Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saint Gregory the Wonderworker November 17th

This week we remember Gregory the Wonderworker (Nov. 17), a disciple of Origen. God granted him such gifts of healing that many people came to him to be cured and heard the gospel. The Virgin Mary and the Apostle John appeared to St. Gregory in a dream, and taught him about the Holy Trinity. St. Gregory wrote down what was revealed to him.

"The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy (source: OCA Website)."

"And if any one does not believe that death is abolished, that Hades is trodden under foot, that its chains are broken, that the tyrant is bound, let him look on the martyrs deporting themselves in the presence of death, and taking up the jubilant strain of the victory of Christ. O the marvel! Since the hour when Christ despoiled Hades, men have danced in triumph over death. 'O death, were is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory'?" - Gregory the Wonderworker

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Bible in the Orthodox Church

The primitive Church did not have the Bible as we know it today. And yet the Church lived according to the Divine Revelation which, with the final screening and codification by the Canon, was understood as Sacred Tradition and Holy Scriptures. One cannot overemphasize the biblical character of the Greek Orthodox Church, for, ironically, members of certain Christian denominations often accuse the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church of neglect in making use of the Bible. They usually label her as involved extensively in symbolism and ritual.

Such a notion of the Orthodox is not justified. And as a matter of fact, the contrary is true. The truth is that the Holy Scriptures occupy a prominent place in the life, thought, and worship of the Orthodox Church. For the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church is very much a scriptural Church. She is the biblical Church par excellence. It is not only that her faith is derived from the Holy Scriptures, but also her very life is deeply imbued with ideas, teachings, and the ethos of the Bible. The various forms of worship and liturgical life of the Church bear the seal of the Bible to an admirable degree.

There is no sacrament, liturgy or service in the Orthodox Church that does not include selections from the Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testaments are used often. Since the Old Testament is the "paedagogus" leading to Christ, it is used in such services as Vespers and the Orthros. Passages from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jonah, and other Old Testament books, especially the Psalms, are read in each vesper service as well as the Sunday morning service before the Divine Liturgy. Each Liturgy includes two New Testament selections, one from the Acts or the Epistles, and the second from one of the Gospels. These various "pericopes" from the Psalms, prophecies, Gospels, and Epistles constitute and integral part of each service in the Orthodox Church today.

But the claim for the Orthodox Catholic Church for her scriptural character is not based exclusively on the aforementioned readings. Her prayer life, hymns, and rites, are imbued with, one might almost say, permeated by, scriptural spirituality, verses and elements. Every prayer and hymn of each Liturgy, sacrament, and service includes scriptural material and expresses some biblical event. It is true that some services are more scriptural than others, and that the number and extent of scriptural element vary from service to service, but whatever the ratio may be, it is certain that each service is based on some biblical truth.

There are certain books which enjoy a considerable popularity. The Psalms, Genesis, and Isaiah are more popular than any other Old Testament book. Exodus and the Wisdom of Solomon follow. From the New Testament books, Matthew, Luke, 1 Corinthians, Romans, the Gospel of John, and the Epistle to the Hebrews precede all others in that order.

Hymnology is similarly oriented in Scripture. Most of it has been inspired by some event narrated in the Scriptures or by some truth expressed in them.

There is much evidence that an intense reverence for the Holy Scriptures exists in the Orthodox Church. The study of the Bible has always been encouraged; in fact, even the illiterate in the Orthodox world have committed whole Psalms and other portions of Scripture to memory. The writings not only of the Liturgical authors but of the Fathers, teachers, and doctors of the Church, in general, are impregnated with scriptural verses and expressions.

A practice in the early Church, that persons had to know parts of the Bible by heart, and that candidates for the priesthood were impelled to learn a certain number of Psalms, plus a Gospel and several Epistles before ordination, is not required in the Church today. Nonetheless, scriptural sayings and elements are in the mouths of the faithful in Orthodox lands like proverbs and mottoes.

The Word of God is the inexhaustible source of spiritual instruction and nurture in the Orthodox Catholic Church today. The Orthodox faithful are urged to study the Bible diligently, and to make it the guide of their lives.

Thus, it is emphasized that the Holy Scriptures, which have saturated the liturgical books and the hymnology of the Church, indeed occupy a central place in the Orthodox life and worship today.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julian of Norwich: God is not angry

But notwithstanding all this, I saw truthfully that our Lord was never angry, nor ever shall be, for he is God: He is good, He is life, He is truth, He is love, He is peace; and His power, His wisdom, His love, and His unity do not allow Him to be angry (For I saw truly that it is against the character of His power to be angry, and against the character of His wisdom, and against the character of His goodness). God is the goodness that cannot be angry, for He is nothing but goodness. Our soul is one-ed to Him who is unchangeable goodness, and between God and our soul is neither anger nor forgiveness, as He sees it. For our soul is so completely one-ed to God by His own goodness, that there can be absolutely nothing at all separating God and soul.

- Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich lived ca 1342-1416 (few details  of her life are known, including her birth and death dates).  It is known that she lived as an anchoress in a cell located in a church in the East Anglian market town of Norwich.  Her fame rests on Revelations of Divine Love, a text describing visions she had during a prolonged period of illness.  It was, incidentally, the first literary work in Middle English by a woman.

The excerpt above is from chapter 46 is striking in its treatment of God's wrath.  Or rather, the non-existence of God's wrath.  In our own day, when entire ministries are based upon the presumed wrath of God, Julian's remarks will come across as hopeful and outrageous in equal measure.

- Joe Rawls


My friend Joe Rawls posted this in his blog, the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Four Movements in My Life as a Christian Believer

There have been four spiritual movements I can discern in my spiritual life as a Christian:

Catholicism - that is, ancient Christianity, based on the Bible, Creeds, Sacraments, Liturgical Hours of Prayer, and subsisting in a covenant faith community. Most readily associated with Roman Catholicism, Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and some Lutheran Churches, but really should apply to all Christians ideally. One is baptized into the Covenant Faith Community, which in turn is gathered around the Lord's Table. The Holy Eucharist is our central act of worship. Time is sanctified via the liturgical seasons of the Church year, and the Daily Office of prayers and scripture readings provide the basis of corporate hours of prayer and personal, individual devotions. For me as an Anglican Christian, weekly Eucharist on Sunday and the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer are important practices for my own spiritual life, and for my participation in the Covenant Faith Community.

Evangelicalism- in the best sense, Evangelical faith is focused on the preaching of Christ from the Scriptures, and involves not only proclaiming the Person of Christ publicly, but a fidelity to the Bible as the rule of faith for the individual Christian and covenant faith community. The Scriptures are for me “bread from heaven.” I seek to hear and see Jesus Christ in the pages of the Bible.

Social Gospel. As an Anglo-Catholic, I honor the heritage of Slum-Ritualism. Anglo-Catholics have a history of working with the poor in the slums in England, and were called "Slum Ritualists." Anglo-Catholics have very often embraced socialism to this very day, and are sometimes called "Sacramental Socialists." The Biblical witness calls us to go beyond charity to social justice, and compels us to critique unjust social and economic structures in the society, and in the faith community. The impulse for social justice encompasses not only economic justice but social justice for all people, regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, in the public realm, and full inclusion of all in the covenant faith community. The Scriptures are filled with calls for social justice for the poor and oppressed, and Jesus' ministry exemplifies love and acceptance for outsiders and the outcast.

Advaita, Non-Duality. Inspired by my spiritual hero Bede Griffiths, his disciple Brother John Martin and other writers like Thomas Merton, I have been intrigued the experience of non-duality, that is, oneness with God, as pursued through contemplation, meditation and direct experience with God. Exposure to Eastern thought has in turn revealed the non-dualistic aspects of Christian theology and experience, The non-dualistic experience brings us beyond religion to the vastness of G-d. I have a Christian Mantra, but I need to create more time for sitting meditation.

All of these movements are a part of my life as a Christian believer.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bob Marley's Conversion to Christianity

Bob Marley's baptismal name was Berhane Selassie, "Light of the Holy Trinity;" his final words were "Jesus, take me." 

I have much admiration for both the Rastafarians and the Oriental Orthodox. Bob Marley was both, and converted to Christianity in 1980. Most people don't know that Bob Marley, one of my favorite musical artists and a true prophet, converted to Christianity in 1980. On November 4th, 1980 he was received into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Abuna Yesehaq, archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere who died in 2005, admitted that he baptized Bob Marley about one year before his death.

The website says that Bob remained outside the church for several years after Rita and the children converted in 1972. Bob was under the spiritual guidance of the archbishop but was baptized just a year before his death, after three aborted attempts to convert in Kingston. He backed out each time, says the Archbishop, after being threatened by other rastas. Marley was finally baptised in the Ethiopian Church in New York where less resentments were less inflamed. The Archbishop christened him Berhane Selassie, which is Coptic for "Light of the Holy Trinity".

"Bob was really a good brother, a child of God, regardless of how people looked at him," Yesehaq said. "He had a desire to be baptized long ago, but there were people close to him who controlled him and who were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari. But he came to church regularly."

"When he toured Los Angeles and New York and England, he preached the Orthodox faith, and many members in those cities came to the Church because of Bob," Yesehaq said.

Yesehaq told interviewer Barbara Blake Hannah: "I remember once while I was conducting the Mass, I looked at Bob and tears were streaming down his face. Many people think he was baptised because he knew he was dying, but that is not so... he did it when there was no longer any pressure on him, and when he was baptised, he hugged his family and wept. They all wept together for about an hour."

Bob Marley's final words were "Jesus, take me."



Bob Marley Died a Christian

Bob Marley knew Jesus 

Side Eye Post of The Day: Bob Marley knew Jesus - The Old Black Church

Interview with Bob Marley's Bishop, Bishop Yesehaq