Mary and Forgiveness

Today the sermon was about Mary, the Mother of God.  The veneration of Mary  vs the worship of Mary has been one of the obstacles I have encountered as I have entered in to Orthodoxy.  Some of the language of veneration sounds much like worship words to me.  Words like “make us worthy of compassion,” and “manifest thy power as ever.”  Those words seem to indicate that Mary has power.  I struggle to understand.

However, I have been thinking a lot about Mary.   Father Timothy said that Mary was a bridge from God to us and a ladder from us to God.  She was the conduit through which Christ was made incarnate, and when she died, she portrayed God’s redemption to mankind, a way to heaven.  The priests wore blue today and there was a blue cloth on the altar table in honor of Mary.  I did not realize that blue symbolized Mary, but then I noticed the icons of Mary after my friend Nadine whispered to me about them. Mary wore blue.

Blue.  The color of the heavens.  The color of Mary.  The color of peace and tranquility. The color of forgiveness?

I have two icons of Mary that show many swords piercing her heart.  “Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed —” and a sword will pierce your soul as well.” Luke 2, 34-35. 

I have yet to understand the full meaning of the swords that pierced Mary’s heart, but a sword must have pierced her heart when she stood below the suffering Christ on the Cross, watching Him, looking into His eyes, His blood possibly even dripping down on her, as she longed to take His suffering, feeling helpless, with love, in great distress.  In anger?  In “mother bear” mode?  With her innate strong sense of protection rising to the forefront, and yet unable to protect?  Perhaps wanting to lash out at those who hurt Him?

Mary, did you struggle with forgiveness?

Oh Mary, Mother of our Suffering Lord Jesus, you who know the piercing sword, please pray for my children, who have caused many swords to pierce my heart, as I have watched their pain and trauma play out in their sicknesses, their decisions and their sins. I have struggled with forgiving those who hurt my children.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on them; on my children and on their offenders. And help my children to forgive, lest the root of bitterness defile them.

Today the sermon was also about forgiveness. It was about the man who had been forgiven much, penalized the man who owed him little.  Father Timothy pointed out that we have trespassed greatly against God.  We ought to forgive those who have trespassed against us, especially in that their trespasses against us are so minute compared to our great sin against God.

Father Timothy read a part of the liturgy indicating that God forgets our iniquities.  I struggle to grasp that.  Forget as in no memory of?  Or forget as in our sins not counting against us?   I truly wish I could really not remember what someone has done against me.  In my struggling, I can can come to the place of forgiveness, as in I do not want revenge, or vengeance, and I can think charitably of them, understand them, and pity them.  And I do believe that I have truly forgotten some offenses.  Yes, I can love  the offenders, even.  But in some cases,  when I live with the effects of the trauma and hurt every day in my personality, in the formation of my soul, in the sickness of mind and body, the pain it caused in those I love, and in the painful aftermath of the unwise decisions that trauma influenced, to totally forget is impossible.

I choose not to speak of it with the offenders.  I choose not to seek revenge or inflict pain.

I choose to bear it, to seek that continual state of forgiveness, and to pray for healing.

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My Journey to the Way-Part 3-Hope

Hope – “This day you shall be with me in paradise.”  The grace of God is obviously not limited to those who have taken the Orthodox way of Chrismation, Baptism and the Eucharist.  The thief on the cross experienced none of these and yet Christ made this statement to him.  Christ looks on the heart. I suspect there are many hearts outside of Orthodoxy that belong to Christ.  He is a God of mercy and grace and He loves mankind. I believe that “He will keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

Father Timothy said there is disagreement within Orthodoxy on some of the issues.  They seem to be pretty laid back on many things, but strict on others.  I hope as I become more familiar with Orthodoxy that I can discern which ones are which.

Human nature is the same across the board in whatever church one belongs, and it takes a miracle to change human nature.  I am grateful to have observed the change that God can make in a person’s life.  I saw it  in my mother first of all.  She was not perfect, but instead of displaying bitterness and hate which she had many reasons to do so, instead, I remember hearing the sound of her voice  praying in her room. I knew that is how she survived.  I had great reason to follow her example many years later.

I see the difference in my thinking of my children when they choose the way of darkness over the way of light; the way of Christ over the way of self.  I see the struggle in them, and I hope I can always say of them, “at least they struggle.”

I see the wisdom of those in my life who have followed God and the difference they have made in the lives of others.  I know there is light in some, and darkness in others.  Some despair. Some have hope. Some live by the dictates of self. Some live by the dictates of God. And it is obvious. There is also a difference between those that are good, and those who are good because of the light of God in their lives. The difference is the reason, the motive, their philosophy of life. The light of God shines from their eyes.  They are happy, and they have peace.

One of the greatest disappointments I encountered as a teenager, was finding out that there were those in the church who did not truly follow Christ.  I define it as “the end of childhood.”  It is a transition that is more severe for some than for others.  However, one of the greatest joys I encountered as a teenager was finding out that there were those in the church who truly loved Christ and showed this by loving others. For instance, I was the oldest of 6 children, and we did not have much money, to say the least.  There were a couple of women from church who would take me shopping for shoes, or invite me along to see a play; take time  out of their day to notice me and take an interest in me. How great was the difference I saw back then between those who loved Christ by loving “the least of these,” and those who were more interested in image.

I believe with all my  heart that there are those in other denominations who have been regenerated by the life of Christ within them.  God meets us where we are.  He met the thief on the cross while He was on the Cross, so He meets us in our  pain, our place of misery and aloneness, because He has suffered as a man and sees fit to lift us up to dwell in Him.

What in the world would I have done as a child, with all I went through, had I not known Him?

So I am comforted.

“I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”