Fr. Ted's Blog

St. Augustine gives us a wonderful image of Christian giving and charity:

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all;

but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

(quoted in Attending to Your Marriage by Charles Joanides, pg 148)

Links to all of this year’s blogs related to the Nativity of Christ can be found at Christmas Blogs 2012.

View original post

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Theosis

This is the most comprehensive article on theosis that I have come across. It is well worth the time it takes to read! http://thebeautifulpath.org/2012/11/16/theosis/

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pray Unceasingly

“Remember God more often than you breathe”, says St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389). Prayer is more essential to us, more an integral part of ourselves than the rhythm of our breathing or the beating of our heart. Without prayer there is no life. Prayer is our nature. As human persons we are created for prayers just as we are created to speak and to think.  The human animal is best defined, not as a logical or tool-making animal or an animal that laughs, but rather as an animal that prays, a eucharistic animal, capable of offering the world back to God in thanksgiving and intercession.

“Praying with the Orthodox Tradition” – Forward

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Empty Ritual”

This is a very good post from Father Stephen on the use of ritual in our lives: Empty Ritual.

What does ritual do? The most obvious answer from the Church’s perspective is that it does just what it appears to do. Ritual actions are iconic in nature – they make present that which they represent. Thus to make the sign of the cross in blessing is to bless. We do with our bodies what we say with our lips (and often more)…

Those movements have always been understood to carry meaning. Why does a pastor stand when he speaks rather than sit? Everything is an icon – regardless. If it is not an icon of one thing – then it is of another.

The actions of Christ, spitting on dirt, making mud and putting it on the eyes of a blind man, directing him to wash in the pool of Siloam, etc., are all ritual actions…  The same Lord took bread (in His hands), blessed it, broke it, and gave it. He could have simply stood and said, “Father, we just want to thank you…” and let everyone walk around the table and serve themselves.

There is no empty ritual, for there is no empty action. Everything is filled with meaning and power.

Last week for (Western) All Saints Day I attended an Anglican Solemn Mass for the first time in 10 years. This is the “High Church” mass of the Anglican church, and thus has more chanting, incense  and ritual than most modern day Episcopal services.

I was struck by the differences in the service compared to the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. One of the most striking differences was the orientation of the priest to the altar and congregation.  The Anaphora was done with the priest facing the congregation.  In the Orthodox church (and my Anglican church growing up) the priest doesn’t turn his back on the reserve sacraments, because they are literally the Body and Blood of Christ. Who would dare turn his back on Christ?  Because of this, many actions and prayers are done with the priest’s back facing the congregation, he is leading the congregation in worship, instead of performing for the congregation.  I think this difference has to do with the loss of ritual and sacrament in our lives.

One thing my Mom had tried impress upon me growing up, but that I didn’t really understand until I was both spiritually mature enough (and I’m still an infant) and old enough was the necessity of the sacraments of the Church.  For these things, (the Eucharist, Baptism, Confession, Marriage, etc.) are not mere remberences of God, but are life-changing actions. We don’t just remember Christ, but invite Him to change our lives.  And, in faith, we know that in Baptism the waters become the water of the Jordan, the cleansing of the Holy Spirit, in the Eucharist the bread and wine are substantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is these actions, participation in the Sacraments, the physical actions of prayer, alms-giving, crossing ourselves, making metenias, and fasting that change our lives.  We sanctify the whole of life by our participation in the Holy Mysteries of Christ. And what Mysteries they are. 🙂 Glory to God!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

3 Years

Three years, 36 months, 1096 days.  That’s how old my oldest pieces of clothing are.  That’s how old my bed linens, pillow, and shoes are.  That’s how old my still-working iPod Touch is.  How do I know this?  Three years ago, at around 3am September 14, I was woken by a call from my room-mate that our house was burning down.

I didn’t sleep the rest of the night.  After I made the appropriate calls to the insurance agency, I eagerly waited,praying and not knowing what to expect, until 5am – when I knew my Mom would be awake to tell her the news.  Then I waited until 7am until my grandmother woke up and my then-boyfriend, now husband, who was also visiting relatives in Michigan, woke up. (I was in Michigan at the time, staying with my grandmother and due to fly home later that day.)  I didn’t know what to expect when I got back to North Carolina, and I could have never imagined the outpouring of support that came from my community as a result of the fire.

Finally three years later I am able to step back and process the event.  I’ve done a pretty good job of ignoring the fire and upheaval of my life that followed, but the fact is that so much has changed in the last 36 months, and it’s only in the past 6 months that I’ve felt that I have my life back under me again.

It’s strange having all of my possessions date to a specific date.  In the days and weeks following the fire I was on auto-pilot.  There were things that needed to be done, so I got them done. Staying busy kept me focused.  But there have been a lot of things that have changed over the past three years:  My house was destroyed and I had to build a new one, I suffered for two years with an un-diagnosed serious illness, my Grandmother, whose house I was staying at, lost her battle with cancer, I got married, I changed labs and thesis projects.  I can say overwhelmingly that my life is both different and better than it was three years ago.

But while I was in the midst of everything I couldn’t see it getting better.

It was tough, it was at times frustrating, heart-wrenching, and depressing.  There was a lot of uncertainty in my life.  First, my entire identity, in the context of my possessions, was ripped away from me.  I had built a certain identity and security net around myself.  I knew who I was, and where I had been, and my possessions were a symbol of who I was and where I’d been.  It might sound strange hearing this, but when I lost everything, I realized just how important my “stuff” was to me.  It was a part of me and a part of my memories.  The security I had being in familiar surroundings was no longer there. And, I didn’t have any security in the future.  I was confronted with the fact that in an instance a silly mistake radically changed my life and bad things happen.

As I rebuilt my life, I began to rebuild my identity.  Then, my health was taken away from me.  Suddenly I became incapable of working, sometimes even incapable of moving around.  I prided myself on being strong, and I wasn’t strong any more.  I didn’t know what was happening to my body, I only knew that it didn’t work very well anymore.  I could no longer depend on myself.  I was forced to depend on other people, I was forced to admit that I couldn’t handle things anymore. I was too weak.  And, no one knew why I was sick.  I had to live within the uncertainty of illness, trusting, hoping, and praying.

In the midst of illness, I got married. (Getting married was a *good* thing).  No I no longer had to care only about myself, but about another person as well.  Being married requires a continuous sacrifice of your self and your own needs to those of the other.  Instead of being Jo Anna, I was now part of this new creation named “Jo Anna and Chris.”  Again my identity was challenged.  My selfishness and my holding onto the things of this world was challenged (and is still being challenged every day.)  Life is no longer about what I do and about what I want, but about what we do and how we can live.

Then 9 months ago I was faced with the fact that what I had worked on and dreamed about, one more thing I built my identity around, being a scientist, might be coming to an end.  I prided myself on my aptitude to be a scientist, I believed I had the potential to be a great scientist. Suddenly, I would no longer be a grad student or scientist. I would no longer be included in that group of people, where most of my friends were, and where I aspired to be.  By the grace of God, I was able to return to grad school, but for two months, I had to make other plans, I had to once again re-form my identity and face something being taken away.

It seems like at every challenge I faced in the last three years I was confronted with one more thing that was keeping me away from a closer relationship with God.  I was faced with one more thing that wasn’t my true self, but was a construct I built around my ego.  Those constructs were wrenched away from me.  Everything I built my identity around was taken away, one thing at a time.  I got angry, it wasn’t fair, life sucked.  This is not what life is supposed to be about.  I felt that I had been dealt an un-fair hand.

But now looking back, life is so much sweeter.

Finally, I can start to mourn the loss of those constructs.  But this is a glad-mourning.  A mourning that recognizes the light within the dark.  My life is a journey towards God.  And, even though I don’t understand the route I’m taking, and sometimes it feels like I don’t even have a flashlight to light my way through the darkness, it’s a journey that I don’t want to forsake.  Glory to God!

PS:

Today is the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross.  We venerate the instrument of our salvation: the tool by which Christ conquered death.  Three years ago I didn’t know what my cross would look like.  But like the feast, where we joyfully and mournfully celebrate the tool of our salvation, I want to joyfully and mournfully celebrate the tool of my salvation, my cross, whatever it is now and in the future.

I mourn that there has to be such a cross.  I mourn that my sinfulness separates me from God and that there has to be a journey and battle to Him.  I also joyfully take on this task, celebrating the loving God who calls all towards Him.  I celebrate the defeat of death.

Desiring to see beforehand the holy scepter of the Cross

 borne aloft in the midst of the earth, 

let us purify our souls in advance,

 and being illumined with light,

 let us render our thoughts radiant,

and, shining with divine power let us hymn Christ

Who imparteth His holiness through the precious Tree

unto those who cry out with faith

and fervently hymn Him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Glory to God for All Things

Orthodox Christians (New Calendar) commemorate the death (Dormition) of the Virgin Mary today. For those for whom such feasts are foreign, it is easy to misunderstand what the Orthodox are about – and to assume that this is simply a feast to Mary because we like that sort of thing. Flippant attitudes fail to perceive the depths of the mystery of our salvation. The Dormition of the Mother of God is one of many doorways into that mystery – all of which is Christ – who alone is our salvation.

The Christian life, as taught by the Scriptures and the fathers, is grounded in the mystery and reality of communion. We do not exist alone, nor do we exist merely as a collection. Our lives are a communion of lives. We share one another in ways that permeate the whole of our being. I am unique, and yet I…

View original post 1,128 more words

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized