Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bright Week Joy - Part 2

More joyful singing (and drumming and dancing!)  This time from an Orthodox Christian church in Ghana.  The video is in English.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bright Week Joy - Part 1

It is hard to convey the inward feeling of is not like super duper happiness.  It is something completely "other".  The following video, although in Serbian, does an amazing job at conveying the joy felt, not only on the Feast of Pascha (Easter), but the days following in Bright Week.  The words were written by none other than St. Nicholai Velimirovic, a very recent saint who I quoted a few times during Great Lent.  For those of you who don't know Serbian, myself included, the English translation follows. 

People rejoice, all nations listen:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Dance all ye stars and sing all ye mountains:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

O little lambs rejoice and be merry:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Nightengales joyous, lending your song:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

All angels join us, singing this song:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Come down ye heavens, draw near the earth:

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Glory to Thee, God Almighty!

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Glory to Thee, God Almighty!

Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!






Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen!

This icon is by the hand of a priest that wishes to be anonymous.  It can be purchased here from Come & See Icons.
 The following is the Paschal (Easter) sermon first delivered in the late 4th Century by St. John Chrysostom.  This sermon was read in every single Orthodox Christian Church throughout the world today (as it is every year).  

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.

And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Lent Week 7, Day 1

St. Joseph of Arimathea, by the hand of Nicholas Papas.  It can be purchase here from Come & See Icons.
Our final week of this exercise, also Holy Week, is dedicated to final corporal work (or act) of mercy which is to:

Bury the Dead.

How appropriate for this final week of the Lenten season, when on Good and Holy Friday, we bury Christ, the suffering servant, that this act of mercy should be recalled.  As the noble Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:42-46Matt 27:57-60,  and John 19:38-42) with the utmost of respect (and tremendous courage) took the Lord's body and buried it, so too should we respect the bodies of our brothers and sisters and carry out this final act of love.  Orthodox Christians believe that the body is not evil, but a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  So even if the soul has departed the body, it remains a sanctified vessel.   We have countless accounts in Orthodox Christianity, of both recognized saints and simple believers, whose bodily remains do not corrupt and when touched by the sick, they are healed.  If you ever happen to be in San Francisco, stop by the Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Cathedral where one can visit the incorrupt remains of St. John of San Francisco and Shanghai.  I have not yet been myself, but have heard first hand accounts of people, who have received healing and/or consolation of their sorrows.  This is not un-scriptural by the way. (See the account of Elisha's death 2 Kings 13:20-21 and the subsequent healing of a man that falls on his relics)

As an FYI, I wrote a post several months ago regarding the act of the noble Joseph removing the Lord's body from the cross which can be found here.  It contains a short video of a hymn that is sung at the service of the Lord's burial.

So...back to the task at do we bury the dead?

Other than the obvious, which is actually burying our loved ones, you can help people to do so.  Read your local paper's obituary section and you may come across people who state that they cannot afford burial, and there is a bank account number at the bottom of the obituary as to where you can donate.  I've done it, it's really easy.  You just walk into the bank and tell them that you would like to make a deposit into such-and-such account, and it gets done.  I don't recall them asking for ID or my name, so it can by done anonymously as well.  Another option, and I see these a lot in Phoenix, is going to a memorial car wash which raises money for funeral costs.  Now maybe you may not be comfortable with a bunch of kids washing your car, or you don't have the time to wait in line, but just walking/driving up to them and handing them a few bucks works too. 

This will be the last post prior to Pascha (Easter).  I'm going to do my best to stay off the Internet as much as possible for this final week of Great Lent.  Have a blessed Holy Week and I'll see you on that bright and beautiful day of the Lord's resurrection.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Great Lent Week 6, Day 2

We are now in the home stretch of Great Lent.  At the end of this week we have Lazarus Saturday, followed by Palm Sunday and then we are plunged into the quiet and sanctity of Holy Week.  It is time to really start putting off the everyday and preparing ourselves for the balance of the Lenten journey which is somber and sober.  

So we are now left with the final two Acts of Mercy.  This week it is to visit the sick, pretty self explanatory, but not easy.

Visiting the sick can be daunting.  Many times we don't know what to say, or we are uncomfortable with hospitals and nursing centers.   Not to be crass, but those places can really smell awful, and there can be people with dementia crying out making it an "unpleasant" experience.  These people are us though.  They too worked hard, raised children, buried their parents, defended our nation, and dealt with all the other harshness that is inherent with life on this planet ...and now they are sick and sometimes alone, with their lives seemingly to have meant nothing because now they are no longer "useful".   Oh what a horrid thing to say! May God help the society that adopts this type of ideology.   

Again, this is no easy task, especially since we live in a culture that likes to keep things sanitary and pleasant.  Try to find a way though.  I'm sure if you called a local nursing home and asked if they needed volunteers for bingo night or someone to play the piano during dinner hours, they would find a place for you.  If you can't do that, send a card to someone, make phone calls on a regular basis, or drop by for even 10 minutes with some cookies or whatever.  I'm telling you from experience, that even the slightest of acknowledgments can make a difference.          

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Great Lent Week 5, Day 2

It's Week 5 people...can you believe it?

Week 5's Chief Corporal Work of Mercy (which I have been just calling Acts of Mercy) is:

To Shelter the Homeless

To be quite honest, I can't say that I would take a stranger off the street and put him/her in my home.  For a number of reasons, I just wouldn't do it.  If I "knew" someone that need a place to crash for a while, well that might be different.  But I don't, so I need some other options.

There is of course the easy option of donating to a homeless shelter.  With a credit card and a few clicks, you can knock this one off the list quite easily.  But, let's put ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Do you know someone that seems kinda lost or maybe doesn't have many friends?  Although they may have physical shelter, they may not have any sort of emotional shelter.  Perhaps there is someone in your church or community that appears to be alone alot or due to social anxiety just can't make friends.  I know lots of people who are very quiet, introverted people and are often mistaken for being jerks because they appear to be aloof. I have found that, more often than not, these quiet folks just have a difficult time in social circumstances. So....make an effort to start a conversation, even if it to just introduce yourself and talk about the weather. You don't have to become best buds or divulge your deepest darkest secrets!  It's just that never know what even a simple smile can do for a this for confirmation of this thought:   Just a Smile and a Hello on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Great Lent Week 4 Meditation

Icon from biography at the OCA website (link below)

Today in the Orthodox Christian Church we remember St. Mary of Egypt.  Additionally, during Great Lent we also remember her on the the 5th Sunday of the fast, which will be April 10th this year.

St. Mary was born in Egypt in the fifth century, and at the age of 12 began to live a life of "debauchery" in Alexandria and spent the next 17 years in such an unfortunate manner. It wasn't until a life-changing encounter in Jerusalem that the course of her life took a 180° turn and St. Mary fled to the desert to live the rest of her days in repentance.  St. Mary's life is tremendous witness of battle and victory and it is no wonder why we remember her specifically during Great Lent.  Here's a longer version of her life and that of Abba Zosimas, the priest who discovered her living in the desert as a hermit: St. Mary of Egypt

Continuing with the reflections from The Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, here is his reflection on St. Mary of Egypt:

Why is it that much is said and written about the sufferings of holy men and holy women?  Because the saints alone are considered victors.  Can anyone be a victor without conflict, pain and suffering?  In ordinary earthly combat, no one can be considered victorious or heroic who has not been in combat, endured much or suffered greatly.  The more so in spiritual combat, where the truth is known, and where self-boasting not only does not help at all but, indeed, hinders it.  He who does not engage in combat for the sake of Christ, either with this world, with the devil or with one's self, how can he be counted among the soldiers of Christ?  How then is it with Christ's fellow victors?  St. Mary spoke about her savage spiritual combat to Elder Zosimas: "For the first seventeen years in this wilderness, I struggled with my deranged lusts as though with fierce beasts.  I desired to eat meat and fish, which I had in abundance in Egypt.  I also desired to drink wine, and here I did not have even water to drink.  I desired to hear lustful songs.  I cried and beat my breast.  I prayed to the All-pure Mother of God to banish such thoughts from me.  When I had sufficiently wept and beat my breast, it was then that I saw a light encompassing me on all sides, and a certain miraculous peace filled me."