Sunday, November 24, 2013
Saturday, November 16, 2013
When I was a teenager and very much a born-again, tongues-talking, charasmatic Christian, I remember when Billy Graham came out with the Book Angels: God's Secret Agents so I rushed to the huge Christian book store in Manhatten and was about to ask about the book when a very old lady came up to the counter and asked, "Do you have the book, Angels, Angels, Angels by Billy Graham?" Uh, lady, that's not what it's called but looking at the graphics on the book, I can see how this dear woman thought that was the title. In any event, the book by Billy Graham was a really interesting read and since it was so long ago I don't remember any details of the book, I can say that I remember that I really liked it. Angels, you see, are a fascinating subject.
And, of course, the Church holds angels in honor which is only appropriate since they look out for us and guide us to Christ. The Vespers service was inspiring, as always and it was a delight to behold the icons of Gabriel and Michael on the doors as we sang their hymns.
When I told my son that I was going to Vespers that evening, I told him we were commemorating St. Michael. He told me, that only humans can be Saints and not angels. I told him he was wrong since they are in heaven praying for us. Then when I got to Vespers I noticed that in the hymns Michael was referred to as archangel and not Saint Michael.
So my question is for those of you who are more knowledgeable than I: Are angels ever called Saints or is that just reserved for those people on earth who have struggled toward Salvation? I think the Roman Catholics call Angels, Saints and perhaps that is what I was thinking about when I referred to Michael as St. Michael. So, please, enlighten me! ☺
Fr. Gary's homily was a short teaching on Angels, their ranks and how they act on our behalf. Some "modern" Christians don't believe in Angels but I am glad that the Orthodox hold them in high regard. I do know that I shall have to thank my Guardian Angel when I see him and apologize for messing up so much. But maybe I have an angel that likes to keep busy so, perhaps, he doesn't mind me messing up so much. After all, I wonder how much work angels have if their charges happen to be Saints already.
Holy Angels, pray for us!
Sunday, November 3, 2013
When I walked into the Church two Saturdays ago (October 20th would be #119), I went up the side steps to the Church, as I normally do but I won't be doing that anymore (more on that later.) I was happy to be in Church early and I said a prayer for my wife's two uncles, both of whom were in the hospital that very week. It was comforting to be in the presence of Saints, whose prayers I "felt" and it seemed easy to offer my own prayers, knowing those in Heaven are helping me through. I know people say they feel God everywhere, especially in nature (or on a golf course Sunday morning) but to be in a Church that has been set apart for Worship and consecrated by a Bishop is something that should not be downplayed. In Church, you can get close to God. Yes, God is everywhere but there are places on earth where God can be more easily sensed. I was glad to be in Church and pray for my family.
Father Deacon Alexander, newly assigned to our parish, led an Adult education class on Thursday. I was able to attend and there I was happy to see Jim Martin and Tiffany. Deacon Alexander was talking about the structure of the Church (the physical building) and said that always in an Orthodox Church, there are steps leading up to the front doors. In this way, the faithful can remember that they are ascending to the Kingdom. Now I always liked to come in through the side doors (which took me to the Narthex) and even though they too have stairs, I think that I am missing the teaching point for myself if I don't come in through the front doors. Every time I ascend the steps in order to attend a divine service, I am reminding myself how I am connecting with the Kingdom of God. So for now on, it's the front doors for me.
Last night, (#120), I put Father Deacon Alexander's lesson to heart and walked through the front doors. On the way up the stairs, I uttered a short pray. I came early so I didn't feel rushed as I venerated the icons. That's a good thing. I need to work on being less "self conscious" and more "God conscious." Fr. Gary was not there last night and Father Sergious filled in while Deacon Alexander sang in the choir. Fr Sergious has a deep voice which is very pleasant to listen to.
Today, (Sunday) is my last day of my online class. (Yay!) After I post this entry, I am going to take a final exam which is almost three hours long. I woke up early so I can finish in time to attend church with my wife and son at my protestant parish.
Thanks again for all your prayers and comments!
Sunday, October 13, 2013
|It's hard to stay angry, if you want to be obedient to the Scriptures|
photo by Dave Appleby, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_apple/
Enter Sacred Scripture: While sitting listening to the Old Testament readings being chanted at Vespers last night, I heard a passage from Deuteronomy:
Therefore, circumcise your heart and stop being stubborn.
Now, I have been accused by my family members in the past of being stubborn and they may be right so when I heard the command in Deuteronomy, it did get my attention. So, the first chance I got, when I got home from Vespers, I went into my son's room and apologized. He seemed grateful to hear it. I guess when Fr. Gary says, "Let us be attentive" right before the readings, he does so for a good reason!
I have a question: There was someone else with Fr. Gary, leading in most of the prayers. I think he was a Deacon but I was not sure. Are Deacons ever allowed to go through the Royal Doors or is that only for Priests? I saw this man the last time I was here and I couldn't figure out if he was a Priest or not. He did incense the Icons during part of the service. Is that only for Priests to do? Last night, at the beginning of Vespers, he said to something to the effect of "Arise and worship" and in doing so, he called Fr. Gary Master instead of Father. I meant to ask Tammi about it last night we got to talking about other things and I forgot.
Speaking of Tammi, she was all excited to tell me about an interview on Ancient Faith Radio of Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist Mega church Pastor. It was a great interview and I was impressed by his humility and willingness to reach out to all Christians! You can listen here if you like
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
|Felt as distracted as a Dog chasing a squirrel|
photo by Simon Andrews
used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at:
I am a person who really likes routine so when that is disrupted it makes me hard to concentrate on the important things in life...like Worship. Yes, I went to Vespers Saturday - and, as always, I am glad I did- but it was really hard to concentrate because last week was my first week learning a new job at the TSA. As grateful as I am for that job, I still wish I had a steady routine going because I feel scatter-brained and that makes it hard to Worship. It has even affected my daily prayer rule.
I know; it doesn't matter how I feel, I just need to remain faithful. But whenever I Worship in a distracted manner, I feel like I am cheating God out of the attention He deserves. I guess that doesn't matter and I should, (in what I hear is favorite priestly advice,) Do the best I can.
I took some ownership of one of the prayers during Vespers in which Fr. Gary instructs us to "bend our necks." The prayer continues with us declaring that we will look to no one else for help, except the Lord God. I guess that is a good thing to do, considering how the Lord has never let me down before.
Keep me in your prayers, friends, as I struggle through my new job; pray that I will remember Christ and His Church throughout all of it!
Oh by the way, for those who don't know A.D.D is short for Attention Deficit Disorder....
Monday, September 23, 2013
|my new job|
So my heart was full of gratitude, as we chanted the Psalms. I was sad that I missed the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. We began this Vespers by venerating the Cross before Fr. Gary switched out the Cross for a different Icon. But, I was exhausted last Friday due to some running around I have been doing.
So, thank God, for my new job! I will let you all know how I am doing.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
|photo by Alexander Kavun, used under the creative commons license.|
check out more photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alex-rk/with/9287954322/
|What the Icon look like up close|
After Vespers Fr. Gary said that even though it is unusual to have General Confession on a feast day, he said, since it was already on the calendar, he would. I was glad for it. After the conversation I had with Fr. Gary where he suggested that, since he can't hear my confession (until I am Orthodox, that is) I should confess my sins during Evening Prayers at home. I hadn't thought that the monthly General Confession would be a good time to confess as well. So I did. Hey, it's the next best thing to "one on one" confession.
So, September marks the new Church year. I listened to a podcast on the way to Vespers from Fr. Ambrose called Holy Apostles Weekly Homilies. You can hear it here. In it, Fr. Ambrose mentions how it is customary to make New Years Resolutions on December 31st. Well, we should do that for the New Church Year so I think I shall resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of all the Saints, to attend as many services as possible, to be faithful in morning AND evening prayers and to start fasting with the Church. I know I mentioned that I would start fasting back when I got the great "priestly advice" at the end of August but I hadn't started yet. It's a lot harder to implement when you live with non-fasters, especially if those non-fasters are doing the cooking.
During the General Confession there was a small Snafu that was quickly resolved. Fr. Gary said the first sentence, beginning the Confession Service and waited for the Reader's response. Well, for five long seconds, we heard nothing. Then, the reader said something (he moved himself to the choir loft) but it was clear that he didn't have the book in front of him so he stumbled. Well, Reader Daira stepped up and said that part and things went very smoothly. The Reader in the choir loft, by this time, had found his place on the page and resumed his reading at the proper time. I mention all of this because, to me, it was a great example of how Worship is everything and we all work together to make sure that it is beautiful and God-pleasing.
Keep me in your prayers, dear readers and may this new Church year bring you closer to Christ and His Kingdom