A Desperate Hell

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“But it crossed my mind that to know others on a superficial level only is a desperate hell and life is worth living only if the veneer is stripped away, the polish, the wax, and we see the true grain of the other no matter how far less than perfect, even ugly, even savage at the heart.”

Four Souls
Louise Erdrich

Why Orthodox?

Why people choose to become Orthodox

“There are many reasons why people choose to join the Orthodox Church. It is the church that was described in the New Testament. It does not try to approach God in a relaxed or casual manner. This is because the church is the only one that has teachings that have not changed from the very beginning.

The church wants to please God, not people

The church is not concerned about entertaining the people. It is through Orthodox Christianity that people can be sure that their children and grandchildren will be able to worship as they worshipped and believe in the way they always did. The church worships the Trinity, which means that they believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church believes and practices the faith of the Christian in every part of their lives. The church is serious about how it takes the Christian life. The Orthodox Church is based on every part of the Bible, not just a selection of the teachings. The Orthodox Church does not take a minimalist approach to worship and faith. With the Orthodox Church, you can be sure that the teaching and the worship style have not changed and will not change even when the pastors change.

The church puts praying before anything else

The Orthodox Church in France prays the Lord’s Prayer at every single service. Few churches put such a large emphasis on prayer and include it so much in their worship. The attendees in the church participate, and they do not act like they are spectators. The church still worships God using myrrh, frankincense and gold. The church did not take part in the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials or the Inquisition. The goal of the church is to imitate the heavenly worship instead of trying to imitate the current life or the modern culture. The church believes that there are many things that people can learn from those that have already finished the race before them. The church baptizes using the triple immersion. The Orthodox Church believes that becoming a disciple is more than just showing it off. The church believes in the priesthood of the believers, which includes everyone who is a believer.

The church does not change its beliefs

The Orthodox Church has never been reformed, counter-reformed, restored or revived. The church does not use the verses of the Bible out of context. The Orthodox Church worships the way that the apostles did. Theologians and the spiritual leader of the church outshine the leaders in other traditions. The church uses an Old Testament canon as it was used by disciples and Jesus, and they do not use the Jewish manuscript. For the Religion of France, doctrine matters. There is no other church that gives the same level of honor and respect to the Mother of the Lord. There is no other church that worships in the way that it is based on Biblical worship. The church was able to survive its persecution, which was the bloodiest of them all, and it was able to thrive from it. There is no other church that can claim to be more apostolic, catholic, holy and one. The church is not about being cool, politically correct, mainstream, sexy or relevant.”

The Bells are too Loud

StPetkaPentecostI’m sure all priests have heard this complaint from neighbors from time to time. I remember my former parish we’d ring the bells at midnight on Pascha. Personally, I never had any problems or heard any complaints from neighbors but I was told that for years one specific neighbor would call the priest each year and voice his concern. Our other neighbors confirmed this story (in a roundabout way) since the same neighbor use to complain to them about their dog barking.

We’re not here to annoy anyone, much less give them reasons to complain about the church. That’s why I don’t toll the bells at Paschal Matins at midnight in my current assignment. It wasn’t done here when I arrived. Now that I think of it, though, that might be because someone had complained once long ago. I don’t know.

But I did receive a complaint today.  It was about the bells and how they go off so much more frequently than before: Sunday 10am, OK we get that one; but then again at about 10:20 then again at about 10:45-50!! Then on Saturday (Memorial Saturday), then this morning!! (Pentecost Monday). I had to delicately break the news to her that she’ll hear them again tomorrow on Pentecost Tuesday.

People work night shifts and are sleeping. That was the reason for the complaint. I apologized and asked her if she works night shift. Well, she replied, I’m retired but “other people” are complaining. I gave her my business card and said they are more than welcome to call me with their complaints. She hesitated. If you’re not going to change, she reasoned, what’s the point of calling?

In the end I said I’ll try (“try” being the key word here) to shorten the sound of the bells. I found it interesting how, in her reasoning, she noted “with everything that’s going on”….As if on top of the coronavirus and the riots NOW I gotta listen to these bells!!!!

You know, it’s customary in some countries – and cultures –  to have the bells toll during times of distress. The sound brings comfort.  As someone had once noted, just as iconography isn’t merely art, the bells are more than just sound. Rather, they are an icon of the voice of God.  As such they must be rich and deep. And, unfortunately, loud.  That’s why bells are usually placed high above in a bell tower.

It’s there, high above in the clouds that the sound comes from. Subsequently, that’s where the complaints should be addressed.

Presence in the Absence

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[A transcript from today’s homily delivered by Bishop Maxim on the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension.]

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We are in the Paschal and Pentecostal season. That is the season of the church and that is the cycle of events that mark the entire Christian existence.  So then the entire life of us Christians is a Pentecostal and Paschal event.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ’s Ascension which is also called the Day of the Savior, Spasovdan. And the meaning of this feast is so moving that it is truly worthy of us mentioning at least a few aspects of it.

As we know, after Christ’s Resurrection He spent forty days with His Disciples teaching them. And by teaching I mean not giving them instruction but simply being with them and with His way of living showing what it truly means to live the way of the uncreated. And by ascending today He took with Him His human nature to the realm of the uncreated God. We call it heaven but it’s even more than that.

When He left the Disciples they were not sorrowful as we heard in the Gospel, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And one can wonder how someone can be joyful when ones most beloved persons departs and leaves.

But, dear brothers and sisters, in the Church the absence is not what it is in the created existence, in our everyday life; especially when we speak of the presence of the absence in terms of Christology. Christ is never absent from the Church because He is the head of the Church but His seemingly absence is the real presence. Why: Because He leaves it to our freedom to accept His presence as a free event of our own freedom. That negates our conventional logic and affirms the logic of the resurrection, the logic of God who is not visible but is visibly present in our lives and the entire creation. So by celebrating Christ’s Ascension we affirm our freedom as human beings, we affirm our faith in the visible God, with His promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit, which keeps the Church alive and also gives the certainty of faith to the entire universe and the physical absence of Christ is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

And that’s the next celebration, the next feast we are going to celebrate very soon. We see already how all these dimensions are intertwined in our life: the Spirit, Christ, the Trinity, the Church as the image of that existence. So that even those who are absent today at the liturgy we know they are present in the Holy Spirit, that mysterious person who fills and fulfills everything that Christ has promised His Church, His Disciples and to us Christians of all generations.

May God bless you all and may we all, with certainty of faith and our freedom, accept this physical absence as a real presence of the Eucharist so that we be faithful disciples of the Lord.