Let’s get real.

I’ve seen a bunch of stuff in the media, particularly since the Supreme Court decision on the Obergefell v. Hodgins case, that has vilified traditional Christianity as being a hate-mongering institution. While my first reaction would be to refute such an idea, a bit of contemplation has led me to realize that a bit of truth exists in such statements. In our country, and much throughout the last two millennia, the Faith has been one that has been twisted and used to justify countless instances of hypocritical actions that have included violence, racism, sexism, greed, and oppression against so many groups of people. While I disagree strongly with the decision our Supreme Court has made and am, by nature of my Christian beliefs, required to uphold traditional marriage, I recognize that we Christians have often done a terrible job at living the teachings of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Instead of healing the sick and bringing comfort to the suffering, our Faith has often been used as bludgeon against others in order to further worldly ambitions. Instead of reacting in such a volatile manner towards an incredibly confused and hurting community, let us live our teachings in order that we might not alienate those who need the healing light of Him in whom we “live, and breath, and have our being.” Sayidna Philip of thrice-blessed memory reminds us that, “It’s a religion of love. It’s a religion of mercy. It’s a religion of compassion. It’s not a judgemental religion. And any theology, that does not touch people in their pain and suffering, is a removed theology-it has nothing to do with people.” Let us not have our Faith, for which countless martyrs have been tortured and died for, become removed-at that point, it ceases to be the means to new life and, instead, simply becomes some sort of propaganda with which we engage in an evil and worldly battle.

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Seeing into Paradise

 

In the harmony of sounds I hear Thy call. In the lofty beauty of music, in the magnificence of artistic works Thou art allowing us to foresee Paradise. Whatever is truly beautiful soars toward Thee and teaches the soul to sing to Thee a victorious song: Alleluia!

By Thy Holy Spirit Thou inspirest the thought of the artist, the poet and the scientist. By the power of Thy wisdom they prophetically enter into the mysteries of Thy laws and reveal the depth of Thy wisdom. Even their works involuntarily speak about Thee. O how wonderful Thou art in Thy works! O how great Thou art in man!

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!

~Kontakion and Oikos 7 from The Akathist of Thanksgiving

Little Lent Approaches…

From Fr. Patrick Cardine of St. Patrick Orthodox Church in Warrenton Virginia, Antiochian Archdiocese:

Advent has been called a little Lent; a penitential time for fasting, repentance and preparation for the Christmas season. The Latin term “adventus” means “coming” and the season is all about the coming of the Lord. One might think that the readings and hymns would focus on the coming of The Christ in the Incarnation, but that is only half of the story. Surprising to some, the Western Rite Lectionary begins Advent not with a focus on His first coming in salvation but on His Second Coming in judgment. This makes sense when one realizes that “adventus” is the Latin translation of the Greek word “parousia,” a word most commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.

How is it that we can speak of God coming? Isn’t He in all places at all times; is there anywhere He is not? The Psalmist finds comfort in God’s omnipresence, saying, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” If indeed God is everywhere how is it that we can say He comes? This of course is a great mystery and perhaps reflects our experience of His presence whether we know Him to be near or feel that He is far. This also speaks of the humility and condescension of God, who restricts the effects of His presence at times out of mercy; for if we are unprepared, even His loving presence can burn. At any rate, there are times in our lives when the presence of God comes and when the Lord unleashes His fiery love upon us for our blessed enjoyment or for our chastisement.

The coming of the Lord is always eventful; it is either for judgment or for salvation, but never without fire. We read of the coming of the Lord in Genesis 3 after Adam and his woman had disobeyed. The pair huddles in the bushes, shivering with fear and hiding from the Lord when they hear him walking in the midst of the garden. And just before the voice of the Lord calls out to them we can imagine Adam turning to his wife, his voice a trembling whisper, saying, “He’s coming, He’s coming!”

While Adam hid, God sought him out. God’s call to Adam, “Where are you?” was not for geographical information nor was it for condemnation, but was the first preaching of the Gospel: an opportunity for the human to repent. Sadly, man did not take hold of the chance at repentance God bestowed but offered excuses and justification. It does not seem right that the greater should come seeking the lesser; it is we who need God, and we should be coming to Him. And yet while we were yet sinners, when we did not love Him or seek Him, when we were too preoccupied with our busy and important lives to give Him a thought; He comes to us. This is the remarkable humility and love of God poured out upon us again and again.

The coming of the Lord should ultimately be joy, and this we sing in the Nativity Feast: “Joy to the world the Lord is come.” But to experience this joy we must first recognize that there will be a reckoning, and we must prepare to receive Him so that when He comes, we will not hide in shame. Prepare your hearts therefore with fasting and penitence and with attention and faithfulness, so that your joy may be full at the coming of the Savior.

The book of Genesis records the beginning of man’s story where we find him hiding in the bushes, not at all excited about the coming of the Lord. But by New Testament times, things have changed, including the normal greeting and the creedal declaration of the early Church, and even part of the Eucharistic dialogue is Maranatha: “O Lord Come!” (I Cor. 16:22)

In fact, if the beginning of the story depicts man as dreading the coming of the Lord, then the second to last verse in the New Testament reveals the cry of hope and anticipation that resounds in the hearts of the Redeemed: “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

On Christian Persecution

From Archbishop Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul:

Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.

Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.
 
Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East seem to perpetually endure persecution of one form or another, but in this case, it is bad-really, really bad. Whilst Christians in the US decry their ‘persecution’ (legal same-sex marriages and contraception), Middle Eastern Christians are being raped, forcibly circumcised, having their churches destroyed, being forced out of their homes, marked for death, and killed. But yet, “my community is still alive.” 
 
No matter the persecution we Christians face, it will never be enough to destroy the faith-even the gates of hell can prevail against the Church and it will still stand. As horrifying and sad as persecution is, it is what we must come to terms with. This is our lot, as Christians. Censure, torture, and death is what was forced upon our Lord by his own people, but it was not enough to stop Him. Just as our Lord triumphed over death, so will we if we hold true to the Truth passed down through the ages.
 
When the time comes and we in the United States and throughout the West endure real persecution, we cannot forget this. The agents of the evil one-secularists, relativists, humanists, radical Islam, and the like-will do everything in their power to destroy us. Let us, though, hold fast to the faith and proclaim loudly:
 
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Abp. Joseph elected as Metropolitan of All North America!

PatJohn-Met-JosephAxios! Axios! Axios!

Today, Archbishop Joseph of Los Angeles and the West was elected as the Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch.

I had the great pleasure of meeting and receiving a blessing from then-Archbishop Joseph when he visited our parish just after Pascha this year. In his comments to our community, his humility and love showed forth, as well as his desire to stay close to his flock. Alhamdulillah! الحمد لله

Many years, Sayedna!

 

Fr. Z & the “Christian” Right

As a tradition-minded Roman Catholic (Lord, have mercy!), I was a frequent reader of a blog (called WDTPRS, standing for “What Does the Prayer Really Say?”) written by a traditional Catholic priest (“Fr. Z”) from the United States. Though I have since renounced my loyalty to Rome and have come into communion with the Orthodox Church, I have continued (out of habit) to read it (albeit, less frequently). I very much so enjoyed reading his commentary on not only liturgical issues, but, as Fr. Z advertises, “life in general”-up until last night, that is, when I made a personal (and huge) realization about its content and Western Christian thought in general.

(WARNING: Sorry for the run-on sentences. May God have mercy on me!)Image

May we not be like Judas and give unto Christ a kiss of betrayal, but rather be
received by the Son of God with hearts of authentic humility and love. 

Instead of focusing on spiritual issues (as you’d hope a priest would do, because, well, the obvious), Fr. Z instead has become a part of the religious right’s political machine, promoting firearms and advancing the conservative “Christian” line of thought that has less concern for people and more concern for evil dressed in the robes of patriotism (you can find his blog here). Unfortunately, the position of Fr. Z is not unique to him alone-it is endemic to the leadership (and, in most cases, laity) of Western Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. There are exceptions to these cases (I think especially of Pope Francis and his crusade against the reign of unbridled free-market capitalism, which led to a serious amount of harsh criticism by previously-loyal conservative pundits and “Christians”), but until Western Christianity begins to orients itself pastorally (which means caring less about agenda and more about PEOPLE created as icons of the loving God) it is doomed to exist only as a tool used for the advancement of a greed-centered agenda, thus alienating the rest of the world and turning it away from the God who is love.

To this same God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all glory, honor, praise, and dominion, both now and ever, and unto the ages of age. Amen. 

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Polyeleos

Psalm 135 in tone 5 chanted by the choir at St. Vlad’s Seminary.

Also, sorry for not posting any commentary/editorial pieces in the past few months-Just haven’t had the chance to get around to it. However, what could be more expressive of the Christian faith than hymns and chants from the liturgy and divine services?

There is a saying that I threw around a lot as a liturgically-focused papist (Lord, have mercy!) that holds true for Orthodoxy, in an even greater way, I think: “Lex orandi, lex credendi” or, roughly translated, “The law of prayer is the law of belief.” Our faith is first and foremost one of worship. The services are both the spring from which the faith flows forth, in addition to being the pinnacle of the Christian’s earthly existence. This speaks volumes as to the paradoxical identity of the Christian, as the Divine Liturgy, in particular, is not something of this created world, but presents, rather, the very life that we all thirst for, which is life in the uncreated God. To this same God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all glory, honor, praise, and dominion, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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The Leavetaking of Pascha

Today, on the Wednesday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the leavetaking of this Feast of Feasts. Our services today are celebrated just as on the day of Pascha itself.

Why is it that we have the leavetaking, or apodosis, of a feast?

Two years ago, Orthodox blogger, John Sanidopoulos, had a nice reflection on the reason for an Apodosis: “Every major feast has its Apodosis. Why? The main reason is that the Church once again gives us the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the feast. When we see or experience something beautiful, it is human nature to desire to have that experience again. When we taste delicious food, we desire to eat it again. The feasts of Christ and the Theotokos are a sweetness to the soul which arouses the desire to celebrate more than once.”

So, once again, let us proclaim in joy and gladness:

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY, HE IS RISEN!

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The Angel Cried

Rejoice, O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, all ye people!
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord has shone on you.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion,
Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection of your Son!