26 February 2008

What Fasting Does for the Soul

As we are about to undertake the customary sacred fast of Quinquagesima, we must realize that what soap does for human bodies, this is what fasting supplies to Christian souls: it cleanses the filth off the senses, it washes away the offenses of the mind, it removes the crimes of the heart, it removes the blemishes from the heart, and with marvelous splendor it leads the entire human being to the luster of charity. And just as Spring curbs and reins in all the violent storms, clears up the sky’s complexion, gives peace to the earth, and calls forth and rouses to living vigor the whole body of the world, which had been buried in the death of winter; so too does fasting quiet every conflict, restore peace to one’s limbs, enkindle souls lulled to sleep and deadened by the chill of negligence, and bring virtue to life and thaw it out entirely. (St Peter Chrysologus)

24 February 2008

Holy Incarnation Website Updated

It's nothing snazzy, just a few necessary updates, changes, etc. But if you're of a mind to do so, wander over to the Holy Incarnation website and see what's new.

What Is This Race Which We Run?

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Using the propers for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for Septuagesima Sunday.

St. Paul plainly tells us that we are running a race. And he urges us not simply to run, but to run that you may obtain the prize. The holy Apostle sets the goal before us. We are running to win. The prize has been set before us; it is in clear view. Now we must attain that which has been promised. Now we may lay hold on the treasure that has been stored up for us. And with this goal in mind, we run not with uncertainty, not as someone just pounding the pavement and going through the motions. Rather, we should run so that, in the end, we stand with those who have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.

But what is this race which we run? What is the course? And what is the point?

Fear propels most runners. They run to stay healthy, to prolong life, to avoid death. Pride propels a few. They run for the glory, for the accolades and fame. Still fewer run for the sheer joy of running. They run because they enjoy the atmosphere, and get caught up in the act. For all three—the afraid, the proud, and the lovers—for all three, the race is this world. They run the human race. That is to say, they run only with this life in mind: to get the most they can from the time they have, and to experience all that the world offers. They afraid fear missing out. The proud want to be remembered in the record books. And the lovers of this world get caught up in the act of living, in taking it all in, in living life to its fullest.

But that is not our race. For this world does not offer the prize that we seek. This world offers only disappointment and death. Its promises fade or are broken. And getting caught up in this world’s living means getting caught up in its march to death. For in the end, this world’s prize may be monuments for a few and satisfaction for some, but the grave for all.

Yet we run not because of fear or pride or love of this world.We run to obtain the prize. Which means that we run so that we might lay hold on eternal life, unto which we have been called.

The Spirit has sealed us as His own in Holy Chrismation so that we run our race not in vainly, not beating the air worthlessly, but so that we may obtain an incorruptible prize, undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. And His goal for us is not that we live life to the fullest, but so that we live life in His fullness.

Read the full sermon here.

23 February 2008

A New Blog

Recently a blog was begun on the Holy Incarnation website.

This blog contains news and items of interest for members and friends of Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.

Check out the latest entry, on the Lenten Fast.

17 February 2008

Holy Incarnation Church has a Home!

Negotiations for the purchase of a church home for Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church were successfully concluded on Tuesday, 12 February 2008. The closing culminated a year-long search for Holy Incarnation's own building. The purchase was blessed by Metropolitan PHILIP and Bishop MARK. They also blessed the release of funds held in trust from the former Incarnation Orthodox Church in Detroit.

Holy Incarnation is a Western Rite Orthodox parish in metropolitan Detroit. Western Rite parishes are Orthodox parishes utilizing the liturgical tradition of European Christianity. In particular, the Sunday Mass follows the historic Latin or Roman rite. All of our services are in English but the order of worship, customs, and liturgical art follows a pattern familiar to most Christians in Europe and America.

From 1975-2001, Incarnation Orthodox Church in Detroit served the liturgical needs of Western Rite Orthodox Christians in and around Detroit, and was the cornerstone of the Western Orthodoxy in the Midwest. Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church builds on the legacy of the former Incarnation parish. The new building will further the permanent re-establishment of a Western Rite presence in Detroit. It also increases the Orthodox presence and mission in the downriver area. The newly purchased building is located in Lincoln Park, Michigan, a near suburb in the downriver area of Detroit.

The building is in good repair, but will require renovations so that the worship space is suitable for the Western Orthodox liturgy. For updates concerning the move, and to learn more about Holy Incarnation, readers are invited to visit the Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.

The Mustard Seed

In Matthew 13, we hear Our Lord compare the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed. Later, in Matthew 17, He compares faith to the grain of mustard. From these two comparisons, St Ambrose draws the following: “If the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, and faith is like to a grain of mustard seed, faith is then truly the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of heaven is faith. He therefore that has faith possesses the kingdom of heaven.”

The Gospel, then, teaches us that faith and the kingdom of heaven are intimately related. Of course, one needs faith to enter the kingdom of heaven. But also, the kingdom of heaven is seen only with the eyes of faith. In other words, the kingdom we strive to attain promises security, riches and other ‘rewards’ which can be grasped and held dear only by faith. Faith, of course, is not readily apparent or visible, and in fact seems as insignificant as the mustard seed. In the same way, the kingdom of heaven is not readily apparent or visible, and seems insignificant.

Consider also this: the full power of the mustard seed is revealed only when it is crushed. When nature crushes the seed, a great tree takes root. When a man deliberately crushes the mustard seed, the seed produces a strong and rich spice. In the same way, crushing faith by persecution or martyrdom reveals both its strength and the ‘spice’ of overwhelming love for God. And ‘crushing’ or breaking open the kingdom of heaven reveals both the riches it contains, and the love it releases.

At root, then, what is truly the kingdom of heaven? Once again, St Ambrose urges us to believe that “The Lord Himself is the grain of mustard seed. He was without injury; but the people were unaware of Him. … [Yet] He chose to be crushed. … He chose to be planted in the earth [when He was buried]. … [Then] He sprung up in a garden, where He also rose from the dead, and became a tree;” namely, the Tree of Life.

01 February 2008

Okay, My Turn

Father Gregory Jensen has tagged me in a most intriguing meme.

Here are the rules:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

From the Orthodox Missal According to the Use of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. (Stanton NJ: St Luke's Priory Press, 1995). This portion is from the Maundy Thursday Gospel (Jn 13.2-6 in KJV).

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

(By the way, the Missal sits in front of me on a turning carousel . I'm glad the carousel wasn't turned to my Liber Usualis since typing neumes is a bit tricky!)

I tag the following (yes, I know it's only 3):

Pr David Petersen
Ad Orientem
Chris Orr