Every day, the Church commemorates a variety of saints, some ancient and some recent. If you were in a monastery, you might hear their names being commemorated in the Orthros during what is called the Synaxarion, a listing of the saints for those dates. In the long form, the Synaxarion includes the stories of the saints, but lo, we do not live in monasteries and most of our churches do not celebrate daily Orthros for us to attend. So many of us go without ever knowing the saints, and it is a shame.
What is it about Christmas carols that invoke so many memories? Both good and bad, the memories of Christmas seem to be interwoven with the sound of Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is coming to town, and this time of year there is no shortage of the sound of Christmas carols. I like Christmas carols, even if the memories are not always good ones.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, we often think about the actions we are expected to do for those in need. The story drives directly to our hearts, as we each find it difficult to spend time with others who are in need, pretending that we are too busy. If we are going to “be” the Good Samaritan, then must be willing to go out of our way to spend time with those in need. It is too easy to avoid the needs of others thinking we are too busy, but we can always do more.
Today is the first day of our Nativity Fast as Orthodox Christians, a fast that many in our contemporary society have forgotten. It is forty days of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and spiritual preparation to greet the Newborn King at Christmas. It is definitely counter-culture in today’s society, since most of our friends, neighbors and co-workers will spend the next six weeks celebrating the “Christmas Season” rather than preparing for it. By the time Christmas arrives in forty days, many of our friends will be sick and tired of Christmas.
A Cheerful Giver of Time
When you think about being a cheerful giver we often think about money, and to be sure being a cheerful giver includes money. Have you ever thought about being a cheerful giver as it relates to the concept of doing good works? Not everyone has a lot of money to give, but everyone has time to give to those in need.
It has become second nature to many of us lately to jump to words or even acts of violence the moment we encounter what we believe to be an injustice. If we witness behavior that we do not approve of, we immediately take to social media and blast this person or that business. It seems around every corner is some sort of battle being waged on social media, and unfortunately some of that literally bleeds into the streets with violent riots. I wonder what would happen if we took a different approach.
I had the pleasure yesterday of driving through Georgia, and I was blessed to witness ‘fall colors’ once again. Living in Florida for the past five years, I had forgotten what trees look like in the fall. Here in Florida the saying is, “Fall has arrived, the colors are changing on the license plates!” I miss the fall weather and beauty, so yesterday was a joy for me. Then I thought, maybe WE should be the ones dropping our leaves every year.
Did you know at your baptism, the Church asked God to assign a guardian angel to watch over you? It is believed by the Church that each one of us has angel assigned to protect us through our life, and to remind us of when we are going astray. Some people call it ‘a little voice’ but it is our angel that whispers in our ear just moments before we sin. When was the last time your prayed to your guardian angel?
When most people think about saints, they think about Saint Paul, Saint George, Saint Mary of Egypt, and of course the Panagia, the All-Holy Mother of God. Naturally, these are all ancient holy people whom the Church has been honoring for centuries. Their life stories have been incorporated into the life of the Church. Thinking about the ancient saints is a natural part of our Orthodox life, but we rarely think about modern day saints, let alone American saints.
It can be frustrating living as a Christian in today’s America. While we still have our freedom to come to Church for Divine Liturgy, and ‘go through the motions’ of Orthodoxy, when we leave the Church to interact with other members of society, just admitting we are Christian can cause arguments. It is what it, but sometimes it helps to admit it can be frustrating, but that does not change the fact the Church still calls us to witness our faith to others.