Saturday, October 27, 2007

I didn't think it would be like this

But it is.
When I became orthodox, I saw clearly the way I didn't want to be, how I wanted to continue in the overzealous manner of first love to be conscious of every move, every thought, and every day as being a sacrament and a gift directly from God. If I managed to do something without that consciousness, it was either obviously sin, or indirectly sin because I made it about the object or moment itself, not something to look through and see God on the other side.
When I became orthodox, I knew that merely being orthodox would push me to Godliness, towards Holiness, but that it was also risky because with that thought comes the temptation to think that I no longer have to pursue holiness, that it will come to me as long as I line up every sunday morning and have not eaten meat twice during the week. I saw what orthodoxy could be if it became about less than God when I was in ontario, attending a church that knew it was dying, but still couldn't do anything about it. I have become a part of that culture club (and it has nothing to do with the wonderful parish I find myself in currently, its a long process) and its not about ethnicity, though it often is because its such an easy place to find your identity, especially if you call yourself a member of any diaspora. But, I find that I am tempted to identify myself by many different things, perhaps material like my bike, or the possibility of earning lots of money, or my abilities or lack thereof, ego and lack of self esteem. Or more easily yet, in the midst of this beautiful time of my life where I am about to be wed to the most beautiful woman alive, I put my identity in my ability to provide, to love, to be sensitive, to plan, to commit, and to follow through.
Anywhere but Christ.
heaven forbid that I find my identity in the One place that is safe and secure and eternal and real, where everything else is fleeting and/or shallow (not my wife-to-be, mind you)
And, what does that mean? I think it means doing all of the things I do, but doing them because I trust that God is in them, and not doing the things that he is not a part of.
And, not thinking that anyone else is doing the work for me, I forget that it will take effort, spiritual struggle, which is such a strange thing to write out, let alone define, so who knows what I even mean? but I know that that is what it takes, spiritual struggle, which of course doesn't exclude all realms of existence because we are not dualists (or duellists)
I suppose I have gotten lazy and distracted, and from what I hear, life doesn't get any calmer.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fr. Lawrence's message to the parish Oct 14th

Here I sit, all fluey, posting Fr. Lawrence's message, as those of you NOT home with the flu (and I know there are several of us in the parish this week!) are singing the opening antiphons. Looking forward to seeing you all next week-- Mat. Donna

Dear beloved in Christ:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

As I was sitting down and tucking into a delicious turkey dinner this last Thanksgiving Monday, I was thankful for many things (including the fact that I was not a vegetarian—or, come to that, a turkey. It’s a wonderful thing to live on the upper end of the food chain). However, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people actually gave thanks on Thanksgiving Day, and if the title of the holiday isn’t a bit culturally anachronistic, for we are not a nation that stresses gratitude to God for our blessings.

When one thinks of it, it is maybe a little odd to have a national holiday stressing a virtue; it would be like us having National Chastity Day, or National Patience Day. No bad thing, I suppose (I would pay money to see a National Chastity Parade along side a Gay Pride Parade). But the point is that we are to do our best to practice the virtues every day, and not just when the calendar mandates a special stat holiday for them. In this sense, for the Christian, every day is Thanksgiving Day.

Or, in the words of St. Paul, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. All of life is a gift, and every day, even the wretched ones, are still packed with God’s mercies. And even on the wretched days, we can still give thanks as they end and say, “Thank God that’s over!” As disciples of Jesus, thanksgiving is to be our natural state. In theological terms, all of life is sacramental, to be received as a unique gift from God, the grateful enjoyment of which brings us into communion with Him.

Sin interrupts that communion, of course, and gratitude is a habit to be learned, often with difficulty. (It was otherwise in Eden.) Our own culture gives us no help with this. It teaches us, for example, that health and long life is our right, and we feel hard done by if we are sick or faced with shortened life span. It teaches us to regard happiness and prosperity and peace as things to which we are entitled, and we blame God if we experience sadness, poverty or turmoil. Other ages were manlier and hardier than ours. Suffering and misfortune were expected as the common lot of mortals, and no one blamed the Most High when they experienced them. One needed bravery to walk the earth: as CS Lewis reminds us, most of human history was spent without the benefit of anaesthetic.

The point is that we modern North Americans must strive to overcome the ingratitude and sense of entitlement built into our culture, and to give thanks to God for all things. To end with a prayer from Garrison Keillor (of Lake Wobegon fame): “Thank You, dear God, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”

All my love in the Lord,
Fr. Lawrence

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Message from Fr. Lawrence Sunday Oct. 7th

Dearly beloved:

May I share with you a lesson I learned last Sunday? On Sunday September 30, I stumbled downstairs after my prayers to while away the time until Matushka returned from church. I turned on the Crystal's Cathedral's "Hour of Power" (admittedly for all the wrong reasons), then watched some of "Mass for Shut-ins" to wash away the lingering taste of the "Hour of Power". Eventually Matushka returned from church, bringing with her some prosphora/ antidoran from the service, which she put into my palm and which I consumed immediately.

I have eaten such antidoran countless times, but this time was different. When I received the fragments of bread into my palm, it was like a hand extended from the Divine Liturgy, which seized mine in its firm and warm grip. Consuming the prosphora I felt an instantaneous connection to the Liturgy, and felt united to all of you: to the priest who cut the prosphora at the proskomedia, to the deacon who assisted him and carried the diskos in procession at the Great Entrance, to the subdeacons who held the bread for the people at the end of the service, to the choir and people whose Eucharistic praises sanctified the bread in this way, making it not merely bread, but church bread, a divine gift. It was as if I could almost hear the chanting and almost smell the incense. It could simply be that I am missing you more each Sunday, but I think there was something more to it than that. The physical bread became a spiritual link.

The reception of prosphora that Sunday reminded me of what I knew before, though never so clearly as at that moment: that the physical carries with it the spiritual, and that this connection unites us all.
It was ever so: in the early church, Holy Communion was taken by the deacons after the service to the sick who could not be present at the Eucharist. In the early church, holy relics were sometimes shared among churches, one community giving as a gift to another community a portion of the relics of its local martyr.

This sharing of a physical gift (whether of the Eucharist or of a transfer of relics) created a bond between the giver and the receiver. The sick Christian, absent from the Eucharist, did not merely receive Communion; he or she was thereby also united again with the celebrating community. The church receiving the gift of relics did not merely enjoy the sacramental presence of the martyr whose relics they received; they also enjoyed a renewed bond with the church giving them. My reception of the prosphora reminded me again of the strength of our union, in Christ, with one another. Because we belong to Him, we belong to one another as well.

Your loving papa and fellow-servant,
Fr. Lawrence