Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I have been revisiting a book I read a few years ago, The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation. It is so refreshing to think back through the struggles I have faced and remember that "He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." - Phil. 1:6

This reassurance gives me hope and longing for the restoration of all things (including myself!). The author speaks briefly of the three relationships that make up different parts of our salvation. Rather than a one-sided view of salvation, this gives a more holistic understanding to the working out of our salvation.

Our three relationships: Our relationship with God, our relationship with other people and our relationship with the physical world.

Two of these are pretty self-explanatory. The one that makes me really think is our relationship with the physical world. The author gives this example:

We were created to "rule" the earth, not in a tyrannical way, but rather as images of God. In other words, we are to govern the earth in love, to take care of the physical world that God has given to us. We are to enter into a personal relationship with the world and bring it into our relationship with God:
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name therof (Genesis 2:19).
In the Bible, a name is much more than a tag to distinguish one thing from another. A name reveals something about the very essence of a thing. Thus, to name something implies a deep, personal knowledge of that thing.


Many of us are great at one or two of the relationships, but we should strive to fulfill all three. I have been doing well at keeping my prayer rule and caring for the physical world, but have I been judging others when I have a plank in my own eye?! I have taken food to people in need, but do I think about the consequences of my use of so much energy on the environment? I have made sure to recycle as much as possible, but am I able to focus while I pray or attend services? Thank God that he is infinitely merciful to us!

I guess that I will continue to struggle through working out my salvation. I feel like this is a great gift. it shows that our relationship with God is dynamic, and not static; it is able to grow and develop. God graciously allows us to make mistakes and repent, and for that I am eternally grateful!

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bright Tuesday

Christ is risen!

Wow! Lent is finally over; and what a journey it was! I went through a lot of personal junk and am thankful to God that I made it through. It seems that the enemy doesn't sleep during Lent, but awakens with arrows ready.

On another note, I have been doing a little composing lately. I am working on some music for the tropar to St. John, our parish's patron. I am very excited about this, and pray that God will inspire the correct melody. I have also been doing a lot of listening: Rachmaninoff, Gretchaninoff, Beethoven and The Jayhawks. I was in a relationship once where, instead of watching movies or television, we would just sit and listen to music. What a wonderful thing. When was the last time you sat down and just listened? I took that with me and am trying to learn how to do that again. It is so easy to just hear 3-4 minute songs and not concentrate on what you are experiencing. I am trying to regain that focus. I think I'll get rid of the television.

Keep listening, you may be surprised what you hear.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recent Thoughts...

So, I am reading the biography of Fr. Seraphim Rose by Hieromonk Damascene. There have been very few biographies that have made me feel such connection to a person, but this one is definitely doing just that. Now, I am not a scholar of ancient Chinese culture and philosophy, Guénon, or any of the other academic fountains that led to Rose's conversion and writings, but I can relate to his search for truth and not settling for anything less.

Another observation: American Christianity, as FSR implies, seems to be missing one key ingredient - asceticism. It seems to be very focused on making people feel good about shortcomings and not making anyone too uncomfortable. Worship also tends to have an air of hedonism about it. If your church service doesn't include one "Jesus is my girlfriend" song, you may just seem a little archaic and therefore out of touch with the modern world.

That's another interesting thought - being able to "connect" with the modern man. What's so interesting about this is that I remember being warned against the Spirit of the Age. When looking at traditional religious practices of ancient cultures, we see that in order for someone to be instructed, they had to have a teacher that would properly explain the texts they were reading. Truth was safeguarded by masters that passed down their instruction to be preserved for future generations. Why is it that modern Christians think they must constantly look to the future and redefine what Christianity is, instead of calling on the wisdom of the past.

I realize that I have, in a way, just thrown together some random thoughts without too much regard for coherence. So in order to tie it together, let me end with a quote:

"To the superficial and the guilty it is more comfortable to bathe in the shallow pool of human thought than in the dangerous depths of Christ." - St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Let us search Christ and His Church with not just our heads, but primarily our hearts; constantly returning to the water from the ancient cisterns, erected by our holy fathers, supplied by Christ Himself.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Elevation of the Cross

Let all the trees of the wood, planted from the beginning of time, rejoice; for their nature hath been sanctified by the stretching of Christ on the Tree. Wherefore, now, we worship Him, lifted up, and magnify Him.

--Orthros of the Feast, Tone 8

By the mere planting of thy Cross, O Christ, the foundation of death did shake; for him whom Hades did swallow eagerly, it delivered up with trembling; for verily, thou didst reveal to us thy salvation, O holy One. Wherefore, do we glorify thee, O Son of God. Have mercy upon us.

--Orthros of the Feast, Tone 6

We are currently celebrating the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (officially, the feast day was Sept. 14, but we continue to honor it). If you would like some historical info on this feast go here: www.antiochian.org/feast-of-the-holy-cross

Tonight at Vespers, our Relic of the True Cross was set out to be venerated by the Faithful. As the prayers were nearing the end, I began to be struck by the reality of Christ's existence. As I filed into the center of the Nave to venerate the icons and the Relic of the True Cross, I was overwhelmed by the sheer miracle of its existence and preservation. All I could do was say, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" over and over and over and over.

As I stood in line, I could almost see Christ's body hanging on the wood as He reconciled all of mankind to the Father and abolished our fear and sins. I slowly continued forward on my journey to the foot of the cross.

When I arrived, Father John had picked up the cross to hold it for us to venerate. This made it easier to kiss the sacred relic, especially for the small children who can't wait to share their love and kisses with everything that is precious. I made a prostration and was overwhelmed with sorrow, joy, holy fear, reverence and adoration. I stayed on the floor for what seemed not long enough, given the magnitude of what I was doing. As I kissed the cross, Father John gave me his blessing and I continued along the path to the icons.

I wish I could put fully into words how wonderful this experience was. What a connection to an unbroken faith it is. How wonderful it is to be Orthodox.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Lord's Prayer

I love the picture of this guy praying the Lord's prayer :)
Notes from yesterday's class:

The Church has called this “The Perfect Prayer”

This is said in the Liturgy almost immediately before receiving the Holy Mysteries. This is because it is the best prayer to pray before meeting Christ. This is not a general prayer for everyone. It is given specifically to Christians and the Church

Our Father who art in heaven
• The word “our” is a reminder that we have personal prayer, but not individual prayer because we are never “alone”.
• Our Father is something that we can say because Christ is come in the flesh and allowed us a way to know God. He is not directly MY Father, but “our” Father as believers.
• “Father” is different than that used in the OT. The word used by Christ is Abba, or daddy. This is because we have gained a personal relationship to the Father through Jesus Christ.
• “Who art in heaven” We must be careful when saying this. The Fathers advise us not to use our imaginations when saying this because it limits our view of God and creates a box that hinders our encounter of Christ. It is slightly better understood as our Father who art not of the earth. This is what is meant, not a place of residence.

Hallowed be Thy name
• Hallowed also means not of the earth. We are praying for God’s name to be hallowed in our lives. Not that we contribute to His holiness! This goes hand in hand with the prayer in the Trisagion that asks for us to be cleansed from every stain, for THY name’s sake.
• Matt 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:20

Thy Kingdom come
• John the Baptist and Christ preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” This is, in essence, the Gospel. As Christians, we CHOOSE to have Christ as King in our lives.
• St. Syprion says that the spiritual life is “That we who have been sanctified through baptism may persevere in being what we have begun to be.”
• Maranatha – Christ come quickly in your Kingdom! 2 Peter 3:11-12

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
• Ephesians 5:16-17
• Our example for doing God’s will is Jesus Christ. Look at the prayer before His crucifixion. “Not My will, but Thy will be done” Here, Christ brings His human will into submission of the divine will. Are we willing to fight with our will to the point of our sweat becoming as drops of blood?
• His will is: keep His commandments, resist evil and do good (“Pray and do what’s right.” Fr. John), don’t forsake the Church, pray.
• St. Simeon The New Theologian calls this petition a daring and dangerous act.

Give us this day our daily bread
• The fathers understand this as both wheat and epiousion. Epiousian is the word translated as daily. Epi-above ousian-essence. Obviously, this is meant much more than ordinary bread. It also means the Bread of Life. He is the Bread behind the bread ☺
• We are able to call Him the Bread in the same manner that we can now call God our Father. He has given Himself to us.
• Matt. 6:34

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
• This indicates we have done something wrong, or that we owe something. We fall short and go against what God desires for us.
• We also owe all those who came before us something for our salvation. They all contributed. We are never saved alone, but with each other.
• We have to forgive the wrongs done to us in order to experience the forgiveness of Christ. This seems conditional. Think about Peter. Peter asks, “If my brother sins against me 7 times, is that enough…?” Christ says, more or less, don’t even try to count the number. Christ immediately tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.
• What does it mean to be forgiven? This is not easily answered. It means that we let go of the right to feel wronged.
• James 2
• The deacon constantly says, “In peace let us pray to the Lord.” This means in peace with each other.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
• This means a testing or trial. We are asking Him to give us strength to withstand those temptations that we face in our lives. We are talking about dealing with the progression towards sin.
• If we receive any temptation, it is because God has thought us strong enough to withstand it.
• The saints did not resist sin lightly, but took it extremely seriously.
• The demonic desire is to destroy and deface God’s creation out of jealousy.
• We have to wrestle our wills into conformity!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I wanted to take a minute to talk briefly about sacraments. Here is a brief description of sacraments from the Orthodox perspective:

There are special experiences in our corporate life as Orthodox Christians when the perception of God's presence and actions is heightened and celebrated. We call these events of the Church Sacraments. Traditionally, the Sacraments have been known as Mysteries in the Orthodox Church. This description emphasizes that in these special events of the Church, God discloses Himself through the prayers and actions of His people. (www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7105)

One thing that I've learned to appreciate so much more since I became Orthodox is the celebration of matter. This may seem silly, but it is wonderful to realize how sacred our own flesh, bone, marrow and everything that makes up the world is! The quintessential example of this is the Ascension of our Lord. There is now flesh and bone in the Godhead forever. As He is now, we have the hope of one day becoming. Not in essence, but rather in our glorified state (...I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come).

I also wanted to take this time to relay a wonderful analogy of why sacraments exist:

Let's imagine you come across an alien life-form. For all intents and purposes, we will call him Zarlac. Now, you have come to truly love Zarlac and wish to let him know. There is only one problem, Zarlac has 13 senses and none of them are any the 5 that we possess. Now, you could try to say to Zarlac, "I love you." However, he does not possess the sense of hearing. You could try to show him through physical touch, but he doesn't possess that sense either. The senses that he does have are the senses of zop, blonch, ujjios, etc. So, as of right now, Zarlac is alienated from you completely even though you are so near to him (remember he does not possess sight either). The only way you will ever get Zarlac to know of your love for him is if you communicate to him through one of his senses.
Now, I am sure this analogy is full of holes, but I bet you are starting to follow my train of thought. For God to commune with man, he must engage us through our senses. If not, we cannot be aware of Him. Since we cannot share in His essence, He finds ways to send His love, grace and presence to us in a way that we can experience it. Not just know, but experience.

This idea of the ordinary becoming holy and sacred is essential to our understanding of the sacraments. One of the best examples I can think of comes from the Old Testament : God uses a burning bush to communicate to Moses and the ground became Holy. Another great scripture is found in Matthew 7:6: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." According to the Fathers, dogs are those who habitually live immoral and impure lives. The pearls are the inner mysteries of the Christian faith, including Christ's teachings (13:46) and the great sacraments. These holy things are restricted from the immoral and unrepentant, not to protect the holy things themselves, for Christ needs no protection. Rather, we protect the faithless people from the condemnation that would result from holding God's mysteries in contempt. (Orthodox study Bible)

So, no matter if it is participating in the Eucharist or basking in the joyful laughter of a child, all are sent from God for our communion with Him.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wrap up on the Creed. Nicene, that is...

So we finally finished up the classes on the formation and doctrine found in the Nicene Creed, it only took 6 months! Here is the last bit of notes. It also has some great notes concerning sacraments:

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Sacrament = Sacramentum/Mysterion
• Augustine of Hippo said it is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual truth. The wedding ring is the invisible matrimony made visible.
• St. Leo the Great (5th Century) says all that Christ has done (Life, death, resurrection, teachings, miracles, etc.) is channeled to man through the sacraments.
• The Orthodox emphasize the importance of the physical. The physical is no less spiritual than the invisible world (soul and spirit). Human flesh is considered sacred. Think of the Ascension: there is now, forever, human flesh and bone in the Godhead. The heart of how we are saved is matter.

Baptism is one of the Holy Mysteries
• The outward sign is easy to identify (water and words)
• The inward reality is the entry into Christ’s Body
• Christ was baptized. This is how he fully identified with our humanity. His dissent into the human condition.
• Christ directs us to baptize.
• Romans 6:3
• God is my Father. the Church is my mother. I came forth from the womb of the font (baptismal font)
• For the Orthodox, baptism is the beginning of a life of repentance.

I look for the resurrection of the dead:
• This is what’s in it for me…
• This is not just immortality of the soul, it is immortality of the person: body, soul, spirit.
• Immortality is NOT salvation. Immortality is NOT communion with God. You can live forever and be apart from God. Salvation is being in communion with God; this can start now!

Paul writes of One faith, One God, One Body, One baptism.
• The church from the beginning has said there is one way into the Church-baptism.

In the next day or so, I plan to blog a bit more about sacraments. Stay tuned! For now, I am off to Vespers.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us