Evening Prayer: April 1st

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Psalms: 91, 92
Gospel: John 8:33-47
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that our redemption in Jesus Christ is exactly that, a redeeming. In the true sense of the word, to redeem something is to buy it back…..to get full value out of something….to bring it out of one state of being into another. That is what Jesus is talking about here.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was not simply an act of substitution for sins….it was an active plan on the part of God to gain back the sons and daughters he had lost during the Fall, to pay full price for us, and to claim us as his own.

This is one of the reasons why in recent years, I have come to preach and teach the Christus Victor model of Atonement

In defeating the devil and “buying us” back with his Blood…..God made a profound statement to the world. Human beings no longer needed to be slaves to their own human nature…..but are now free to pursue the good, and to seek union with God.

More than that, God made it clear that there is nothing he will withold from us in order that we might come to love with our whole heart, and to live into our full potential; as stewards of Creation, as a community of faith, and as a people called to love without exception. A people whose transgressions and shortcomings have been utterly forgotten and put away :). +

Morning Prayer: April 1st

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:1-8;14-20
New Testament: Romans 6:1-11

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:5-6)

Today I’m going a little off-script….at least according to he Western calendar. 🙂 April 1st is a day when the Eastern Orthodox Church venerates one of my favourite saints; Mary of Egypt.

Mary was a prostitute who went around Egypt seducing men and living the life of luxury. Tradition tells us that she was not sold into the sex-trade, but rather chose to go into it because she enjoyed the power and control it gave her. At times, she even refused the money gained through her services, and gave in to lust purely for the pleasure of it.

One day, she sailed with a client to Jerusalem, and–as it was the Feast Day of the Holy Cross– she went to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and found herself unable to enter by a mysterious force.

In that moment, Mary realized that she was denied access because of her sinful ways and became distraught. Gazing upon an icon of the Theotokos, she begged Holy Mary to allow her inside to repent and partake of the Sacrament; promising that if this happened, she would retreat to the desert in repentance and austere living.

Her prayer was granted, and after being fed with the Eucharist, she retreated to the caves of Egypt….not even worrying about food or extra clothes….she eventually took to wandering the desert naked…..living the life of a hermit.

After many years of solitude, she runs into Fr. Zosimas….who himself is a monk in Egypt. He is amazed by her story and asks if there is anything he can do for her.

She requests to have the Eucharist, which she had not shared in since leaving Jerusalem. Fr. Zosimas agrees and Mary is once again fed the Body and Blood of her Lord….miraculously walking over water to reach Him. 🙂

After this exchange, she asks that Zosimas return again in one year on Maundy Thursday. He agrees, and–one year later– finds her dead body perfectly preserved in the place by the river where they had shared Holy Communion.

I love this story for several reasons. For one it has all the elements that make a saint’s story great. Intrigue, flashy sin, and brazen attitude. Mary of Egypt was very much a woman in control…..and who made no apologies for her action.

And then, the focus shifts to the gift of grace and mercy……of a sincere desire to repent….and the courage to run away from all worldly distraction.

What I find fascinating is that Mary of Egypt’s life was one of a recluse……She was not actively involved in reaching out to the poor, or spreading the Gospel to those on the streets……but rather making up for the mistakes of her past by living in holiness.

Hers is also a story that upholds the transformative power of the Eucharist without having it as a main focus of the story. It places the emphasis on the desire to change, and the way in which the Sacrament can strengthen us to take on the challenges of true conversion and a true turning to Christ.

May Mary of Egypt….our desert Mother pray for us..and serve as an example to us of what it means to truly repent, and to be made Holy even in spite of our sinful past. Amen, and thanks be to God for her witness to us. 🙂 +

P.S. For those of you who wish to read the account itself, here is the link.. Enjoy!

Evening Prayer: Feb. 11th

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Psalms: 91, 92
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon by St. Leo the Great

Did you really expect a picture of anything else??? Vive le Egypt!

The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,
but you, O Lord, are on high for ever. (Psalm 92:6-8)

While I am loathe to meditate on Scripture in light of a revolution……I’m going to do it anyway :P. In case you haven’t heard, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned today in the face of pressure from its citizens. This is an amazing accomplishment…and certainly an event that is a first for my generation.

The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan signify something much more powerful than political movement. It is a living example of truth and discontent speaking to power; of the proletariat and middle class alike joining forces to face dictatorship.

The idea of justice triumphing over corruption is all over the place in the Psalms. The revolution is nowhere near complete. It remains to be seen who will take up the leadership/gain the support of the military. It has the potential to be a disaster and a repeat of the past…but it also has the potential to be a move in the direction of true freedom.

What is most moving to me is that although 300 individuals have died in this movement (RIP <3), it has been a largely non-violent movement; standing in stark contrast both to Canadian/US military efforts, and the stereotypes which seem to surround the nations, republics, and kingdoms of the Middle East.

Let us unite our prayers that the spirit of peace and change remains with this movement, and that the voice of the Egyptian people continues to be heard. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 3

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Psalm: 71
Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-13
New Testament: Galatians 5:1-15

Christians link arms and protect their Muslim brothers and sisters while they perform their daily prayers (salat) Photo Credit:NevineZaki

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I write this blog post humbled. I admit that this morning I was rather apathetic about praying the Daily Office; hence the lateness of this post.

And then I saw the picture above….of Christians in Egypt showing incredible solidarity with their Muslim brothers and sisters during a time of tension and revolution.

Here I am bitching and complaining that I have to get up early in the morning to pray….and now…. I am struck by the fact that I live in a country where I don’t need protection to practice my faith. I am free from fear of violence and intimidation by my government.

Right now, in the Middle East…the revolution which started in Tunisia has caught fire throughout the entire region. Citizens are gathering the courage to stand up for what they believe in. More than that, there is a conviction that things will change and change for the better.

Hope is springing eternal, and unfolding right before our very eyes.

Let us never take for granted the freedoms we enjoy…and join our prayers with those who are seeking justice and freedom from oppresssion.+

Evening Prayer: Jan. 17th

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Psalms: 9, 15
Gospel: Mark 3:7-19
Patristic Reading: Chapters XIII to XVI of St, Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (scroll down the page to find the text)

St. Antony of Egypt

Today/tonight is the commemoration of St. Athony, the father of Christian monasticism. According to the story he retreated to the desert after hearing the words of Matthew 19:21

‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me

That attitude of all or nothing has always attracted me to Monasticism and the Desert Fathers…..I know I could never do it :P…but I admire those who can.

In place of my own reflections tonight…..I urge you to check out this documentary which is at once both inspiring and intriguing:

The Last Anchorite part 1:

Part 2:

God bless+ 😀

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