The Gospel in Chairs…….

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Given that I haven’t posted all week….I thought I would share this with you! πŸ™‚

Ever wondered what all this talk about Jesus dying for our sins is all about??? There are two systems of thought….One being the juridical model of St. Anselm, and the other the Christus Victor (restorative) model, outlined most fully by the Cappadocian Fathers

This video outlines both systems in a very effective and accessible skit πŸ™‚

While I don’t think that the two theories of atonement are diametrically opposed to one another, this presentation helps to highlight the main difference between mainline Roman Catholic and Protestant thinking, and that of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The first view places a strong emphasis on God’s sense of justice, the second on God’s undying, radical love for humanity.

As with anything, I think there is a balance between the two…..a valid concern to correct injustice…..but at the same time…… an open admission that our Lord’s grace and mercy overflows beyond our comprehension and there is never a place where God is not. πŸ™‚

Thanks be to God for the miracle of the Incarnation and the gift of resurrection and faith. Always confronting us, restoring us and making us new!+

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ +

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

Evening Prayer: March 30th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 119:97-120, 81, 82
Old Testament: Jeremiah 8:18-9:6
New Testament: Romans 5:1-11
Gospel: John 8:12-28
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the writings of St. Theophilus of Antioch

I take my cue for reflection from the Patristic reading again tonight:

A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.
But if you will you can be healed. Hand yourself over to the doctor, and he will open the eyes of your mind and heart. Who is to be the doctor? It is God, who heals and gives life through his Word and wisdom.

In one of the companion readers to Eastern Orthodox theology on my shelf, I read an essay written by Nonna Verna Harrison which focused on Creation and the Fall of Man.

It forever changed the way I thought about the Incarnation and the Atonement and is certainly not a very Protestant view; but the beauty about being Anglican is that I can tread a middle road :)….so hopefully what I m about to say next makes at least a little bit of sense and doesn’t offend too many readers πŸ™‚

The essay is entitled “The Human Person as the Likeness and Image of God.” In it, Harrison says that the Likeness and Image of God are actually two distinct characteristics. The Likeness of God refers to the way in which we resemble God…in our free choice, in our dominion over creation, in our capacity to create, the ability to act justly.

The Image of God is simply our identity as a created being….given the breathe of life from our Creator, and of our need to live in community and mutual love.

Unlike the Western model of total depravity, in which the human being can do no good at all, Harrison points out that the Orthodox understood the transgression of Adam differently.

The disobedience of Man caused forgetfulness…..a kind of amnesia……in which we forgot our true origins as “good” and reflecting the glory of the Father. Both our image and likeness to God were covered up by the dirt and grime of sin.

With the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection….all of that changed! πŸ˜€

In winning the victory for us over sin…..Jesus removed the veil from our eyes, and the dirt from our souls. We were able to see–as if for the first time–who we really are: Sons and Daughters of the Most High God.

In promoting a time of fasting, cleansing, and repentance, Lent seeks to remove all of the filth that resides in us. To purge those things which keep us out of touch of our true selves.

Perhaps even more importantly, this process of healing and purification allows us to see God’s holiness reflected not only in ourselves…..but in everything and everyone all over the world.

I pray that as we continue our journey to the Passion of our Lord, our hearts might be touched and given a clean slate to see Christ in all his glory, and to truly rejoice as we remember the One who made us, and invites us to new life through his Body and Blood. Amen. +

Evening Prayer: Ash Wednesday (March 9th)

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Psalms: 102, 130
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a letter to the Corinthians by St. Clement

Le Penitente by Pietro Rotari

 

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. (Psalm 130:7-8)

The whole point of observing fasting periods is not so much self-deprivation as it is about hope and re-orientation. As we journey towards the Cross, lost in the desert of sound, sight, smell, taste and touch…… we long for something that is real

That’s not to say that the five senses are bad…..after all, we are a Church that believes in the essential goodness of the body which has been redeemed through Christ.

At the same time, there is a temptation to become to reliant on the body…on instant gratification, and the raw rush of emotion.

Lent seeks to get past that….by subduing the flesh (or additionally, things which are causing us to be lazy, stressed, or spiteful) room is made to contemplate the Spirit….to let Christ take his throne in the hearts of each of us.

Take some time in these next weeks and months to listen to what the Spirit–our advocate and guide–is saying to the Church in and through us. After all, we are all members of the one body of the faithful.

May we all, in the name of the LORD observe a Holy Lent and wander hand-in-hand with our Saviour….trusting in his great mercy towards us. +

Evening Prayer: Jan. 29th

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Psalms: 138, 139
Gospel: Mark 7:1-23
Reading from the Church: An excerpt from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution

β€˜Listen to me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’ (Mark 7:15)

So what’s this defilement business all about? Well for starters it’s about being pure. Pure not in the sense of being squeaky clean…..but in the sense of being the best human beings we can be……..giving the very best of ourselves to God and to the world around us.

Ideally, that’s what the Torah (with all of its sacrifices, tithes, and the like) set out to accomplish. A way of creating a just society that reflected the call from the LORD to be holy as He is holy.

The problem is that those rituals can sometimes get twisted to meet human needs and wants. They were changed to uphold the status-quo and ensure that Temple business continued to thrive.

What Jesus is trying to convey is something much more significant. It has to do with the connection between heart, head, and hands.

Everything we say and do always have a central locus and motivation. Sometimes those reasons for doing things are good and sometimes they are bad.

When they emanate from the love of God and our personal relationship with Christ two things follow:

a) we feel good both about ourselves and the world around us and
b) we present our truest selves to our Maker and to the world.

When our actions come from a place of fear and uncertainty, we are apt to hold on to traditions that tell us that we are doing OK….that we don’t really need to change, and that we are perflectly normal.

Below I have placed a short video on the Orthodox view of the Passions which does an excellent job of outlining how our actions in life stem from how we understand ourselves as human beings and as children of God. It is a little dry in presentation, but the content is excellent. πŸ˜€ Hopefully you get something out of it. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. God bless! +

Evening Prayer: Fri. of Epiphany 1

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Psalms: 114 , 115
Gospel: John 2:1-11
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Maximus of Turin

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, β€˜They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, β€˜Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, β€˜Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:3b-4)

Every so often we need someone to give us a kick in the ass. I know that’s certainly true in my life. I make no bones about the fact that I am one lazy dude. I like to sleep in, procrastinate, and rationalize why I can’t do something.

Sometimes the person who gives me that reality check is my spiritual director, at other times it is the people that I am ministering to in my pastoral care.

Most often though, the person who gives me the wake-up call is my Mom.

Moms are weird like that. They have a sense of who were are, and what we are capable of. When they see us not living up to that potential, they are not hesitant to speak up.

I suspect it’s because our mothers are always the ones who have known us the longest. They have known us even before we were born; and Mary, the mother of God, is no exception.

Here at the wedding of Cana, she sees a chance for her Son to bring people to faith. Despite Jesus’ own misgivings, she confidently expresses to the servants that he will act, and that they are to follow his instructions.

This first miracle of Jesus is not a cheap one either. Twenty or thirty gallons is a LOT of wine to have at a wedding. The fact that Christ would be so extravagant points to an important aspect of God. He is not only a loving LORD, he is also a generous friend.

The wine that God provides to the wedding guests is of the very best quality. God does not chince out. He wants us not only to live life, but to enjoy it, and live in abundance :D.

As we go forward tonight, let us give thanks to those friends, family, and loved ones who are always there to give us that extra push in the right direction. +

P.S. A friend on my FB page reminded me that today (Jan. 7th) is Christmas Day within the Eastern Orthodox tradition :D. May all of our brothers and sisters in the Eastern and Oriental Churches be blessed with the Light of the Christ-child, and be filled with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. πŸ˜€ ❀ +