There is an old saying, “Just because you sit in the garage doesn’t make you a car.” Well, I don’t really know if it is an old saying, but I heard it a long time ago, and I’ll admit I always heard it along with, “And just because you sit in Church doesn’t make you Christian.” There are many who profess to be Christians, even Orthodox Christians, who seldom if ever find themselves in Church or living the Christian life. Have you ever wondered if it is even possible to be a Christian in “name only”?
I remember one time I was asked why we fast for the Feast of Annunciation. I responded, “We don’t. We eat fish!” If every time you fast, you simple don’t eat meat, then you would never appreciate the depth of my response, because on the Feast of Annunciation, we feast by eating fish while still not eating meat, dairy or eggs.
As Christians we are called to live in the world but not be of the world. We are expected to live without being weighed down by the physical blessings that surround our lives. We are invited to be willing to leave it all behind to follow Christ. We are called to be saints!
On the Feast of Pentecost, the Church recalls the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit to guide and protect the Church in all truth. If we believe in Christ and His Holy Spirit, life will flow from our hearts like rivers of living water. Two thousand years ago some chose to deny Christ and trusted their own truth, but Christ is the Truth and the Holy Spirit has guided the Church to maintain this truth. It is a truth we can trust.
During this period between Ascension and Pentecost, when the Church is “waiting” for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that the Holy Apostles were anxious about the wait. We must keep in mind they thought the coming of the Messiah would mean the end to their suffering. They thought (this explains Judas’ fervor for rushing the process) that the oppression from the Romans would end now that Christ had arrived. They were wrong, and they were anxious.
There is a very good book that I encourage anyone who is concerned with church attendance to read, and to read it with an open mind to your own faults. It doesn’t take a scientist to discover our churches have fewer people today (in MOST cases) than fifty years ago, and for those who are attending church on a regular basis, the average age is at or above retirement. Statistics bear this out. The Church celebrates more funerals than baptisms and weddings, and many clergy report rarely if ever seeing parishioners in church after their wedding or baptism. There is a problem.
When we contemplate such horrific instances such as the most recent school shooting by a Greek Orthodox young man, we wonder how such things can happen. Some even turn to blaming the Church for not doing enough to help people in their struggles. The truth is, painfully enough, that people can choose to use their free will to love God or to hate Him. The difference comes down to knowing about God vs actually knowing God. The only cure for our cultural pain is for us take the opportunity to know God, which is only possible in the chalice through Holy Communion.
During a conversation recently, I was asked to explain how we determine the truth among all the different teachings in the world. How do we know the Church is teaching the truth? I believe this question haunts many today in the Church who are seeking to know the truth. With the availability of the internet and a different church on ever street corner in America, it can be quite confusing to determine the truth about God.
Today is the Leavetaking (that’s a fancy word for end) of Pascha. That means today is the final day we sing and say Christ is Risen for another year. Our Churches will undecorated today in anticipation of the Feast of Ascension which begins with Great Vespers this evening. The Resurrection Banner is put away, the Epitaphios Icon is returned to it place of storage, and the last few remaining flowers are cleaned out. Some may even say the Church is “back to normal” because it will look like it does the rest of the year again.
Take a moment, right now, to step away from your computer and go outside and look around. Then come back, If you’re on your phone, put it down for a moment and look around. I’ll wait……