
A young man, he is one of those men who humbly carries himself as a priest -- meeting him in public places is a joy as he radiates the love of Christ and His humility.
We certainly pray that God will bless Father with many years -- and we also pray that he will lead us at Sts Constantine and Helen to repentance and growing life in Christ our God.
Glory to God for all things!
Friday, September 26, 2008
The mysteries of our Faith are unknown and not understandable to those who are not repenting.
~Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov, 'Awareness of God' in the Orthodox Word Magazine, July-August 1976
This little snippet from The Desert Fathers list seemed very appropriate as I pray this morning.
We are in the midst of national woes on many fronts, and the voices are crying out in increasing strident tones for many conflicting solutions, most of which ignore the "simpler" solutions that require admissions of guilt and greed. Some even realize that there is no "magic pill," but many are looking for one that doesn't exist.
Within Holy Mother Church, scandals and heresies would rip the heart out. Financial malfeasance, immorality, heresy, false teaching all raise their heads … and there are strident voices from every side seeking easy relief, a wink of the eye, or denial of the ancient faith so that "we can all get along."
One doesn't hear many calling for repentance though. Sometimes we are so busy looking at everyone else that we don't look within. We don't confess – and there is no true repentance, no metania, as we quickly mouth the words and then try to get on with life.
Within parishes, priests who truly call parishioners to repentance are soon marginalized as "not nice" or "too strident" and they are called to be "more pastoral" – as though salvation isn't that important in the whole stream of things.
Perhaps, in these very troubled times (which may well be those of which Jesus warned in St Matthew's Gospel), we would be well advised to shut off the TV, block out all the shouts and yells, all the maneuvering and posturing, and to cease those things within ourselves, to pray, fast, seek God and His blessing as we live "for the life of the world." It is time to receive the mysteries of Confession, of Unction, to indeed seek to live the commandments.
Perhaps the reason that so many seem not to know or understand the mysteries of the faith, even within the faithful are indeed summarized by Father Nicholas.
Jesus called His own to repent – and then sent them out with that same message. And that is the message of Holy Mother Church, Repent! The Hour is at hand! Repent and Be saved.
Pray. Fast. Receive the Mysteries. Love your enemy. Love your neighbor.
In all of these seek and serve God that the Holy Spirit will indeed work the life of Christ in you, and give you peace in these tumultuous times!
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!
God grant it for Christ's sake!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
We noticed immediately that the priest did nothing in Greek, a bit of a surprise to us, but we didn't think much of it.
Turns out he was one of the priests from Holy Trinity Orthodox in St. Paul -- serving in the place of the vacation priest. It was a joy to see that a priest of another jurisdiction was able to serve the Divine Liturgy. Now, that is a contrast for me: when I was a Lutheran pastor, one in the LCMS did NOT have pastors from the ELCA or WELS (Lutherans understand the different letters, they are different synods, different juridictions) serving, and oft times one only had select pastors within their own synod serving.
Something different for me, but certainly a joy! It is also a joy to see priests from various jurisdictions joining at special services and at Divine Liturgy.
It serves the "I can read the Bible and believe whatever I want to believe" philosophy that permeates much of today's society. The Bible is viewed outside the Church, and anything goes.
One wonders. Of course, this often happens in any "tradition." Many times those who have "grown up" in the tradition haven't really learned it. Sort of taken for granted, they may not realize just what they have ... until one lately come points out the value and treasure of it!
The lovely bride and I were wondering, as we returned home from vacation with family, why no one really, seriously asks why we became Orthodox. After all, the move from the Lutheran pastorate wasn't made on a whim, or because of some political situation in a parish or synod.
I suspect that part of it is due to the fact that today "Church" is what you make it. In my family, there are Lutherans and Reformed and Evangelical -- in spite of the fact that we started Lutheran. No one bats an eye. Perhaps it is the "Well, at least they are going to church" syndrome. So, to become Orthodox is viewed as going to "another denomination."
I think that part of it also has to do with the fact that to become Orthodox, one must ask serious questions. One deals with the Truth, as Fr Gregory Hogg points out. For my family, it would mean asking very serious questions about where they are, and it would be costly to leave friends made over many years. It would also coming into a discipline far different from what they presently experience.
Of course, one wonders just who takes these things seriously in our age?!!
We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly spirit ....
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Of interest also: in these last months, maybe a year, her study of Orthodoxy was to convince herself to remain a Lutheran. We were pleased to hear what happened.
We met Steve and Nancy when wife Katherine (Karon) was working at the LCMS headquarters in 1971-1972 ... Nancy worked there also. Our friendship has continued through the years and over these last twenty plus years has been very close, since we live not that many miles apart!
Just a couple of weeks ago, we learned that Ben, a young Lutheran pastor, "came home" to Holy Orthodoxy. Ben was, some years ago, one of the men from the Seminary in St. Louis who was under my care ... he left after a quarter to attend the Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN. Over those years, young Ben read and studied and prayed. So, after a very short while as a Lutheran pastor, he was compelled in his search for Truth to be received, with his whole family, into Orthodoxy. Ben was rejoicing via email that on the weekend of their Chrismation, he would receive the Holy Mysteries with all his family -- wife and children!
This Sunday, Pentecost, will be the last time that our priest, Father Dumitru, serves our parish. His future is unclear at this point, and we keep him and Presvytera Constanza in our prayers! We also pray that our parish, Sts Constantine and Helen, would be blessed in the coming months, and that our Metropolitan and those who deal with such matters would be used of the Holy Spirit to bring us another priest!
Christ is in our midst!
He is and ever shall be!
Monday, May 5, 2008
Father Stephen Freeman of St Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, TN gave shape to some things that I've been trying to say in his recent blog post. He was speaking of history, and using liturgy as a picture, but let's just point at both here.
The first liturgy I participated in as an Othodox Christian, that is with a liturgical role other than as a layman, was the service in which I was ordained to the Holy Diaconate. Indeed, in the course of that service, I was tonsured a reader, a taper-bearer, ordained as a subdeacon, and later as a Deacon. I had a service book in my hand, but I quickly began to notice that the book was only marginally helpful for someone trained in a linear fashion. For an Orthodox liturgy is highly non-linear. Many things happen at once. They are all written in the book, but while you're looking at what someone else is supposed to be doing or saying, you yourself may very well be required to do something else and say yet another thing. At some points, it will seem like the entire liturgy is like juggling six or seven things. That none of them are dropped is nothing short of amazing. I would like to say that nothing was dropped during that service of my ordination - but that would not be the truth. Newly ordained as I was, I lost my place, almost hopelessly, and was rescued by a very kind Proto-deacon.
Father Stephen's words captured both the frustration of some of my relatives, used to the linear approach of protestant/Western liturgy (first, we do this, then, we do that) as they are plunged into the rich tapestry of the Divine Liturgy, in which many things happen on many levels involving all the senses. It also describes the fascination of my grandchildren, who are often caught up in this very same fabric, trying to take it all in, rather enjoying it all!
I think Father Stephen's comments also underscore the value of participating in all of the Divine Liturgy, rather than "dropping in" for parts here and there. When one is "in and out" one cannot be involved fully, but it rather like one standing on the sidelines. So it is that we encourage those who visit to visit for a "month of Sundays." In a "linear script" one always knows what's coming. But in the fullness of the Liturgy one has to be there.
Such an understanding causes us to understand history in a different fashion, also. Consider these thoughts:
This becomes the problem of history - at least for me. It is often told in a linear fashion ("discuss the three main causes of the Civil War," the history test asked). But such an accounting never really does justice to the truth of any event. Every telling, if it is told truly, has a "multivalent" character - it means more than it says because nothing is every simply linear.
This is true of Scripture as well, I think. A linear (purely literal) reading is too thin, not nearly rich enough to convey the fullness of truth. Thus Scripture rightly has a liturgical context (especially). The story of Jona and the Whale, read on Holy Saturday (as it is in the Orthodox Church) takes on a completely different meaning because it is read in that context. Thus Scripture is never just Scripture (a book to be read), but is a reading to be heard in the context of the worshipping community and in that context far more of its fullness is revealed.
As one considers these things, one thinks of the frustration faced by one on the witness stand, answering questions with "yes" or "no" that really cannot be answered in such a way. Think of the time you had the multiple choice quiz in which none of the choices really answered the question. Or, think of the times that what was said meant one think in the context of being said, but could be interpreted just about any way outside of that context!
The Blessed and Holy Trinity would give us the fullness of life, a fullness that goes far beyond our capability to understand or quantify. How often we ungratefully turn it away because we tend to live two dimensional lives! And how often do we approach the Divine Liturgy with blinders on, or attempting to fit it into our time frame, rather than coming open to receive fully and completely the Gifts and Mysteries and Life offered?
Our prayer is at once "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, the sinner!" and "Glory to God for all things!"
One of the marvelous joys of Orthodoxy is its emphasis on Paschal joy and victory.
I keep throwing my daughter (still Lutheran) off a bit by greeting her with "Christos Anestei!" whenever I talk to her. Keep in mind that the west already celebrated Easter. That's part of it. But the other part of it lies in the fact that the triumphant Paschal greeting that echoes in greetings and in "Christ is risen" sung over and over throughout this season doesn't really predominate in the west.
Certainly, the greeting "Christ is Risen! Truly He is risen" is spoken … I did it in all my years as a Lutheran pastor … but it doesn't predominate and "rule" to the extent that it does in Holy Orthodoxy.
Think of it for a moment.
Yesterday (Thomas Sunday) in our parish, "Christ is Risen" was sung in Greek, English, and Romanian a number of times during the Divine Liturgy. And Father on numerous occasions proclaimed "Christ is risen! " In Greek. In English. In Romanian. In Russian. In Spanish And the response was joyously given. At the point in the Liturgy where we greet one another, the same greeting echoed over and over, as it did as people entered the church and as they met in the hall and as they greeted one another at lunch.
Yesterday afternoon, a couple was united in Holy Matrimony, and they hymn was sung at least twice, beginning and end of the service – again that greeting resounded. And as we gathered in the hall for the reception, the greeting and the hymn were again proclaimed, in numerous languages!
Even more than that, the resurrection theme is maintained throughout the year in the hymnody of Holy Mother Church.
What a marvelous joy!
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Christ is risen from the dead!
Through death He has trampled upon death!
And to those in the tombs, he has bestowed eternal life!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:4)
I was reminded of this proverb recently when our son, David, told the story of something that three year old Lauren said when she spilled her juice. It spilled, and she cursed, repeating, of course, exactly what she had heard from time to time at home.
I recall a time in Minnesota when my daughter was very young. My grandmother was also with us … someone cut me off or did something else and I angrily let go a few epithets. Suddenly my grandmother is chuckling in the back seat, for Tracey said exactly the same thing.
These things do happen. We can all remember similar stories, and they do bring a smile to the face. But they also remind us that what we say and what we do are picked up by our children. Much of what they learn comes from imitating what they see in others, especially their parents.
That is a sobering thought, and one worth pondering. The Holy Spirit would have us live what the Proverb says, taking it seriously.
I’ve heard parents and others sometimes literally curse and other times demean or belittle those who are to be respected. Our children pick up those things. They learn that respect and decency are not all that important. Or they learn through our casual speech that words don’t matter. They learn that there is a double standard that it is OK to say and act one way in one situation, while ignoring all such things in another.
You can tell a child that it is important to be on time, but erase that teaching by always being late. You can teach a child not to smoke or drink to excess, but negate what you’ve said by what you do and live.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
As Orthodox, we live in the fullness of faith. Words, faith, life are all of a fabric. As I’ve said in other places, prayer is spoken and lived. We pray for forgiveness, and we forgive! We pray for daily bread, and rejoice in that bread at table and in the Divine Liturgy. We pray that we would be delivered from the Evil One and we shun his ways in our lives! We understand the danger of temptation and pray unceasingly, watching tongues and actions, always seeking to live the Lord’s will.
But as “ancient Christians,” we also realize that “church” isn’t just a Sunday morning thing, that prayer isn’t just for the priest, and that calling for decent behavior is not just limited to children.
Do we train up our children by words and deeds?
Do they see us hungering and thirsting for the Holy Communion, joining them in receiving Them?
Do they see us teaching them how to confess and encouraging them to regularly confess to the priest?
Do they see us “seeking first the kingdom” by our regular worship, our punctual attendance?
Or do they learn from us that all of these things and more are topics for “religious discussion,” but learning that they aren’t so important by our tardiness, our casual attitude toward them, and our unwillingness to make confession? Those actions teach much.
Indeed, as we ponder what Wisdom teaches, we pray, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me the sinner!”
Thanks be to God that He give new hearts and renews right spirits. Right now, attitudes and behaviors can change, as we consider just what we are really teaching those who follow us! Right now, we can by the power of the Spirit, clean up the language, repent of the sins, taking up the cross to follow Jesus! Right now we can live and pray the faith, passing it on to the generations that follow! Let us consider what others see and hear from us, and pray that from this point they would see Jesus and their salvation in people who take their faith and their future seriously.
Glory to God for all things!
Monday, March 3, 2008
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been trying to put into words some of the differences between Orthodoxy and the protestant roots from which we came. And it began with some wrestling with “prayer.”
All too often, prayer is just an afterthought, even for Orthodox. It is there for “emergency use.” And very often, when it is emphasized, it is pretty unclear as to just what it may be.
This happens because, all too often, people act as though there is no direction, no rule or definition for prayer. Our Lord’s command to pray, His invitation, was not made in a void, without context. The Apostles, Saints, Martyrs, all hand down to us the definition and direction for prayer! It does not have to be redefined. Prayer is to be spoken, done, lived!
For the Orthodox, for those in The Church, however, prayer is integral to life in the Body of Christ, to union with the blessed and Holy Trinity. Indeed, through prayer we seek to be joined in communion with the Blessed Trinity. It is not something on the periphery, something that can be taken or left, or something that is left up to one’s imagination. Prayer is of the fabric of living faith, and to pray without ceasing is not merely an ideal or some heady suggestion.
For those in The Church, then, the faith is a lived experience that includes prayer. It isn’t merely the topic of theological discussion or the fodder for pages and pages of writing. It is living reality.
So it is that our Lord, answering the Apostles, teaches us to pray, not only by instruction, but by His own constant prayer. How often we read of His taking time to pray early in the morning, around the time of meals, in the evening. The text of His prayer was more often than not the living word of the Psalms. Prayer was a thread that ran throughout the days and weeks.
Our Lord doesn’t leave us searching for words. We have the prayers handed down from the Apostles, from the saints, in the Hours, in Orthros and Vespers, in the Divine Liturgy. Prayers filled with the words blessed by the Spirit to form and shape thoughts, but also lives. We pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We pray, "Lead us not into temptation," which can also be translated "Be with us in the time of hard testing." Each petition deals with life, and calls for living in the ways of the Lord.
We pray, "Lead us not into temptation," which can also be translated "Be with us in the time of hard testing." Each petition deals with life, and calls for living in the ways of the Lord.
We have received “the Jesus Prayer,” a simple prayer that is to be prayed day in and day out, always placing our lives and actions in the hands of Jesus. To pray “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner” directs us to ways of mercy and His grace. We pray that He would indeed live in us, and that our lives by His grace in every moment would be lived in the faith that He gives and nurtures.
I think all of this is to say that “prayer” isn’t merely a “religious thing” for “religious moments” (the generic statement in every crisis by even pagans is ‘you are in our prayers’). It is not an option, nor is it formed merely to try to get the Father in heaven to “come around” to whatever we want at the moment. Rather, in prayer, we are shaped and formed as the mercy of Christ grants us the power of the Holy Spirit: our prayer is indeed “Thy will be done.”
A friend suggest this thought from Fr. Pavel Florensky (1883-1937) from his The Pillar and Ground of Truth:
"One hears that, in foreign lands, people are now learning to swim, lying on the floor, with the aid of equipment. In the same way, one can become a Catholic or Protestant without experiencing life at all--by reading books in one's study. But to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way."
To pray without ceasing is to be joined to Christ. It is to live every moment in His grace, His will, consciously.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The Old Testament translation is from the St Athanasius Academy Septuagint -- most Bibles have Old Testament translations of the Hebrew. Included is the Deuterocanon! This will truly be a blessing.
Throughout the notes, one hears the voice of the first ten centuries of the church.
The Church year is also noted throughout, and services of Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, and a lectionary are also included.
Check it out at your local Orthodox bookstore!
Father Gregory Hogg helped me along a bit with this quote:
"One hears that, in foreign lands, people are now learning to swim, lying on the floor, with the aid of equipment. In the same way, one can become a Catholic or Protestant without experiencing life at all--by reading books in one's study. But to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way."--Fr. Pavel FlorenskyThat last sentence is a bit of understatement, isn't it?
By the way, Father Gregory has begun his own blog, "Pillar and Ground of Truth" -- and his "On using the Fathers" gives sage advice for all of us.
When it comes right down to it, the best witness is most often "Come and see," isn't it?
Thursday, January 31, 2008
It also struck home because I've been listening to the reading of Father Arseny while working in my shop the last several days. I've read both books at least once, but I find that listening to them is particularly poignant and meaningful. (Audio book available at http://www.philokalia.org/arseny.htm)
In my thinking, Father Stephen's essay is "lived" or "in the flesh" in Father Arseny and his life.
"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!"
It is one thing to "talk" about the faith -- but it is quite another to live that faith.
Glory to God for all things!
(Thank you, Father Stephen)
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.
Ahh, how things have changed in my life! The nearest book to this computer is Turning Pens and Pencils by Kip Christiansen and Rex Burningham!
And the three sentences are:
"The skew is generally more difficult to control than the gouge, but, once mastered, will produce the finest of results. We offer four different approaches to using a skew to finish a pen. The first of these, shearing while leading with the heel of the skew, is perhaps the most traditional."
There you have it. Three sentences after the first five on page 123 of the book closest to me when I was tagged! Now, had I been at the computer in the study, the result would have been different.
As to tagging five others -- I think all those that come to mind have already been tagged: so, dear reader, if you want to have a little fun -- follow the rules and see what happens, post it on your blog!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The surreal beauty of the liturgy turned immediately into surreal shock. I saw the priest raise the spoon to the pilgrim's lips and then saw the priest's face go ashen with horror. An then he was shouting something else, not angry this time, but pleading. This time, says Nick, he was begging, "Don't move, hold still."This respect and veneration of the Holy Mysteries stood out in stark contrast to some of the practices and questions raised in our previous experience in the Lutheran church. In many congregations, the Holy Communion, particularly the Blood of Christ, was given in individual glasses, sometimes plastic and disposable. But, in many places, what remained of the elements were unceremoniously washed down the drain or tossed in the trash. And there were and continue to be great debates as to "how long" and "when" the bread and wine remain the Body and Blood of Christ.
Immediately, two monks appeared at the pilgrim's sides, gripping his shoulders and hold him absolutely still, as the priest covered the chalice with the scarlet cloth and, without moving his feet, handed the chalice back through the royal doors to the deacon, who returned it to the altar. From the choirs, three other emonks arrived with lit candles, moving in slow motion, inspecting the floor, the pilgrim's clothing, his shoes.
Somehow or other, the Holy Mysteries on the end of that spoon had fallen. And this is what I beheld: for the next half hour--during which time I barely breathed -- the priest picked up every possible bit of the elements that he found on the pilgrims clothes and shoes; he picked up every stray bit of anything he fo0und on the marble floor, be it the Holy Mysteries or candle wax, lin or speck of mud, and placed it in his mouth. The pilgrim was now openly weeping; one of the monks holding him relaxed one hat to pat his shoulder. When the priest was as certain as he could be that nothing remained on the floor, the trembling pilgrim was led through the left-hand deacon's door and back to the area of the table of oblation. Another monk arrived with a glass vessel, from which the priest poured an abundance of thick liquid. He then set a lit taper to the pool, and the entire marble floor before the royal doors cam alive with blue flame. (pp. 66-7)
So, it did strike us as we headed for the Divine Liturgy that day. And we gave thanks to God for the ancient Church as we experienced through reading what Scott Cairns experienced on that Day on Mt. Athos.
Father Stephen Freeman included this in a post a while back. It occurs to me that these words are valuable thoughout life, and especially for those engaged in "religious dialog." In my own life, there have been many times that I have been defined by what I am against, rather than who I am. With the best of intentions, my eyes have often been focused, not on Jesus, author and perfector of faith, but on whatever or whoever was considered "the enemy" at the time. For this, Lord Jesus, forgive me!
Consider these words from "Keeping Your Eyes Open."
As I read that list, it became very obvious that I had done all of those things at one time or another, in spite of the fact that I have shared almost exactly the same things with others!
A hermit said, “Cover a donkey’s eyes and it will walk in circles around the mill wheel. If you uncover its eyes, it will not continue to walk. The devil obscures our vision and leads us into all kinds of sins. If we keep our eyes open, we will more likely escape.
Keeping your eyes open is perhaps one of the harder spritual feats of our present age. So much of the material of our culture is specifically meant to mislead and deceive. And then again, so much of our culture has a “virtual” existence rather than a real. To a large degree, keeping your eyes open means keeping them focused on what is known to be true:
1. Avoid rumors
2. Avoid gossip
3. If you share something you expect someone else to keep secret, you are doing something you are asking them not to do (confession is obviously exempt from this).
4. Avoid information that is shared in anger
5. Avoid information (or treat sceptically) that is disseminated for profit (which would include almost all media).
6. In religious matters, novelty is not a virtue
7. Do not take delight in the sins of others.
I pray that my and our discourse is always "speaking the truth in love" -- and that's what the points quoted describe!
God grant that we keep our eyes open, and that we are slow to speak, eager to listen, and ready at all times to speak the Truth.