I write a weekly letter for our community and this week I thought I would share this letter with a broader audience.
Dear Holy Nativity Faithful,
Christ is in our midst!
We celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos this week. Mary the Mother of God was born into a world full of oppression and confusion, yet she was able to become the Holy dwelling place of God.
We too, especially at this time of government restrictions and all of the heightened rhetoric of political campaigns—all too radicalized and spun by social media, news outlets, social prophets and advertising—we too may feel that we are living in an increasingly oppressive and confusing world. While we are not suffering under the occupation of a foreign army, as was Israel during the lifetime of the Mother of God, still many of us are angry and stressed out by the restrictions being imposed on us, whether we agree with them or not.
If we disagree with these restrictions, if we think these restrictions are violations of our human rights, then we can become angry and stressed wondering what might be next, wondering what these relatively light restrictions might portend for the future. What’s coming next, we wonder; and how have such changes come about so rapidly and with so little regard for minority voices? Thus many have become angry and frustrated.
If we agree with the restrictions, if we think these are necessary and appropriate measures to manage a community health crisis and nothing more, then we can be angry and frustrated with those who don’t see it that way. Many have become angry and frustrated with the protests and acting out of those who see things differently, with those who don’t seem to understand that the restrictions are for their own good and for the good of everyone.
None of us have to look very far to find a good reason to be angry.
The Mother of God grew up in a religious world divided over the Roman occupation. Some Jews thought the Romans brought good change and cooperated with the Empire: the Herodian sect, for example. Other Jews, the Zealots, for example, thought the Roman occupation was of apocalyptic significance (portended the end of the world) and sacrificed their lives in political/military opposition. In the midst of this terrible political strife, the Mother of God was able to hide herself in the Temple in Jerusalem—which ironically was being built by the Roman/Jewish King Herod, the one who would murder the Innocents. Even the Temple itself, the essential outer form of worship for the Jews, was being corrupted, or revived (depending on your perspective) through the political upheaval of the time.
In the midst of this intense political and religious strife, Mary was able to hide in God, in God’s Temple; and thus God hid Himself in Her, making Her the Theotokos, the Living Temple of God.
What are we going to do, then? We can take sides and be angry and indignant at the ignorance, arrogance, foolishness, blindness, etc., etc. of the other side. We can lose our peace and sacrifice our Life, our inner spiritual Life, for the urgent political, social issue of the day. Or we can hide ourselves in Christ and let Christ hide in us.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should not be politically active. Please vote your conscience. Please speak what you are convinced is true, but speak humbly and gently, knowing that none of us see as we ought to see (c.f. 1 Cor. 8: 1-3). We all have blind spots. But if you are getting angry, if you have lost sight of Christ in your heart and in your neighbour, then perhaps it is time to hide in the Temple for a while.
And while the real Temple is the Temple of our heart where Christ dwells, the outer, visible Temple, the Church, provides us a means of preparing ourselves to enter that inner Temple. To this end, the Church offers services of prayer and worship and thanksgiving (Eucharist), so that in some small way we might imitate the Mother of God who withdrew to the outer Temple in order to meet God in the inner Temple.
Next week we celebrate the Holy Cross on Tuesday, September 14th. We will offer an early morning Liturgy beginning at 7:00 am, preceded by Matins at 6:00 am. Since the evening Liturgies have not been well attended, for a while we will try early morning Liturgies on the feasts days that fall midweek.