“How do you, Father Herman, manage to live alone in the forest, don’t you get bored?” He answered, “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course.”
In this forth week of our at-home Coronavirus quarantine, we struggle as a family with where to go and what to do. Our travelogue has been quickly and suddenly restricted to our immediate vicinity, and we labor at how to overcome feelings of isolation and boredom. The saints in heaven and especially the monastic hermits like St. Herman of Alaska can teach us what to do with our boredom, and it does not involve surfing to the next binge-worthy series or reaching for our favorite comfort food. It involves a rediscovery of our blessed habitation, that home which Father Herman called, “the blessed place which will render my soul’s salvation.”
The following is the text of a toast I gave in honor of my parents’ reception into the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday, May 12, Third Sunday of Pascha in honor of the Holy Myrrhbearers and American Mother’s Day. My father was received by Baptism and my mother by Chrismation at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in East Syracuse, NY.
“Nobody knows the trouble I seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.”
These simple, yet profound lyrics from an old negro spiritual express the longing of many a Christian lost in the multitude of denominations and confessions of the Church in this country and in the world. This family alone has experienced not less than 15 in our collective lives. But when I first witnessed the Orthodox Church I could see a church where, “Every generation chanteth hymns of praise to Christ.” Everyone from the smallest infant to the oldest great grandmother, all gather together in one Church. Today this prophecy has been fulfilled in your eyes: Not in a church designed principally for the youth, not in a church designed principally for the elderly, but in the Church where family integrated worship has never gone out of style. Continue reading →
On this great feast day of America’s own saint, whose relics lie in the San Francisco Cathedral, I feel compelled again to bring the church into our home. I discover another divine service which is found online in both text and youtube, making it easy to pray along with the video. The Akathist Glory to God for All Things can be sung at any time for any reason, and I especially feel its message now as I plan departure from a city that has taken such good care of us these past several years. Wondrous is God in His Saints!
On this Forgiveness Sunday, the beginning of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church, with our Western brothers and sisters beginning Lent this coming Wednesday, I need to beg forgiveness for a debt I will never be able to repay. It is a debt of love I owe especially to the Episcopal (Anglican) Church for midwifing me into the Orthodox Church over 25 years ago.
When I was a Christian in College without a church to call home, the local Episcopal church took me in. While the richness of the Orthodox Church stunned me into silence and kept me at an awkward distance, the local Anglican priest shared hymns and church customs that were more familiar. In the presence of an Orthodox Liturgy, I felt like a bum dragged off the street and set before a seven course French meal; Continue reading →
Surgut wakes up to remind us that we are only about 5 degrees south of the Arctic Circle. The warm weather anomaly ceased yesterday as temperatures dropped by over 20 degrees Fahrenheit and we dug out the few sweaters and jackets we brought to make the trek to church for the feast. Continue reading →
I will never forget one of my first experiences of worship in the Orthodox Church. It was a Syrian/Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sylvania, OH, and I thought I had come prepared for what I was about to experience. Had my Bible, my trusty notebook (that I still carry around to this day), and I was ready to drill the priest or anyone else who asked with a battery of biblical objections to what I presumed in advance would be idolatry. What I was not prepared for was an argument from a wordless two year old, toddling next to me in church. He was busy staring open-mouthed in wonder at a larger-than-life icon of St. Anthony the Great of the Desert. In a matter of seconds, I put my book away and decided that the two-year old was getting something that I was missing. For just as the babes and sucklings in today’s feast, his open mouth was already beginning to perfect the praise worthy of Almighty God. Continue reading →
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore. (Psalm 133)
I have always felt honored to be named personally in this quintessential passage about Christian unity, or at least my beard is named. It has also made me feel like I belong in our parish’s annual Lenten Men’s Retreat whose theme this year is brotherly unity. I am proud to say that I have made it to every single retreat minus one since their inception over a decade ago.
There is a joke among recovering fundamentalist Christians. It goes, “Why is pre-marital sex so wrong? Because it might lead to dancing.” While most Christians can agree with the former prohibition against sex outside of marriage, the latter taboo has brought frustration to many a footloose Christian who begs for a definition of exactly what kind of dancing leads to moral degradation. As for this recovering fundamentalist, I have never been happier than the first time I witnessed centuries-old folk dancing going on right in the fellowship hall of an Eastern Orthodox church. You can even say it was one of the things that led me to the Church. Continue reading →
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
O Pascha has come! Joyous feast, rejoice, O earth! The heavenly hosts sing: holy, holy, holy, hosanna in the highest. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace toward men. We start with lighting our candles, then we circle the church outside, singing a Paschal song. The Priest knocks on doors three times because Jesus rose on the third day. The doors crash open. And we proclaim, “CHRIST IS RISEN” in all kinds of different languages.