:: Saturday, March 31, 2007 ::
One Year Ago Today…
:: Sunday, March 25, 2007 ::
One year ago today, I made a decision from which I will not turn back. I renounced Satan, and bowed myself before Christ, my king. I declared war on the enemy of my salvation, proclaiming that I would do all in my power to unite myself to Christ and crush Satan under my feet. I left all I had known in this world, declaring myself dead to its carnal lusts and pleasure, declaring myself dead even to death itself. I died. I was raised again, born anew, with a new name, a new life, and a new calling. Like Lazarus coming forth from the tomb, I obeyed the voice of my Lord.
Then, having turned from my old life, I was enlightened and initiated into to the life of the Spirit. I was made like The Anointed One, Christ himself. Pentecost occurred, and the Spirit came to dwell within me, burning up my sinful passions with his refining fire. I was prepared for the fight, given strength not my own, and confirmed on the path which I had been called to undertake.
Having experienced my own joyous rebirth, I joined my family for a meal that I had only heard about second-hand. Christ himself spread the table, Christ himself offered me not just bread and wine, but his own body and blood. I was now part of his body, receiving from him the fullness of his body. This was the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil; this will make me like God, and I will live forever. This blood and water, this life-giving fountain, this foretaste of the kingdom to come became mine, for the first time.
Glory to God who has brought all things to pass!
Glory to God!
:: 11:32 AM on
Saturday, March 31, 2007
This is Holy
:: Saturday, March 17, 2007 ::
Here at St. Vladimir’s, my “community service” (obedience) is as breakfast cook. Last week, I mistakenly added twice as much flour to some muffins. Looking at the too-solid mess in the mixing bowl, I turned to throw it out just as my friend walked in: “No, wait, that’s holy. You can’t throw it out!”
It’s gooey muffin batter. Holy is, well, the blessed bread, or the Eucharist, or holy water, right? No, Fr. Alexander Schememman answers emphatically in For the Life of the World, which I recently read. The Eucharist is not somehow holy because it is ‘different’ from everything around it. It is holy because everything is holy, but it is in the Eucharist that the holiness of all things is realized. The incarnation, the goodness of creation and matter, that makes something holy. The mysteries are not in and of themselves holy: life is holy and the mysteries are simply the holiness of life realized in its perfect form: as a priestly offering back to God.
So, rather then focusing on the holiness of this or that thing qua thing, we should strive to offer all of our lives back to God, remembering that all things are really his. We are the priests of creation, summing up the sensible and intelligible worlds within ourselves.
It is only in this commemoration of all things back to God that we can realize the beauty of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Here, of course, “sacrifice” does not mean exclusively the Cross, but rather the offering of everyday stuff (bread, wine, wheat, oil, water) back to God, and therefore using them in the way they were meant to be used. Only when we see this offering not as confined to this specific piece of bread and this specific cup of wine can we realize how holy this bread and this wine really is. It is only then that we can see our whole lives offered up on the altar and given back to us as Christ. Therefore, let us live this life, this holy and sanctified life, where the water I drink, the paper I write on, the muffins I bake, are all holy things because they have been offered in the Eucharist. Let us commend ourselves and each other, and all of our life to Christ our God, and he will return it to us as Himself.
Glory to God!
:: 6:32 PM on
Sunday, March 25, 2007
:: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 ::
Over on Fr. Joseph’s Orthodixie, there is a link to an excellent photographic slideshow of women with ikons of their patron saints. One thing I noticed about this display, however: all of the women pictured had female patron saints, and in fact the author of the show states that “Modern Orthodox women, therefore, have an automatic and deep connection to the women of the past.”
But what if I don’t have a woman as a patron saint? I am named after St. Seraphim of Sarov, whom I deeply venerate, love, and pray to every day. I know, however, that some of my Greek friends were shocked when they learned that I had “chosen” a male saint as a patron; I have a nice ikon of St. Seraphima, an early martyr, given to me by a Greek woman who assumed I could not be named after a male saint. A year or so ago, I was at the baptism of a little baby, Garet, who was named after St. Margaret of England; clearly, in some places, men can have female patrons also.
For anyone who comments, how common is it in your communities for someone to be named after a saint of the opposite gender? Should we discourage it? Is there a difference with women named after men versus men named after women (especially since we know about more male saints then female ones)? How many of you are named after saints of the opposite gender? Just wondering…
Glory to God!
:: 3:44 PM on
Saturday, March 17, 2007
A Day of Sorrow and Joy
:: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 ::
Give us this day our daily bread…This day has been one of joy and sorrow, containing more than any day should.
Last night, as I rushed off to compline, I was met in the hall by a tear-stained face. She told me that one of the young men, a friend of hers, who graduated from St. Vladimir’s last year had just taken his own life. Fr. John announced it at compline to the whole community, most of whom I assume knew since they were all gathered there. The community is in shock right now. Life is so fragile. And in our speedy and rushed life, we so easily forget each other…please pray for us.
On the flip-side of the coin, there was great joy today. Approximately 25 seminarians got up for the 7AM ordination of one of our third-year students. “Phil” became the Rev. Dn. Philip. It was a 5+ hour service (as Indian services tend to be!) with two bishops; the metropolitan, and his assistant. There was great joy and festivity, food and felicitations. Of course, it was exhausting, being up early, standing, standing, standing and being in service so long. But axios and many years to the newly ordained deacon!
And the day ended, as do all Wednesdays, with the Liturgy. Even though I wasn’t fully prepared to receive, due to eating at the ordination, I got a blessing from Father to do so. I am glad I did; the Eucharist is life-giving, and I need that right now. I am so drained. I barely have the energy to type this: I don’t have the energy to go to compline, and yet I will stay up and go. The community needs prayer right now. Please, pray for us.
Glory to God!
:: 6:34 PM on
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Changes in format
:: Monday, March 12, 2007 ::
A pox on Google for making me change blog formats yesterday…! But I believe everything (including archives) should be back up and working…sorry for the down-time.
Glory to God!
:: 12:59 PM on
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
To Save Sinners…Of Who I am Chief?
:: Monday, March 05, 2007 ::
The other afternoon, a friend and I were discussing St. Paul’s words to Timothy, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (I Tim 1.15). He claims that those who will be saved in the end truly believe this about themselves. I am not so sure.
I came up with a litmus test for this. Ask people, “Are you a better person then most of the other people in the world?” If I were honest, I would say, “Yes! Of course!” But let’s say I knew I was supposed to be humble, and answered “No.” Then the next question is, “Do other people think that you are better then most other people in the world?” This question avoids the false humility that might tempt us in the first: “Of course they do!”
Must we honestly answer “no” to this question? Just to clear up any doubt, I would say that it is salvific to answer “No;” it is true humility, and Christ-like. But what about the rest of us? I daily struggle to work out my salvation, and yet not now nor in the foreseeable future do I see myself as humble enough to claim that I am the chief of sinners. Does that mean I am proud? Yes. Does that mean I should be damned? Yes, certainly.
But perhaps this sin, this pride, is for my salvation. I cannot defeat it, and since I know that pride damns men, I must beg God for mercy. Of course, I must continue to struggle against my pride: that is the working out of my salvation. But to defeat it is the culmination of my salvation, and I do not believe that will come in this life. For, if I defeat my sins, then I have indeed saved myself, and should be proud.
So, yes, I lie immediately before approaching the fire of the chalice by saying, “…who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” And I know that the pride that produced this lie is damning. And so all the more I can say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Glory to God!
:: 12:22 PM on
Monday, March 12, 2007
I am growing in my spiritual life. If nothing else, I know this because I desire this growth, and work to cultivate it in my current situation; here, this means going to church daily and studying hard. But at the same time, I seem not to be getting better. I always thought that sins would become somehow more subtle, ‘fancier,’ or at least more interesting as I went on. Suffice to say, they are none of the above.
It was like choir practice the other day. I could not get the last interval of a piece. It was a major third down. After missing it twice, Dn. K. told me it was a major third down. I knew it was a major third down. I can sing a major third down. But I could not get it! I knew what it was, what it sounded like, and was in acquainted both with what I wanted it to sound like and what I did not want it to sound like. It didn’t help.
My list of sins (pretty much the same each week, with minor variations) is basic. They are not ‘difficult’ sins or sins that I do not recognize as such. They are pretty much summed up in the Ten Commandments --- only a few thousand years old. I know what I want to do, and I know what it looks like. But I cannot do it!
I wish they were somehow more interesting. Or that I could honestly go to confession and say, “Yeah, Father, I really didn’t know that was a sin!” But I can’t. I feel so idiotic each week saying that I did the same things. I really do repent! I really do want to stop sinning! But I do not know how. I would eat meat everyday of the Fast if it meant I could destroy these evil sins. But rather then becoming weaker during the Fast, I find my sins become stronger, more pronounced. I notice them more, and they repulse me more. But, I still do them…Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
Glory to God!
:: 11:34 AM on
Monday, March 05, 2007