1st Sunday after Pentecost

allsaintsicon
All saints icon.

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.

32nd Sunday after Pentecost

I had not been able to go to church for just over a week. I went to Gr. Vespers last night. The joy in my heart at being in church felt as though I was  greeting a friend I had not seen for months, not days. There is so much joy, peace, and refreshment waiting for me in church.

There was a young man there last night; attending for the first time. I’m nosy. I asked him what drew him to the church. I knew it was his first time because of how he was dressed and because he was carrying his bible. I’m not saying Orthodox persons do not, or cannot dress up for church. He just looked more like a deacon in a baptist church than an orthodox parishioner. He struggled a bit for his words when I asked him what drew him here, to Holy Theophany. I think perhaps his first Orthodox service was a bit overwhelming? What I did hear was that he was not raised in a religious family. He had not grown up going to church (so sad!). He was looking for more substance, more sobriety in worship and reverence in interaction with God (I’m paraphrasing as I do not recall his actual words but it is the same kind of thread I see running through many converts to the Orthodox faith… we’re fed up with the circus that many churches have become and yearn for piety. Piety from our leaders, piety from other congregants, piety within ourselves. More dogma, less foofoowawa.). I pray he finds what he is looking for, Lord have mercy.

Today is the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost.  One of the persons being honored today is; Hieromartyr Ignatius the God Bearer. Cool name, huh? Yeah, he was eaten by lions. Yikes!!

ignatius

http://www.holyassumption.net/files/bulletins/archive/2012/Jan-29-2012-33afpent.pdf

The link I just provided is to another church’s bulletin from 2012 explaining about Ignatius. After last night’s mini-sermon given by Ft. Moses, and seeing this icon and reading about Ignatius, I have to wonder- what do we consider to be suffering to we who are present day Christians? Fr. Moses was talking about Orthodox fathers being held in prisons and internment camps. They endured great suffering and many would have gone back (some prayed to be sent back!) so that they could continue to suffer. Why? Why would someone pray for something that seems so crazy? Suffering and persecution on purpose? They said it was because Prior to, and after their captivity they never prayed the way they prayed while in prison and felt closer to God in that setting.

When our lives are going well, how much do we really pay attention to God? When our lives are going through storms, do we not find ourselves praying more, and more fervently? I hope I never have to endure what these fathers and monks went through in order to have a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. I have, however, found comfort and encouragement from the stories of the martyrs and now, I have St. Ignatius to add to my mental library when times are tough. I’ll say, ‘hey, this is hard but at least lions are not chewing on my bones!’.

My prayer for you, for all those who are seeking something more substantial is that you will give the Orthodox church a try. At least for a year. Cycle through all the feast, and fasts. Learn about the saints, ancient fathers, martyrs, and everyone else in this wonderful, amazing mix of people who make up The Church; past, present, and those who are yet to walk through our doors but whom God already knows are on their way.

Lord have mercy.