The Arena: An Offering on Contemporary Monasticism by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov. Reading a page a day as recommended by Bishop ANTHONY at our latest clergy retreat.
Confession: A Series of Lectures on the Mystery of Repentance by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). Reading as recommended by Bishop ANTHONY at our latest clergy retreat.
The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament by David Limbaugh. Referred to me by a parishioner. A popular, accessible survey of the Old Testament that makes the point that Christ can be found throughout the Old Testament and that the New Testament is broadly informed by an understanding of the Old Testament. Still just getting started, but is a good reading thus far. (And, yes, the author is that guy’s brother)
Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Mark by Larry Hurtado. I’m trying to be better about doing a more systematic reading and study of the Bible. I decided to start with the Gospel according to St. Mark because it is the Gospel we primarily read during the Sundays of Great Lent. This commentary seems to strike the right balance between scholarly and pastoral.
Is Great Lent something that we to conform to our lives? Or do we conform our lives to Great Lent?
If we take the former approach, the urgency of the world around us renders the practices of Great Lent optional: fasting, participating in lenten services, making a good confession, giving alms, etc.
If we take the latter approach, we tell the world that its urgency has to wait for a 40-day season, then fasting, participating in lenten services, making a good confession, and giving alms are things that we can actually do, even though they remain challenging.
So much of contemporary Orthodox practice can succumb to an “optional” view of icons in our personal piety. This is the photo of the prayer corner in our home. Every Orthodox home should, at a minimum, have an icon corner with icons of Christ and the Theotokos.
Other icons to have in a prayer corner:
- patron saints icons for each family member
- festal icons that have significance to the family
- saints who have a special significance to the family, etc.
On Christ’s Resurrection
When we celebrate the feast of Pascha, do we simply approach it as recollecting an event that happened 2000 years ago? Is it simply the Church’s version of celebrating an event like we would a family birthday or anniversary? What is significant in celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ each year?
A place to start is to look at the New Testament readings that we have during the Paschal season. Throughout the year, the first reading we have in Divine Liturgy is a selection from one of the writings of the Apostles. They are typically letters written by the Apostles, coming almost exclusively from the letters of St. Paul. Starting at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, we “reboot” these readings and start with readings from the Acts of the Apostles. We continue these readings in Acts until the feast of Pentecost 50 days later.
Acts is unique among the apostolic writings in that it is no a letter, but rather the first book of Church history. It begins with the Apostles a few weeks after Christ’s resurrection with the events of Christ’s ascension, describes the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and continues with the spread of the Church throughout the known world. It begins with the Church as an obscure backwater movement with Judaism and ends with St. Paul’s arrival in Rome, the very capital at that time of the known world.
What is telling in this book is the sense of urgency the Apostles have in sharing news of Christ’s resurrection from the dead to those around them. Time and again, the Apostles preach about Christ’s resurrection to whatever crowds they find themselves in without concern for their own personal safety. Sometimes those who hear the preaching respond negatively and harm the Apostles. (The story of St. Stephen the Protomartyr is one good example from Acts.) When the response from the crowd is positive, there is urgency in those who hear the news and concern for what they should do next.
Why is there such a sense of urgency? If the Apostles were simply marking some sentimentality or joy of their lost friend and teacher no longer being dead, why is there be this level of urgency involved? If Christ being risen from the dead is only about what happened to Christ, what urgency would there be for the rest of us?
The answer is that we are each connected to His resurrection personally. There is a radicalness to the message because it is saying something applies to all people, regardless of their background. When the crowd positively responds to the Apostles’ preaching, they ask “what do we do next?”, and the Apostles tell them every time “be baptized.”
At the Paschal Divine Liturgy, we sing “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” What the Church says here is that through baptism, we put on Christ’s death and resurrection as our own. We are not simply marking the event of Christ being risen from the dead. Christ’s death and resurrection are his triumph over death through resurrection. Through baptism, I acquire this triumph for myself: although I may live in a fallen world and am susceptible to sin, suffering, and death, I can ultimately overcome these forces through Christ.
The urgency in the Apostles’ message is “what Jesus has done through His death and resurrection is available to you.” The urgency in those hearing this message is “how can I acquire what Jesus has done for myself?” The response is “be baptized.” It is with these words that we see that Pascha is no mere recollection of a past event, but rather the celebration of a promise that we all can participate in. Christ is risen!
My February 2015 article for Orthodox Christian Network’s The Soundings blog:
On Domestic Missions
My January 2015 article for Orthodox Christian Network’s The Sounding blog:
On Having a Prayer Corner at Home
(December was a busy month and I didn’t manage to write a post.)
My November 2014 article for Orthodox Christian Network’s The Sounding blog:
On Sabbath Time