(What follows is the From the Pastor column from the 2013 Spring Newsletter.)
FROM THE PASTOR
“Through the Cross Joy has come into the world…!”
We understand that one should not inflict suffering on oneself or others. But part of this culture’s message is one must avoid any suffering at all costs. The drive to “consume” receives its impetus from our being told that it will remove all pain (and even fears) and bring joy. And should relief and joy not happen or is only temporary, then it will come from the next thing we procure/consume, and if not then the next, or the next, or the next…. And maybe (with denial and being anesthetized by “consuming”), even death might be avoided, or at least delayed
It is known that one must acknowledge and face the fears and pain in our lives in order to be healed. God sends His Son who embodies all of who He is, and also, (as the true Israel through whom the promise to Abrahams to bless the world would be fulfilled) fully embodies all of who we are as human beings. As in His baptism, Jesus “faces off” with the world’s rage, fears, hate, bigotry, arrogance, and victimization. Immersing Himself in our humanity that was imprisoned by death due to our sin. Jesus’ continual obedience to God brings Him “through” (rather than “around”) suffering and death. He allows evil’s full weight and force, with all its distortions and paralysis of good (and even creation), to fall upon and “burn itself out” on Him. Humanity rebirthed/recreated comes out of the tomb at Pascha, freed from the regressive fatal stunting begun by not trusting in the love of God. In the risen Christ, humanity can be restored to the full intimate partnership always intended by the Creator “for the life of the world.” Now, with the Son of God defeating death itself, we can go through, rather than “around” the realities of this existence, with all its pain and tragedy, organically bonded to God Himself, and become completely human and work for the destiny He desires for all creation. This is the meaning and purpose of Church-transformed by the Spirit through worship and the proclamation of the Word.
“Entering into the body of the Church and into communion with Christ means acquiring ‘the mind of Christ’ (I Cor 2; 16); it means imitating the personal conditions under which Christ lived, and our living in Christ today. The Christian desire for a koinonia of love does not constitute escapism into some dream, full of all the delightful things we hope for. On the contrary, it expresses itself under the conditions of modern life and in the form of concrete service: giving of oneself on a daily basis to everyone, both near and far, regardless of their religious faith, their moral character, or the spiritual or cultural circumstances of their lives. …Love emanates from God and finds its supreme realization in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. When this is lived, it leads to a new relationship with all other beings…by including them, once and for all, within the Holy Trinity’s blessed koinonia of love….the end of the human journey and our final destination” (Facing the World, pp. 32, 33; Archbishop Anastasios of Albania).
This is foundational to what we understand to be as a Parish, as a Eucharistic Community, an embassy of God’s Kingdom inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection/ascension, invading and rescuing the world. Here is the Reality in which we frame all our realities of our life, past, present and future. We need to look at the over $600,000.00 already pledged to a new building, and investigate what possible steps would be needed and ask how the Lord would want us to move on this issue. Sharing our Faith moves us more on expanding the existing small cell groups (and developing others) as a safe relational environment of sharing, support and prayer. Inviting others from outside the parish at times (as Liturgy is sometimes “aesthetic overload” for non-Orthodox) can be a means of evangelism and outreach. As usual we offer opportunities to learn more of the Orthodox Faith – Saturday, March 16 a seminar on Icons will take at the Church with various examples of iconography (including icons from a Church in Cyprus destroyed in 1974), the spirituality and prayer they express, and personal sharings about icons meaningful to them. Saturday May 18, following Pascha and anticipating Memorial Day, the seminar “Remember me, Lord” will discuss the ancient Christian understanding of life, death, heaven/hell and “the life after the life after death.” The Tuesday night Bible Study on the Book of Revelation will begin following Pascha, and I will be speaking on an overview of the same topic at Annunciation Parish in Lancaster, PA, Lenten Retreat on Saturday, April 6.
Mostly I pray that the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection this year seize us more deeply and fuel our lifestyles and beliefs to show that when we gather to be the Church, we enter the same environment with the Apostles in the upper room to experience and be His resurrected presence and Kingdom extending, healing and re-creating the world.
Christ is Risen!