Although they are sold in the jewelry department in almost every department store, they aren’t jewelry, at least they shouldn’t be. Today I’m talking about wearing your prayer rope and your cross in public. As an Orthodox Christian, we are invited to not hide our faith, but does that mean we should wear our cross and prayer rope in such a way that others see them, and ask about them?
Here we are on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, and after spending weeks reminding us during the Triodion about our personal spiritual journey, and after reminding us of the truth of the Church last week on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, today the Church makes a bold statement. Salvation is a group effort.
There is what I call an old Orthodox Christian myth about Pascha that today is the perfect day to explain. Many people believe that since Orthodox Pascha is normally after Western Easter that it is due to the date of the Jewish Passover. It seems like every year I read hundreds of posts claiming that we cannot celebrate Pascha until after the Jewish Passover. This is not true, and this year is as good a year as any to better understand why.
Something nobody ever considers is serving other publicly as Christians. In fact, most Christian invoke the quote from Christ, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6.3) How can I possible suggest serving others publicly? Doesn’t this go directly against Christ?
The answer depends upon your intention. It always depends upon your intention. I’m sure you remember the importance of context when we read the scriptures. This verse is the answer Christ gives to avoid hypocrisy. Here is the entire passage.
Because of the penitent nature of Great Lent, when there is a feast day such as the feast of St George, the feast is transferred (delayed) to a day after Pascha. It is believed that such feasts are too joyous to celebrate during such a somber period. It is believed even the Feast of Transfiguration (believed historically to have taken place 40 days before Pascha) is transferred to August. One feast, though, holds strong in March.
Today’s topic of ‘going public’ with our Orthodoxy is not so simple. Christ Himself said, “But when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6.6) How then can I suggest that we pray in public when Christ tells us to pray in secret?
Fasting in Public
When it comes to fasting, especially during Great Lent, going public is definitely NOT recommended. In fact, it is founded upon in the Church. “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” (Matthew 6.17) During Great Lent, our faces should shine they are so clean. But there is something we CAN bring public during Great Lent, and it includes fasting.
On the first Sunday of Great Lent the Church celebrates what is known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. It is a day to celebrate the restoration of Holy Icons since 787AD. For us as Orthodox, this celebration is not just about allowing icons in the Church, but a confirmation the truth that God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a confirmation that we believe and live in the way that was established by the Holy Apostles, the one who were promised by Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit would come and guide them into all truth. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is about the truth of God.
Though not as common in the modern Church, especially here in America, throughout history, public displays of the Orthodox Faith were a vital part of both evangelism and apologetics. Processions such as the Sunday of Orthodoxy which took place yesterday in every Orthodox Church throughout the world, used to be very public events. You wouldn’t realize it by the way the Feast is commonly celebrated today with Sunday School processions inside the Church, but at one point such processions could be witnessed throughout the year.
Ever since the creation of humanity, we have been at war with the devil. Since the first conversation with Eve, the devil has been trying to turn our attention away from God. Unfortunately, the devil has had many successes throughout the millennia, beginning with Adam and Eve up to this very day. One of the great lies we have been told over and again, is that God doesn’t care what Church we attend, or what doctrine we believe, so long as we are good people. We are told God doesn’t even care IF we go to Church, so long as we believe in Him.