Tag Archives: Holy Communion

A harbor, medicine and peace.

This portion of another pastor’s letter was passed on to us via our rector this week; it was written by Orthodox Bishop Irenei of London. I am comforted when our shepherds in Christ lead by their example of faith and love. I hope that you all have similar fortifying influences in your life, but if you can use one more good word on this topic…

The Church of Christ has endured through many centuries — in the course of which she has been confronted with countless illnesses and diseases, small and great — in solid faith and with peaceful hearts, each member of the Church knowing that he or she is part of no worldly or man-made institution, but the Harbour of Life that is Christ’s Body. We are fed the food not of men but of angels; we are inspired by the truth, not of this world, but of God Himself; and we are ruled, not by worldly fear which grows and begets more fear, but by the peace of Christ which surpasseth all understanding (Philippians 4.7) and brings unfailing comfort, whether in times of peace or peril. In the present moment, therefore, I urge you to be not afraid (Isaiah 43.1) nor let the concerns of the moment shake you from the firm foundation that is unhindered faith in the living God, Who heals the sick and restores the broken-hearted. The present situation may be a cause of great upset in the world around us, but in the Church, and in our Christian lives, we continue unhindered and undeterred in all that God has delivered into our hands for the salvation of our souls.

…local governments will be issuing various instructions and protocols for managing and controlling the spread and effects of this momentary health challenge: we urge all our faithful to be acquainted with these practical instructions…in all such things we should be examples to the world of pious trust in God that leads not to undisciplined alarm, but rather to a continuance of life in an untroubled spirit and undisturbed reliance on the Divine Will.

In our churches, we shall continue with the celebration of all our rites, customs, Divine Services and above all the offering and receipt of the Holy Mysteries in precisely the same manner as we have always done. No genuinely believing Christian can for one moment accept that the Holy Mysteries might bring or be the source of sickness or ill-health: by no means! The Mysteries of Christ are the true medicine of our souls and bodies, and bring nothing but life—and life eternal. Any whose hearts are troubled by present matters should pray fervently for an increase of faith so that fear can be cast aside; and the Church will continue her ancient witness to the love that is beyond fear, bringing the Holy Mysteries to the world, and to each of us, in a time when it needs them profoundly. Do not be afraid! As we sing so frequently in these Lenten days, God is with us! And He is merciful and loving, quick to hear and heal and save.

—With love in Christ,
IRENEI, Bishop of London and Western Europe (ROCOR)

A theme of love and serving.

This sign on the wall in our church kitchen shows evidence of its location above the coffee maker. I was looking at it as though for the first time this morning as I prepared the agape meal at church. It was my fourth time cooking for 100-120 people; I don’t know exactly how many ate today, but the important thing is we didn’t run out of food. 🙂

I went back and forth from the kitchen to the church as needed to put things in the oven to warm, and to worship. Before Divine Liturgy there was a glorious baptism, and I was surprised to miss the actual immersion of the baby, but I came in to the heady scent of Holy Chrism as he was being lifted out of the font, which in an Orthodox baptism is no more than halfway through, so there was plenty of praying left to do, and rejoicing in the love and joy that filled the place.

The next time I had to leave and come back, I entered when Father Peter was giving the homily. I’d never heard him preach before, and his words were full of warm encouragement. Near the end he recited the whole poem below, with a fitting and enlivening amount of expression.

It was a great honor to be the one serving and feeding my fellow worshipers a few minutes later. All week I’ve been grousing and anxious about the upcoming event, even though I had planned and organized well and had young and competent helpers, an easy menu, etc. As has been the case before, I began to relax on Saturday when we did the first steps of cooking. I was so grateful for my assistants who are my friends and love me.

Today, even more people helped, were thankful, told me that they loved the food — all the hugs and kind words I could want, to make me feel what a gift it is to be part of this parish and of Christ’s Church, and to work with people on a worthy project.

When I heard Herbert’s poem, I immediately thought, “I must share that on my blog!” I forgot to take any pictures of the food to share, but I think you can envision a hefty chunk of cheesy polenta with a scoop of the meatiest possible red sauce ladled over, plus a dollop of pesto on top. Mixed greens on the side, and ice cream for dessert. I might do this same menu again sometime, it was so relatively easy and successful.

For the good of our souls, it was not worth much, though, compared to the Love that Father Peter talked about, and George Herbert sang of, and which we had tasted in the Holy Mysteries that morning.

But it was an echo and a reminder, and gave us sustenance so that we could sit around basking in our family happiness for a while. “O taste and see that the LORD is good!”

LOVE

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert

Christ Who is offered, and to Christ the offering.

On Holy Thursday one of the events the Orthodox Church commemorates is the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at Christ’s last meal with His disciples; on this occasion I thought to share a post from Abbot Tryphon on the topic of this mystical sacrifice:

The Orthodox Church believes the Eucharist to be a sacrifice, in which Christ himself performs the act of offering, and is both priest and victim. This sacrifice is offered to God the Trinity, and not just to the Father, but also to the Holy Spirit and to Christ Himself. It is Christ Who is offered, and to Christ the offering.

Our Orthodox theology also teaches that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice, offered on behalf of both the living and the dead, and is not a mere figure or symbol but a true sacrifice. It is not the bread that is sacrificed, but the very Body of Christ. And, the Lamb of God was sacrificed only once, for all time. This sacrifice at the Eucharist consists, not in the real and bloody immolation of the Lamb, but in the transformation of the bread into the sacrificed Lamb.

All the events of Christ’s sacrifice, the Incarnation, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension are not repeated in the Eucharist, but they are made present. The Eucharist is both symbolic and mystical, and is understood to be the genuine Body and Blood of Christ, precisely because the bread and wine are the mysteries and symbols of God’s true and genuine presence and His manifestation to us in Christ. It is a mystery precisely because the Eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the Eucharist, as Christ himself, is 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.

Saint John of Damascus tells us, “If you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it is through the Holy Spirit … we know nothing more than this, that the Word of God is true, active, and omnipotent, but in its manner of operation unsearchable”.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

From Abbot Tryphon’s blog

December and my watered gardens.

It is a little strange IMG_1228to finish the installation of my garden at the beginning of winter. Some of the plants and trees are going into their dormant stage soon after being planted, and are not likely to be very showy until next summer. I’m thinking of the coneflowers. So I ran out and bought three six-packs of Iceland poppies to plant in that area to break up the expanse of wood product that will be staring at me. And some Dutch iris bulbs.

Much mulch, that’s what you see now. The bare branches of fig and plum don’t show up against the brownness. The paths are one kind of mulch, called Playground Mulch. It’s soft and laid on thickly so the grandchildren won’t scrape their knees on flagstones or whatever I might have used instead. Neither will they get muddy, because there will be no dirt to be seen! The other kind of mulch, coarser but a similar color at this point, covers all the planting beds and hides the drip irrigation lines; it is tucked in around every flower or shrub. This is how you do it if you want to conserve water, and I do….

The children might get wet, though, if they stick their fingers into the fountain. It’s finally all put together and hooked up to its new electrical conduit deep under the pathway, and I can turn it on very easily whenever I want. Then its lovely water sounds provide a needed auditory focus and delight during this period when the plants are small and mostly not flowering.

Even when it’s not turned on it makes me happy, sitting there in the middle of everything and marking the intersection of the four directions, not quite the points of the compass, but pointing to the corners of the space. I don’t like to call it a yard now that I’ve invested so much in the beautification of my property. It was a yard, when it was all a big slab of dirt, waiting to be turned into something, with heavy machinery and other non-living stuff all over the place. But now, now it is a watered garden.

IMG_1225The unfinished tasks are likely to be completed before Christmas. In the meantime I am giving my attention to the holiday, and rain is watering the garden, too, so even the poppies are droopy and not photogenic. What I do find photogenic is my Christmas tree, which Pearl helped me set up and decorate last week. Christmas tree 2015

I realized last month that I could not manage a cut tree of the size I wanted, so I bought an artificial tree, and I’m happy with it. Even the thought of getting an artificial tree caused me to panic at first, because I had no idea where to start looking, never having given a thought to that sort of tree before. But my goddaughter Sophia is an interior decorator and she immediately helped me. It’s been easier than I expected.

I couldn’t resist buying a darling live tree in a pot as well, but I’ll show it later. It’s still outdoors in the dark at the moment. Oh – but I see that it is showing in the photo above, with the hose caught on its branches. I don’t know where it will go when I bring it in, but I will decorate it with birds and pine cones.

Today was the feast of St. Nicholas. Everything was lovely at church. We have been having Matins before Divine Liturgy Sunday mornings, and I’ve helped with that service most Sundays, which means that I arrive at about 8:30. Matins is all about the Resurrection of Christ, so the significance of his rising from the dead is what we sing about for an hour straight, and that’s before we even get to the Divine Liturgy.

When both of us are in church, I hold my goddaughter Mary, whom I wrote about here and who is now nine months old already! I carry her up for Communion, and like to keep her with me as long as possibl3be58-nicholasilluminatede afterward just because she’s so sweet. Today as we stood in line we looked up at the chandelier that was still swinging gently from when it was earlier set in motion to accompany a hymn to the Theotokos. We stood next to a candle stand for a couple of minutes and watched a score of candles shining. I sang along with the choir, to her, “Receive the Body of Christ; taste the Fountain of Immortality.” Then we did, and our hearts were refreshed.

This glorious Lord’s Day —  It all fills up the soul and tires the body!  Today after the service I worked in the church bookstore that is open during the agape meal, so I didn’t get home until 2:00, exhausted.

This evening we listened to some Christmas music, and Kit built a fire to cozy us up. It feels like December!