Today, I’d like to share a miracle which came into our life. God provided us an example of his great love. We shared in the blessing of life. Today, our new grandbaby arrived. He is number five. He joins his three little girl cousins and his big brother, Vassili, but he is the first to grace us while I am doing this blog. It seems only right to share some reflections on him joining our family. The truth is ever since we learned that Katina, our daughter, and Vastan, our son-in-law were expecting, we have been praying for them and the new baby.
When we learned the baby was going to be a boy he acquired a name, Peter Nicholas. The little guy was going to be named for his two uncles, one on each side of the family. Little Peter has been a topic of great speculation. When exactly would he come, how much he would weigh, how big would he be? Well, today we got all our questions answered. He made his appearance on February 21, 2009, he is 191/2” long and he weighs 7.4lbs.
I once heard that a baby was proof positive that God is love. This is one of the most simple and most profound statements we could consider. St. John the Evangelist states so plainly, “God is love” (1John 4, 8). Our God is a community of love, a constant exchange of love between the three persons of the Holy Trinity. A new life is a reflection of that love. Here on the desk is an icon of the Glukofilousa, (The Sweet Kissing Virgin). What a beautiful expression of love between the Theotokos and Christ, what peace, what perfect joy. Here into our life, that joy is revealed once more. We need to be open to God’s love, to allow it to permeate our soul and to have appreciation for it when it comes. This can happen not only in the big events, like the birth of a new baby; but in the little things. That is the challenge, stopping to recognize God revealing Himself and His love to us and letting that blessing soften our heart and bring joy into our life. Look at your life. Has God revealed Himself and His love to you? Maybe He has, but you were too busy or preoccupied to notice. The pace of life is so fast that many times we can not recognize the love of God. It may be that small event, that person we meet or the opportunity to open our own heart; yet we do not cherish the moment or perceive the encounter with the love of God. St Silouan the Athonite prayed, “O Lord, by Your Holy Spirit enlighten Your people that all may know Your love.”
I don’t know if you ever ask this question, but as far as I’m concerned I seem to ask this question a lot!Ok, God what do you want from me?It seems that I am always asking the question without expecting an answer.Well, the Gospel for next Sunday, the Gospel of the Last Judgment (Matt 25, 31 – 46) answers this
SEPERATING SHEEP FROM GOATS
question pretty specifically and without equivocation. The entire exhortation can be boiled down to one sentence.Blessed are the merciful!It requires mercy to feed, clothe, heal, visit, give drink, or welcome.St John Chrysostom remarked in a sermon on this passage, that we take pity on a poor stray dog and feed him when we encounter him, but we are most likely to ignore our fellow human if we come upon them by the side of the road.If we care for the physical needs of our fellow man, do we ignore their more basic spiritual needs?Do we welcome strangers to Church or think about clothing them in the garment of incorruption, their baptismal garment?Do we try to feed them with spiritual food, free them from the prison of loneliness or despair?It seems that if we go down to the soup kitchen or meet people’s physical needs out the back door of the community center, we’ve done our good deed.
However, we really don’t want “those kinds of people” in the pew next to us. It is easy to give a loaf of bread, but a much more difficult commitment to share the bread of life, the Holy Eucharist. The banquet of the Kingdom is the wedding feast, and the king wishes all to attend. He desires the room to be full.The servants gathered “the good and the bad” and invited them into the feast.Has the king invited you?Whom shall you bring?
This coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the second Sunday of the Triodion in the Orthodox calendar. It seems to me that every year when this week rolls around I tend to play a mind game with myself. Who am I this year? The quick and the safe answer is to say I am the prodigal.
How very humble and fitting. We’re all prodigals at one time or another. After all last Sunday we were reminded that the “good guy” was the Publican; when he realized he had a lot to answer for and admitted it. So, once again the safe bet is to tell ourselves, that’s me. None the less, when we shut the door isn’t it human nature to say, I am really not that bad. So, who do you think you are in this story.? My view is that at times we imagine ourselves to be each of the characters at one time or the other, Maybe that’s the way Christ intended us to look at this parable. At different times of our lives, we are anyone of the characters in the tale. Perhaps we are the prodigal, the owner of the swine, the companions in sin, the brother, the servants who attend to the returning son, the party going friends of the brother, the waiting forgiving father. Or even someone never mentioned, the mother, who may very well waited, worried and quietly rejoiced at her son’s return only to cry again at her elder son’s callousness. The question is: Who am I this year?.
It seems to me that we Orthodox look at icons of saints and immediately think of super religious people who are so distant and so removed from our daily lives that we can’t relate to them as people. As I began to study the life of Patriarch Methodios 1 of Constantinople, I felt exactly this same way. You may not know, a few years ago I based my doctorate studies on this saint because no one had actually studied him in detail. He is depicted in an icon which we see at the beginning of every Great Lent on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
So, he must have had something to do with icons, but other than that who was he? Ultimately, this is the question we should ask about each saint, but more importantly we must ask how do they make a difference for us today? At the time I began my studies Methodios was a stranger. This is the reality of all saints unless we look at them in the light of faith. They stand as reflections of Christ, in their time and their place. Every one, young, old, male or female is a person who faced life with one thing in common with us today, struggle. All of us struggle to live a life that matters, not in the great things but in the real things. A life that matters is the path each person must travel. So consider a saint’s life as a journey. Look how they made the voyage. When they came to that fork in the road to which we all come, how did they choose? Yes, Methodios is the Patriarch who presided over the first Sunday of Orthodoxy. He is right there in the icon! If the people of the Church made him a saint, put him in icons and gave him a feast day; it is because he a chose a certain path. What will be your choice? The life of a saint may show you the “Way”.