Sola scriptura does not exist

Could you be a Christian without the bible?

... keep silence or talk about ordinary things elder thaddeus of vitovnica

I am currently reading several books written by Orthodox ancient fathers. One of which is; Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. An amazing man of God who details for us how to walk out the love of Christ in our everyday lives, to everyone around us. His words are loving, hard and yet easy. That is one of the beautiful things about Orthodox Christianity, there are multiple truths. It is hard to walk out love if we try to do it in our flesh, but so easy to do when we die to ourselves and let God truly take over and lead us. This is just a tiny blurb about his book which includes a mini biography of this incredible man who was so at peace the little birds would fly to his chest, land, and eat the crumbs out of his beard that ended up there after a meal. I want that kind of peace in my life. His book is a spiritual road map to the land of internal peace according to the word of God. How does this relate to sola scriptura? Keep reading, please.

One of the main (read tired old) arguments that Protestants try to use against Orthodox Christianity is that they believe we all should be able to read the bible without any outside assistance because Holy Spirit will illumine us and help us with anything we do not understand. If that were true for them, there would not exist; Mathew Henry’s Commentary or the myriad of Christian bookstores. Also; Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Olsteen and a host of other Christian writers would be out of jobs. Some Protestant writers develop bible studies. Why? If they truely believed in sola scripture (which, ironically, is not actually IN the bible) there would be no need for any Protestant to write anything and yet they too have their own versions of ancient fathers and mothers. Corrie ten Boom, Smith Wigglesworth, Watchman Nee, etc..

The real truth is that, while Protestants have their writers, for some reason they think it is wrong that Orthodox Christians have our own. I believe they do not like it because our writers are not their writers, but also because our writers talk about this life, and the life hereafter in a way that does not line up with the heretical teachings found in Protestantism. The writings of the ancient fathers focus largely on our inner conflict between our flesh & the Spirit of God, which we will submit to and allow to lead us through life. when I read the writings of the lives of those who have gone on this path before me, I receive comfort and guidance knowing that although these people lived in like-minded communities, they still had to struggle through life & many of the same issues we as Christians struggle with outside of monastic life. Struggle with loving those around us, being obedient, living below our means, relying on God to fill our plates, keep us healthy. Some ancient fathers and monastics struggle with severe mental and physical ailments. One father in particular said, ‘if you can live with the pain and suffering, do not pray for God to deliver you from your affliction!’.  Quite different, and more difficult to hear, than the message from Protestant writers.

There is a part of me that wants to open a big orthodox Christian book store here in town. There is already a small one connected to a coffee shop that is also a missions. They serve coffee and ancient wisdom… love it! On Friday nights, our head priest is behind the counter slinging coffee & food. He sets the example for the rest of us on walking out the word of God.

If you are someone who has hopped onto the ‘sola scriptura’ band wagon, I challenge you to look around your house and count how many books about God and Christianity you have that are not the actual bible. Why do you have them and how have they enriched your life? As with anything we read, even the bible, it only works if we do what is written on the page. Love your neighbor, yes even the one that does whatever it is that upsets you. Speak kind words to everyone around you and consider others better than yourself. Forgive, forgive, forgive. I only have to deal with rude, inconsiderate people while some of the Orthodox writers have had to forgive those who tortured them and held them in prison for many years. Do you want God to forgive your sins? Then you must forgive the things other people do to you. True deep forgiveness. None of this, ‘I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget!’ nonsense. Jesus forgives AND forgets!! So too must we do the same.

Sola scriptura does not exist. It is a lie from the enemy to keep those who would become Orthodox Christians from doing so. It is such a feeble excuse. The bible came along 300-500 years after the Orthodox Church was started. Holy tradition, and the stories about those who went before them, was all the early Christians had to guide them on how to live a Christian life. Then, they wrote the bible and now modern churches claim to be based on the bible but they look nothing like the ancient, and original church.

BY M. D. TALBOT.       LETTER I. TO THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER. cont     4th. Luther with his Consubstantiation, setting aside tradition, wo...

If you would like to visit my Pinterest board for more Orthodox wisdom and humor you may do so by following this LINK but remember, it too violates the sola scripture fairy tale.

Lord have mercy.

 

 

Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God

Commemorated on June 26

According to ancient tradition, the wonderworking icon of Tikhvin is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the fifth century, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.

In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the (Muslims) Turks, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod the Great witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amid a radiant light. According to an early sixteenth century Russian manuscript, “The Tale of Miracles of the Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God,” the Theotokos herself decided that her image should leave Constantinople, perhaps in anticipation of the impending fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Shortly after its miraculous appearance, the icon was discovered in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin. A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was built on the site of the icon’s final resting place. Miraculously, the icon survived a number of fires.

In the early sixteenth century, through the zeal of Great Prince Basil Ivanovich, a stone church was built to replace the original wooden structure. In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church and enclosed with a stone wall.

In 1613-1614, the Swedish army, having seized Novgorod, made several attempts to destroy the monastery. The countless prayers offered to the Theotokos before the icon were heard, and the monastery was spared. On one occasion, after monks had been alerted to the approaching Swedish army, they decided to flee and to take the icon with them. But the monks soon discovered that they could not remove the icon from its shrine. Seeing this as a sign of the Theotokos’ protection, the monks decided not to abandon the monastery, begging the Theotokos to spare them and their beloved spiritual home. To their amazement, a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery.

When the Swedes encountered the army, they retreated immediately. Word of this miracle spread rapidly, and imperial emissaries soon visited the monastery. Accompanied by a copy of the wonderworking icon, they set off for the village of Stolbovo, 33 miles from Tikhvin, where they concluded a peace treaty with the Swedes on February 10, 1617. Afterwards, the copy of the icon was taken to Moscow and enshrined in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Later, the same icon was placed in the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in Novgorod at the request of the city’s faithful, who also found themselves under attack by the Swedes. Once again, through the intercession of the Theotokos, the city was spared.

Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide. Copies of the wonderworking icon began to adorn churches throughout the land. Some of these copies also proved to be sources of miracles, and it was not uncommon to find the faithful praying before the icon to seek healing for children who were ill.

No fewer than 24 processions with the icon were celebrated each year at the Tikhvin Monastery, where the icon was enshrined. A decorative cover, or “riza,” adorned the icon, exposing only the faces and hands of the Holy Virgin and Christ child. Numerous precious stones studded the riza, and many of the faithful, desiring to express thanksgiving for prayers answered through the Theotokos’ intercession, affixed precious jewelry to the riza.

Most miraculous is the fact that the icon was preserved from destruction or sale after the Russian Revolution, which ushered in a 74-year persecution of the Church. During the 1920s, the communist government demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church turn over countless icons and other precious liturgical items, which through the nationalization of private property were considered the property of “the people.” Many of these sacred items were sold, allegedly to raise money to feed the Russian and Ukrainian population which was afflicted by famine.

During the World War II German occupation, the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery, from where it was taken to Pskov and subsequently to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. While Soviet agents had spotted the icon, Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Bishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. After his retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday in 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.

The icon began its year-long journey to Russia at the 99th annual Pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, May 23-26, 2003. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, together with members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and guest hierarchs, greeted the icon, which was available for veneration by the faithful.

The icon follows the “Hodigitria” model and is similar in style to the ancient Iveron icon of Our Lady. It differs in that the Christ child’s legs are crossed, while the sole of His foot is turned to the viewer. Several historic sources note that several other Hodigitria icons of the Theotokos had been brought to Russia in the 1380s, during the rule of the saintly prince Demetrius Donskoy.

— Archpriest John Matusiak

Meet St. Matrona, my patron saint

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St. Matrona of Moscow

clip_image001Commemorated on April 19

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

St. Peter & Paul fast

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles – Sunday, June 29th
St. Peter (on left) & St. Paul

 

We begin our Apostles’ Fast today and it continues to June 29th. Here are some bible verses to help carry you along:

These are taken from the Orthodox Church in America website. I’d like to focus for a moment on the first scripture listed: 1 Peter 1:3-9. In it we find a promise from God. A promise of eternal salvation. Not a promise to have our best life now full of health, wealth, and beauty. No. Those things are temporary trappings of this world. Such false promises, twisted out of scripture like a corrupted thread from a bundle of wool, entrap people and prevent them from being able to cope when trials come their way.  Writing about such lies as if they were truth sell books. Many, many books but that is all they do, unfortunately. they do not feed believers what they need to grow and mature in Christ. This is the true promise of God; 3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Verse 6 paints a more mature and accurate picture of life on earth; In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

We are not grieved by various trials because we have done something wrong or because God does not love us. We live in a fallen world and things happen. We must remember to always put our hope in Christ and not in the things of this world which rust & decay and which we cannot take with us when we die.

People often times get so wrapped up in praying for ‘things’ that they forget to pray to ‘The One’. The most important aspect of prayer is to develop a close relationship with God that nothing, and no one can steal from us. Almost 1,000 people died during Ramadan this year. Ramadan is the bloodiest holiday in Islam. A bus load of Christians were shot, one-by-one when they refused to denounce God and their faith.  This was done on their way to a monastery to worship God. God is still good. He is still loving. People are corrupt but if we keep our eyes, and prayers fixed on God, the corruption will not overcome us. What corruption? The temptation of temporary things that appear to be what will save us but in the end, will be our ultimate doom.

We just don’t realize how good we have it right now as Christians in America. No one died yesterday in church just because they were in church. But those days are quickly coming to an end and we are the instruments of our own destruction.

Pray for the safety of Christians around the world and in America.

Pray that the freedom of religion is not further corrupted and that true religious freedom is restored in America.

Pray for the restoration of true family structure and true sexual identity as God made us and not as we remake for ourselves.

If one person in every household were to pray, and refuse to be offended (they became the peacemaker in their homes, offices, schools, etc.) the world would begin, and continue to change for the better. I’ve paraphrased this from the book by Elder Thaddeus of Vetovnica.

These are just a few suggestions of possible prayers during this fast. A fast is not just about the food… it’s about prayer and conversing with God in hopes that we, and the world around us, will begin to change.

Christ is risen!

 

Encountering the Spirit of God in others

Something amazing happened in Temple today. Aside from the usual wonderment that takes place when one is in the presence of, God.

I had stepped outside to see if my guest had arrived. I keep telling people to come early but…   As I stood  in the parking lot visiting with one of the men who help out in the narthex, two ‘older’ gentlemen- one that appeared to be in his 60’s and the other older but of an indeterminable age, came shuffling across the parking lot. I think they are monks. They did not carry signs that read, ‘Hey! We are monks!’ and I hate to admit it but when the  high priest was talking about them I was asking someone about a mural on the wall. However, they looked like they could be monks, or priests but I’m pretty sure they are monks. The older man was shorter, a bit hunched and needed a walking staff and the other man to assist him in walking. He was very obviously suffering as he walked.  Their progress was slow, my guest was late, service was starting so back inside I went. We get many visitors at our church so I didn’t think too much about it until they entered the nave.

Ka-whoosh! As they shuffled slowly into the room, the atmosphere physically changed. The room seemed unable to contain the presence that was contained within these two men. The spirit of God was so huge in these two, humble men; one shuffling, the other assisting, that you could feel the pressure in the room increase. So much so that my ears felt like they were going to pop. When my guest arrived, I asked her if she felt it too. She said she had. She was venerating icons, felt something behind her, turned and that’s when she saw them.

That’s how I wish to be. So filled with the spirit of God that His presence in me fills a room.

Lord have mercy!

St. Patrick’s Day 3/17/2017

St_Patrick_of_Ireland__15756.1400776290.1000.1200_1024x1024

Although it is not officially until march 17 that St. Patrick is celebrated, let’s talk about him a bit shall we? Today, my city is hosting their annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. If I had not messed up my knee yesterday, I just might have attended the celebration. Something I never would have done before I started my journey into Orthodox Christianity.

I never used to give, St. Patrick much thought before I became an Orthodox Christian. like most ‘good’ Protestants, the celebration of saints was something, ‘those other people did’. I never wore green and I dared anyone to be foolish enough to pinch me. To my protestant eyes, St. Patrick’s Day was just another excuse for people to get drunk and behave badly. It didn’t really seem to mean much to those who celebrated it beyond green beer and kissing. I always thought of him as a Catholic/Irish saint and I was neither Catholic… nor Irish. Why celebrate him? Turns out, St. Patrick is an Orthodox Christian saint. No, really. Read about him HERE.

A couple of years ago, before I began my Orthodox journey, I watched an animated movie; The Secret of Kells. It is a movie about the illuminated manuscript of the four gospels. It sparked two things within me; 1. the desire to learn more about calligraphy & illuminated manuscripts, 2. I became intrigued by the passion of people to create such a beautiful work of art & to die/risk their lives to protect it. Such passions are not ignited within the context of evangelical/charismatic circles. It’s as if these sects of Protestantism have no history to celebrate; no examples to read about, and to be encourage by, in one’s walk of faith. At least… not openly.

In the Orthodox Church, the lives of saints are read, studied, and celebrated in an effort to emulate these pillars of Christianity. Growing up in Protestantism, it was almost like a treasure hunt to try and find people of valor to read about, that is how deep the fear of saint/icon worship runs within these communities.

St. Patrick was kidnapped and taken into slavery at the young age of 16. How terrifying to be separated from friends, and family and not to know from one day to the next if he would be killed. He finally escaped and made it back to his home. Instead of returning years later and burning down the villages where he was once held captive and/or killing the inhabitants, he evangelized Ireland bringing to its people the Light of God. Talk about loving one’s enemies.

I am so thankful that I have begun my journey into Orthodox Christianity. I had an inkling of the darkness of Protestantism while I was still a Protestant (things said from the pulpit (that there is even a pulpit) and done within the church, were not aligning with scripture). However, one has no concept of how dark darkness truly is until they step into the light.

I now know how much of church history has been lost within Protestantism simply by ignoring saints. So many questions are answered when one studies the saints. How do I pray? How can I live a more ascetic life? Look to the saints. In Protestantism, only what, Jesus did is considered worthy of study. What, Jesus did was amazing and is of course worthy of study and emulation. As the Son of God, what, Jesus did was perfect and without blemish. The saints give us an example of how we can overcome the passions of the flesh, of this world, from the perspective of ones who are themselves imperfect.

When I’m having a particularly bad day, I look at St. Ignatius and I think, ‘yes, I’m having a bad day, but at least lions are not chewing on my bones’.

stignatius
St. Ignatius being chewed on by lions. When the lions were done, his friends gathered up his bones out of the arena.

St. Patrick is perhaps the most well known of saints. He is even known by those who are not religious due to the, almost, world wide celebration of him once a year. If you want to know more about the Orthodox Church before actually stepping inside of an Orthodox Church, start reading about the saints. You can head over to the websites of the Orthodox Church in America or, the Orthodox Christian Network for daily information about which saints are being remembered. I encourage you, no matter what your religious background, to find out more about the early Christian Church and the saints who lived and died for her.

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.

Leave your protestantism at the door

Christ Almighty, Orthodox Mini Icon - at Holy Trinity Store

In September, at the new year according to the Orthodox calendar, I started visiting my local Orthodox church. Exhausted by heretical teachings of churches whose pastors had never seen the inside of a seminary, pastors and congregants who embraced anything written as long as it contained the proper buzzwords, and fed up with, ‘movements’ I needed something more but I wasn’t sure what it was… until I found the Orthodox church.

What I found, what I did not realize I was looking for until it was in front of me, what is lacking in so many ‘modern’ churches, is dogma. I already believe in miracles. I’ve seen miracles, I’ve seen angels. Even witches believe in angels. What’s the dogma? Who does your church say Christ is? How does your church approach, Christ? How do they approach the worship of the Uncreated One? Do they even worship Him or do they entertain the flock then have a ‘rah-rah meeting’, also known as a sermon? After almost 50 years of sermons, I’m all sermoned out. I need to be at the feet of God worshiping Him, loving on Him and being loved back.

I believe that the best way for I, or anyone one else for that matter, who is interested in exploring the Orthodox church, is to do so wholeheartedly. Yes, it can be a bit daunting at first to enter an Orthodox Church and to see all the icons, candles, murals, to hear the chanting and watch the deacon cense the icons and people. it can be especially unsettling if the last church you attended before coming to an Orthodox Church was barely identifiable as a church. One, puny cross against a large, bare white wall (so that the announcements can be played while people find their seats no doubt) no more hymnals- who reads music anymore? No vestments. Nothing really to make it stand out from the other cubes/stores in the strip mall with which it shares space. Do I sound snobby? I don’t mean to, I’m just over the blending in that so many churches do so as not to offend. To be inclusive. However, we as Christians are not to be one with the world. We are to be one with God. Set apart and different with a purpose. Purposefully different. I no longer wish to worship in a space reminiscent of office space. I don’t want to pray in a white cubicle that looks worldly. I wish to pray in a space that looks ‘other worldly’. A space that looks like something God would occupy. A space that is grand and opulent. A space that prepares me for an eternity in the presence of God.

When I’m having a difficult time focusing in prayer, looking at a saint’s icon helps. The candles help. My beloved prayer rope helps. Keep your prayer closet. I need a prayer temple. Quiet… mostly. Reverent. A temple which engages all five sense in prayer, and worship of God our king.

One thing that I’ve noticed that I cannot do while in an Orthodox Church is, I cannot look at it through protestant eyes and understand the importance of the mystery set before me in the form of vespers or Div. Liturgy as being a mystery and letting it be a mystery.

It’s ok for us not to understand everything that is going on around us in a spiritual setting. Spiritual things are supposed to be mysterious. God is suppose to be mysterious. In my church travels through the years, I’ve noticed that many protestants believe that they have God all figured out. They do not seem to understand that the moment you think you have God figured out should be the moment you realize whatever it is you’ve been studying was not God or else you would not be able to understand Him. How can you understand His uncreatedness? His wonderment? His divinity? And it is HIS divinity not ours.

When walking into an Orthodox Church, one is to have the sense of leaving the world behind them, and walking east. East toward God, His divinity, and worship of this divine, uncreated Being in the most spectacular, colorful, and reverent way humanly possible. I, for one, am grateful it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as a protestant. ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’ is my current motto. I am walking out my Orthodox Church experience one service at a time. One prayer at a time, and doing my best to experience it with child like wonder and not pick it apart through protestant intellect. That’s not to say that the Orthodox mind is a simple mind. Not at all! I’ve met many amazing and intelligent people at my church. What I am saying is that I’m not going to go into this experience thinking I know all the answers. I am a stranger in a strange land. Just as I would not go to France and expect everyone to be an American, nor have I come to this new-to-me church expecting everyone to change for me and sing all my favorite hymns, paint over the icons, and stop lighting candles. If I wanted a protestant experience, I would not be attending an Orthodox church. I came to this particular church to have this particular experience. To learn what they know. To look at God through the philosophical eyes of the writings of ancient fathers. To learn about tradition (a word scorned in many protestant churches), to learn about saints and martyrs. To hear new prayers. To see the bible written on a wall in the form of an icon or mural. To have this ‘thing’ called Christianity show respect for our Creator and not take important ideas such as an eternity in the presence of God so lightly as I have seen some churches, and many Christians do. If being a Christian is suppose to change us, why are so many of us still the same year after year? Why is it becoming a crime to point out the need for repentance, the need to stop sinning, the need to forgive?

If you have come to the Orthodox Church because you were looking for something different, then BE different! Participate as much as possible. Learn how to venerate an icon. Light a candle, say a prayer, cross yourself and bow down. Submerge yourself in the wonderment, traditions, and the divine mystery of the Orthodox Church. If you end up thinking that it is not for you, at least you can say that you gave it your best shot. If, however, you’ve been attending an Orthodox Church all the while refusing to fully participate, how can you know whether or not it was where you were supposed to be if you were never able to fully put aside your protestant fears and doubts?

How about the next service at your church whether it’s vespers or Div. Liturgy, you fully participate? How about lighting a candle, venerating an icon, or asking Mary to pray for you before the throne of God? You never know, maybe you’ll find out that this is where you were supposed to be all along but you didn’t know because you were holding back? Christmas is just around the corner. What a great time to get over yourself and enjoy some genuine wonderment.

Lord have mercy!

That we should no longer be children

sermononthemounticon

Ephesians 4:14-19 (Epistle)

14
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Wow, has my view of the Orthodox Church changed in the last few weeks since I have been reading upon it, listening to podcasts, and attending catechism classes as well as the various services offered by my church. The more I learn the more I realize how far off track modern church has gone from the original model of church. I feel as though I have gone from darkness into the Light… the Light of Christ. I’ve had so many, ‘ah-ha’ moments.

I went to vespers last night. I never thought I’d ever venerate an icon of, Mary and yet… there I was with tears in my eyes lighting a candle for my sister at our Icon of Mary. Now, when I do go to church and greet the icons, it’s as if I am saying  ‘hello’ to family members. I get so emotional. Every time I walk into church, it’s like a family reunion. I’ve missed them, missed being in church.

Last night, a 9 month old baby was a bit fussy. I don’t know what was going on, maybe he was teething. He was crying half heartedly and sounded as if he was in pain. When his mother carried him over to the icon of, Jesus that sits in the Narthex, he start bouncing up and down in her arms and making happy noises at it. I get it buddy… I get it.

Lord have mercy.