The Invitation

The Servant of God

The Servant of God

“Faith is a dialogue, but the voice of God is almost silent. It exerts a pressure that is infinitely delicate and never irresistible. God does not give orders He issues invitations.” This beautiful quote is taken from a lovely book by Paul Evdokimov, Ages of the Spiritual Life. This is a thought provoking statement, which really should be considered in these thoughts about faith.  We have spoken about teaching faith to children and learning faith from our elderly.  But, what is faith? The beginning phrase “faith is a dialogue”  is at once a simple yet complex idea.  With whom do we dialogue? What can we say? How does God answer our questions about faith?   As Christ tells us in the book of the Apocalypse (Revelation) 3, 20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock;

if anyone hears my voice and opens

the door, I will come to him and eat with

him, and he with me.

Isn’t this quite an invitation?  Christ is waiting for us. His response to our faith is assured. So like a child whose first steps are tentative, our first faith steps may be shaky. God is there waiting for us no matter how weak our faith. He has promised us that if we reach out, as did St. Peter, he will grab us by the hand.  The invitation from Christ is offered more often than we realise.  At each Divine Liturgy we are issued an invitation.  The call to the Chalice allows us to reaffirm our Baptism.  It is our adult response to eat with Christ and to partake of him. Our God stands in waiting. No matter how far we have wandered or how long it has been. The invitation is prepared and personal.  Our faith is not an exercise by which we test God, but rather an opportunity to engage God in our life. Faith depends on our attitude. Do we realise that we have move away from God? Is there faith, however weak? More importantly, do we love God? Our invitation awaits us.  The invitation reads:

With the fear of God, with Faith and Love

Draw near!

“I believe; help my unbelief” – Mark 9, 24

Simple Faith

Simple Faith

Last week, I wrote about children and the Church. We often hear children are the Church of tomorrow. What dribble.  Children and the youth are the Church today; but they are not alone. We all assemble as the Church. I have a problem that many of you who know me can confirm, I tend to approach faith intellectually. I read, study and search out answers. The photo that I use today illustrates that which I envy, YiaYia’s simple faith.

We read in the Gospels, Our Lord says many times: “your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10, 52.) What is faith? In the 11th chapter of his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul has a beautiful chapter on faith. Parts of the chapter are read as Epistle readings on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers (the Sunday before The Nativity of Christ in the Flesh – Christmas) and on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (the first Sunday of Great Lent). But, I believe one of the most touching thoughts is captured in the very first sentence of the chapter:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence

of things not seen. (Hebrews 11, 1)

One of the strengths of the Church is that each of us learn from the other. Last week, I said we are all responsible for teaching children. The beauty is that we can learn from everyone in the Church. If we stop and try to quietly follow the examples of faith around us; it will help our own spiritual growth.  Бабушка can teach all of us.  Grandma’s faith is born from years of prayer. Sittie’s trust in God gives us all an example, which will guide us.  Last Saturday, we celebrated the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Panagia is the model of the Church; remember her words: “Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” ( Luke, 1, 38)  Trust in God, by putting things in His hands. YiaYia has learned her simple faith; and she shows us this in her unbounded love.  As we approach faith, we must learn both from YiaYia and from our children. They share a simple trust in God.  Yiayia’s trust is born from prayer, and a child’s trust is born from innocence. They are two examples from different ages, but are they really that dissimilar? Putting faith in God give both, YiaYia and a child, a serene confidence and a peaceful reliance on His Love. Knowing that God loves us no matter who we are should allow us to put our hearts at ease. We have children, YiaYia and what is more important the example of the Most Holy Theotokos to guide us. Let us declare, as did the father of the epileptic boy: “I believe; help my disbelief!” (Mark 9, 24).

The Dormition of the Theotokos – 2009

The Dormition of the Theotokos

The Dormition of the Theotokos

APOLYTIKION

In giving birth, you did preserve your virginity, in your dormition,

you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated unto life,

since you are the Mother of Life; and by your intercessions

you do redeem our souls from Death.

KONTAKION

The grave and death could not hold the Theotokos,

who is unsleeping in her intercessions and an unfailing hope

in her mediations. For as the Mother of Life she was translated to life

by Him who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb.

Note to My Readers in Russia

Sts. Boris and Gleb - Beloved Saints of the Russian Peoples

Sts. Boris and Gleb
Beloved Saints of the Russian Peoples

Greetings in the Lord !

I wish to thank my readers in the Orthodox Lands of Russia and all Orthodox Slavic Countries. You are appreciated, loved and I continue to pray for you.  I read all your comments, but I must depend on a translating software by Apple to translate them. Regrettably, I do not speak Russian.  All comments are screened. I approve those which can be translated.  I will spam all improper  or lewd comments, but will try my best to translate, read and approve all of them; even the critical ones. I will answer all questions that are proper.

May God strengthen Orthodoxy and your faith journey. Thank you for visiting my site. вы и Бог благословляет!

Dn. George

The Church of the Home

...with Faith and Love

…with Faith and Love

Teach Your Children Well

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

I saw this beautiful photograph and immediately thought of this song from my youth by Crosby Stills and Nash. Now that I am a grandfather, the sentiment means so much more to me than it did in the sixties. The lesson you learn as a clergy man who is privileged to offer the Body and Blood of Our Lord to the faithful is that children show if they have been taught well. How children approach the Holy Chalice says worlds about their first Church, the Church of the Home. I have heard many opinions and arguments concerning frequent communion, but none are as powerful as a child approaching the Holy Cup with love and joy. Please, don’t misunderstand me all of us, even children, will have an off day. Perhaps, they’re tired or restless or it’s just one of those days. But, you can always tell a little one who comes to Church often and receives Christ in their life often. They show the love in their hearts with their eyes.

Teach your children well…All of us parents, grandparents and Godparents should teach well. There are many of us who teach, even if we don’t have children. Yes, we are all on a road and for a short time we carry little ones, until they walk on their own. Instilling a code they can live by is our responsibility. The community of faith is all of us; and we all have a duty to pass on this faith. We live in a world that at best ignores faith. Even worse, it can ridicule and denigrate faith. We cannot teach faith only on a Sunday morning. We must live our faith each day and reflect the love of Christ in our hearts with joy. Carefully answer questions of the young putting Christ first. We have all heard the expression, “We teach by example.” The lyric says: “so become yourself,” becoming your genuine self is living in Christ each day. Do this and with God’s help, you will teach your children well!

The Face of an Angel

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

The Angel of Ayia Sophia

Last week, I brought to your attention the news out of Istanbul that a mosaic of an angel’s face was uncovered in Agia Sophia Cathedral (Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας).  The latest news is that this mosaic was above what was the Holy Altar.  It appears the face was part of the Platytera Mosaic in the main apse. So from the six century until the end of the fifteen century, this angelic face gazed at the Theotokos and the Christ Child.  The faithful looked up for 916 years, that is from 537 AD when Justinian the Emperor finished the Cathedral to 1453 AD when the mosaics were plastered over. All those years the clergy, the laity and the imperial household chanted this hymn:

“All creation rejoices in thee, O Thou that art full of grace, both in the hierarchy of the Angels and the generations of men.  Thou art a hallowed temple, and a spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, whence God was made flesh and became a little Child, He Who is from Eternity our God. For He made thy womb His throne, and formed Thy body to be broader than the Heavens.  All creation rejoices in Thee, O thou that art full of grace, glory to Thee. “

Now once again, the angelic face is visible. Waiting there to join with the heavenly host to sing praises to the Incarnate One and the Theotokos, who is “more honourable than the Cherubim; and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” This is a manifestation of the true purpose not only of the angel, but also of the temple.  The way the angel was covered suggests that it may be the first to be uncovered and that more may be awaiting under the surface to be revealed.  From iconographic schemes, angels are usually not placed singularly, except for the Archangels. Our prayer is that this is the first, of many, we will see.  Just as we know that each of us is accompanied by our guardian angel, this uncovered angel has been as a silent guardian to the image of the Platytera and the Incarnate Christ.  Axios!

Platytera