By my estimation there are over one thousand Orthodox Christian Churches in the United States when you combine all jurisdictions within the Canonical Orthodox Church. That means there are over one thousand opportunities for the Church to be a daily blessing to the people of our nation, whether they are Orthodox Christians or not since God is the God of everyone.
On the day the Church commemorates the beheading of John the Baptist, the Church asks us to strictly fast to teach us, that life not is about our own pleasure. We live in a society that promotes the lie that we can have what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Too often we act like King Herod and strike out against the Church for trying to tell us ‘no’ when we demand something. Jesus Christ referred to John the Baptist as the greatest man ever to be born of a woman.
Sometimes we find ourselves asking why should even bother? There are so many who don’t really live as they should or pray as they should. It can be very tempting to throw up our arms and say, “Forget it! It isn’t worth it!” I understand the temptation, trust me, but I also know it is worth every moment we work to help each other live in Christ.
Today we are honoring the gruesome martyrdom of “the greatest man ever born of a woman,” (Matthew 11.11) as a warning against pride and greed. John the Baptist stood as a bold and public defender of truth and morality when he reminded Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." (Mark 6.18) Later as Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod, he was so taken by her beauty that he swore to give her anything she wanted.
Today is the Feast of a Saint I grew up knowing absolutely nothing about. I had no idea there was a saint dedicated to helping us find things that we had lost. Although little is known about this great Saint, which could explain why I never grew up knowing about him, it has become a pious tradition to pray to him to assist us in finding lost objects. In appreciation for finding an item, it is customary to bake a special cake which bears his name. Today is the Feast of Saint Phanourios, the Martyr.
When it comes to contemporary American life as Orthodox Christians, we often find ourselves between a rock and hard place. One the one hand, we know we must love all those around us despite their rejection of the Gospel of Christ. On the other hand, we must avoid falling into the trap of rejecting the Gospel in an attempt to remain accepted members of society. If we fail at either of these, we fail as Christians.
Today the Church commemorates the memory of the Apostle Titus, one of the 70 Holy Apostles, who had come to the faith through the missionary efforts of Saint Paul. He lived to an old age and served the Church in Cyprus as Bishop. We see in Saint Titus, the fruit of Saint Paul’s efforts to teach and preach the word of God. That’s where it can be confusing for today’s Christian. Did Saint Paul really mean that we had to obey civic leaders?
When it comes to dealing with the difficulties of life, it can be very easy to lose focus on Christ. It happened to Saint Peter, as we hear in the Gospel story of St Peter Walking on Water (Matthew 14.22-34) and it can happen to us. The solution is the same. We need to remain focused on Christ, and He will always hold our hand and keep us from sinking in the storm. He will walk with us, but He will not force Himself on us. He is waiting for us to call to Him, “Lord, save me.”
As Christians, we live our life under the false impression that we are somehow earning our way into heaven. If we are obedient to the commandments of Christ, then He will be somehow obligated to grant us a place in heaven. If we do and say the correct things, then God would be disingenuous to keep us out of heaven, and yet each day we awake determined to get ourselves into heaven.
It happens all the time. “Father, I saw there was church last night. What holiday was it?” Sometimes there was no holiday at all, but there were services in the Cathedral. I understand this can be confusing, so today, I will answer the question, “Why does the Church have so many services?”