Friday, April 24, 2015

Has Pascha Changed the Way You Live?

A couple weeks ago we were blessed to come together and celebrate another Pascha – the Feast of Feasts – the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We prayed, we sang, we lit our candles, and we feasted. But has your life changed at all? Other than spending a few hours in Church during Holy Week, is your life different this month than it was last month? If the answer is, “NO,” then you’re missing something in the celebration of Pascha.

As Orthodox Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Incarnate Word of God, took on human flesh, lived as a human being for thirty-three years, was crucified, died and was buried, and was RESURRECTED on the Third Day – all so that death no longer had any power over the rest of us humans. This is the Good News that we sing at every service for forty days after Pascha.

Christ is Risen from the dead
By Death trampling upon death
And to those in the tombs
He has granted life!

For the first Christians, this Good News gave a new hope that life, despite its challenges (and there are many) is greater than what we experience on Earth. Life begins here on the Earth, but last for all eternity (thanks to Pascha) with God in Heaven. This new hope changed the way the first Christians lived their daily lives. It changed the way the first Christian interacted with other members of society. It changed the way the first Christians understood the Love of God. Has it changed you?

The Christian Way of Life, the Orthodox Way, is a life dedicated to living in total communion with God AT ALL TIMES. It is a life in which God’s love shines in the way we interact with others. Do we guilt, shame, force, or otherwise trick others into certain behaviors or situations? God would never use guilt or shame to force us to love Him. OR do we show respect for the freedom of others and live OUR lives honoring God. Do we share our financial blessings with those who are in need? Do we share our time with others who are lonely? Do we share our knowledge with others who are struggling? The first Christians were known for the love and assistance they shared with others, including the very enemies who were killing them.

The first Christians lived a life that was radically different than at any other time in human history BECAUSE of Pascha, and the hope that the Good News offered. The Good News hasn’t changed....has it changed you?

The Woman is the Neck

In the now famous scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Mrs Portocalos proudly announces, “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” We may laugh at this “truth” of marriage, but the important role of women in the life of the Church should not be underestimated. It was the women who remained faithful until the end at the Tomb of Christ. It was the women who carried the Good News of the Resurrection to the Apostles. And it is the women of the Church that have continued throughout the centuries to “turn our heads” so we could hear the Word of God, and help to keep our hearts pure.

If you doubt the importance of the role of women in the Church in spreading the Gospel of the Resurrection, you only need to return to midnight on Pascha. The Church hears the Good News that Christ is Risen from the Myrrhbearing Women. “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” (Mark 16.7) Many of us also can remember our mothers and grandmothers bringing us to Church as children. They were “turning our heads” toward a life in Christ. Were we listening?

On the Thirds Sunday of Pascha, the Church reminds us of the important role pious women played in the initial Good News of the Resurrection. They were the first evangelists in the truest sense. It was only because the women “turned the heads” of the Apostles that they gained enough courage to go to Galilee and see the Lord for themselves. They were listening.....are we?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Proper Christian Witness/Martyrdom

This week's Bible study included a discussion by Saint John Chrysostom on what it means to be have a proper Christian witness, martyrdom and persecution. Follow the link below and be prepared to think...

This week's topics address the following issues:
  1. Glorify God and accept that you have received a gift to witness to others
  2. Nothing can harm the body, just the soul
  3. Spiritual persecution is worse than physical persecution
  4. A few earnest faithful are of greater value than many lazy faithful
  5. One/few can save many through their faithfulness