Friday, 6 December 2013
Joachim and Annna Coptic Orthodox icon2. And his wife Anna mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness. And the great day of the Lord was at hand; and Judith her maid-servant said: How long do you humiliate your soul? Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand, and it is unlawful for you to mourn. But take this head-band, which the woman that made it gave to me; for it is not proper that I should wear it, because I am a maid-servant, and it has a royal appearance. And Anna said: Depart from me; for I have not done such things, and the Lord has brought me very low. I fear that some wicked person has given it to you, and you have come to make me a sharer in your sin. And Judith said: Why should I curse you, seeing that the Lord has shut your womb, so as not to give you fruit in Israel? And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head, and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour went down to the garden to walk. And she saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You did bless the womb of Sarah, and did give her a son Isaac.
3. And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow’s nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! who begot me? and what womb produced me? because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses You, O Lord.
1303938840_angel-hranitel-mstera4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran anti hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest’s forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest’s plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? and she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.
6. And the child grew strong day by day; and when she was six months old, her mother set her on the ground to try whether she could stand, and she walked seven steps and came into her bosom; and she snatched her up, saying: As the Lord my God liveth, you shall not walk on this earth until I bring you into the temple of the Lord. And she made a sanctuary in her bed-chamber, and allowed nothing common or unclean to pass through her. And she called the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews, and they attended to her. And when she was a year old, Joachim made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel. And Joachim brought the child to the priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations. And all the people said: So be it, so be it, amen. And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever. And her mother snatched her up, and took her into the sanctuary of her bed-chamber, and gave her the breast. And Anna made a song to the Lord God, saying: I will sing a song to the Lord my God, for He has looked upon me, and has taken away the reproach of mine enemies; and the Lord has given the fruit of His righteousness, singular in its kind, and richly endowed before Him. Who will tell the sons of Rubim that Anna gives suck? Hear, hear, ye twelve tribes of Israel, that Anna gives suck. And she laid her to rest in the bed-chamber of her sanctuary, and went out and ministered unto them. And when the supper was ended, they went down rejoicing, and glorifying the God of Israel.
pesentation ths theotokouFlyer7. And her months were added to the child. And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering be not received. And Anna said: Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not seek for father or mother. And Joachim said: So let us wait. And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.
8. And her parents went down marveling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel. And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of the priests, saying: Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, test perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord? And they said to the high priest: You stand by the altar of the Lord; go in, and pray concerning her; and whatever the Lord shall manifest unto you, that also will we do. And the high priest went in, taking the robe with the twelve bells into the holy of holies; and he prayed concerning her. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod; and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. And the heralds went out through all the circuit of Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all ran.
9. And Joseph, throwing away his axe, went out to meet them; and when they had assembled, they went away to the high priest, taking with them their rods. And he, taking the rods of all of them, entered into the temple, and prayed; and having ended his prayer, he took the rods and came out, and gave them to them: but there was no sign in them, St Joseph the Betrothedand Joseph took his rod last; and, behold, a dove came out of the rod, and flew upon Joseph’s head. And the priest said to Joseph, You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl. I am afraid lest I become a laughing-stock to the sons of Israel. And the priest said to Joseph: Fear the Lord your God, and remember what the Lord did to Dathan, and Abiram, and Korah; how the earth opened, and they were swallowed up on account of their contradiction. And now fear, O Joseph, lest the same things happen in your house. And Joseph was afraid, and took her into his keeping. And Joseph said to Mary: Behold, I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house, and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you.
10. And there was a council of the priests, saying: Let us make a veil for the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David. And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David, and undefiled before God. And the officers went away and brought her. And they brought them into the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Choose for me by lot who shall spin the gold, and the white, and the fine linen, and the silk, and the blue, and the scarlet, and the true purple. And the true purple and the scarlet fell to the lot of Mary, and she took them, and went away to her house. And at that time Zacharias was dumb, and Samuel was in his place until the time that Zacharias spoke. And Mary took the scarlet, and span it.
Annunciation Full Size flyer11. And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, you who has received grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! And she looked round, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher; and taking the purple, she sat down on her seat, and drew it out. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before her, saying: Fear not, Mary; for you have found grace before the Lord of all, and you shall conceive, according to His word. And she hearing, reasoned with herself, saying: Shall I conceive by the Lord, the living God? and shall I bring forth as every woman brings forth? And the angel of the Lord said: Not so, Mary; for the power of the Lord shall overshadow you: wherefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of the Most High. And you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. And Mary said: Behold, the servant of the Lord before His face: let it be unto me according to your word.
12. And she made the purple and the scarlet, and took them to the priest. And the priest blessed her, and said: Mary, the Lord God has magnified your name, and you shall be blessed in all the generations of the earth. And Mary, with great joy, went away to Elizabeth her kinswoman, and knocked at the door. And when Elizabeth heard her, she threw away the scarlet, and ran to the door, and opened it; and seeing Mary, she blessed her, and said: Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? for, behold, that which is in me leaped and blessed you. But Mary had forgotten the mysteries of which the archangel Gabriel had spoken, and gazed up into heaven, and said: Who am I, O Lord, that all the generations of the earth should bless me? And she remained three months with Elizabeth; and day by day she grew bigger. And Mary being afraid, went away to her own house, and hid herself from the sons of Israel. And she was sixteen years old when these mysteries happened.
13. And she was in her sixth month; and, behold, Joseph came back from his building, and, entering into his house, he discovered that she was big with child. And he smote his face, and threw himself on the ground upon the sackcloth, and wept bitterly, saying: With what face shall I look upon the Lord my God? and what prayer shall I make about this maiden? because I received her a virgin out of the temple of the Lord, and I have not st joseph the betrothedwatched over her. Who is it that has hunted me down? Who has done this evil thing in my house, and defiled the virgin? Has not the history of Adam been repeated in me? For just as Adam was in the hour of his singing praise, and the serpent came, and found Eve alone, and completely deceived her, so it has happened to me also. And Joseph stood up from the sackcloth, and called Mary, and said to her: O you who have been cared for by God, why have you done this and forgotten the Lord your God? Why have you brought low your soul, you that were brought up in the holy of holies, and that received food from the hand of an angel? And she wept bitterly, saying: I am innocent, and have known no man. And Joseph said to her: Whence then is that which is in your womb? And she said: As the Lord my God lives, I do not know whence it is to me.
14. And Joseph was greatly afraid, and retired from her, and considered what he should do in regard to her. And Joseph said: If I conceal her sin, I find myself fighting against the law of the Lord; and if I expose her to the sons of Israel, I am afraid lest that which is in her be from an angel, and I shall be found giving up innocent blood to the doom of death. What then shall I do with her? I will put her away from me secretly. And night came upon him; and, behold, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying: Be not afraid for this maiden, for that which is in her is of the Holy Spirit; and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. And Joseph arose from sleep, and glorified the God of Israel, who had given him this grace; and he kept her.
15. And Annas the scribe came to him, and said: Why have you not appeared in our assembly? And Joseph said to him: Because I was weary from my journey, and rested the first day. And he turned, and saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest? and said to him: Joseph, whom you did vouch for, has committed a grievous crime. And the priest said: How so? And he said: He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, and has married her by stealth, and has not revealed it to the sons of Israel. And the priest answering, said: Has Joseph done this? Then said Annas the scribe: Send officers, and you wilt find the virgin with child. And the officers went away, and found it as he had said; and they brought her along with Joseph to the tribunal. And the priest said: Mary, why have you done this? and why have you brought your soul low, and forgotten the Lord your God? You that were reared in the holy of holies, and that did receive food from the hand of an angel, and did hear the hymns, and did dance before Him, why have you done this? And she wept bitterly, saying: As the Lord my God lives, I am pure before Him, and know not a man. And the priest said to Joseph: Why have you done this? And Joseph said: As the Lord lives, I am pure concerning her. Then said the priest: Bear not false witness, but speak the truth. You have married her by stealth, and have not revealed it to the sons of Israel, and have not bowed your head under the strong hand, that your seed might be blessed. And Joseph was silent.
The Eucharist16. And the priest said: Give up the virgin whom you did receive out of the temple of the Lord. And Joseph burst into tears. And the priest said: I will give you to drink of the water of the ordeal of the Lord, and He shall make manifest your sins in your eyes. And the priest took the water, and gave Joseph to drink and sent him away to the hill-country; and he returned unhurt. And he gave to Mary also to drink, and sent her away to the hill-country; and she returned unhurt. And all the people wondered that sin did not appear in them. And the priest said: If the Lord God has not made manifest your sins, neither do I judge you. And he sent them away. And Joseph took Mary, and went away to his own house, rejoicing and glorifying the God of Israel.
St Joseph the Betrothed the Virgin Mary17. And there was an order from the Emperor Augustus, that all in Bethlehem of Judaea should be enrolled. And Joseph said: I shall enroll my sons, but what shall I do with this maiden? How shall I enroll her? As my wife? I am ashamed. As my daughter then? But all the sons of Israel know that she is not my daughter. The day of the Lord shall itself bring it to pass as the Lord will. And he saddled the ass, and set her upon it; and his son led it, and Joseph followed. And when they had come within three miles, Joseph turned and saw her sorrowful; and he said to himself: Likely that which is in her distresses her. And again Joseph turned and saw her laughing. And he said to her: Mary, how is it that I see in your face at one time laughter, at another sorrow? And Mary said to Joseph: Because I see two peoples with my eyes; the one weeping and lamenting, and the other rejoicing and exulting. And they came into the middle of the road, and Mary said to him: Take me down from off the ass, for that which is in me presses to come forth. And he took her down from off the ass, and said to her: Whither shall I lead you, and cover your disgrace? for the place is desert.
18. And he found a cave there, and led her into it; and leaving his two sons beside her, he went out to seek a midwife in the district of Bethlehem. And I Joseph was walking, and was not walking; and I looked up into the sky, and saw the sky astonished; and I looked up to the pole of the heavens, and saw it standing, and the birds of the air keeping still. And I looked down upon the earth, and saw a trough lying, and work-people reclining: and their hands were in the trough. And those that were eating did not eat, and those that were rising did not carry it up, and those that were conveying anything to their mouths did not convey it; but the faces of all were looking upwards. And I saw the sheep walking, and the sheep stood still; and the shepherd raised his hand to strike them, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the current of the river, and I saw the mouths of the kids resting on the water and not drinking, and all things in a moment were driven from their course.
nativity-icon19. And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: O man, where are you going? And I said: I am seeking an Hebrew midwife. And she answered and said unto me: Are you of Israel? And I said to her: Yes. And she said: And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave? And I said: A woman betrothed to me. And she said to me: Is she not your wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but has conceived of the Holy Spirit. And the midwife said to him: Is this true? And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen strange things — because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to you: a virgin has brought forth — a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God lives, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.
20. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show yourself; for no small controversy has arisen about you. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. And she bent her knees before the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; do not make a show of me to the sons of Israel, but restore me to the poor; for You know, O Lord, that in Thy name I have performed my services, and that I have received my reward at Thy hand. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: Salome, Salome, the Lord has heard you. Put your hand to the infant, and carry it, and you will have safety and joy. And Salome went and carried it, saying: I will worship Him, because a great King has been born to Israel. And, behold, Salome was immediately cured, and she went forth out of the cave justified. And behold a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell not the strange things you have seen, until the child has come into Jerusalem.
Icon.FlightToEgypt21. And, behold, Joseph was ready to go into Judaea. And there was a great commotion in Bethlehem of Judaea, for Magi came, saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him. And when Herod heard, he was much disturbed, and sent officers to the Magi. And he sent for the priests, and examined them, saying: How is it written about the Christ? where is He to be born? And they said: In Bethlehem of Judaea, for so it is written. And he sent them away. And he examined the Magi, saying to them: What sign have you seen in reference to the king that has been born? And the Magi said: We have seen a star of great size shining among these stars, and obscuring their light, so that the stars did not appear; and we thus knew that a king has been born to Israel, and we have come to worship him. And Herod said: Go and seek him; and if you find him, let me know, in order that I also may go and worship him. And the Magi went out. And, behold, the star which they had seen in the east went before them until they came to the cave, and it stood over the top of the cave. And the Magi saw the infant with His mother Mary; and they brought forth from their bag gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by the angel not to go into Judaea, they went into their own country by another road.
22. And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.
St Martyr Zaccharias icon23. And Herod searched for John, and sent officers to Zacharias, saying: Where have you hidden your son? And he, answering, said to them: I am the servant of God in holy things, and I sit constantly in the temple of the Lord: I do not know where my son is. And the officers went away, and reported all these things to Herod. And Herod was enraged, and said: His son is destined to be king over Israel. And he sent to him again, saying: Tell the truth; where is your son? for you know that your life is in my hand. And Zacharias said: I am God’s martyr, if you shed my blood; for the Lord will receive my spirit, because you shed innocent blood at the vestibule of the temple of the Lord. And Zacharias was murdered about daybreak. And the sons of Israel did not know that he had been murdered.
24. But at the hour of the salutation the priests went away, and Zacharias did not come forth to meet them with a blessing, according to his custom. And the priests stood waiting for Zacharias to salute him at the prayer, and to glorify the Most High. And he still delaying, they were all afraid. But one of them ventured to go in, and he saw clotted blood beside the altar; and he heard a voice saying: Zacharias has been murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped up until his avenger come. And hearing this saying, he was afraid, and went out and told it to the priests. And they ventured in, and saw what had happened; and the fretwork of the temple made a wailing noise, and they rent their clothes from the top even to the bottom. And they found not his body, but they found his blood turned into stone. And they were afraid, and went out and reported to the people that Zacharias had been murdered. And all the tribes of the people heard, and mourned, and lamented for him three days and three nights. And after the three days, the priests consulted as to whom they should put in his place; and the lot fell upon Simeon. For it was he who had been warned by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death until he should see the Christ in the flesh.
And I James that wrote this history in Jerusalem, a commotion having arisen when Herod died, withdrew myself to the wilderness until the commotion in Jerusalem ceased, glorifying the Lord God, who had given me the gift and the wisdom to write this history. And grace shall be with them that fear our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory to ages of ages. Amen.
With thanks to the blog: orthodox road (click here)
here). Below is an excerpt from the author's own experience of visiting an Orthodox Church and the questions that arose as a result:
What the heck is a “liturgy”?
The Sunday morning service at an Orthodox Parish is called the Divine Liturgy. They follow a liturgy compiled by St John Chrysostom in the 4th century. Up until St Chrysostom, the early church always worshiped in the form of a liturgy, however, several different (and very lengthy!) ones were in use, and St Chrysostom edited and compiled the liturgies into the one most commonly used now.
Am I welcome?
Almost all Orthodox Parishes are very open to visitors. While they probably won’t have greeters at the door, this doesn’t mean they don’t want you there. Be sure to linger after it is completed so you have a chance to speak with the priest. And don’t be afraid to tell people you are new and just checking this Orthodox thing out.
What’s with the constant singing?
Most of the liturgy is chanted or sung. About the only speaking you will hear is the short sermon that the priest gives. Among all of the singing and chanting, you may find yourself waiting for it to actually get started, and that is normal; that is the result of growing up Protestant. In a Protestant church, Sunday morning revolves around the sermon. In Orthodoxy, Sunday from orthodoxbahamas.com/?page_id=969morning revolves around the Eucharist (commonly called ‘communion’ in western churches), which is done near the end.
How should I dress?
Traditionally, the Orthodox stand the entire liturgy. While some have pews or chairs, it’s best to be prepared on your first visit by dressing in comfortable shoes that you can stand in for a while (ladies especially, tall heels are a bad idea). It tends to be a little less casual than contemporary churches: women wear a dress/skirt, guys wear khakis and a collared shirt. In some parishes, women wear head coverings, in others they don’t. If you’re visiting though, don’t sweat it. Just be respectful in the way that you dress.
Did I get here too early?
You may notice people walk in late…sometimes very late. At one parish I attended, half of the people did not show up until about an hour into the service. This tardiness is strongly discouraged, but it does happen in a few parishes.
Do they speak English?
All three Orthodox parishes I have visited have differed in what language is used during the liturgy. At a Greek parish it was about half Greek and half English; at a Russian parish it was mostly English and some Slavonic; and at the Carpatho-Russian parish that I currently attend they do all English.
There are paintings everywhere!
You will certainly notice what they call icons. These bothered me when I first heard about them, but after learning what they are and what they mean, I found them to be quite beautiful. Essentially, they are considered windows to heaven. They are the saints who have come before us and are cheering us on and interceding to God on our behalf.
It seems so Catholic!
While the Orthodox do have some things in common with the Roman Catholics, they are certainly not the same. You’ll see a priest and deacons who are dressed in fancy robes, they use incense, things are formal and rather ceremonial, and some of them even do confession during the liturgy.
Why all of the pomp and circumstance?
All of this display is not to be showy though. Showiness is truly in the eye of the beholder. Instead, this is a worship ceremony they are performing for God every week. The purpose of the incense, the robes, the icons, and everything else is to help the worshiper engage in something ancient and beautiful with all five senses.
The first Christians were Jews, and their liturgical services were therefore very Jewish. The Jewish form of worship came from explicit direction God gave Moses in order that their worship may be a reflection of the worship that is occurring in the throne room of heaven. That being the case, the Orthodox Church has simply seen no reason over the past 2,000 years to update their way of worship in order to stay modern and culturally relevant.
I do hope you make it out to an Orthodox liturgy. The more you learn about their practices, the more beautiful and meaningful it will become to you. Before officially becoming Orthodox, I attended the liturgies for about nine months.
To be honest, I found them to be a bit boring for the first few months. Stylistically, it is like visiting a foreign country. The Orthodox are not there to entertain, or to be “relevant.” However, after about three months I became accustomed to their style. I now enjoy it and prefer it greatly over the modern, American style of worship.
Things I Wish I’d Known Before Attending
Posted on November 24, 2012
A guide for your first Sunday morning visit to an Eastern Orthodox Church
(from a non-orthodox perspective)
Things I Wish I’d Known Before Attending
Posted on November 24, 2012
A guide for your first Sunday morning visit to an Eastern Orthodox Church
(from a non-orthodox perspective)
Sunday, 17 November 2013
“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” Luke 2:51
“The word of God…[pierces] to…the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12)
“Out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19)
Surprisingly, the Bible treats the heart as the place where we do our thinking—we think in our hearts, not our heads. And, as Matthew 15:19 shows, those thoughts are not always noble. In our culture we regard our ability to reason as one of the highest aspects of human personhood, but forget how often we employ that faculty in less-than-noble pursuits. The biblical Greek word for thinking actively, like when you’re thinking something through, is dianoia, and it includes selfish fantasies, plotting, and scheming:
“The imagination [dianoia] of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21)
“He has scattered the proud in the imagination [dianoia] of their hearts” (Lk 1:51)
So if the heart is where humans do their thinking, where do they feel emotions? The strongest emotions, as well as the deepest thoughts, are said to arise from “the inward parts,” the bowels and kidneys, as we might refer to “gut feelings.” That sounds coarse in our culture, though; so modern English translations usually substitute something more polite, located higher up in the body.
Psalm 16:7 in Hebrew: “I will bless the Lord who has given me understanding; in the night also my kidneys instruct me”
King James Version, 1611: “My reins also instruct me” (reins being an archaic term for “kidneys,” as in “renal function”)
Revised Standard Version, 1952: “In the night also my heart instructs me”
New American Standard Version, 1971: “My mind instructs me in the night”
Apparently, over the centuries, everything’s been rising. Maybe in a hundred years we’ll read, “My hat instructs me”!
But it’s not a matter of substituting “bowels and heart” for “heart and head,” for the Scriptures don’t share our view of emotion as an equal-and-opposite alternative to reason. Our assumption is that people tend toward one function or the other, and we deplore the waves of emotion that undermine reason, or the coldness of solitary reason that stifles the heart. But the Scriptures don’t view them as opposed or parallel faculties.
In the Scriptures, having emotions is not a function or action, parallel to dianoia thinking. A specific emotion, like anger, might prompt a biblical character toward an action, but the person wasn’t engaged in a distinct process of emoting at the time, as opposed to thinking. He just got angry, and acted it out in a particular way. He probably was thinking, actually. He was thinking about something that made him mad.
This makes sense, when you think about it. Reason and emotion actually are not separate. When we feel an emotion, it is because of a thought we’re having—often enough, a completely logical thought. And we all know how our emotions subtly influence our reasoning. These are two aspects of a single process, not opposites or alternatives.
Here’s another difference. The Scriptures’ use of “heart” is much broader than ours today. The heart was seen as the center of a person’s entire being. It was the place inside where thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, will, and desires all bubble together as in a cauldron. (While the deepest thoughts and feelings are registered in the “inward parts,” the usual source of both is the heart.) The heart includes both good and bad elements; as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” The heart is the home of our inner self, and the place where Christ must rule.
You might well ask why this difference of viewpoint matters. It’s because, when we agree with the cultural assumption that human beings are composed of two opposite functions, reason and emotion, it damages our witness. If human beings don’t have anything but reason and emotion, there is no way God can communicate with us. All our claims about God can be ascribed to emotions.
We often hear people say, “You can’t reach God with your mind, only with your heart.” But, as those terms are defined today, it means that any claim of contact with God has no rational basis and is merely emotional. Something like St. Paul’s conversion cannot be claimed as real in an objective, “true for everybody” sense. It’s real only in a subjective, “true for me” sense. Maybe he just had an emotional crisis and hallucinated the whole thing. No prophets heard the voice of God. Moses thought he saw a Burning Bush because he was lonely and discouraged. When the whole population of the Hebrews drew near the smoke-shrouded mountain, and saw lightning, heard thunder and “the sound of the trumpet growing louder and louder” (Exodus 19:19), it was a case of mass wishful thinking.
When we agree with our culture that all experiences of God are solely emotional, it seriously limits our ability to speak the truth of Jesus Christ in the public square.
But the New Testament offers us a different understanding of the composition of a human being, and, as a result, a different understanding of human contact with God. I began to glean this after I became Eastern Orthodox, twenty years ago. When I started reading Eastern Christian writings, from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Slavic countries (reaching back to the first century), I had the feeling that something here was really different. It was hard to pin down just what it was. One thing I noticed was that a Greek word, nous (pronounced “noose”), kept popping up. It would appear just like that, un-translated and undefined. Apparently translators thought there was no accurate equivalent in English. It was a concept we just don’t have.
This was in the days before Google, so to figure out what it meant I kept writing down whatever I thought the definition was, as I read along. At one point I had six definitions. But eventually I grasped that it means the human faculty that understands, discerns, or comprehends.
This is something we do with our minds, all right—when nous appears in the New Testament, it’s usually translated “mind.” But it’s not active dianoia thinking, like thinking through a problem. It’s the receptive faculty of the mind.
You can picture the human mind as having two gears, forward and reverse. Forward, dianoia, is when we’re thinking something through, actively reasoning. Reverse, nous, is when we are grasping or comprehending something. This is our faculty of discernment, comprehension, understanding, perception, awareness. It’s how God can make contact with his people, can convey something to them directly, and it has nothing to do with their emotions.
Forty years ago I had a miraculous conversion to Christ, kind of like St. Paul’s. I was a new college grad, hitchhiking around Europe, and at that time calling myself a Hindu. But when I was touring a historic church and stood looking at a statue of Christ, I suddenly heard a voice speaking to me—not with my ears, but interiorly. It spoke with such authority that doubt was impossible. What the voice said was, “I am your life.”
When I tried to describe this to people afterward, the best I could describe it was, “It was like there was a little radio in my heart that I never knew was there. Suddenly it switched on and I could hear a voice.” When I met the word nous in Eastern Christian writings, at last I had a name for it; the nous is that “little radio.” And every one of us has one. We are made that way. Because God wants to be in communion with his people.
Let’s look at how the word is used in the New Testament. When Christ appeared to his apostles, after the Resurrection,
“He opened their nous to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45)
He didn’t render the apostles better at thinking logically about the Scriptures, but opened their understanding. Suddenly they could see his Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection foretold throughout the Old Testament. St. Paul says,
Christians “have the nous of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16)
“Be renewed in the spirit of your nous” (Ephesians 4:23)
“The peace of God which passes all understanding” is actually “The peace of God which overflows the nous” (Philippians 4:7)
“Be transformed by the renewal of your nous” (Romans 12:2)
The nous is not a special spiritual faculty; it is how we perceive everything. It is how the mind receives and assimilates information. If you open the door and it’s raining, your senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch all transmit their perceptions to the “central office,” the nous. You then process that incoming information and discern that it is raining.
This first-hand, direct experience of something, which we register by means of the nous, precedes thoughts and feelings. To put that another way, after we perceive something we may well have rational thoughts and feelings about it, but the actual perception came first. After you realize it’s raining, you may have some rational thoughts (“I’d better take an umbrella”) or feel some emotions (“I get sad when it rains”). But both came after that primary perception of rain. The perception itself was not due to your thoughts or feelings, but was derived from objectively real phenomena.
If God communicates with us, we are likely to have a number of thoughts and emotions afterward! But that doesn’t render the experience itself unreal.
As if the heart-mind confusion weren’t enough, we also have a linguistic tangle because, in English, we use the word “feelings” to mean two different things. We can “get a feeling” and perceive something, or sense something. Maybe we have a “gut feeling.” That would be “feeling” in the sense of the nous. The old Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker had to learn to “feel” the Force; he had to learn how to perceive and tune into something that, in the movie’s world, was objectively real.
But, unfortunately, we use the same word “feelings” when we mean emotional reactions—hurt feelings or sad feelings. Star Wars villain Darth Vader should have resisted his vengeful feelings. For Luke “feelings” are perceptions, and for Darth “feelings” are overwhelming emotions. Same word, different meanings; no wonder we’re confused.
But if everyone has this capacity to hear God’s voice, why don’t we? Because the nous is fallen. Just like everything else in Creation. It perceives inaccurately. How many of the conflicts between people are caused by simply not understanding each other accurately—misreading what others say and do. Your damaged, darkened nous might tell you that someone is looking at you funny, when they’re not looking at you at all. The devil makes a playground of this. St. Paul says of nonbelievers,
“Their very nous… is corrupted” (Titus 1:15)
“[They live] in the futility of their nous” (Ephesians 4:17)
The nous doesn’t much want to hear God’s voice. It would rather keep itself distracted with a ceaseless stream of incoming sensory data—images, sounds, physical experiences, favorite foods, and so on. When people say that you need silence to hear God’s voice, it doesn’t mean that you should try to be vacant and empty (which would be a spiritually dangerous, actually). But we need quiet at times of prayer because all the busy-work our nous wants to chew over keeps it filled to capacity, and not sensitive enough to register the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). If you were at a noisy party and someone asked you a very important question, you would want get away someplace quiet to think about it. That’s why we need silence, when we pray. We’re trying to listen, to learn how to listen.
I didn’t know all this when I joined the Eastern Church. I thought it was just a matter of changing to a different denomination. But to my surprise, the Eastern Christian tradition turned out to be not merely an ecclesiastical institution or set of theological doctrines, but an active science or program of inner healing. In the Christian East, we are seen as sick with sin, rather than merely guilty of it; sin pervades us and our world. Like air pollution, it damages everyone, including the innocent, and gives power to the evil one. Sin is death.
So there’s a sense of urgency about overcoming this creeping toxin. We don’t need only to be forgiven for our sins, but also to stop sinning and stop contributing to the misery of the world. Christ came to take away our sins (1 John 3:5)—not just the penalty for our sins, but the sins themselves. Sin is infection, not infraction. It matters, when we resist it.
Eastern Christianity is a method or program of strength-training, so we can gain power over our compulsions to sin, and continuously grow in union with Christ. It shows us how to fast, pray, and love others such that the damage of sin begins to be healed, and the light of Christ begins to spread. Though I had no idea that’s what I was getting into when I converted, it turned out to be what I had sought all my Christian life.
Now most of my work is aimed at helping Christians of all denominations understand and implement this “science” of transformation in their own lives. A significant part is recognizing that our “head-heart” division is not Biblical or true, and learning that the nous exists and needs healing. This alternative understanding of the makeup of the human person restores to us the possibility of authentic communion with God. That’s what the world is longing for.
See this and other essays at: http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-heart-of-the-scriptures.html
Friday, 1 November 2013
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
Anyhow, here is a short talk I gave as the Church remembered Lucy and her faithful witness:
"Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. All we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.
Maybe because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, various legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.
Unfortunately, according to the legend, the rejected bridegroom was unhappy at losing his dowry and his wife and betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her difficult to carry away as she became very stiff and heavy. Finally she was killed – one legend has it that her eyes were put out (she is the patron saint of blind people).
As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Although the exact facts are unknown Lucy – along with many other Christians – faced the ultimate test of faith.
A few comments:
1. Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.
2. Lucy was keen to share her faith with others and set out to convince her mother of the reality of Christ. Her belief in the power of God saw her prayer of faith answered and, as we see in the life of Jesus, the Gospel message was confirmed by “signs and wonders”.
3. Lastly, Lucy’s ‘light’ - that is her faith - shone in dark and difficult times helping keep the light of Christ burning. As the most recent census tells us, the numbers of those who are willing to call themselves Christian have dropped from 71% to 59% over just a decade. We need to follow the example of Lucy and keep shining for Jesus.
Sayings of the Desert Fathers
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Anyway the website is: http://orthodoxfieldguide.com/ and below is a sample of the kind of post it has to offer:
"The Orthodox Church teaches that God created all things good, and that sin has invaded this good world with sickness and death. And part of the mission of the Church is to restore all things by the grace of God.
This is why we have “holy water.” It is a setting apart of water as a kind of act of restoration. It’s mystically transforming water not into something magical, but it is restoring it to its Edenic dignity, and with this honour, it becomes another touch point of deeper communion with the Divine.
We use it to bless ourselves, our homes, our cars, our pets, our food—virtually anything! Some people will take a sip of holy water first thing in the morning, others will put a small amount in their food when they cook. Others may take a small bottle while travelling to discretely sprinkle around while praying for the area and the people. It may be used generously.
It is customary for clergy to set apart a sizeable amount of water at Theophany (sometimes called Epiphany) in January, and the faithful will bring special containers to fill after the services. Many clergy will also bless a lake, river, or the ocean, and throw a cross in the water for the faithful (often children) to scramble after and retrieve. Some priests are very generous with the distribution of holy water and will use a large brush to fling droplets all over the faithful!
Should you need to dispose of holy water, it should be used to bless things, you should drink it, or you may pour it into the ground.
Fun fact: We do not need to set apart water from the Jordan River. By virtue of God being baptized in that water, we believe that is holy water forever. Many pilgrims will bring home holy water from the Jordan when they visit."
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
In a Christian marriage, in fact, three are married; and the united loyalty of the two toward the third, who is God, keeps the two in an active unity with each other as well as with God. Yet it is the presence of God which is the death of the marriage as something only “natural.” It is the cross of Christ that brings the self-sufficiency of nature to its end. But “by the cross, joy entered the whole world.” Its presence is thus the real joy of marriage. It is the joyful certitude that the marriage vow, in the perspective of the eternal Kingdom, is not taken “until death parts,” but until death unites us completely.”
Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, Chapter 5, p.90.
Saturday, 21 September 2013
In one town, recognizing the spiritual blindness of comedian, he sold himself to the idolater for a small sum. His only sustenance in this servitude was bread and water. He accomplished every duty belonging to his servitude with the utmost diligence and fidelity, joining with his labour, prayer. Having converted his master and the whole family to the faith, and induced him to quit the stage, Serapion was freed. His former master tried to return the sum he had paid, but Serapion refused it, even to distribute to the poor.
Soon after this Serapion sold himself a second time, to relieve a distressed widow. Having spent some time with his new master, in recompense of signal spiritual services, he was given his liberty, a cloak, a tunic, and a book of the Gospels.
He was scarcely out the door when he met a poor man to whom he gave his cloak. Shortly thereafter he gave his tunic to a man shivering in the cold. Thus he was again reduced to his single linen garment. A stranger asked who had stripped him and left him naked. Showing the man his book of the Gospels, he said: "This it is that hath stripped me." Not long after, he sold the book itself to relieve someone in extreme distress.
When an old acquaintance asked what had happened to the book, Serapion replied: "Could you believe it? This gospel seemed continually to cry to me: 'Go, sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor.' Wherefore I have also sold it and given the price to the indigent members of Christ." Having nothing left but his own person, he sold himself again on several other occasions, when the corporal or spiritual necessities of his neighbor called for relief. Once he became slave to a certain Manichee at Lacedaemon whom he served for two years. Again he brought the man and his whole family over to the true faith.
Saint Serapion went from Lacedaemon to Rome to study the most perfect models of virtue, but returned to Egypt where he died before Palladius visited in 388. Upon reading the story of Serapion, Saint John the Almsgiver called for his steward, and, weeping, said: "Can we flatter ourselves that we do anything great
because we give our estates to the poor? Here is a man who could find means to give himself to them, and so many times over"
Thursday, 19 September 2013
"Yesterday I wrote on “What is Worship For?”, but I forgot to answer the question. I said that it is not the time for evangelism, and shouldn't be designed with non-believers in mind. But what is it for?
Worship is for God; we could expand that and say worship is for believers to offer to God. But even once we’re clear that worship is the work of the believing community, there’s a possible confusion. We might think the purpose of worship is to give believers a good worship experience.
This is subtle, because a worship leader might think the best way to worship is to arrange the songs and other elements to move and inspire worshippers, who will then turn whole-heartedly to God. In fact, that might sound like exactly what worship is supposed to do. But it’s another misdirection. It leaves us focused on the process inside the worshipper, instead of on God.
In the first place, this is manipulative; it makes the hour of worship a process imposed on churchgoers, aimed at directing their thoughts and emotions into the right channels. People can usually sense when they’re being manipulated. Men, especially, hate to have their emotions tampered with, and I expect this is a reason most congregations are predominantly female, and we assume that women are more religious than men are (though that’s obviously not the case with conservative varieties of Islam and Judaism).
I recall a chapel service at a Christian college where two girls with guitars were leading the audience in a hymn that featured the line, “I lay my head upon his chest.” Every time that line came around, the male professors near me would just stop singing.
But some people might actually like this focus on their worship experience, feeling that it’s appropriate for churches to serve their preferences, just like restaurants do. Church-shopping is common, as people sample many different churches in their search for the one that feels best. Unfortunately, the church that feels most comfortable is not the one that will challenge you. We are called to deep change, transformation in Christ, and the hard work of overcoming the poison of habitual sin. If you search till you find a church that feels just right, it’s likely to reinforce you as you already are.
A focus on the worshipper also burdens him, because it means worship succeeds or fails based on how he feels. He can look around during a hymn and notice others who look moved or inspired, while he himself feels nothing. He wonders if there is something wrong with him. Maybe his faith is too weak; maybe God has rejected him. Since the general mood during worship is upbeat (except for those times everyone is directed to be serious instead), the person who comes in feeling less than chipper will know that good manners requires holding it in. Church-time can come to seem very artificial. When you’re worried or sad it’s painful to be around happy people. Singing a hymn about how God takes care of me when I’m sad doesn’t really help.
I got an email this morning from a person who said he attended a church meeting where one of the newer leaders wanted to remove the Creed and the general confession from the Sunday service, because they were a “turn off.” This led to a discussion of the purpose of worship, and he said that, for him, it was about “alignment.” In worship he comes into the presence of God, and is lined up with him, so to speak. In our daily lives we turn away from God through our anxieties and temptations; our attention is scattered in all different directions. In worship, as we face the Lord, we are brought into right order with him.
This alignment is like what happens to a steel needle when it is brought into contact with a magnet. When the needle is manufactured it’s not magnetic, because the atoms inside are pointing in all different direction. But when the needle is touched by a magnet, those atoms begin to turn. They become aligned as the magnet is; they become magnets themselves.
When we are thus aligned with God we are made one with him, transformed by his power. We don’t just become like him, in a superficial or analogical way; we actually become bearers of his presence, as the Burning Bush was filled with fire.
My correspondent wrote that, while describing this process, he said, “I speak the ancient words” of the liturgy. That’s a potential complication. In churches where the tradition is to put worship together almost from scratch every week, the authority for that worship resides in the pastor and worship leaders. Its depth is limited to the depth of their own wisdom, insight, and prayer life. Liturgical churches simply have an advantage here, because they don’t have to generate the content of their worship. The ancient liturgies still exist, and some churches have never stopped using them for all 2000 years. The Orthodox Eucharistic service is like a rack railway, one that is designed to climb a mountain. I can get on the train on Sunday morning, and it will carry me all the way to the top. It doesn't matter whether I have emotions about worship or not; the Liturgy itself does the work.
As I said, this is more complicated for churches with a tradition of assembling the worship service new each week, but that does give you the freedom to try out the ancient prayers and services. They’re can be found in books and on line. I think it is less successful to just stick in a few ancient prayers, because you’re not wise enough to be an editor of those ancient texts; but if that is all you can do, it’s still something.
Years ago I met a young woman who told me she attended “the Celtic service at the First Baptist Church.” When I did a double-take she said, “The Boomers want a contemporary service, with rock music and all, but the young people, of course, want something more traditional.” They had located ancient Celtic prayers via the internet and were worshipping with vestments, candles, and incense (until the smoke alarm gave them too much trouble).
One thing that surprised me after I became Eastern Orthodox was that there was far less emphasis on believers being united with each other in worship. Previously, the prayers and hymns about communion were all about community. Now, they’re about the power of Christ’s presence in the sacrament and my unworthiness and unpreparedness to receive it. Communion does unites me to other worshippers, of course, but the understanding that the bread and wine really become Christ’s Body and Blood push other thoughts to the side.
I should clarify that I’m not recommending that go back to worship styles and hymns of a few decades or a century ago. That’s still a part of the culture we inhabit today, and it’s probably not disruptive or challenging enough to make a difference. Worship from thousands of years ago, from entirely different languages and cultures, has more of a chance of shaking you up.
Finally I have to ask, to what extent is worship supposed to teach the faithful? The Orthodox liturgies and prayers are full of meaty content, apparently intending that worshippers will understand and remember it, and not designed solely to glorify God. If you imagine that you were an illiterate peasant 1500 years ago, about the only time you would hear the scriptures would be during worship. The icons on the walls would serve as a picture bible, presenting the important scenes of bible and church history. The worship experience—the embroidery, incense, vestments, jewels and so forth—would be the most beautiful thing you encountered all week. Since everything is set to music, you can take it with you, and bring it to mind during the week. Some of the more important prayers are sung three times. We learned our ABCs by singing them over and over, and we learn church history and theology the same way.
I’m always impressed, on the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, at the amount of detail the hymns give us in describing the heresy of Arius, the arguments against him, and even his miserable end (he went into an outhouse and, it sounds like, exploded—yes, we sing even about this). We’re not singing these things in order to inform God about it. It must be intended to teach worshippers history and theology that they should know.
Likewise, it is right that there be a sermon or homily expounding the day’s scripture readings. An ancient practice is the moment when worshippers greet each other with a holy kiss—we see this referenced in St. Paul’s letters. So having insisted all this time that worship ought to be directed to God, I must admit that some elements teach and inform worshippers as well.
With that allowance, however, we still must answer the question “What is worship for?” with “Worship is for God.” We need to worship God, because it puts us in right “alignment” with him. God doesn't need our worship; God doesn't need anything the human race can offer. But when we drift from him we become scattered and confused. Worship brings us before our Creator, the only source of love that is worthy of the name. The more we focus on him alone, forgetting about ourselves, the more we will be healed."
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
A pastor in the UK wrote me asking, “What is worship for?” He said that his denomination was encouraging pastors to make worship more “user-friendly” in order to attract new members, and that this initially seemed to him a reasonable evangelistic strategy. A scripture cited in support of this approach was Acts 15:19, “We should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” But as he read this scripture in context, it looked to him like it was written of people who were already Christian believers, and would not be required to accept Jewish practices. It didn't address the case of people entirely outside the faith. He wrote to ask, “Who are church services for? Believers or unbelievers?”
It sounds like you are already approaching the answer, that in the Scriptures (and through church history) worship was intended to be worship. It was aimed at God, in adoration and supplication, not at attracting non-believers, or even at giving fellow-worshippers a good worship experience. This focus on God was the case until very recently; now our immersion in a consumer economy has led us to think of everything in terms of appealing to potential customers. We are so mentally saturated in advertising that we have come to think of ourselves and our faith as products that need to be persuasively sold.
That’s how worship gets redirected from the Lord to outsiders, who have no ability yet to understand or respect Him. The church becomes an organization that is primarily occupied with planning a billboard, because the most important goal is to capture non-believers’ attention. When someone responds to a billboard and becomes a member of the community, he discovers that he has joined an organization that — is planning a billboard. The main goal of members of a church is to attract more members to the church. It’s like Ponzi scheme.
In the Scriptures worship is directed to God, not to anyone on earth, not even to other worshippers. It is certainly not directed to people who don’t yet love and respect our Lord; in fact it should be expected that our worship will be unfamiliar, perplexing, and mysterious to them. In worship we focus on Him, and those who don’t yet see Him just won’t be able to grasp it. It’s appropriate that outsiders not understand what is going on. It’s appropriate that they don’t immediately get it. But they can see that the worshippers take it very seriously, and that they really believe God is present and hearing their prayers. That kind of worship is in itself powerfully compelling, and has its own magnetic pull.
This strikes a very different note than what we experience in our daily lives, which is so thoroughly devoted to attracting consumers, and desperately obsequious and silly in that pursuit. This seriousness of purpose strikes a very different note, and the fact that non-believers can’t immediately grasp what’s going on communicates a truth in itself.
Even for us worshippers, the focus is still on God, not each other. It is like a circle of friends who make up a string quartet. The four of them might come together in a living room for an evening to play the music they love. The bond between them is strong, and their community is a beautiful thing. But they don’t focus on each other, or the community they share, and there is no outside audience. They are focused on the music; they are trying to make the most beautiful music they can.
In this analogy you can see how the false division often cited about worship, that it is either casual or formal, falls away. Though they greatly enjoy playing this music, they don’t do it in a casual way; they take seriously the work involved, and strive to do their best. On the other hand, they don’t behave in a fussy and formal way, either. They aren’t self-conscious, as if they were trying to impress a human audience. It’s not a performance. Their whole heart and attention is directly engaged with the goal of creating beautiful music.
Worship ought to be as beautiful as we can make it, for God gave Moses very demanding instructions for worship, with very expensive elements: gold, jewels, embroidery, and incense. These were extravagant requirements for people who were refugees, wandering in the desert and living in tents. But even then the beauty of worship was a priority. Beauty affects us in ways we barely recognize. It opens our hearts. God required, and deserves, the greatest beauty we can create. But in the midst of beautiful worship we don’t have to be stiff and self-conscious. Great beauty and natural, joyous behavior are not opposites; we experience how they go together when we attend a wedding reception, or a big family dinner on Christmas.
Of course, the analogy to the quartet breaks down in that they are focused on the music, but worshippers’ focus is not on worship, but on God. Worship is not a performance. It is not entertainment. It is not advertising. Worship is work, as the Bible-Greek word leit-ourgia, liturgy, shows; it is “the work of the people.” We undertake this work as members of a vast community, going back to those instructions to Moses thousands of years go. We are responsible to continue that worship and pass it on with all the seriousness and beauty it deserves. We offer this worship as transitory place-holders, striving to doing it as well as those before us did, and those after us will do. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord who receives our worship.
If, instead, we focus on attracting outsiders, it will feel to them like every other advertising pitch they encounter. The church can never compete with the world when it comes to entertainment. The world can give them more enjoyable diversions than we can, and can do it without requiring them to leave the house on Sunday morning. If we are successful in attracting people to the church on the basis of fun and entertainment, we’re guilty of false advertising, for Christ promises us nothing in this life but a cross. But if we worship with whole-hearted focus on God, they will see something they encounter nowhere else in their lives. They may not at first see Christ, but they can see that we see something, and that gives them something to think about; that’s how faith begins."
This and other posts by Frederica can be found at: http://www.frederica.com
May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help to my friends and to all who are in want. May I never fail a friend in danger. When visiting those in grief, may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow their footsteps.
Eusebius, 4th Century
Friday, 13 September 2013
The text, parts of which constitute the oldest surviving written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. It is considered the first example of the genre of the Church Orders.
The work was considered by some of the Church Fathers as part of the New Testament but rejected as spurious or non-canonical by others, eventually not accepted into the New Testament canon.
What is fascinating is the dating of the work. Most scholars place the Didache at some point during the mid to late first century, but John Robinson argues that it is first generation, dating it c. 40-60 AD. This puts it within 10-30 years of the life of Jesus and raises important questions about what worship looked like DURING THE LIFE OF THE APOSTLES.
Here it is:
The Didache - The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.
Chapter 1. The Two Ways and the First Commandment.
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.
Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.
Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden.
My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads to murder. Be neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper, for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one. for lust leads to fornication. Be neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye, for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads to idolatry. Be neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things, for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads to theft. Be neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered. My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy. Be neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered.
Rather, be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself, nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse. Accept whatever happens to you as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.
Chapter 4. Various Precepts.
My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. Do not long for division, but rather bring those who contend to peace. Judge righteously, and do not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether or not it shall be. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give, nor complain when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own. For if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? Do not remove your hand from your son or daughter; rather, teach them the fear of God from their youth. Do not enjoin anything in your bitterness upon your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest ever they shall fear not God who is over both; for he comes not to call according to the outward appearance, but to them whom the Spirit has prepared. And you bondmen shall be subject to your masters as to a type of God, in modesty and fear. You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything which is not pleasing to the Lord. Do not in any way forsake the commandments of the Lord; but keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom. In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.
Chapter 5. The Way of Death.
And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and accursed: murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.
Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols.
See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.
Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism.
And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.
Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer (the Lord's Prayer).
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever..
Pray this three times each day.
Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."
Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion.
But after you are filled, give thanks this way:
We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name's sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there's a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.
Chapter 12. Reception of Christians.
But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is an artisan, let him work and eat. But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep away from such.
Chapter 13. Support of Prophets.
But every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have no prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.
Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day.
But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: "In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations."
Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof.
Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel. But to anyone that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.
Chapter 16. Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord.
Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead -- yet not of all, but as it is said: "The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him." Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.