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Why? Here’s the truth. October 25, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in Wisdom.
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When asked, “Why Orthodoxy? Why God?” Kyriaki responded in a very real way by just writing. Below I share the very real truth that she shared on her blog, Lighting Candles to Pray for Light.

First, from Seraphim on Desert Calling:

[In response to being asked ‘why do you pursue Orthodoxy and long for God?’]

Why? Because it’s either the Truth or death. This isn’t some weekend hobby we’re talking about or some means to being able to identify with a larger group — this is life. How should I live, for Whom shall I live, and what when I die? Some people think these are abstractions that get in the way of living. On the contrary, I do not think it is possible to live a real, full life without acknowledging those questions, and in so realizing, I discovered Orthodoxy. Christ is the only way to make any sense out of this ridiculous mess that is life, that is the world. The atheists call it weakness. I call it strength. It takes strength to admit that human beings are not self-sufficient and are in need of the grace of God for salvation from corruption and death.

That is possibly the best answer to that question that I’ve read in a while. This…gets into your blood. It stops being religion, a way to describe yourself, a belief system and a moral code. It might sound weird to the non-Orthodox but…I live this, I breathe it. It…is everything, in everything. Nothing is mundane, all is sacred, somehow. Even taking my medicine, walking, washing my hair, cleaning, stitching. It doesn’t have to mention God or have Jesus tacked on it for it to be sacred – it just is. Prayers that go with things like waking up or going to bed, or beginning study, are good. But they’re not necessary for the Christian life to be sacred. It just…is. Something happened to me the day Pater bade me kneel as he baptised me, and as the oil was marked on my face, hands, feet, neck…this Cross around my neck is more than metal, my life is more than existance and it is more than this life. It is only today that matters, and worry about the past or future is meaningless. And yet today is meaningless and only eternity is important. I live suspended in this world of earth and heaven together at once, heaven here amongst us and angels that walk unseen. To be in the presence of God and the Saints, to live this life and worship in a way that doesn’t always mean song or dance but can mean the simple prayers as I work during the day, as I go about my daily life. And that one prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Heaven is not above me, in some separate universe. It is HERE and yet unseen, experienced yet not understood. At home, outside, and most especially within the walls of the Temple, surrounded by icons that remind me of the Saints present but unseen. Tomorrow I will ’see’ my friends in Church, present at the one eternal Divine Liturgy, one perfect Sacrifice, that every divine service takes part in. For us Christ is sacrificed on the Altar tomorrow – and yet, He is never sacrificed again because this sacrifice took place both inside and outside human time. How can we comprehend such things? We can’t. We can never pretend to. But somehow our incomprehension makes it all the more beautiful, that this is so far beyond what we could ever imagine.

Find the rest of her post HERE.

God help me to attain that, and God bless you, Seraphim and Kyriaki.

Truly, God is love.

Acceptance October 23, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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Of all of her saints and sailors/prophets and princesses/Bethlehem never saw anyone like you

Royalty’s line of David/raised in the holy temple/soon to become the temple/of the King of kings

Mary/conversation of angels/Anna’s daughter Mary/mother of God

Gabriel’s grand announcement/Mary’s own humble acceptance/as you received Him/may our hearts receive Him, too

Virgin and Holy Spirit/mystery and conception/chosen and willing/bore the Savior of the world

Theotokos, pray for us!/Theotokos, pray for us!

Of all of her saints and sailors/prophets and princesses/Bethlehem never saw anyone like you/Mary

— “Mary” by Ron Moore

Tonight at OCF I had the opportunity for missionary Ron Moore’s music to grace my ears (as well as fellowship and lots of fun). This week has been…. godless. Not that that’s new. I’ve been wondering what the point was of me being in the catechumenate. I’ve been thinking about leaving. I remember all last week I had felt wonderful and I truly loved life, and then after Wednesday night Vespers I felt horrible. “Well, self,” I said to myself, “this is a very obvious sign that this whole Christian thing isn’t right for you.. It might be right for others, but it’s not your path.” Yes. I was buying into that crap. In my head floated thoughts about all religions being different facets of the same diamond, all paths leading to God, being happy my own way, and other such bullshit (to put it bluntly).

As so many times in the past, I was merrily skipping my way to Hell on the wide path.

Were it not for my friends, I would not have been to the past few weeks of services. Even if I went for the wrong reasons, to see friends instead of to worship God, I was still going.

I was sitting and listening to songs from Jonathan Bush, Ron Moore, and Fr. Justin Mathews. I remember that missionary Ron Moore introduced his song, “Mary” (above), by talking about a teenage girl who said “yes” to God. It didn’t really click for me until Ron began singing. I’ve never thought about it before, not really. But Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, was a teenager. Mary was a teenager when she agreed to God’s will. She bore God Himself, Emmanuel, for us. She is the Mother of the Light, our Savior Jesus Christ. She did not falter. She said, “Yes.” She accepted God’s will in her life. Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

— (Luke 1:39-55, Mary Visits Elizabeth, The Song of Mary, NKJV)

Mary, a young teenage girl, became the Mother of God. That just… astounds me. My mind wants to implode by just briefly contemplating that fact. Mary, a young teenage girl, became the temple for the King of Kings. Mary, as a young teenage girl, became the Unwed Bride of God. A young teenager was the conversation of angels, the bearer of Light, the cause of rejoicing in Heaven.

Yet I, a young and foolish teenager, cannot even manage a few brief prayers at night?

Why can’t I trust God so fully? Why can’t I let Him sustain me in my apathy, comfort me in my tears, ground me in my naive wanderings, be the hope of my future? The demons work to subvert me. Damn me. I let them. I don’t turn to God, Who is my Hope. I don’t turn to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Why? It confuses me to no end. I can’t seem to get it right. I cling to desires and fantasies and dreams and longings. I crave comfort, touch, warmth, love. Why can’t I manage to see that God can give all of that to me?

Why can I not look at Mary, who was a teenager as myself (and younger) when she bore God for the salvation of the world? She fully accepted God’s will, and put her life into His hands. She continued this acceptance throughout her life, even to the Cross. She watched as her only son was crucified, blood running down His precious skin. Mary, the Theotokos, trusted God and accepted His will.

The song says “her own humble acceptance.” That’s just what I need to do. Accept God’s will, what He has put in my life unto my salvation.

I need to accept.

God helping me, by the prayers of His Most Holy Mother Mary as I look to her for example, and of all the saints, I’ll manage to accept God’s will.

The Road to Paradise October 9, 2008

Posted by Justin Farr in The Journey.
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“When you are on the road to paradise, this will be your sign: the temptations which multiply against you.” — St. Isaac the Syrian

Oh my God, help me! Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

So much has happened. I have neglected this blog that has been so helpful to me.

I remember the Feast of the Birth of Mary. I remember that the service was powerful, but I can’t remember why.

Today from the stem of Jesse and from the loins of David, the handmaid of God Mary is being born for us. Therefore all creation is renewed and rejoices. Heaven and earth rejoice together. Praise her, you families of nations, for Joachim rejoices, and Anna celebrates, crying out, “The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of Life!”

I remember desperately wanting love. That has been a recurring theme lately.

It eats me alive inside. It haunts my every thought, my every dream. It as if the sadness in my heart is so great that it is going to burst forth from my chest.

Quick as a humming bird is my love, Dipping into the hearts of flowers– He darts so eagerly, swiftly, sweetly Dipping into the flowers of my heart.

— James Oppenheim

And I remember the Feast of the Protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

I remember, for the first time in a long time, being happy that day. It was some time last week. I had felt happy all day long. I saw beauty in everything. Such happiness was sudden, uncharacteristic. I go to church for Wednesday Vespers to find out that that day was the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. And it all clicked. She had cast her veil over me in loving, warm protection that day. I remember kneeling, and I found it wonderful. We cried out, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” and then we would prostrate. It was amazing.

And the pilgrimage to Holy Cross Hermitage.

I had been miserable, my desires eating me alive, feasting upon my soul. I was tired, cold. My feet hurt. It was late; we were at a quite long vigil. Then, like a sudden gust of unexpected wind that bewilders you, the grace of God descended upon me. It lasted about an hour or so, I do not know. I was near to tears, so enraptured in the liturgy.

Earlier that day I had read a bit in the book The Sweet Far Thing. Gemma had encountered a beautiful, wondrous fairy in the woods. Her voice rang as mithril, and there was nothing more lovely in all the realms. The fairy tempted Gemma towards the gates to the Winterlands, a sweet seductress, luring Gemma in with wonderful things. Her friend, however, called for her from far away and interrupted Gemma’s allure. It was then that she noticed how horrid the fairy was, and that her voice was a shrill hiss as opposed to the voice akin to that of a goddess. Gemma looked past the fairy’s facade and found the truth beyond the superficial beauty.

During vigil, I connected this with the demons. So beautiful. Alluring. Wonderful. Until something interrupts their pull, if only briefly. Then you see their horror. Their lies. Dragging you to your damnation. Maybe not even dragging. Many times I have simply held their hand, all too happy to merrily skip on my way to Hell.

Everything I thought I wanted, needed, was a lie. The fog was lifted from my eyes. I loved God. I fervently prayed that He have mercy on me and not allow me to fall again into the dark, stagnant depths.

God, apparently, had different plans.

O Lord, I know not what to ask of You. You alone know my true needs. You love me more that I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me, for Your great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to You. I put all my trust in You. I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen.

We left, and I was particularly assailed by demons. I was too weak to fight them for long. I tried, then I slowly gave way to apathy. I even wanted the thoughts I had, as unrealistic as I knew they were.

Nearly a week later, and I have sunk down. I have fallen into despair. I want to cling to my thoughts of dating, planning romantic dates, proposing, marriage, children, growing old and dying with the love of my life. I cling to those thoughts as though they were the very things sustaining me. I know I cannot have those things. I clutch my pillow at night and cry. Cry. I worship this idol of marriage. Of marriage I cannot have within the Church.

I am spitting on God’s face once again, yelling, “God! You died for me, and I don’t give a damn!”

I happily wallow in my despair. I cling to my darkness. I desperately grasp onto my fantasies. I want something else more than I want God. I want marriage more than I want my salvation.

As I think of this, I remember the quote above from St. Isaac the Syrian. At the monastery’s vigil, I was truly close to paradise. I know I was close because, indeed, the temptations have multiplied against me. I have fallen. If it is God’s will, so be it. “Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up.” I pray that I learn from all that I go through.

This blog is about my journey in Christ. I fall down, get up, fall down again, get up again. I do an awful lot of falling.

God, help me to get back up.

Whenever I feel empty, whenever I desire to be filled with something other than You, O my God, come to my aid. Whenever I want love, help me to remember that You are love.

“God is love.”

Help me, my God. Oh my God, help me! Oh my God, oh my God… help me.