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.
Roman Catholics have a beautiful litany to the Virgin Mary, and I thought I would create a similar one based on the many ways the Theotokos is addressed in Orthodox hymns. I soon found that there is far too much for only one litany! Here is the first, then, drawn entirely from the Paraklesis Hymn (also called the Little Supplicatory Canon) to the Theotokos. Hopefully there will be other litanies in time, drawn from other hymns. If you’d like to create some, send them to me at email@example.com. You’ll find a more attractively-formatted version here. My idea was that you could print this out as a bookmark; it’s only 2” wide. (Admittedly a long bookmark at almost 10”.) I printed mine and then stuck the two columns back to back, and placed it in one of those “Self-sealing Laminating Pouches” you can buy at any office supply store. A wink: the font I chose is called “Sitka.”
DAY ONE O most merciful, all gracious and compassionate Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, Son of God: we entreat Thee, most gracious Master: look with compassion upon Thy children who have been condemned to death by the unjust judgment of men. And as Thou hast promised to bestow the heavenly kingdom on those born of water and the Spirit, and those who, in blamelessness of life, have been translated unto Thee; and Who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”—we humbly pray, according to Thy unfailing promise: Grant the inheritance of Thy kingdom to the multitude of spotless infants who have been cruelly murdered in the abortuaries of this land; for Thou art the resurrection and the life and the repose of all Thy servants and of these innocents, O Christ our God.
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.
Princess Alice’s aunts were St. Elizabeth the New Martyr and Tsarina St. Alexandra the New Martyr, so it’s no surprise that Tsar Nicholas II attended her 1905 wedding. This anecdote shows a completely different side to his personality—funloving, carefree—which is consoling to hear.
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 the first three days of Holy Week, Orthodox Christians have a series of three Matins services called “Bridegroom Matins.” We sing:I behold Thy bridal chamber richly adorned, O my Savior,But I have no wedding garment to worthily enter.Make radiant the garment of my soul,O Giver of Light, and save me.
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.