Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why March 25th is a Celebration for ALL Generations

Growing up Greek in America I was never without my opportunities to share with my friends what makes “us Greeks” different from the rest of the world…but it got a little old explaining why “Greek Easter” was later than everyone else’s Easter. It was refreshing as I got older and began to have a better understanding about what it meant to be Greek in America, and even more refreshing when I finally understood the importance of March 25th – The Annunciation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For many Greeks in America (or Americans of Greek descent as some prefer to be known) March 25th was, and continues to be, the celebration of Greek Independence Day when the mighty Greeks stood up to the Ottoman Turks in 1821.

But as history teaches us, the Greeks CHOSE March 25th as the official celebration of Greek Independence because that date meant something in their lives – (as Saint Athanasios said) God became man so that man could become divine. The celebration of that “Good News” is celebrated by the entire Christian Church on March 25th. There could be no better date to celebrate freedom from the oppressive Ottoman Empire than the same date when we celebrate freedom from the oppressive demons of hell.

For those of us Greeks who gather in Churches and Courthouse stairs to celebrate Greek Independence Day, it is our duty and blessing to share with the world the Good News and hope for ALL generations. In announcing His coming birth, God is announcing our future life with Him in heaven. Just as announcing freedom from the Ottoman Empire signaled hope for a better life for the Greeks, freedom from death and gates of hell signals our hope for our eternal future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Christian Way – The Original PDF

PDF is a term most people recognize as a term for a document that has been prepared to share over the internet. Long before computers or even paper and pencil, Jesus Christ established the original PDF when He said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” He also said, “For whoever desires to save his life with lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8.34-36) The Gospel of Christ is meant to be shared with everyone who desires to know about God and how He wants us to live.
We cannot live in communion with God AND the world. We must make a choice. Either we chase after wealth and prestige which the world teaches, or we follow Christ. The way of the world is selfish and dedicated to pleasing our bodies. The way of Christ is dedicated to pleasing God. The best part is that God doesn’t force us to follow Him. It’s our choice. It’s our freedom. But we must make a choice. Do we choose wealth and prestige now or heaven later?

If you choose heaven, then it’s easy to remember….PDF

P – Pick up your cross. Every time you struggle to do the will of God you are picking up you cross. With the cross comes suffering, but the suffering is nothing compared to the joy God has waiting for us in Heaven. We learn to embrace the suffering by prayer.

D – Deny yourself. Every time you give up your will to God and His Church you come closer to understanding that life isn’t about pleasing yourself but pleasing God. We learn this by fasting.

F – Follow Me. Following Christ means ACTION. We cannot just watch Christ if we are following Him. We must be doing as He does and living as He lives. We learn this by treating others as Christ would treat them – with love and respect. This is almsgiving.

Friday, March 9, 2012

So, Whom are You Bringing to Christ?

As Christ traveled from town to town many sick and suffering were brought to Him for healing. Once in Capernaum Jesus was speaking at a home filled to capacity by listeners when four men carried arrived carrying their paralyzed friend. The house was so full of people the four men couldn’t even get in the door for Christ to help their friend. They were so dedicated to helping their friend that they climbed up on the roof and lowered their friend in to see Christ. Without the efforts of these four friends, this man would still be standing outside waiting for a chance to see Jesus. “When the Lord saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’” (Mark 2.5)
When we take the time to bring our friends to the Church to meet the Lord, we should our love for our friend and our faith in God. During this Lenten season we are invited by the Church to strengthen our relationship with Christ. Just a few weeks ago we heard Jesus clearly state that our judgment was based upon how we treated others and cared for their needs. The best way we can care for the needs of others, whether our neighbor, friend, or blood relative, is to invite them to join us in Church so they can experience the Love of Christ for themselves.

The nice part is we don’t have to climb up on the roof and let them down on a rope. We can simply invite them to join us sitting in the pews. In Capernaum Jesus was teaching and many came to hear Him. Every Sunday in our Church Jesus speaks to us through His Gospel and the Divine Liturgy and we are gathered to listen and be inspired by His Holy Wisdom. There is only one thing missing….our friends.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Should I Give Up for Great Lent?

I hear this discussion so often that I am more convinced that most do not understand fasting from the Orthodox Christian point of view. First and most importantly fasting should not be considered purely as an act of self-denial. “I must give up something I really enjoy. God sacrificed His life for me; at least I can sacrifice sweets for Him.” Although fasting is about our relationship with God, it is more about self-control rather than self-denial. Self-denial emphasizes the concept of punishment rather than loving control.
The central aspect of fasting is to place our will (our desires and wants) as second to the will of God. The benefit of fasting is to die to ourselves and allow God’s will to control our will. Indeed this is one element of self-denial BUT when we choose what we will “give up”, in truth we don’t release any control. WE choose what WE want to give up? How is this self-denial?

This idea, of “cafeteria style” Christianity, where we choose what we want from a menu rather than allowing the Church to guide us, is a symptom of our selfish desire to always remain in control. It is also present in our moral decisions every time we choose whether or not a teaching of the Church has any value or truth.

So if we want to give something up for God during Great Lent, we should begin by fasting according to the teachings of our Church. I assure you that if you don’t already fast, following the established guidelines of the Church will not only show God you love Him but it will also be more successful in training us to sacrifice our will for the will of God.

Remember one thing when it comes to eating….Adam and Eve chose for themselves what they would eat.