Tag Archives: Holy Mysteries

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

Not an absence, but an antidote.

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From Father Stephen Freeman:

When the Fathers used the word “symbol,” they understood that something was actually, really and truly made present. A symbol makes present that which it represents. This is fundamental in the doctrine of the Holy Icons. In our modern world, a symbol represents something that is not there, it is a sign of absence. Indeed, because our modern world-view is essentially one of nominalism, we believe that the ancient notion of symbol is simply impossible. It feels like superstition to the modern consciousness.
…..
But this brings us to my description of sin as not being a “legal problem.” St. Justin says that “sin defiles a man and his being.” This is not contemporary language. He means exactly what he is saying. It is of a piece with St. Athanasius’ description of sin as death, corruption and non-being. Sin is something, not just a thought in the mind of God. It kills us, and not because God is doing the killing. Sin is death itself. The “lawlessness” of I John 3:4 is the anarchy, chaos, and disorder of death and corruption. Sin is utterly contrary to the life that is the gift of God.

This is why St. Justin (and the Church) can say that the remedy of sin is holiness, the “synthesis and unity of all the holy virtues and grace-filled energies.” When we partake of the holy mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, they “cleanse us from all sin.” This is not a simple change of our status in the mind of God. His Body and Blood are life. They are the antidote to death, decay, corruption and non-being. They destroy the lawlessness that is the anarchy, chaos and disorder of death and corruption.

You can read the entire article here: Secularized Sin

Mystical Supper

mysticalsupper02

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.