Here’s something I hear from time to time: “I’d like to join the Orthodox Church, but I visited a local church and it just felt dead.” When I hear this it’s about Orthodox churches, but that needn’t be the case. It could be any church or denomination; it might sound good on paper, but the local church on Sunday morning feels empty and drained. It’s tempting to say, “That shouldn’t make any difference. Focus on your own prayer life.” But, actually, I know what these people mean. Sometimes, when you visit a church, something just feels “off.” It makes you really eager to get out of there.
My daughter-in-law, Khouria Jocelyn Mathewes, has a good column today on repentance, as we head into Great Lent. She makes a point about accepting forgiveness for past sins (not the ones that continue in the present, but completed deeds in the past.) She reminds us that we must accept forgiveness and move on, and not keep revisiting them and “beating yourself up.” I think that, when we continue to be distraught over a forgiven sin in the past, it’s linked to our pride. It’s that we can’t believe we would ever do such a thing. It doesn’t fit our sense of the “kind of person” we are. So we can never quite assimilate it; we keep being startled by it, and regard it as strange and appalling. We think of it as something inexplicable that “happened,” rather than something we did.
Chief Captain of the Angels, pray for us Angel of fiery appearance, pray for us Angel of miraculous beauty, pray for us First-formed star of the world, pray for us Traverser of Creation, pray for us Fulfiller of the Creator’s commands, pray for us Mighty and powerful, pray for us Minister, spirit, and flaming fire, pray for us Leader of the thrice-holy hymn, pray for us Greatest of Archangels, pray for us
A young man sent me an email saying that he was wondering whether he was autistic, and wether he should get himself evaluated by a doctor. I asked an autistic young man I knew to reply. ***** I’m a thirty-year-old man, Orthodox since infancy, diagnosed with Aspergers before age ten. I’ve been married for four years, and have a young child. I haven’t been all that professionally successful myself, for various reasons which can be summarized as “grew up lazy and got a useless degree.” I should note that I have a very mild form of Asperger’s (I can pass for an extrovert), and every case is different anyway, so not everything I say will necessarily apply.
Like elementary school students, writers are regularly asked to supply an essay to fit an assigned title. When I learned that the title of this essay would be “The High and Holy Calling of Being a Wife,” I did what any sensible person would do: I tried to get out of it. My husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary last spring, so I have extensive experience in being a wife. But whatever I’ve been doing around here for the last 40 years, “high” and “holy” aren’t terms that immediately spring to mind. For most of us, married life is something we make up as we go along. We learn some deep truths along the way, but usually immediately after it would have been really useful to have known said truth. Whatever height or holiness might have resulted would be entirely the Lord’s doing, not our own.
What’s surprising is how efficient these men are. First, they recognized Jesus. Then they immediately sent alerts “into the whole region around,” putting out the word far and wide. “Jesus just showed up, so if you want to be healed, get over here!” They gathered all (pantas) those who had any illness; they reached the largest number of sick and suffering as quickly as they could. Everyone was informed and invited.
What was it like for the Good Thief, after Jesus died? He was left alone on his cross in terrible pain, and the one he put all his hopes in was gone, unmistakably dead. Jesus had not come into his kingdom after all. No matter how bleak your faith has become at times, it can’t have been worse than that. I expect we all love the Good Thief. His name is not certain; Russians call him St. Rakh, and to the Copts (and in the West) he is St. Dimas.
In this session we’ll be hearing a lot about persecution, and I was asked to lead off by talking about repentance—which might sound irrelevant. Don’t we have enough to worry about already? But the connection is this. If our faith is going to be increasingly mocked and rejected, it will negatively affect our ability to speak in the public square. What we say will be distorted or ridiculed. Communication will be difficult. So we’ll need to put more emphasis on connecting one to one, person to person. Not just learning how to talk cleverly about our faith, but actually living it in ways that other people can see. The early Christians did this during the Roman persecution; they lived in ways different from their neighbors, and the church grew. Like them, we’re going to need to let the light of Christ within us shine out.
Here’s how I got my new car. On Nov 23 I was coming home in my 2008 black Prius, my husband Fr Gregory driving, and while we were waiting to turn left an SUV ran right into the back of us. Her insurance company told us it was a total loss (the frame was bent) and they’d be sending us a check. I went and looked my old Prius up on Blue Book and it was worth much less than I had hoped. Well, I hadn’t really thought about it.
This is the main thing: “Our religion is founded on spiritual experience, seen and heard as surely as any physical fact in this world. Not theory, not philosophy, not human emotions, but experience.” —St. Nikolai Velimirovic I think that, for much of my life writing about eastern / Orthodox Christianity and ancient Christian spiritual disciplines, I have been going about it wrong, based on some inaccurate assumptions I had.