Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning prayers

This morning I was a little distracted, and by the time I realized it, I was sitting down to coffee before my morning prayers.  So I stopped drinking coffee, and started praying.  My preferred morning prayer rule is from the Jordanville Prayer Book, which was the first prayer book I ever purchased.  I paid $3.00 for it in 1982, which was probably all of my money for the month in which I bought it (I was six).

About the time I reached the first prayer of St. Macarius the Great, Birdie (our younger female dog) came into the room with a squeaky toy in her mouth.  This was not a problem, since she immediately dropped the toy and began watching me pray.  Usually, the dogs are not up and about when I am in the morning, so I think this was the first time she's ever watched me pray.

After a while, she became bored, and lay down next to where I was standing.  Until, that is, I began the prayer of St. Ephraim.  She began responding to the prostrations and metania, and for the last three metania I made during the prayer, I got licked on the side of the face.  Great way to greet the morning.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Signs of the Lord

Witness the sign that occurred at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, as famously recounted by Rowan Atkinson.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy

This Sunday of Great Lent, the first, commemorates the restoration of the icons to the churches of the faithful. Perhaps the greatest debt the Eastern Church owes the Western Church is the preservation of icons and religious art, for it was the Popes of Rome who preserved the true faith of the fathers and upheld the veneration of holy images for the edification of the faithful.

As we heard today in church, "This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which has established the universe." We do not worship the icons; we worship the reflected grace and glory of God, which shone forth through the saints depicted in our icons, and the religious truths depicted therein. We venerate the icons, as we venerate our beloved family members long gone before us, whose photos and portraits we preserve. As Father Benedict preached in his sermon today, we are all called to be icons in the world; we are summoned to live a Christ-like life as an image of God's grace to us. If we are blessed, we may inspire other Christians; if we do not hew to our faith and duty, we may drive others to sin. Let us all strive to be true images of the grace and glory of God. Let us all be icons to one another.

The previous two paragraphs were a Facebook post made earlier today.  Tomorrow is the Feast of Annunciation, and I continue my personal quest of attending Liturgy for each of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church this liturgical year.  Fortunately, my schedule of teaching at William Carey University allows me to attend the vesperal liturgy tomorrow night, because I had an exam scheduled for tomorrow night, which will go forward.  It is a blessing that my lesson plan fits the year so well.

Holding the icon of my patron saint, Saint Alexander Nevsky, I was reminded of the harshness and persecution experienced by the faithful, and the great fortune we enjoy in America living and worshiping freely.  Saint Alexander could not live freely even in his own country, and the Russian faithful suffered horribly under the Mongol yoke.  Today, we processed around our church, singing the Troparion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, no doubt presenting a bizarre spectacle to the neighborhood, but free and joyous and blessed by God to worship Him in the fullness of the faith.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lenten preparation

For Lenten preparation, I, for the first time in my life, subscribed to Schmemannism* and purchased from the parish bookstore Fr. Alexander's Great Lent: Journey to Pascha.  Together with that, and the Triodion (which I read every year- thanks be to God, Met. Kallistos and Mother Maria), and some few other works (The Master and Margarita, War and Peace, Fear and Trembling), I have my Lenten reading.

*I have been present at a service where a priest intoned the following phrase: "and quenched the flames of Schmemannism,"** so this is a big step for me.

**This may not be entirely true.^

^But it sounds good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My journey to Orthodoxy, Part 2

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is a strange place.  It's a university town, defined by its relationship with the University of Southern Mississippi and to a lesser extent William Carey University.  It's the county seat of Forrest County, named for Nathan Bedford Forrest.  And it's been my home for the past ten years.

I knew when I moved to Hattiesburg that there were no Orthodox churches for at least an hour's drive.  In 2003, I still drove to Jackson about twice a month to attend Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church.  The hardest thing was the discipline to attend divine services.  Once I slacked off on divine services, I slacked off on prayer.  I was caught in a world of hedonism and despair.  This really qualifies as my wasted youth, even though I was 27 at the time.

I found a ROCOR mission in Semmes, Alabama, and I attended sporadically.  It was a difficult thing to drive from Hattiesburg to Semmes, passing along US Highway 98 eastbound through the most depressing slog of two-lane garbage I'd ever seen.  But the church community was warm and welcoming, and Fr. Alexander and Matushka fostered a great Christian spirit.  During this time, I recovered some of my youthful interest and involvement in the church, and most of all, my interest in something other than the world.