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Holy Week 2007
31-03-2007, 08:44 AM,
Holy Week 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we enter Holy Week, can I wish all of you a blessed and peaceful week. The following, from St. Ephraim the Syrian seems somehow relevant to me:
Quote:Ephraim the Syrian, Spiritual Psalter, Psalm 120: 'How many times have I promised...'

"How Many Times Have I Promised,
Yet Every Time I Failed to Keep My Word.
But Disregard This According to Thy Grace."

Grant forgiveness, O Lord, send also strength. Convert me, that I might live in sanctity, according to Thy holy will. Sanctify my heart that has become a den and dwelling-place of demons.

I am unworthy to ask forgiveness for myself, O Lord, for many times have I promised to repent and proved myself a liar by not fulfilling my promise. Thou hast picked me up many times already, but every time I freely chose to fall again.

Therefore I condemn myself and admit that I deserve all manner of punishment and torture. How many times hast Thou enlightened my darkened mind; yet every time I return again to base thoughts! My whole body trembles when I contemplate this; yet every time sinful sensuality reconquers me.

How shall I recount all the gifts of Thy grace, O Lord, that I the pitiful one have received? Yet I have reduced them all to nothing by my apathy -- and I continue on in this manner. Thou has bestowed upon me thousands of gifts, yet miserable me, I offer in return things repulsive to Thee.

Yet Thou, O Lord, inasmuch as Thou containest a sea of longsuffering and an abyss of kindness, do not allow me to be felled as a fruitless fig tree; and do not let me be burned without having ripened on the field of life. Snatch me not away unprepared; seize not me who have not yet lit my lamp; take not away me who have no wedding garment; but, because Thou art good and the lover of mankind, have mercy on me. Give me time to repent, and place not my soul stripped naked before Thy terrible and unwavering throne as a pitiful spectacle of infamy.

If a righteous man can barely be saved, then where will I end up, I who am lawless and sinful? If the path that leads to life is strait and narrow, then how can I be vouchsafed such good things, I who live a life of luxury, indulging in my own pleasures and dissipation? But Thou, O Lord, my Saviour, Son of the true God, as Thou knowest and desirest it, by Thy grace alone, freely turn me away from the sin that abides in me and save me from ruin.
That will be my meditation for this week.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
07-04-2007, 11:46 AM,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Pondering, yesterday on the sombreness of that afternoon at Golgotha, I was struck by the faithfulness of the women who were 'looking on from afar' in Matthew 15:40
Quote:40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome

They, along with the most Holy Theotokos, stood there in love and faith, even as He was tormented and crucified. They did not try to cut off any one's ear; they made no boasts; they never failed to acknowledge and to love Him. They stood there, with St. John, in silent witness.

Those of had lauded him on Palm Sunday had turned and shouted 'crucify him!' He was deserted by almost all His followers; even the thief who was crucified next to Him joined in the cruel mockery. But at the foot of the Cross stood those four women and one man, who loved Him even at the moment of His apparent failure; who accepted Him, and the will of the Father, even as He did in His agony on the Cross.

What a lesson there is for us in this; and how significant that the majority of those who witnessed so powerfully in silence should have been women. It was, one suspects, ever thus. Little wonder, perhaps, that the Risen Lord should have first appeared to Mary Magdalen and 'the other Mary'.

Or so it seems on my reading; but perhaps others can add light here?

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
08-04-2007, 09:58 PM,
The Feast of the Resurrection
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

At the start of Great Lent I was received into the British Orthodox Church; this is my first Pascha in that Church.

The Liturgy last night at Babingley was intensely moving. As we stood in the darkness, which was broken only by the candles, and the deacons made their responses, it was, indeed, as though we had been there - and as we sang 'Jesus Christ is risen today', I felt it for the first time; really felt it.

Much is made, and rightly so, of the importance of tradition in the Orthodox Church, and at times it is contrasted with the greater emotionalism that is present in some more evangelical forms of the Faith; last night that distinction was without meaning. No feeling could have been deeper than that of being in the presence of the Risen Lord, and of receiving His body and His blood.

The Church at Babingley seemed transformed by His presence. I am not, on the whole, given to emotionalism, and the strength of my reaction surprised me. Yet it was not a 'conversion experience' such as I have read about; I was not filled with emotion as such. It was simply an intense sense of that this Liturgy was, indeed, part of the Heavenly Liturgy, and that as we finished, an Angel of the sacrifice did, indeed, take our worship with Him.

Was it simply a combination of a moving service, an atmospheric Church on an ancient Holy site, and a susceptibility to the occasion? Of course, and I don't rule it out; but I have been in atmospheric Churches on susceptible occasions before, with nothing of the sort happening.

But then I have never before tried to do Lent seriously. I don't pretend to have been able to keep the fast in the way I would have liked; but I tried not to get too hung up on the formalism, but rather to keep my eye on the principle of sacrificing things for His sake; and to keep my mind on Him. Perhaps, then, it is true when they say that the quality of your Pascha depends on the quality of your Lent?

Then, this evening, when I went over to Mickfield to do the Orthodox Vespers, there was another surprise waiting.

Usually we are a small, perhaps select, but certainly small group. I was a trifle nervous, not least since Mark Wright, who does the service with me, was on holiday, and Tim, who has stepped in (magnificently) once before, had not had time to prepare. I reassured him (and myself) that apart from Alan (who directs the music) and his wife, we should probably have no one to notice if we made mistakes.

We had ten in the congregation! Evening prayer felt penitential after the glory of the Liturgy, but that seemed right; it called us all to the need to repent - in the certainty that the Risen Lord had died for our sakes.

He is Risen Indeed!

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

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