Mocking God with Metaphor

thomasdoubting1500x1105-56a1463f5f9b58b7d0bdb773Christ is Risen! In this great season of the resurrection, I would like to post one of my all time favorite resurrection poems by John Updike entitled Seven Stanzas at Easter. In it, the poet delivers this one liner punch to those who would claim to be Christian, and yet not hold to the belief that Christ is raised from the dead, bones and all: Let us not mock God with metaphor (i.e., Either he rose in fact, or He did not). May He who rose from the dead, Christ our True God, give strength to those who still doubt and wonder at the mystery of our Faith. Truly He is risen!

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall. Continue reading

Alive Unto God

Great & Holy Saturday, 2017
Eve of Pascha, The Resurrection of Christ

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11)

great-and-holy-saturday-burial11“If there were only one book left in the Bible, only one chapter, yea only one verse, it would have to come from Romans chapter 6.” I was used to hearing such hyperboles from our pastor and teacher growing up, so when he made this particular declaration, it did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I mean, if I had to lay my bets on the most seminal verse in Scripture, I might have chosen something about love like the ever-popular football verse, John 3:16. But this spiritual father of mine was closer to the truth than I realized. For the next time I heard his declaration ringing in my ears was the first time I heard that chapter situated in the very heart of the church year. Continue reading

Remembering Pastor Jim

0b0ef12A good and godly spiritual father of mine passed this morning. The thoughts and good wishes of so many of his spiritual children have been flooding the internet already, and I wish to add my remembrances to the growing chorus.

My parents and I met Pastor James M. Riccitelli at a moment of deep spiritual crisis, when the church that we had been attending gave my parents an ultimatum that drove them out of the fellowship. It was unfortunately not a new experience for us. I was in college at the time, and by then, my family and I had been a part of not less than 10 different churches. But this loss felt different than the others. I remember that I had a key to this church because I had become a member of her, not merely adhering to my parent’s wishes. When it was clear that we were not going to be able to go back, I looked with weariness toward the next fellowship of believers in Christ. What would they be like? Would we be welcome with all our brokenness and failed dreams?

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A Sin-o-cide Bombing in Many Languages

Christ is risen! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Христос Воскресе! !المسيح قام! حقا قام 
Truly, Truly, He is risen!

When our Lord rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit descended upon the polyglotted people gathered at Pentecost, the truth was proclaimed in every language available. In fact, in the latter feast, each heard the Gospel proclaimed in his/her own native tongue. Though of all the world’s languages, some have been set aside for particularly holy purposes, this does not preclude preaching the good news in them all. It is for this evangelical reason that the Church has ordained a service on the day of Pascha called Agape (Love) Vespers.

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An Assurance of Resurrection

duccio-di-buoninsegna-the-raising-of-lazarus-1310e2809311-e1277334608647April 23, 2016
Lazarus Saturday
23rd Anniversary of my Reception into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation

Giving us before Thy passion an assurance of the general Resurrection, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead O Christ Our God. Therefore, we like the children carry tokens of victory and cry to Thee the conqueror of death, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.  (Troparia of Lazarus Saturday)

As a youth, I was often in need of assurance. Movements of my soul toward God were quickly followed by moments of intense doubt: “Did the Creator of the universe really perform a work in me or was it simply something I ate?” Assurance of genuine salvation then came by frequently answering a call to the altar, kneeling in a bare church, and praying somehow that this time salvation would really sink in deep. While this was a great beginning, I sensed there was more to my relationship with Christ. And when I discovered the Church’s sacramental life, I also found the key to unlocking my much needed assurance. Continue reading

Honest Doubt that Leads to Deeper Faith

Thomas Sunday, April 19, 2015
Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church
Webster, MA by Fr. Luke Veronis

Re-posted here with permission. I love Fr. Luke’s distinctions of the various kinds of doubt.

thomas-sunday-largeChristos Anesti! Christ is Risen! As Orthodox Christians, we not only proclaim this fact, but emphasize that Christ’s Resurrection is the very cornerstone of Christianity. Our faith isn’t first and foremost about “Do’s and Don’ts,” about some moralistic standards. No, our faith is first and foremost about Christ victoriously rising from the dead, and destroying death itself! We’re talking about the ultimate victory of good over evil, of life over death, of Christ over Satan.

St. Paul put it most bluntly, when he states that if the resurrection isn’t true, then our faith is meaningless. If the resurrection is a fairy tale, then we Christians are the greatest fools of all, because we believe in a lie. If Christ is not risen, then we are all dead in our sins. The Apostle Paul goes on to say, if Christ is not risen, then instead of trying to live a disciplined, Christ-centered life of love, we should just eat, drink and be happy.  Just enjoy the moment and the day, for there is nothing after death! Continue reading

O God of Too Much Giving

April 12, 2015
Bright and Saving PASCHA
of our Lord Jesus Christ

Come, let us drink,
Not miraculous water
Drawn from a barren stone,
But a new vintage
From the fount of incorruption
Springing from the tomb of Christ:
In him we are established!
(Ode 3, Paschal Canon)

The strongest and most delicious liquor I have ever tasted was made by the hands of monks in a remote monastery in Greece. It brought refreshment at the end of a long and arduous journey and was accompanied by an equally strong piece of candy. Both were inebriating, but not excessive; intoxicating, while at the same time mysteriously bringing the calm of sobriety. Continue reading