Tag Archives: Holiday

Stand firm, like an anvil under the hammer.

Men that seem worthy of confidence, yet teach strange doctrines, must not upset you. Stand firm, like an anvil under the hammer. It is like a great athlete to take blows and yet win the fight. For God’s sake above all we must endure everything, so that God, in turn, may endure us. Increase your zeal. Read the signs of the times. Look for Him Who is above all time – the Timeless, the Invisible, Who for our sake became visible, the Impassible,  Who became subject to suffering on our account and for our sake endured everything. -St. Ignatius of Antioch

An icon of St. Ignatius being martyred.

It’s amazing how little can change over 2,000 years. St. Ignatius was a Bishop of Antioch, likely the second, who was martyred by wild beasts in Rome somewhere between 90 and 110 A.D.  Even so, his words, his call to vigilance, is just as acute and just as relevant today.

The Christian of today, at least here in America, does not have to worry about taking physical blows. Our martyrdom occurs in the intellectual sphere. Our aggressors attack not with boiling oil, red hot furnaces, or packs of starving animals. Our aggressors attack with scientific theories, which sociological explanations, and with charges of draconian and outdated thinking.

My priest pointed something out this past Sunday that is relevant here; especially around the holy days of Christmas and Easter, we presented with an increase in these attacks from our television. It is during these times that specials on the “real Jesus” are presented to us, shows that attempt to describe what life was like in the Middle East during the time of Christ and what sociological factors might have led to the formation of the religion which sprung up around him.

As Orthodox Christians we know that Jesus was more than just a mere mortal man. We know that the real story of Christmas is nothing less than a miracle, the joining of the divine with mortal, of God Himself submitting to be born, to grow up as a human child, to experience the world as we experience it, and ultimately to once again show us the road to perfection, heal our souls and to destroy the hold which death has over us.  We know that the “real Jesus” was born incarnate miraculously from a virgin but that He has existed from the beginning of time, co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We know that while he was born in the flesh and did indeed have a human nature, he also remained fully God and had a divine nature as well.

Every year Christmas comes earlier and earlier; more time for those fueled by their passions of materiality and greed to make money, more time for those who have been brainwashed to feel like they must give things to show their gratitude and love for others, and more and more time for our faith to be undermined, marginalized, and attacked from numerous angles.

Stand firm, fellow Christians, like an anvil under the hammer. If anything, history has proven that the Christian can be placed under fire for his or her belief, that the Christian can be pounded by other world-views and ideologies, but that all this serves to do is refine, shape and strengthen us.

The anvil is not us, but God, and on it we are crafted to be the swords of truth.

IC | XC
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NI | KA


Return to me…with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps He will again relent and leave behind Him a blessing, offereings and libations for the LORD, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridgroom quit his room, and the brider her chamber.  Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, and say “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say amon the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”

With that, one of the daily readings for today as specified by the Chruch calendar, the Eastern Orthodox Church calls her faithful to begin preparing for Great Lent. This is a 40 day period of purification and prepation for the faithful as we eagerly await Pascha–the celebration of Christ’s ressurection from the dead, the single most important moment in all of Christianity and without which the entire religion would not exist.

This 40 day period is also the strictest when it comes the Church’s proscribed fasting rule.  Officially from the morning of the firstday of Great Lent, a Monday, until evening three days later on Wednesday, no food is eaten. After that for the remaining time we do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, fish, wine, oil, or anything with those ingredients in them or are animal byproducts, with the exception being Saturdays and Sundays when wine and oil are permitted.

This more than the just “I’m going to give up chocolate for Lent” mentality that seems so pervasive. This is mortifying our bodies in an effort to overcome our own passionate will and to recognize that we rely on our God to provide for us and ensure our continued existence.

The Church Fathers have recognized for two millenium the value of hunger when fighting against the passions.  The Desert Father Abba Evagnus has said:

Lust is extinguished by hunger.

The great Russian Saint, St. Seraphim of Sarov said:

The passions are exiterminated by sorrow and suffereing, either voluntary or sent by Providence.

And these are just two of many examples.

Great Lent begins on March 2nd according to the New Calendar this year. For all of my Orthodox brothers and sisters, both here and worldwide, I humbly pray to God that this Lenten season will be edifying and profitable to you all. Let us struggle together to carry the weight of a self-inflicted cross, to fight against our passionate wills, and reflect upon what it is that our Great and Glorious King and God has done for us: He has set us from the snares of everlasting death and has corrected the Ancient Error so that we might have the means and the opportunity to recapture the Divine Image and Likeness and live in love in His presence.

To my Roman Catholic cousins who begin their Lenten period today, I pray that you will humble your hearts before God during this period, that you might treat it as not ‘Ordinary Time,’ but as extra-ordinary, other-worldly, sanctified time. Treat it as such, change your life to conform to this holy period and I am sure that it will be beneficial  to your souls as well.

Lastly, for the Protestants who do not follow a liturgical Church calendar, I pray that you might find your way back to this ancient observance and set it apart as a time of repentance and anticipation as well.

We are preparing for the second and more glorious Advent of Christ our God, greater than even Christmas. The only event that will ever be more important than this one to Christians will the third one! May God bless you all!

IC | XC
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NI | KA