An ‘aha’ moment

Gallery of hand painted Orthodox Icons - Teofana Orthodox Iconography

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?

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When hearts are overwhelmed

... tones to St. Panteleimon, by St. Joseph the Hymnographer: Second Tone
St. Pateleimon the unmercenary healer

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…

Facepalm - Paperblog

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.

  1. 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.
  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.
  3. 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.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Quotes Like Success

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.

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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!

Become aware of God, in whose presence y by John Climacus @ Like ...

 

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.

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Connecting the dots

Icon of St. John the Baptist

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.

 

365 days later… almost

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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.

lord's day quotes | Thank You LORD For Another Blessed Day!! | IT'S ...

I love when we sing, ‘Many Years’ in church!

1000+ images about Orthodox Christian stuff on Pinterest | Orthodox ...

I have learned about the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians!

Ethiopian Bible is oldest and most complete on earth / OrthoChristian ...
As a Protestant, I never knew they existed.

I learned that cave churches were not just holes in the mountain. They were, and still are beautiful and full of icons and murals.

These Mysterious Cave Churches And Monasteries Totally Rock | HuffPost

... orthodox christian, painting, religion, sumela, sümela monastery

I have learned that there is such a thing as Holy Fire and it is a bona fide miracle that happens EVERY Pascha!

holy sepulchre jerusalem holy fire 5-crop

I learned that Easter baskets originated with the Orthodox Church but we call them Pascha baskets.

lit from the holy fire as thousands gather in the church of the holy ...

I have learned about fasting…

orthodox christianity orthodox icons vegan recipes roman catholic cure ...

…and feasting!

Home Ce gatesc azi ? Retete de post Retete Mic Dejun Sfaturi bucatarie ...

I have learned about icons… SO many beautiful icons!

Why do Christians not Celebrate Jewish Feasts? – Departing Horeb

Presentation of the Holy Virgin into the Temple

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.

Prayer Ropes from St. Paisius Monastery

As much as I have learned, I still have so much more to understand.

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.