Last week, my sister had the second of three operations as part of the course for her cancer treatment. Her post op exam of the tissue revealed all is well. God is so good! My thanks and praise seem so inadequate because my heart is so full of awe and gratitude. I want to gather every white flower in the city and bring it into the temple as tribute and thanks.
It can take awhile sometimes, but when I get it… I GET it!
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
As a child, I had heard the story of Daniel many times. I could never figure out how he got caught praying. when you practice prayer as an internal act, not an outward display, you cannot imagine why the windows would be open for prayer, why one would be on their knees, why they would do all of the above three times per day. While yes… prayer is internal- we say the Jesus prayer all through our day as we work and go about to-and-fro, it is also external.
I realize now that, Daniel must have been prostrating himself before God the Orthodox way! He most likely was making the sign of the cross and prostrating himself. It would have been very obvious to a passerby that he was NOT worshiping a pagan god but THE God.
I did wonder back then why we as Christians did not worship and pray this way? Why does making the sign of the cross make many Protestant Christians so uncomfortable? I would make the sign of the cross every once-and-awhile when I was a Protestant. Invariably, if there was a Protestant nearby they would always ask in a panicked voice, ‘why did you just do that?!’. I did it because; it’s right, I feel better afterward, it is an outward expression of an internal thought/feeling/prayer. Most importantly… it is OK to make the sign of the cross. Making the sign of the cross is not JUST for Catholics or Orthodox Christians. It is for EVERY Christian. Prostrating is not just for Orthodox or Catholics. The Orthodox did it first and several other religions borrowed it from us… that’s ok too. What is not ok is letting the knowledge that other religions do the same things we do keep you from doing them at all. ALL religions pray in some way but not all of them to the same God, of course. However, we still pray. Meaning, knowing that Hindus pray does not keep you from praying. You pray also… I hope, but to the only god worthy of your prayers.
1 Corinthians 10:19Am I suggesting, then, that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot partake in the table of the Lord and the table of demons too.
It is not that you pray in front of icons, but what icons you pray in front of that matters. It is not that you venerate, but what. It is not that you use a prayer rope but to whom you are praying when you use your prayer rope.
I think, Daniel’s story is such an amazing example of the Christian life. In his story is proof of the history of the Orthodox way. The history of Christianity does not begin with the emergence of the Catholic church. It stretches farther back. It stretches back to Pentecost and even farther. This is just one of many mysteries that have been solved for me by the Orthodox church. If you have been looking for answers to some of your own questions, I highly recommend that you attend an Orthodox Christian church. Today is the beginning of the liturgical year for Orthodox Christians. Why not let it also be the first day of, A Year of Orthodoxy for you? Attend at least two services per week making at least one of them each month a Divine Liturgy. If the church you pick to attend has adult classes, attend the classes. If the priest of that church recommends a book for you to read, read it. Practice walking in obedience to a spiritual father (the priest). It helps to prepare you to walk in obedience to the Ultimate Father, God. The Orthodox church can help you understand; the Trinity, who Mary is and why she is so important, who the saints are, what is a martyr, why we celebrate what we celebrate.
A year will pass by no matter what you do; why not give some of the time from this year to attending an Orthodox Church?
Houston, shootings, political upheaval and the constant threat of a new world war looms. In the midst of it all… life goes on.
People are getting butt hurt over so much that in the long run, does it REALLY matter… or is it all a distraction? In the middle of all the chaos and hurt going on; the KILLING happening over words… people are concerned about things that could perhaps be put on the back burner for now. maybe go how and hug your family instead of rioting and protesting over WORDS or things that happened 200+ years ago?
This is how I feel these days over the petty crap going on in America…
What face is on the twenty dollar bill doesn’t matter (today). What, FLOTUS wore to Houston doesn’t matter. Firefighters eating pigs they rescued doesn’t matter (That’s what pigs are for people!). What matters is that people are making money off of the suffering of other people. What matters is that people are hurting and dying. From the actions of other people.What matters is healing from what has already happened and trying to prevent more of the same from happening.
We need to heal. Our nation needs to heal. People must realize that when you punch someone in the face, you are punching God in the face. For some this is not an issue but it needs to be for everyone. We have lost respect for one another and we lack the humility to behave humanely toward one another. When did we become animals? Oh, yes… that’s right. We sent our children to schools and universities where they were taught that there was no God, people are no better than animals. Now… we sit at home wringing our hands trying to figure out what went wrong where, and if it can be fixed. Maybe it can. It would take a great deal of work and not everyone can do what needs to be done.
- We would need to considered others to be more important than ourselves. If we could do this one huge thing, we would have no way of justifying beating people up with shields that read, ‘NO HATE”. If we could do this one thing, we would realize that yes, using salve labor to build a nation is wrong HOWEVER, what is done is done. It is time to forgive and move on which brings me to point #2.
- Forgiveness. There can be no healing without forgiveness. We must forgive each other whether or not the other person receives our forgiveness of forgives us in return. We must fall over one another in a rush to apologize and beg for forgiveness. We MUST forgive.
- We must repent for what we have done. Lay aside pride & narcissism and repent. Repent for every word and deed committed. If we truly wish to bring about change in the world, and we want to be the change we wish to see in the world, we must love the people around us so much that we would bend over backwards to avoid offending them or hurting them in any way.
4. We must be violent about being at peace with everyone around us. What does this mean? How can we be violent about living peacefully? It means we must fight against anything, or anyone who wishes to steal away our peace. We must also make sure that NO ONE is able to disturb our calm so much so that we lash out at them in retaliation. An example of this is the new Taylor Swift song, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. A song about a woman so bent on lashing out and seeking revenge she blames her bad actions on the people who offended her. Is she a mindless puppet? No. And neither are you. No one MAKES us hurt them… the choice is entirely ours. Blaming victims for our actions is abuse. Just ask any woman who escaped, or is still in an abusive relationship where her man tells her if she were a better person he would not be compelled to bounce his fists off her face. There is NO excuse for the mistreatment of others. If you were offended by prisoners being water boarded but then you cheer of violent protesters, you are the one who did the water boarding. You are just as violent as those you condemn. You can try and justify it by saying you only thought about it, spoke about it, etc. but violence in one’s heart and mind is still violence. It is not peace. Cultivate a spirit of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never advocated violence and yet his peaceful ways brought about more positive change in America than anything these violent protesters do will.
5. Be humble enough to receive an apology/request for forgiveness. You are not perfect. It is time you learned this. You say and do things that are offensive to the people around you. If someone comes up to you and apologizes because something you said or did offended them, be gracious. Say, ‘thank you’ to them for bringing it to your attention, apologize for offending them, don’t try and justify what you said or did, don’t tell them you think they are being a big overly sensitive baby… APOLOGIZE and then ask them to forgive you again.
6. Instead of waiting for the world to give you something, give something to the world. Go around and seek forgiveness. Make amends. If you think the world, or the people around you owe you something, you have offended someone somewhere, I guarantee it. Sit down and have a long chat with God. Begin by asking Him to show you where you said or did something offensive. You might be surprised by what he shows to you. Perhaps He will reveal that you are not so much eloquent as rude, boorish and vulgar.
7. Pray for those who have hurt you. Yes… REALLY!
It has been an overwhelming week. During all of what the world is going through, my own- albeit much smaller world, has been braving its own upheavals. The second mastectomy of a, Dear One in my life. I’ve been dealing with the fear she might not wake up from the anesthesia. Our parish priest of course had words of wisdom for me. Words though true are still hard to hear. Words I would not have heard uttered in the protestant world where everything is a war against which we must do battle. But too… there is acceptance. There is understanding that death is not the final answer, and what comes after death is the ultimate goal of every Christian… or at least it should be.
If eternity in the presence of God is your goal, give up a life of strife, anger, bitterness and hate;these things are sins. Embrace peace, prayer, forgiveness and repentance to name just a few things that will service you better than protesting and revenge.
Today is the commemoration of the beheading of, St. John the forerunner … Jesus’ cousin. I love my cousins. We all grew up hanging out together, getting into trouble together, etc. Can you imagine, Jesus and John tearing it up as kids?
I know the story of, Zechariah and Elizabeth and the trouble they have conceiving until an angel revealed God’s plan to, Zechariah one day while he was serving in the temple. That part of the Nativity story is well talked about within the Protestant church. What I did NOT know, however, was that, Zechariah is the priest to whom, Mary, the mother of Christ, is presented to when her parents, Joachim and Anna take her to be raised in the temple per her parent’s promise to God if He would let Anna conceive. It took going to the Orthodox Church to learn this very important detail that had been left out of EVERY Christmas story/bible study in which I had participated. Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was there from the beginning. He was a witness to the coming of the Messiah according to the very scripture he read to his congregation.
I think it is amazing how it is all connected and interwoven. I love connecting the dots… especially when it comes to scripture.
It has almost been a year since I came to investigate the Orthodox Christian church. I began my journey in September 2016 LINK.
My first blog post was not very wordy. In fact, it was a repost of a photo I had found talking about keeping a monastery in one’s heart.
The Dormition of Mary ends the Liturgical year for the Orthodox Christians. I have been a part of something amazing and I will remember this first year as being filled with struggles, the making of new friends, sorrows when a dear family member was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, answers to prayer, family coming to check out what I was up to and now one is to be baptized this Saturday. My nephew and husband both have visited my temple. My husband is still attending on Saturdays. I get to spend a lot of time with my sister talking about the Orthodox Way. She and I attend services together regularly. It is SUCH a huge blessing to be able to discuss what is going on with someone who is also experiencing Orthodoxy for the first time and loving it.
It has, and continues to be a struggle. It is a good struggle. Orthodoxy aligns with what is in the bible in regards to guarding ourselves against sin. It is what I have been looking for for the past 30 years. Yes… 30 years!
I became Orthodox so that I could be changed and I have been. I have removed from my blog two earlier posts written when I was still a Protestant. They no longer represent who I am or what I believe. Do you go to church hoping to change, ‘the establishment’? Or do you attend church, read your bible and pray hoping your heart will soften and you will be changed?
I still have a long way to go in my journey as a Christian. One thing I now realize is why people used to post on social media how thankful they were to have another day on earth. In the Orthodox Church, it is so that we can have another day to work on our sanctification.
I love when we sing, ‘Many Years’ in church!
I have learned about the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians!
I learned that cave churches were not just holes in the mountain. They were, and still are beautiful and full of icons and murals.
I have learned that there is such a thing as Holy Fire and it is a bona fide miracle that happens EVERY Pascha!
I learned that Easter baskets originated with the Orthodox Church but we call them Pascha baskets.
I have learned about fasting…
I have learned about icons… SO many beautiful icons!
I have learned about he prayer rope, the Jesus prayer, the blessing of the waters, confession & repentance, the lives of the ancient fathers and mothers, and so much more.
As much as I have learned, I still have so much more to understand.
Sunday was the Div. Liturgy of the Holy Transfiguration. Our priest encouraged us to bring baskets of fruit for blessing. I was SO excited picking out fruit for my basket. I carefully selected the best, unblemished fruit as an offering.
I love how the Orthodox Church continues in the Holy Traditions. I am not a farmer but I can bring offerings to God. I had to hold back tears of joy at being able to bring something like this to God. Our baskets were blessed at the end of the service. I took mine over to my sister’s house and shared its contents with her and our mother. My basket contained; dark red cherries, black berries, oranges, apples, plums, nectarines, cilantro, and snapdragon flowers.
I cannot explain the feeling of joy it gave to me to do this simple act, or why. I felt connected to the ancient Christians. I felt connected to God and those around me. It is good to be connected.
St. Matrona of Moscow
Matrona was born in 1881 into a poor family in the village of Sebino-Epifaniskaya (now Kimovski) in the Tula region of Russia. Blind from birth, she bore her infirmity with humility and patience, and God made her a vessel of grace. At the moment of her baptism, the priest saw a cloud above the child, which shed forth a sweet fragrance as a sign of divine favor. From the age of six or seven, she exhibited an extraordinary gift of insight, discerning sicknesses of soul and body in the many people who visited her, revealing to them their secret sins and their problems, and healing them through prayer and wise counsel. Around the age of fourteen, she made a pilgrimage to the great holy places in Russia along with a devout benefactress. When they arrived at Kronstadt to receive the blessing of St. John, they became lost in the crowd. St. John suddenly cried out, “Matrona, come here! She will be my heir, and will become the eighth pillar of Russia.” At that time, no one understood the meaning of this prophecy.
When she turned seventeen, Matrona became paralyzed and was unable to walk from then on. Knowing that this was God’s will, she never complained but thanked the Lord. For the rest of her life – over fifty years – she lived in a room filled with icons, sitting cross legged on her bed. With a radiant face and a quiet voice, she received all who came to seek divine consolation through her presence. She foretold the great misfortunes that were to sweep down upon the country after the Bolshevik revolution, placing her gift of insight at the service of the people of God. One day when some visitors commiserated with her about her disablement, she replied: “A day came on which God opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the sun, the stars and all that exists in the world: the rivers, the forests, the sea and the whole of creation.”
In 1925 she left her village to settle in Moscow and, after her mother’s death in 1945, she moved frequently, welcomed secretly into the houses of the faithful. This was because the Communists, fearing her influence among the people, wanted to arrest her. But, every time, she had advance knowledge, and when the police arrived they learned that she had moved an hour or two earlier. One day, when a policeman arrived to arrest her, she advised him to return home as quickly as possible, promising him that she would not escape. When the man arrived home, he discovered that his wife was on fire, and was just in time to take her to the hospital.
St. Matrona led an ascetic life on her bed of pain. She fasted constantly, slept little, her head resting on her chest, and her forehead was dented by the innumerable signs of the Cross that she made. Not only the Muscovites but also people from afar, of all ages and conditions, thronged around her to ask her advice and her prayers. In this way she truly became the support of afflicted people, especially during World War II. To those who came to ask her for news of their relatives in battle, she reassured some and counseled others to hold memorial services. She spoke to some directly, and to others in parables, having in view their spiritual edification and recommending them to keep the Church’s laws, to marry in the Church and to regularly attend Confession and take Communion. When the sick and possessed were brought to her, she placed her hands on their heads, saying several prayers or driving the demons out with authority, always insisting that she was doing nothing of herself but that God was healing by her mediation. When asked why the Church was undergoing such great persecutions, she replied that it was because of the sins of the Christians and their lack of faith. “All the peoples who have turned away from God have disappeared from off the face of the earth,” she affirmed. “Difficult times are our lot, but we Christians must choose the Cross. Christ has placed us on His sleigh, and he will take us where He will.”
Having foretold the day of her death, she gave instructions for her funeral. Before falling asleep in peace on April 19, 1952, she cried out, “Come close, all of you, and tell me of your troubles as though I were alive! I’ll see you, I’ll hear you, and I’ll come to your aid.” Miracles were multiplied at her tomb and, ever since her translation to the women’s monastery of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God (March 13, 1998), the faithful who, in their thousands, line up to venerate Moscow’s new protectress, turn to her icon and bring her their various problems as though St. Matrona were alive in front of them.
From Volume Four of the Synaxarion, compiled by the Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Mount Athos
Here is a bit of what was sung in church last night. Incredibly moving. I could barely get through it.
The Savior’s inspired Disciples
became instruments of the Spirit through faith.
They were scattered to the ends of the earth,
sowing the glad tidings of the true faith.
From their divine garden the army of martyrs blossomed in grace.
They became images of Christ’s saving Passion,
enduring every kind of torture, scourging, and fire.//
Now they boldly pray for our souls.
v. (3) For with the Lord there is mercy and with Him is plenteous redemption, and He will deliver Israel from all his iniquities.
The noble martyrs, burning with love of the Lord,
laughed at the fires and were consumed as burning coals.
Through Christ, they burned the withered arrogance of error.
They stilled the roaring of beasts with the voice of their prayers.
Beheaded, they decapitated the demonic hosts.//
By the shedding of their own blood they watered the Church with faith.
v. (2) Praise the Lord, all nations! Praise Him, all peoples!
The heroic martyrs wrestled with beasts and were torn by their claws.
They were dismembered, slashed with swords, and shot with arrows;
they were consumed in the flames and pierced with lances.
All this they willingly endured,
for already they saw their unfading crowns, and the glory of Christ,//
before Whom they boldly pray for our souls.
v. (1) For His mercy is abundant towards us; and the truth of the Lord endures for ever.
Come, let us praise the heroes of our faith:
Apostles, martyrs, holy priests, and noble women!
They fought for the faith in every part of the earth.
Though born of earth, they were united with the heavenly hosts.
Through their sufferings, they triumphed over evil by the grace of Christ.
As unfading lights, they illumine our hearts,//
and with boldness they pray for our souls.
I’ve been attending my local Orthodox parish since September and I’m looking forward to my upcoming baptism into the Orthodox Church. I’ve ventured out a bit more into the social aspects of the church by attending the Lady’s Group. It’s a study group in a book club type format. Presently we are reading The Great Divorce written by, C.S. Lewis. For me, it is a refreshing change from the fill-in-the-blank bible studies I’ve become accustomed to, but never really liked. Some, like me, enjoy this format while others struggle with the lack of traditional structure and conformity of read and answer ‘here’ type studies.
As I said, I am enjoying the study but it is sad to read about people unwilling to give up their passions for the Ultimate Passion… Christ. Also, because I am going to be baptized soon, as I read the book, it is helping me to remember items that need to be added to my life confession I will be doing with my priest soon. Believe it or not, little memes I run across on Pinterest, as well as reading books on the lives of the ancient fathers and their experience with confession, sin, and temptation are helping me not to be too panicked about baring my life’s dirt to a priest. This concept is unheard of in protestant churches and is very new to me. As a protestant, I would confess to God, or my husband and hope no one else ever caught wind of what I did because people, especially Christians, can be incredibly judgmental. I have also been judgmental, and it is something I work on everyday. It is something I work on with the help of; the writings of the ancient fathers, (a resource not available in protestant churches sadly), my priest, the weekly opportunities for prayer & worship in my temple, and my at home prayer life.
As I said, this is all very new to me because in protestant churches, especially evangelical and charismatic churches, sin seems to be encouraged as a way for the grace of God to move in our lives. I call it ‘The Chili Dog Gospel’. Why? Because I have heard many pastors say that since scripture tells us we can tread on poisonous things and not be harmed, we should also be able to eat ‘poisonous’ things, like chili dogs, and not be harmed. ‘Go ahead and eat that chili dog and watch God move mightily in your life!!’. Um, no thanks I’d rather not eat it, fast & pray and see what happens when I move in obedience. There is very little talk, at least that I ever heard in the churches I attended, about giving things up for our sanctification. Sanctification was not something openly spoken about or encouraged. What does all this have to do with, The Great Divorce’? This is a book that talks about the things that people do that they are unwilling to give up in ordered to be perfect as Christ is perfect. From homosexuality, to one’s intellect, to one’s ‘rights’ (the right to be offended, angry, greedy, respected, etc.) to people not wanting to give up what they perceive as security even though it keeps them in hell. Lewis lays it all out for examination by the reader. ‘Pick one or all that apply.’, he seems to be saying. Even now, over 70 years since its writing and publication, it is relevant in the life of, Believers.
People these days like to think they are, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’. What do these words mean? If you are not willing to give up whatever sin you are justifying with these words, they are just as much a chain holding you back from heaven as they’ve ever been. We are not the first generation to use those words, or to try and talk ourselves out of giving something up we love… our ‘pet sin’. Is the need to always be seen as being right important to you? Is it so important that you are willing to give up the blessings that come from being a peacemaker? Trust me, there are more blessings from God for those who are peacemakers than those who are willing to assassinate relationships in order to be right. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single person who was argued into the kingdom of God…do you?
Our passions are creating a spirit of disunity within our churches and our communities. Not only do they separate us from God, but from one another as well.
People’s passions against icons keep them out of the Orthodox Church. Here is one that you might enjoy. You’re welcome.
This bit about icons is a bit off track but not too much as there are those who are passionately against icons and yet are ok with nativity sets, Easter eggs, crosses, etc. All of which, including our bibles, are icons. I just wanted to show those who are passionately against icons and point fingers at the Orthodox church that protestants also have icons. They just call them ‘Christian art’. This iconophobia is just an example of a passion that needs to be given to the Lord. The passion that only fill-in-the-blank bible studies are real bible studies is another passion that can be given up. We all have them. Some people refuse to try anything new unless it was their idea first and they were able to lead their friends and family to it. This passion causes them to lose out on so much!
I hope this partial review (more to come possibly) has given you food for thought about the passions you hold on to that are holding you back from a more mature, complete, and fulfilling relationship with God. Oh, how I wish this book was read in schools all across America! Would people, ‘get it’? Would it help us to be more unified and to let some things go that we needlessly hold on to that are killing us and our communities? Or would most people read it and think it is for someone else but not for them?
If you’re looking to change your community, you must first be changed. How? How do we transform our communities, our places of work, school and worship through ourselves?
May I recommend asking God to show you right now your passions that are interfering with your sanctification? Then, if you’re Orthodox, take them to your priest and confess before Sunday and enjoy a Liturgy and Eucharist free from hidden passions/sins. What a weight will be lifted from your shoulders! If we do not kill our passions, they become our idols. They interfere with our sanctification, drawing nearer to God and our quest for perfection. I’m actually looking forward to my life confession. With appropriate trepidations of course. It’s not going to be fun, but it will be freeing.
I’m working on it. Lord have mercy.