Tag Archives: faith in god

His Grace is Sufficient – 2

“I have sinned, O Savior, yet I know that Thou art the Lover of men. Thou strikest compassionately and pitiest warmly. Thou seest me weeping and runnest towards me as the Father recalling the Prodigal.” – from the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete

The first week of Great Lent is hard.  We attend church everyday, and fast rigorously, as much as we can according to our own strength.  On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of the first week, “Clean Week,” we read the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete.  (Read about it here.)  This glorious canon of repentance sets for us the tone and timbre of the rest of Lent.  Although one of the main themes of the Canon is repentance, another theme running through it is one of God’s grace and mercy.

On these first days of Great Lent we are weakened by the fast.  Our bodies are weak from lack of food, our minds unfocused, and our souls tempted by Satan.  We are reminded that it is only by God’s grace that we even attempt this journey towards the Risen Lord.

On Tuesday of this week, I came home from work tired and bone-weary.  I was hurting, and did not have the energy to stand in church.  But God’s Grace meets me where I am.  I didn’t make the prostrations or the bows at church, and I didn’t sing along with the choir.  It was enough to stand and sit and absorb the words, offering them up to God in my heart.  If I don’t have the health or energy to attend all the services this Lent, I will be at home, praying and absorbing the words of the prayers, knowing that others are supporting me through their prayers at church.

I am going to fail during the fast.  I am going to reach the limits of my physical strength and will-power.  I am going to fall down, but I am also going to get back up and keep moving towards God.  That is the point of the fast.  We are not fasting to give up a bad habit, or to develop self-discipline, or even to allow ourselves to see the sinfulness and brokenness inside of us.  We are fasting to see God’s Grace more readily, and allow it to act in us.  We fast to pray. We fast to move towards theosis, becoming united with God in His divine energies.

And we do it together.

Every single one of us in the church is fasting.  My fast may look different than yours’, but we are all fasting together, giving up meat, dairy, and oil as much as our strength/weakness will allow us to. We’re supporting one another through prayer and actions.  Because it’s only as we are more united to each other that we are united to God.  This is comforting to me.  Fasting isn’t about legalism or trying to “do right by God” or trying pray our way to some desired end, fasting is about growing together as a community growing closer to God.

His Grace is sufficient for all of us, and we respond like the Prodigal, moving towards Him as He moves towards us.  Glory be to God!

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Preparing for the Incarnation

Into the darkness of winter, into the darkness of this world’s violence, hate, illness, war, and suffering, the Son of God, the Son of Man, comes, bringing us light so that through His light we may become Him.  Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

This is what the Incarnation of the Word of God is all about.  He comes to heal our broken world and unite Himself to us. Sometimes, I feel like we focus on the death of Christ, His atonement for our sins, and miss the Incarnation and the Resurrection.

Without the mystery of the Incarnation, without a sanctified vessel, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and her willing sacrifice for us, the Son of God could not and would not have been born.  All of creation, and all of time was waiting for this woman, this Champion of Christians, this first Christian, to be born, to reside within the temple, so that her body might be made the Temple of God.  That sacrifice, the indwelling of God was granted to a woman, a broken human being just like the rest of us.  She too was subject to the corruption and death of the world that came about through the sin of Adam.  But this woman, the Mother of God, was sanctified and chosen by God to bear Himself; she was chosen from time immaterial to be God’s Mother. No wonder “all generations shall call [her] blessed!”  She carried God in her womb for 9 months.  It wasn’t that the fetus “became” God at some point in development, it wasn’t that God dwelt in a child after the birth of that child, it was that God humbled himself so much that he became that ball of cells, that fetus, that baby.

I still can’t wrap my head around the mystery of the Incarnation, or the mystery of the Theotokos, the Mother of God.  To think that God himself loves His creation so much that He unites His nature to our own through the Incarnation is mind-boggling.  This is God, the creator and sustainer of the universe.  And he chose a perfect vessel, the Theotokos, as the temple in which to make His home here on earth!  And, He chooses each of us as His vessel in which to make His home here on earth, so that we might be sanctified, made holy, and through the working out of our salvation be brought closer and closer to God.  So that at our death, because of the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, we might be united to Christ, sharing in His energies, united in love.

This is the mystery of our salvation, the Incarnation of God.  The death and resurrection of God was for the cleansing of the world from the corruption wrought by Adam, but it is in the uniting of us creatures to the Creator that we have our salvation.  As St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become gods.”

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This Nativity Fast has been a struggle for me, many times my physical body has been broken, racked by pain and weakness.  My heart has been broken, turning away from God, trusting in my own strengths.  My intellect and all notions of myself have been broken when I’ve had to realize that what I thought were “my dreams” were not God’s plan for me.  But, in God’s grace and mercy, I pray that this brokenness bring me closer to Him, more like Him.

Fasting is hard, fasting is a spiritual and bodily struggle. I fail at fasting.  Like the Publican, sometimes all I can do is cry “Lord have mercy on me!” Like the Pharisee, I strut my stuff, thinking “I’ve got this fasting thing down, look at me being so good.” And then God humbles me, breaks me, so that I might slowly be sanctified.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

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Happy With Myself

Image: source

Every day we are inundated with images.  We can’t escape them – they are on the internet, on TV, in the daily mail, even on billboards on the highway.  We get so used to these images – images which portray “perfect” happy people – that they influence our expectations of what life is, and what it should be about.  This being the Christmas season, everywhere I look there is a picture of the “perfect tree” or the “perfect table setting” or the “perfect kitchen” brimming with goodies.  There’s an enormous amount of pressure  to recreate this perfect life! So many times I’ve been tempted to buy something (really, I suspect this is the point of most images), or to make something, to recreate the perfect holiday.  But this Advent, because of health problems, I am making a conscious effort to step back, not push or over schedule myself, to just enjoy living.

Driving home today, I realized that I am really happy with myself, just the way I am.  I have a wonderful husband who takes the time to affirm me and build me up, to tell me I’m beautiful – this helps a lot.  To be really happy with myself and our life is something I haven’t felt for a long time (if ever).  I am very thankful to God for this feeling of contentment, even in the midst of unknowns, and I pray that I may continue to humbly submit to His will and live in His love.

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Bread Transformed

I’m not going to pretend to have any deep thoughts about what happens when we take communion in the Orthodox Church.  There are plenty of blogs and books that can explain this mystery much better than I can.  But, I do want to describe what it means to me, especially since transitioning to this gluten free lifestyle.

During the liturgy, we believe that we are entering into the presence of God.  This is not a symbolic presence.  We come into the Presence of the Living God, along with all the saints from ages past, present, and future, the seraphim, and the cherubim.  At the height of this worship and celebration is the Eucharist: the receiving of the body and blood of Christ.  Through taking the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies, we join with Christ, and we join with all other Christians receiving the life-creating body and blood.  This joining is not merely symbolic, an exercise of our intellect, but is a physical and mystical reality.  It is “communion” in the greatest sense of the word.  We become the body of Christ. As a finger is an integrated part of our body, we are an integrated part of Christ’s body, with Christ as our head.  We are joined, united, to Christ and to all others.

As we believe that we are not just symbolic members of Christ’s body, we likewise believe that the Eucharistic sacrifice, the bread and wine, are not just symbolic of Christ’s body and blood.  Somehow, during the Eucharist we pray that the Holy Spirit will come down and transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And we put our faith in God that He will do this.  The bread and wine, while remaining bread and wine, is also at the same time so much more than bread and wine.  It’s the physical and mystical reality of Christ.  It tastes like bread and wine, it feels like bread and wine, it looks like bread and wine, but at the same time that bread and wine is the deifying body and blood of Christ.

Why am I going to such great lengths to describe this?  Because I don’t get sick when I take communion.  In my normal life, I am sensitive enough to gluten that even a few crumbs of cake or a swallow of beer is enough to cause digestive problems and make me sick.  But, somehow, with faith and trust in God, and fear and trembling, I approach the cup, consume the Body and Blood of Christ / bread and wine, and don’t get sick.

I don’t understand why I don’t get sick, but the transforming power of God is at work. Glory to God.

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