Did you ever get the feeling like your priest, and through your priest, the entire Church, is saying the same thing over and over again? Don’t you think maybe the Church would catch on that ‘we’ve heard this before’ and say something new? There is a trend in the modern society to accuse the Church of being out of touch with the society, and not caring about the things we modern people care about. Still, the Church insists on the same message again and again.
It is a common tradition in the Church, but many do not know the origins of celebrating “Name Days” also known as Feast Days. For example, today is several saints are commemorated on the Calendar, including, Acepsimas the Bishop, Joseph the Presbyter, and Aeithalas the Deacon. Today is also the commemoration of the Dedication of the Temple of St George the Great Martyr. What does all this have to do with our tradition today of celebrating ‘our’ name day?
When we use the resources that God has given to us to help others, they are not the ones who are blessed. We are blessed when we help the poor and others in need. The poor are blessed by God simply because they suffer, but we will suffer if we do not help with the blessings that God has already given to us. We have to choose to be on the side of love and compassion to be blessed by God in heaven. The alternative is suffering in hell if we allow our selfishness and keep our blessings to ourselves.
Staying in Your Lane
I’ve been working in the Church for 28 years, both as a lay person and clergy. In that time, I have come to appreciate the saying “stay in your lane” when it comes especially to Church work. I learned early that different people have different skill sets, we call them talents in the Church, and they are the most helpful to the Church when they use those talents for God’s glory. I have also learned that many people in the Church like to get involved in things for which they have no experience, nor talent.
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) the un-named rich man was in the torment of Hell because he refused to serve the sick and poor man named Lazarus. Many times we think that it is the poor that benefit from our charity, but according to the Gospel, this is not the case. When we feed the hungry, their stomach might be filled, but it is our soul that fills with the love of God and enjoys unity with Him. As an alternative, when we refuse to help the poor, while their stomach might remain empty, their soul is filled with the comfort and love of God.
I’m one of those types that likes to watch the news. I was in college during the first Gulf War, and learned quickly that the only way to know what is actually going on in the world is to watch as much “raw coverage” as I can. I learned young not to wait for the news to tell what someone said. I wanted to hear it myself, to make a judgement myself about what was said. That is a luxury of the modern cable TV and internet world. In the past, we had to trust the message to be given to us by those we trusted.
Yesterday the Greek World celebrated OXI Day, the day which commemorates the courage of the Greek people against tyranny during World War II. It is a day which does not honor ‘greekness’ per se, but the willingness to stand up against those who would oppress others to make the world look like they desire, rather than how God desires. What does this have to do with our life in Christ? OXI is the Greek word for ‘No,’ and we would do well if we said ‘no’ to sin more often.
The other day, I wrote about the tradition of the spiritual father in the Orthodox Church. I realize that it is one thing to speak about having a spiritual father, and it is quite another thing to choose a spiritual father. If we are going to be obedient to him, then we should know, as much as we are able, that he is leading us to the kingdom. Not every spiritual father is the same.
In our attempts to convert the world, we forget sometimes that WE don’t convert anybody. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes any conversion of the heart to Christ. We forget sometimes that our interactions with nonbelievers, or believers who doubt, are not about proving that God is real. He can prove Himself to others. Our interactions are about proving that WE believe in Him, and that WE are willing to risk everything to follow Jesus Christ.
Many times I am approached by parishioners and even visitors with questions about faith and the Orthodox Christian way of life. Questions range from how and when to fast, how often to receive Holy Communion, and a large variety of questions about life choices. While I am always ready to have such conversations, I also understand that not everyone understands why we even bother to ask the priest such questions.