May-June 2019

Post date: Aug 27, 2019 9:23:17 PM

Christ is risen!

Well, for Sam, who (sometimes) attends St. Mark’s Orthodox Church, in a hypothetical situation near you, He is only kinda risen. He said, “It really makes you feel nice inside, especially when you hear the choir sing it and the soprano with the nice, big voice is there. And really, that’s what faith is all about.” When pressed further, he elaborated: “Well, you can’t really take everything at face value. We’re in the twenty-first century and someone rising from the dead just doesn’t happen, does it? Besides, if we believe that, then we have to believe all that other stuff… you know… that in order to gain your life you have to lose it? What sort of riddle is that? Tithing? There’s college for the kids, retirement, visiting the family in the Old Country… Communion? The wine that Father uses is pretty good, but I prefer mine a little more on the dry side. Confession? I don’t need anyone to know what I’m really like, not even my wife. Last week Father preached on a prayer of St. Eph… something… ‘Lord and master of my life’ - this is America, the land of the free.”

Do you know Sam? Do you have a little bit of Sam in you? Does it seem that faith is as flimsy as a feel-good story? The apostles certainly did not think so. Their witness (martyria) to what they had seen and heard and their Spirit-filled strength bear witness to the truth of Christ, His teachings, and His bodily resurrection and ascension. So what is faith all about? The simple answer is that faith is trust in God so that our entire life is lived under the guidance of His commandments. But that is a very general answer and likely not a very helpful one in terms of everyday life. So, perhaps a better question is what does a life of faith look like?

It looks like selling all one’s possessions to go dwell in the desert and live a life of prayer as St. Anthony the Great did.

It looks like traveling from town to town over an entire continent to serve those in need as St. Raphael of Brooklyn did. Or across two continents, as St. Herman of Alaska did… mostly on foot.

It looks like risking your life to save others in danger as St. Maria of Paris did.

It looks like devoting your life and your family life to Christ as Ss. Basil the elder and Emily did, five of whose children are also saints of the Church.

It looks like weeping and kneeling in front of the icon of the Theotokos in full acknowledgement of sins, as St. Mary of Egypt did.

It may look like Patrick and Anne. They are a couple who also attend St. Mark’s, but do so every Sunday and often during the week, as well. They were inspired by St. Anthony and, having read an article by Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green, they decided to not only tithe to the Church, but give to several charities, as well. This means they live in a modest home and their two cars are older and show some wear and tear, but their goal is to store treasure where moth does not eat and rust does not consume. They were inspired by Ss. Raphael, Herman, and Maria so they work to find time to volunteer at the local food pantry and pregnancy support center with their children. They were inspired by Ss. Basil and Emily, so they work to make sure church comes first on their children’s schedule. This means fewer activities for the kids, but in the end that is turning out to be more of a blessing than they expected. They were inspired by St. Mary of Egypt, so they (and their older children) have regular confession appointments with their priest.

Patrick and Anne are a hypothetical example and the saints above are but a few of the myriad that we have on our calendar. We have monastics and married saints, confessors, martyrs, kings and emperors, beggars, fools for Christ, pillar- and rock- and cave- and hut-dwellers, and many others. In each life we can find some element to emulate, though it will likely not look exactly the way it looked in the life of that saint. There is often need for a time of discernment and a process of trial and error, and there may often be frustrations in trying to make things work. At those times, we can, perhaps, be inspired by St. Paul and his frustrations which can be gleaned from his letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Thessalonians… God will get us through frustrations, also.

May He grant us the grace and wisdom to be like Patrick and Anne, living out our belief that truly, Christ is risen. And may He give us grace to love Sam, too.

With love in Christ,

+Fr. Peter