Tag Archives: Fr. Thomas Hopko

My discussion with the bumper stickers.

As I was pulling into a parking lot yesterday morning I was behind another car long enough to read three bumper stickers in slow succession, in this order:

I began to debate the first point and wonder if it were satire, when I saw the second, and concluded, No, it was a believer in Christ who stuck on the quote from the Bible…. Then I saw the last, and couldn’t figure out how it followed from the first extra-Biblical idea.

I went on to spend my afternoon with a friend whom I love dearly, and was thankful not to spend much time discussing with a phantom mind these points which, no matter how you arrange them, don’t make a very logical or appealing systematic theology. But I don’t want to leave you with this disheartening bit of slogan-and-sound-bite “communication.” I reread an old article by Romanos, who fell asleep in death in 2016, titled merely: Salvation, in which he points out that,

“Loving God will always bring you to Him, but thinking about God at best brings you to the threshold of love, at worst locks you into a mental prison. The invisible God becomes visible through love, but the visible God, our brother and sister, can become invisible through doctrine.”

And he quotes Archimandrite Vasileios in several paragraphs of which I’m giving you only the last:

…while the Jews of Christ’s day were so eager for theological discussions, He let them go unanswered; ‘But He was silent.’ For He did not come to discuss, He came to seek out and save the one that had gone astray (Matthew 18:11). He came and took on our whole nature. He entered into us, into the shadow of death where we are, and drew us to the light.

Christ is risen! In truth He is risen!

Update: A reader just pointed out to me that Father Thomas Hopko actually recorded a series of podcasts about the mistaken ideas in the statement “Relax – God is in Control.” The last one is here.

St. Justinian’s Hymn

I always look forward to the time in during Divine Liturgy when we sing St. Justinian’s Hymn. I don’t have to wait long, as it comes only a few minutes into the service.  Nov 14 is the day we commemorate St. Justinian (along with St Gregory Palamas, St. Justinian’s wife St. Theodora, and the Apostle Philip), so I thought it a good day to share this hymn with you.Justinian contemp mosaic

St. Justinian reigned as Byzantine emperor for nearly forty years during the sixth century. He was responsible for the construction of the glorious Hagia Sophia, and though he may not have written the ancient hymn affirming the Incarnation, he did command that it be sung every Sunday.

I love the way our choir sings this part of the Liturgy, and I always try to sing along. I found two examples on YouTube that most resemble the way I know it:

here and here.

The words are simple but so fundamental to our faith:

Only begotten Son and Word of God,
Thou Who art immortal
And didst deign for our salvation
to become incarnate
of the Holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
without change becoming man,
and who was crucified O Christ God,
trampling down death by death;
Thou who art one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
save us.

You might be interested in this series on the Divine Liturgy in which Fr. Thomas Hopko gives a lecture about the theology of “Only-Begotten Son.”

And finally, an icon of the Incarnation:

Mystical Supper

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On Thursday of Holy Week (today) we commemorate the first eucharist as the Lord Jesus instituted it, what we Orthodox call The Mystical Supper. On the Orthodox Wiki discussion page I found that someone had asked for clarification of what the Real Presence is, according to Orthodoxy; it seemed confusing to them. Then various people gave input. One said that it may be confusing because it is a Mystery. [Think smiley face] It is a common joke in or on the Church that this is a facile answer.

But it points to the true nature of the faith, that our relationship with God is not purely intellectual. We do not know Him by putting together all the facts we’ve learned; He doesn’t reveal Himself through our intellects alone, or even primarily.

Fr. Thomas Hopko says, “The mystery of the holy eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the eucharist — and Christ himself — is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Jesus has told us, is ‘not of this world.’ The eucharist — because it belongs to God’s Kingdom — is truly free from the earth-born ‘logic’ of fallen humanity.”

The page on The Holy Mysteries, what we call the sacraments, is very good! It starts right out with this perspective and reality about the Church that I love:  “…the Orthodox Church considers everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical.” I suppose this is why “There has never been a universal declaration within the Orthodox Church that there are only seven sacraments.”

I knew that, but I learned some other things, more historical and not so mystical, reading these pages today: “While the Synoptics do give the Last Supper as a Passover seder, John’s Gospel (which the Church privileges over the others) has it happen before the Passover.” The contributors all seemed to agree on these points though they differed on their theological significance.

On a more personal note, while I am grieving the death of my husband, I’ve been so grateful that we are in Holy Week, with its numerous opportunities to participate in this sacrament, this mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven — and truly, in all the abundant graces of the Church. It’s not facts that have been sustaining me, but His Real Presence.

Holy Week with children and silence.

P1090510I started this week with the blessed Entrance into Jerusalem, the waving of palms, and exhortations from our priests to the flock not to think we have arrived, not to relax and try to coast to Pascha. We ought rather to have the spirit of St. Paul when he said he was pressing on. We have a lot to enter into in this last intense week of Christ’s passion.

It was surely the grace of God that got me out of bed the next morning for Bridegroom Matins. It is very sweet to gather and sing lines such as these:P1090513

O Bridegroom, surpassing all in beauty,
Thou hast called us to the spiritual feast of Thy bridal chamber.
Strip from me the disfigurement of sin,
through participation in Thy sufferings;
clothe me in the glorious robe of Thy beauty,
and in Thy compassion make me feast with joy at Thy Kingdom.

We’ve had aP1090540nother kind of blessing this week, a visit from Pippin and family. It has been really good to spend time with little Ivy in particular, 18-months-old right now. And the group of us had a lovely outing to the redwoods and the beach.

Scout liked climbing on downed trees, and Ivy collected sticks. But this stick was still connected to the tree so she had to give up on it eventually.ivy branch crp 4-14

It’s very pretty the way the new lighter green fronds of fern contrast with the older ones.P1090580

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Poison oak is climbing gracefully up this redwood.

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On the bluffs above the ocean hundreds of wild irises were in bloom.

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When I moved in close to take their picture with an arched rock in the distance, I saw this blue-eyed grass almost hidden in the ferny turf nearby.

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We picnicked near the parking lot surrounded by giant yellow lupine bushes, before going down to the shore. You can see in the photo below that the fog was still hanging on past noon, typical for Northern California beaches.

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We spent a good while with the children digging and playing chase with the waves, and the adults taking pictures. Ivy liked to sit by herself and dig with her toes into the damp sand. She tasted it, too, but that wasn’t so satisfying. The sun came out.P1090581

Then everyone but me went for a walk. I don’t know how that happened, but I wasn’t disappointed to be left alone. I had just been reading Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “Precepts for Christian Living,” which Lisa thoughtfully posted recently, and I was struck by his admonition to “Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day.”

I wasn’t sure when I read it what exactly would fit the description of this activity Fr. Tom recommends — it sounds like a big order. But sitting on the beach was obviously the perfect opportunity. When my husband returned he found me listening for God’s silence, surrounded by the roar of the sea.

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