Dear friends, as we approach the beginning of Great Lent in both the Orthodox East and the West, I am so glad about what I hear coming from the Evangelical Church concerning revival of commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. While I recognize that such occurrences can be fraught with celebrity pastors cashing in on a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, I am greatly relieved whenever I hear of the increase of worship in the One True God.
Tonight, we Orthodox Christians participated in a centuries old ritual of begging each other’s forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful way to begin Great Lent, to clean our slate of any lingering bitterness or contempt that we often harbor towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please forgive me wherein I have offended you in thought, word, or in all my feelings. May God who forgives have mercy on and save us all. Have a blessed and most fruitful Great Lent!
Dear Readers, I came across this lovely portrayal of an Orthodox Holy Week from the associate priest of our parish who grew up in an Orthodox Christian country. I always say that we converts (those who became Orthodox as adults) can learn so much from those who knew it from their very cradle, for to them the faith is as natural as breathing air. This kind of simple innocence shines through in father’s words below. And if you have never been to any Orthodox services, behold NOW is the time, while Divine Services last until this Sunday when we celebrate the Feasts of all Feasts, Great and Holy Pascha!
Having prepared through weeks of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we are now approaching the “feast of feasts and the holy day of holy days.” But before we can arrive at that sacred day of Pascha, we first must traverse the Church’s Great & Holy Week, where there will be more services than usual, sometimes both in the morning and in the evening. That means more opportunities to emerge from our daily jobs, homes, and chores and into the Church – not unlike the way in which the ancient monastics would return to their monasteries after spending the entirety of Great Lent in the wilderness.
Am reading a fantastic book for Lent by a woman who serves in ministry in the Anglican Church in their home parish in Pittsburgh, PA. She is another C.S. Lewis in her ability to take complex spiritual experiences and capture them with poignant and contemporary images. Her personal honesty and vulnerability make the work eminently readable and relatable. Tish Harrison Warren is author of Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep. It is half spiritual memoir (my favorite genre of writing at this time of my life) and half prayer manual. The structure is based on the Compline service in the Book of Common Prayer, a service the author has grown particularly drawn to and even dependent upon.
Dear students, faculty, and staff of Boston Trinity Academy, it is a great honor for me to be with you today. I was asked to deliver a presentation entitled “Introduction to Orthodoxy” and I have dressed as fully as I could for the occasion. Inner cassock, outer wide-sleeved cassock, and the funny hat. There are two reasons I dressed like this. The first reason is for you to see what an Orthodox priest looks like and not be too scared next time you see one. The second reason is that people often mistake this look and the outward cultural elements of Orthodoxy for its essence. Several communities here in the United States, such as the Lebanese, the Russians, and the Greeks, use Orthodoxy as a banner under which they unite to project their cultural heritage and distinctiveness. Some think Orthodoxy is about the glory of Hagia Sophia, the iconic cathedral of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul. Or they think it’s about long robes, beards, intimidating monks, and Byzantine Chant. Some believe Orthodoxy is an ethnic religion. “Are you a Greek priest?,” they often ask me. “When is Greek Easter this year?” “Can I come to your church if I am not Greek or Russian?” More tragically, Orthodox nations sometimes exploit their religious heritage to promote political agendas and even wage war on neighboring countries. OK, I’ll take off the funny hat now, so it doesn’t mess my hair!
I love spiritual memoirs. Seems like I am always finishing one right before the start of Great Lent. This year is no exception as I polished off Eric Metaxas‘ very witty and inspiring story of his coming to Jesus called A Fish Out of Water. There is so much in this book I identify with. A son of two immigrants from the vastly different countries of Germany and Greece, Eric always had difficulty fitting in wherever he went. As an intellectual phenom, he was promoted a grade early on which added to his awkwardness since he was almost always the youngest in his age group. After he achieved his dream of graduating from Yale, he hunted about searching for life’s deeper purpose waiting to be “discovered” for the brilliant person he thought himself to be. In the end, a coworker from a dead end corporate job introduces him to Jesus and the idea that God is not just some remote being but a Person interested in having a relationship with him.
Some movies are very slow starters. The new and Oscar nominated Dune is no exception. This 2+ hour film really tested this reviewer’s endurance, but by the end, I was cheering for Duke Paul’s attempt to “go native” on Arakis: the spice-laden, sand world he was sent to on behalf of the mysterious emperor. I was cued on to this great movie by my usual source.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory Forever. For those who came to vigil yesterday evening, we heard for the first time what might be called the theme song of Great Lent. If you were not there to hear it, perhaps the choir might sing it during communion. Today marks the opening of the book of the Lenten Triodion, which literally means the book of the three odes. It’s theme song also speaks of an opening:
Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-giver, For my spirit rises early to pray towards thy holy temple. Bearing the temple of my body all defiled; But in Thy compassion, purify me by the loving kindness of Thy mercy.
During Great Lent, we like to concentrate on feeding the soul and not just depriving the body. Though we generally fast also from our usual intake of media, we find that feeding the soul with good, pious tales and instruction about Christian life can be very helpful.
At the beginning of another journey through Great Lent, I would like to offer this review of a book I recently finished. Please forgive and pray for me a sinner, and may our good God have mercy on us and forgive us all. Veliki Post! Kali Tessarakosti! Blessed Lenten journey to you all!
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God’s] ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”
A better description of our current culture’s infatuation with sex and the diminishing returns of unfettered promiscuity has never been so well put. And now with the publication of her most recent spiritual memoir, award-winning author Carolyn Weber describes how to reorder these disordered pleasures and loves in line with what St. Augustine called the City of God. In Sex and the City of God (SCG), Caro (as her close friends call her) provides a personal and powerful roadmap through a variety of sexual temptations including idolization of the beloved, casual hookups with friends, and one of the most devastating of all temptations, adultery. With a sharp wit and creative literary inspiration, this English professor narrates the details of her own love life and illumines all of her various relationships with the eternal truths of Scripture and the Holy Fathers.
I am an art collector. A good painting with an equally good story has a way of catching my eye and heart. But because I have neither the time nor the pocketbook, most of my collecting happens online via Google image searches. And once I find an image that means something particular to me, I like to hunt it down to its source, where it lives, usually in a museum or sometimes in a church.