Category Archives: church

All human conventions are destroyed.

Seeing posts of those who are at the beginning of Lent prompts mixed feelings in me. Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, does not come to us until May 2 this year, and our Great Lent begins March 15th, by which time western Christians will be halfway to their April 4th Easter.

Part of me is envious, and wishes we were already there, in that blessed season of “bright sadness.” But probably the greater part says, “Thank God we have a few more weeks!”

Yes… and I do want to take advantage of that time so that Lent itself won’t fly past without any effect on me. The Orthodox Church gives us five Sundays of preparation, and last Sunday was the first of those, Zacchaeus Sunday. Our rector emphasized to us that Zacchaeus climbed to a good vantage point because he wanted to see who Jesus was.

I appreciated Patriarch Kirill’s homily for the day in which he explained how Zacchaeus “…received his post from the hands of the Romans, the people who captured Israel, who enslaved the Jewish people. In modern terms, Zacchaeus worked in favor of the occupation power. And the freedom-loving Israelites, who painfully experienced everything that had happened to them – the fact that pagans seized power over the chosen people and over the holy places – treated those who voluntarily served the Roman authorities, collecting taxes from their own people, with contempt and indignation. That is why, in the minds of the Israelites of that time, the publicans were equal to the greatest sinners.

“But one of these tax collectors, Zacchaeus, was so eager to see the Savior that, being short, he climbed up a tree to see Him from there. The act itself is out of the ordinary, because Zacchaeus was one of those who had power, and adults who have power usually do not climb trees. If they need to see something, they have the opportunity to come closer: to push through the crowd, to make people part. But Zacchaeus climbed a tree, humiliating himself, only to see the Savior.”

And oh, my, wasn’t he rewarded! He did see Jesus, and apparently not just superficially. His humble act led eventually to true repentance and salvation; can you imagine how the whole town must have been astounded? As another has put it, “He lived in luxury from what he stole in the name of a hated foreign power.” It likely was not an easy process to make restitution to all the people through whom he had made himself rich, and to disentangle himself from the corruption of the political system, but however it happened, he went on to become one of the Seventy Apostles described in Luke Chapter 10.

Patriarch Kirill goes on to say, “Everything in this story is so simple and so unexpected. All human conventions are destroyed by the power of humility.” If we also can act in such a way that we begin to see Jesus more clearly, there is no telling what huge changes might begin in any of us, for the glory of God and our full salvation.

Father George exhorts us.

“In you the Church of Christ is alive and free. In her, we move and live through Christ, Who is her Head, and have full freedom, because we learn the Truth and the Truth makes us free. You are in Christ’s Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, when you help someone elderly walk more easily, or when you give alms to the poor and visit the sick.

“You are in Christ’s Church when you cry out, ‘Lord, help me.’ You are in Christ’s Church when you are patient and good, when you refuse to get angry with your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ’s Church when you pray, ‘Lord, forgive him.’ When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips, bringing with you a warm and kind light; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ’s Church.

“Do you not see, therefore, my friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which no one and nothing can prevail, because you are a liberated rock—a soul that is fulfilled within His Church… Let us build churches, my friend. Let us build churches from the depths of our hearts ablaze with the light of the Sun of Righteousness, Who is Christ Himself, Who has told us that by faith we are free from sin. Let us build the churches of our faith which no human power can pull down, because the ultimate power of the Church is Christ Himself.”

+Father George Calciu, confessor of the Romanian Church; from Interviews, Homilies, and Talks

From non-being into being, and adorned.

A Prayer for Sanctity of Life Sunday:

O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, Who are in the bosom of the Father, True God, source of life and immortality, Light of Light, Who came into the world to enlighten it: You were pleased to be conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of our souls by the power of Your All-Holy Spirit. O Master, Who came that we might have life more abundantly, we ask You to enlighten the minds and hearts of those blinded to the truth that life begins at conception and that the unborn in the womb are already adorned with Your image and likeness; enable us to guard, cherish, and protect the lives of all those who are unable to care for themselves. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with divine and infinite love. Be merciful, O Lord, to those who, through ignorance or willfulness, affront Your divine goodness and providence through the evil act of abortion. May they, and all of us, come to the light of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

 

A Prayer for the Will of God

Lord, uphold my soul, and deliver it from confusion, doubt, and wavering, and strengthen it in faith. Drive all attacks away from me and cut off my sinful and blind self-will. Grant me the strength to commend my self, my soul and body, my obstacles, the present, the future, those near to my heart, and all my neighbors unto thine all-holy and all-wise will. And therefore may thy will ever be announced unto me. Amen.

(From this prayer book)