Thursday, December 1, 2011

Come and See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send cards and greetings that reflect that Christ is Born!

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

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

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

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

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

Give Glory to God for all Things!


Sunday, April 3, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Just some thoughts from one lately come ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


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

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

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

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

Then a recitation of a present reality:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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