MY JOURNEY TO THE WAY- PART 4 – more hope

Father Timothy said he will interested in my thoughts about Lent.  The saturation and poetry of the scripture readings went straight to my soul where they steeped in the deep waters of my being.  I had never experienced Easter in that way before.  It was a journey with Christ from Lazarus  to the Resurrection in Holy Week.  I loved it!

An act of love I will also never forget was that of Nadine sharing her umbrella with me, holding it more over my head than hers so that she got rained on and I did not.  I felt so bad, but she insisted.  I was unworthy of such an act and so receiving that gift was extremely difficult.

The fast itself was difficult at times as well.  Part of it was that I still have yet to grasp the significance of it.  I am willing to learn.

My favorite part of Holy Week was the Friday service where the Lamentations were read.  You know that author who actually puts into words the thoughts in your mind?  This is Lamentations for me.  It is full of the echos of my soul.  I absolutely loved it!  It included Lamentations in the Bible but also had the journey of Christ to the Cross, to Hades to the Resurrection in beautiful language.

There was something special about the Lazarus story that struck my soul. Jesus called to Lazarus  after he was in the grave for 4 days.  Lazarus was indeed dead. No doubt about it.  When they removed the stone, the smell of rotting flesh must have escaped the tomb. There were people standing outside the tomb, as the icon depicts, with their hands over their nose, not in wonder, but because of the smell.  That is reality.

But what strikes me is that Lazarus had nothing to do with Jesus calling His name.  He did not ask for that to happen.  He was helpless to respond. He was dead. He did not want to respond, but neither could he refuse to respond.  He was dead.

The same principle is shown in the story about the 4 friends who let down their sick friend through the roof to the room where Jesus  was.  The story says nothing about the sick man’s desires, condition or status.  It says nothing about his morals or his righteousness.  What it does talk about is the concern and action of his 4 friends.

There is hope, therefore, for the one who has strayed from following Jesus, and cannot even see that they are dead in their sins.  They may be blind in the darkness in which they are walking and may not even have a desire to change.  Worse, they may have deceived themselves and really believe that God would have them happy in the lifestyle they have chosen.

The hope is that the prayers and faith of the ones who love them may be effectual and may avail much.  God may have mercy, give sight to the blind and cause their spiritual awakening and salvation.  This is the hope for every parent who grieves over a lost child. The hope for every lost or wayward soul who is loved by one who knows God.

My Journey to the Way – part 2

Ok, so I have never had a beer, never had an alcohol drink really.  I sipped one once, but that was it.  Reason being, when I was a young teenager, an evangelist, named Bro. Maze Jackson, preached at our church about the evils of alcohol. His invitation at the end was for all the young people to come forward and make a vow to never have a drink of alcohol.  So I went forward and made the vow.  I have made a point of being faithful to that vow my whole life.

Last Monday night in our Orthodox class, Dale spoke about Pascha.   Apparently it is an all day affair on Holy Saturday, celebrating into the night and Sunday morning.  Rebecca mentioned that they celebrate and drink Vodka and other alcoholic drinks.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Doesn’t it loosen one’s inhibitions, making it more likely that one would do unwise things?  Also, is this required in the celebration?  And of course, what about my vow?

I have discovered that some look down on people who cross their legs in church, because it is considered disrespectful and lackadaisical.  Who knew?  Women can wear pants or a dress as long as it is modest. One should not chew gum in church. And it seems like I am picking up that one should fast on Sunday morning until he takes the Eucharist.  There are prayers that deliver one from the Evil Eye.  (kind of freaky).  The Evil Eye has its roots in paganism, but it is a feared thing by many Orthodox.

Chrismation involves removing one’s shoes and being anointed with oil on different parts of one’s body.  And you need a sponsor.  More to find out…

“Father Timothy, I made a vow when I was a teenager not to drink alcohol.  There is wine in the Eucharist and people will be celebrating with alcohol during Pascha.  I do not know what to do.”    He did not tell me to break the vow.  He told me that I was in a different situation now.  I acted on the information I had back then.  God would not hold me responsible for breaking a vow that would keep me from the Eucharist.  Common sense should prevail.  Whether or not I partook of the vodka on Holy Saturday night was up to me and my conscience.  Yeah, I guess so.

I asked him if going to confession is the only way I could know if my sins were forgiven.  He adamantly said, “not at all.”  That made me feel much better.  He explained how the process of confession works.  It is a public thing, but done in a corner at the front of the auditorium.  He will stand behind me while I confess softly.  He said no one will hear me.  He will not speak unless to guide my thoughts about confession, or confront an untruth.  Afterwards he will lay his (shawl?) on my head and absolve me from my sins.

I gather that the confession is to deal with sins that I regard in my heart and struggle with repeating them.  We cannot remember every sin.  Maybe it is the spirit of repentance that is important here. The Bible says,”A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise.”

We talked about baptism.  I remember being baptized as an 8-year-old sometime  after I went to the altar and asked Jesus into my heart.  Everything changed for me after that.  I knew God was with me. Had if not been for His love for me, I would have been destroyed as a young girl.

I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So in that sense, it was a Trinitarian baptism.  However, Baptists are specifically named in a passage he read to me from a book that guides the practices of Orthodox, as being one the  groups that must be re-baptized  into the Orthodox Church.  That is ok.  I am willing, just in case it was not a valid baptism when I was young.

However,  the thing that bothers me is that in my reading I have discovered that unless  I was baptized by an Orthodox priest, I am not saved.  St John Chrysostom teaches that “without the existence and grace of the priesthood there is no baptism or Eucharist, and thus, according to the words of the Savior Himself, no salvation.”

Could anything be more devastating than to find out that a lifetime lived as a Christian who has done her best to abide in Christ and to do His will, taking refuge in Him in all crisis, is all a lie?  And in view of that, to have to wait a year to even take the Eucharist and thus be saved? What if I die before then?

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

That tells me that it was Him who  gave me the desire to please Him and live for Him.  Would God have given that to someone  who was not saved? I have walked with Him all my life.  Was it a delusion? Is this life in me not of God? Is this not the Christ?

…to be continued