Wednesday, January 01, 2020

(128) New Years Day

 I went to liturgy this morning for (new calendar) St Basil's day and also the 
feast of the Circumcision of Christ.
I used to be at a Monastery, my beloved one in MI, for these days
but life changes and one must accept the changes. 
The last picture above is actually an enlargement that I made to show you the
icon/paining of Christ in the Altar. 
We went up the steps to receive Holy Communion today and
God blessed me with a moment where everything was ablaze with beauty; 
the icon of Christ, our priest, his white vestments.
It was a gift of profound beauty and I wish I would never forget it.
I don't often talk about the gifts God gives unexpectedly and often rarely but
I wanted to remember this one here... 
The question, which is a really great question, 
is a common one for those who are not 
either Orthodox or Catholic Christians is the thought (or question) that
because they have a written liturgy / written prayers that are
repeated that either it is not at all meaningful or sincere or, 
perhaps worse, that they never really pray or think of God or 
Jesus Christ His Son or depend on the Holy Spirit.
This thought/question/presupposition, does not, by the way,
bother me because I used to have such a thought myself!
I grew up Protestant.  
To be exact, I grew up in Western Michigan 
and within the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), 
a small denomination that is 
only 163 years old,  and is theologically Calvinist, 
and most people within it are not very,
generally speaking, 
aware of Christian history before the Protestant Reformation.
So there are so many ways to answer your question Nancy, I could
write all night and not be done. However, since I don't have all night,
I will try to do so briefly.
First, I think that all of life and certainly all of church services, have
a set pattern to them.  My CRC world and church did.
 Basically a welcome, hymns, a Pastor's prayer (longer), a sermon (longer yet),
more hymns and a benediction at the end. 
Does everyone in such a service focus deeply the whole time?
Does their minds ever wander? If they don't write notes of the Pastor's sermon,
does their mind stay on the sermon? 
Well, probably not. 
I know as a kid and a teen I was not always full present to the service.
I loved the hymns.  
I took notes of the sermon (I still do this!) 
so that I would pay attention!
But I remember distinctly when I was in
a Chaucer class in my undergraduate years, 
that I could read a passage / part of a text out loud
while thinking something totally other than the text I was
reading out loud at the request of my professor. 
So in my experience being present and focusing on what is being
presented to or even by you is a struggle.
And I think it is for all Christians, as you alluded to Nancy.
I think there is a danger in all of Christianity to make it a social club
and not a place of true conversion and repentance.
But I can also say wholeheartedly that the Orthodox Church is 
very much a place of true conversion to Christ and repentance.
That the Holy Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, are all present and 
mentioned in the liturgy.  
What a lot of Christians don't realize today is that
the Christian church was ONE church for the first 1000 years!
And it was not until the 4th century that the church
decided definitively on the Books of the Bible.
The Bible comes from the Church.
 Our understanding of the complete humanity and divinity
 of Christ and of the Holy Trinity
 being co-equal and of one essence is from the Church.
A lot of this was accomplished in the 4th century if I remember correctly.
I can check with my Husband about this as his memory
for history is far greater than mine and he has read much more
than I have of history.  (It's one of the reasons I love him!)
Does this help Nancy? There is so much more I could say about
prayer and the Orthodox church.
Actually the book that converted me to the Orthodox church
was a book on prayer, called 
and I read it many times and can easily recommend it to others! 
It's a wonderful book and one that, when I began reading it,
I knew suddenly/immediately that it was the book
I had always been looking for,
that it spoke of the reality of the depths of the Christian life
(what is often called the spiritual life) that exist but that
I never had words for.  
The Orthodox church is very clear that it is important to 
consider yourself not only the chief of sinners, like St. Paul did,
but also as an absolute spiritual beginner. 
To not think of oneself that he or she has gained or
has accomplished great spiritual depth or gone to great heights. 
Pride, as they say, goes before the fall.
I can say that I have met others who are much more advanced 
spiritually than I am and also have heard life-giving stories
of holy ones, often monastics, who God have given 
great virtues to because of their efforts in praying constantly
and always remembering God ... and of their striving for
Christ-like humility.
Well, there's my 'short' answer. Perhaps it gives you an idea
of how long my 'long' answer would be! :) 
One of the questions I am wrestling with, that I 
alluded to yesterday, is what to write on or how to do it.
I want to bless others but I also feel that our more general culture
won't listen but may be able to read what I write if it is more
food/culinary based. 
And I was indeed thinking more of a cookie recipe I am
dreaming of.  I am beginning to keep notes on this idea
and hope to try it out in the next month.

Well, speaking of food, my Husband and I met friends we see 
about once a year and we enjoyed some delicious Chinese food! 
I really enjoyed it and am hoping to grow my culinary repertoire to 
include more Asian dishes, I think they will be especially great
for fasting periods (which is nearly half the year for us I think!).

We enjoyed two of the 4 lenten ginger cookies that our friend 
gave us for Christmas/my birthday! 

And we watched a really nice Walton's episode tonight!
I am really looking forward, DV, to cleaning the house tomorrow
and I need to wrap presents as well!
I have a prayer request...well, I guess I have many but here is two.
1. one of my local friends who is Romanian has a very sick elderly father in 
Romania and needs our prayers.
2. My right eye is not seeing things as clearly / distinctly as it should.
I will be making phone calls about this tomorrow.
Thanks for praying.
Well, this Sunday-Tuesday is the time for us leading up to Christmas,
with Christmas on January 7th and I am so excited. 
I just keep asking God to keep us healthy so we can go, 
ever since our flu over Christmas a few years ago, this is 
a more heartfelt prayer of mine!
And I know that so many of my friends had the flu over the
December 25th Christmas! 
May God have mercy on us all.


Nancy said...

Elizabeth, please forgive me for taking so long to respond to your wonderful post. You took my comment and your answer seriously. I had to read it a couple of times and take notes but your thoughts were such a help! Speaking of notes, I am amazed that you still take sermon notes. I take also take notes but have to be careful that I don't miss what the Pastor is saying while I am writing!!

I knew nothing about early Church history until I looked in to the Catholic Church. That is something that I have to hear about and not read as I would never survive the book.

Your remark about the social club hit a note as I remember an evangelist from years ago saying that we need to be careful about what we talk about in church. Am I? No.

Courage to Pray has been added to my wish list. Thank you!

You are right in thinking that writing with a food/culinary might be more accepted that just talk. It is much easier for me to absorb written info in a pleasing format. Best wishes with this! Can't wait to see what cookie recipe you develop!

Your issues with your right eye and your Romanian friend will be added to my prayer list. What do people do who don't have faith?

Thank you, again, for taking the time to answer my comment. I love what you said and will refer to it often.

Blessings to you and Mr. Husband.


Granny Marigold said...

Your precious moment when everything was ablaze with light is such a gift. To encourage you and strengthen your faith. You are blessed.
Your answer to Nancy question is very thorough and so well written.

Unknown said...

Peace.....your photos are lovely and I would like to ask a question if I may - Do you have an Akathist for Saint Simeon and Saint Anna the Prophetess? I tried to email from your site, however it didn't work. Please email me if possible -

Thankyou and God bless! Margaret

elizabeth said...

Hi Margaret I am really swamped right now can you email me here: note the DOT CA