Sunday Typika

Today we commemorate the Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cyrus and John.

You can read about them in the Saints section of oca.org

 

Typika to be served at home

 

Letting Go in times of uncertainty

I grew up, as most of us did, in a school system which emphasized planning. I learned to schedule time for homework assignments, work time, play time, social time; all the things in the life of the successful student.

Planning continued to be emphasized when I entered the workforce. I learned management techniques designed to create and implement the goals of the organization in one year, five year, fifteen year plans. Margins of error were allowed but goals had to be set. And not just for the organization, I was encouraged to set personal goals and develop plans accordingly. Keep my eyes on the prize, be a man with a plan…. And I was, despite the poster on my wall which read ‘Let Go and let God’.

I regularly assessed my life, considered my options, prayed and decided on a course of action, because as my mom used to say, God can’t steer a boat that isn’t moving. Even if that was true, it wasn’t God steering the boat, it was me, at least until I foundered or couldn’t read my chart.

When I reach the point where I had done everything I could and could do no more, I would finally “let go and let God” take over. Or if some sort of unplanned disruption happened, accident, illness, whatever, I would ‘let go and let God’ until life settled down into some sort of new normal, then I would take back control and steer my life as if I knew what I was doing, And God would let me if I insisted, because… free will. It’s taken a lot of foundering and mistakes for me to finally allow God to take full control and be my pilot in all that I do.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. Psalm 5:8

I used to read the latter part of the verse as “make my way straight before you.” This is the difference between, “Oh Lord, bless that which I am about to do” and “Oh Lord, what do you want me to do?”

I’m not saying I let God decide every little thing in my life. I’ll not stay in bed until I have a word from God as to what clothes to wear, what colour socks to put on. I went through that briefly, shortly after I became a Christian and dismissed the exercise as silly. I am, like every person, created with the ability to make decisions and it is my decision making which can enable or delay my salvation BUT (and it’s a big but), if I am in continuous prayer, keeping my eyes on Christ, opportunities to serve God will make themselves known.

For instance, one day I had to run to the store where I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for awhile. We talked for a bit and said goodbye. I have no idea what effect, if any, our meeting had on her. But I do know if I had been grumbling about running out of whatever, and becoming irritated with the necessity of leaving home, the parking, the number of people in the store and my inability to find what I needed right away, it would have been a very different conversation, if I had had one at all. Instead, I treated the ‘inconvenience’ as an adventure.

In the past, I spent one week experiencing all of life as an adventure and that was when my family moved to BC. We drove from Northern Ontario at the end of January. It was a week of ‘letting go and letting God’. We experienced vehicle breakdowns which took us off the road during snowstorms. We met strangers who helped us with problems and fed us pancakes while we shared stories. It was a wonderful week of wondering, what is God going to do next and actually looking forward to the next problem to find out.

It’s the way I want to live my whole life. Doing what God sets before me, even though it may have nothing to do with what I’ve planned.

Lord, open my eyes so I can see Your way straight before me.

Time in the desert

Well, I can’t avoid talking about this Covid19 outbreak, especially since it has replaced the weather as the number one topic of choice. So here are a few thoughts.

As a confirmed introvert, I rejoice in the option of self-isolation. I no longer have to search for excuses to avoid social gatherings, now I can just humbly say, “For the good of the community and especially those with compromised immune systems, I will stay home,” and I am viewed as a community minded person and no longer as anti-social. I can now engage in my personal projects without having to worry about stopping because ‘now its time to go somewhere’. There’s no where to go, no people to see and lots of things to do at home! Finally, a government decreed world of introverts.

That’s the upside, the downside… I don’t get to go out when I want to. Even as an introvert, I like to occasionally eat out, go to a movie, see friends and, most importantly, attend Church.

And that for me is the biggest downside.

As a Christian, being part of the body of Christ means being a part of community. At our church, we have a potluck after every Sunday liturgy where everyone can sit and talk and share and enjoy each other’s company. During this season of Lent, we have mid-week services where we are refreshed for the battle of self-denial. We have book studies where seekers can learn about the faith and the faithful can share thoughts with one another. But because we’ve chosen to comply with the health guidelines, these extra services have been cancelled. Sunday liturgy has been curtailed until April and may be longer.

Normal no longer exists, at least for now. But that’s okay. I now have time to reassess what’s important in my life. Being in the relaxing presence of family and friends, talking, teasing laughing, these are things I enjoy. I can, to a certain extent, maintain those relationships with the use of technology but technology is limited. On the other hand, community festivals, sports activities, concerts had little impact on my life, so I won’t notice their absence.

But I regret not participating in the life of the Church especially during Lent, the journey to Pascha. I haven’t missed Holy Week or a Paschal service in 20 years of becoming Orthodox, in fact this Palm Sunday will be the 20th anniversary of my family becoming members of the Orthodox Church.

So what does this mean, is my journey through life, to achieving full humanity as Christ did, dependent upon my weekly attendance at church? The simple answer is ‘No’, though regular attendance at services with other members of the body certainly helps me on that journey.

It’s the difference between exercising by myself and exercising with like-minded people. When I set a goal, others can encourage, support and even work with me to achieve that goal. When I’m by myself, its so easy to fall back into bed or not to practise because there is no one checking up on me. If I am to succeed by myself, I have to have the intestinal fortitude to be disciplined in my daily exercise program.

Throughout history, Christians have experienced times when regular church attendance was impossible and yet they didn’t lose faith. In fact, many emerged with their faith stronger than ever. They did so because they had a personal active, vital prayer life, something I need now I can no longer attend services.

During Lent, the Orthodox Church honours St. Mary of Egypt. She was a woman who wasted her early life through self-gratification. When she finally repented, she spent the next 40 years, in the desert, by herself, praying to God for mercy. In all that time, she saw a priest twice and had the Eucharist once before she died. Yet she is considered a great saint for the discipline she imposed upon herself as she journeyed towards holiness.

St Mary is my example of self-discipline and my prayer book contains my exercise program. I will begin with Psalm 91.

Holy Mother Mary pray for us and may the Lord guide and strengthen us all during our time in the desert.

Is arguing theology worth it?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years discussing theology and have recently concluded… there is no point.

Orthodox means ‘right beliefs’, but right beliefs don’t necessarily translate into right action.

James 2:19 says “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

The demons have right beliefs, even Satan knows the truth about God, but what do they do with the knowledge? And that’s where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. I could read every theology book there is, I could get a PhD in theology, I could discuss theology and teach theology, but it will not do me one iota of good if I don’t live theology.

After all, Saul was a student o Gameliel, he studied and he knew all here was to know about the messiah according to the Jewish scriptures. If studying and learning about God can lead someone to the full knowledge of God then not only Saul but all the students of the Mosaic Law should have recognized Jesus as soon as He made himself known, but they didn’t.

Those who readily recognized Christ for who He was often the lowly, the humble, the unlearned, those who had to rely upon their neighbours, their family, their community for their existence. He was recognized by those who knew the people around them were important.

Saul, despite all his learning, didn’t know Christ until he was struck blind on the road. Humbled, he had to accept the assistance of others in order to live, the very others he was trying to find and kill.

Too often, knowledge leads to pride and pride always stands between us and God because it stands between us and others. When this happens, often God will allow something life changing to happen leaving the formerly prideful to rely on others for help. Kind of like a heavenly slap upside the head.

Learning from, and teaching, others is part of my journey to becoming human. But how I do it will determine the success of that journey. Do I express myself in pride and arrogance; ‘listen to me because I know more than you’ or do I share in humility; ‘these are the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned, if you would like to hear them’.

Arguing and debating, especially about the things of God does not convince anyone. More often than not, these things play right into the enemy’s hands by causing strife, grief and broken relationships. I know, I have lost the good will of many people over the years trying to beat them over the head with theological arguments.

Despite the accepted definition of Theology as the study of beliefs about deity, theology literally means the study of God; “Theo” meaning God and ‘ology’ meaning ‘study of’. I need to study God and not just beliefs about Him. I study God by getting to know Him, by drawing closer to Him, by eliminating the things that get between me and Him.

The only way to truly get to know God is to constantly be in His presence. The apostles spent three years with Christ, living with Him, eating with Him and observing how He treated others. It wasn’t until after Christ’s resurrection that they fully understood they were travelling towards the Kingdom and they were commissioned to bring others with them using the same methods Christ used, forgiveness, love and humility.

Even though I was born two thousand years after Christ walked this earth, I can also live in God’s presence. God’s grace is all around me in creation, let me treat it with respect and gratitude. The image of God is within every person, let me recognize Him and love each person He brings to me. God’s presence fills the church during a service. His life is in the Eucharist. The words of the hymns and psalms wash over me teaching me more theology than any book.

This is how I can live in God’s presence, by being present in the Church. This is how I can proclaim the gospel, by loving others. This is how I can become living theology, by striving to become fully human.