As I mentioned this week in “Do you pray?” I urged that we should not look at prayer as a shopping list. I urged that we should leave room for God’s will in our prayers, but what exactly is God’s will? In the blog I reminded you that when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer. A large part of the Lord’s Prayer is “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But what is God’s will?
If you have been a fan of Be Transfigured Ministries for a while, then you know how much I dislike the term “sacrifice” when it is used in terms of our Great Lenten Journey. The word, which has Latin roots, has the meaning of “to be made or to become holy” or we could say “to be sanctified.” It isn’t about self-abuse or torture. It doesn’t even require death. Remember the ancient Jews also sacrificed wheat and oil and wine to God in the Temple, not just turtle doves and calves.
Yesterday I suggested that fasting should be different if you weren’t not a monastic, but fasting without prayer is just a diet. So today I ask, do you pray? I mean do you really pray, or do you just list off a litany of needs and wants and expect God to “answer your prayers” and give you what you want? Prayer is a central aspect of our relationship with God and the Saints. Without proper prayer, we might just be listening to ourselves talk.
We’re deep in the Great Fast and there is PreSanctified Liturgy this evening in most places, so I wanted to address fasting. I mentioned last week that you shouldn’t choose your own fast, and today I want to expand upon that. It can be difficult to navigate the Great Fast, especially if you are new to Orthodoxy or newly invigorated to practice the faith you inherited from your parents.
We grow up learning about the saints of the Church. We learn about our patron saint, the saint of our local Church, and the saints that made history. Unfortunately, we also grow up thinking saints are something from the past, but today is the feast of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn. YES….Brooklyn, NEW YORK. Did you even know there were American saints?
Yesterday was the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the day on which the Church commemorates the victory of Holy Icons over heresy and the truth of Orthodoxy. In every Orthodox Church throughout the globe, children, parents, grandparents, and friends proudly carry icons in processions around Churches. Some even go outside and publicly proclaim, “This is the faith of the Orthodox,” from the Ecumenical Council’s proclamation about Holy Icons. This great public victory doesn’t have to lead to arrogance.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is celebrated each year on the first Sunday of Great Lent throughout the world. Children, parents, grandparents, and friends process around churches proudly proclaiming the truth of God. God became a human being so that we could be united to Him. That truth, verified through the presence of Holy Icons, is the source of great joy, that we share with our friends and family.
Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the day on which Church recalls a great victory of faith. Many of us today take for granted the beautiful icons that are in our Churches, but it was not always taken for granted. For some people, even today, icons are a form of idol worship and must be destroyed. For more than one hundred years the Church was in conflict about the benefit and need for holy icons. Today is a celebration of the end of that conflict.
Today, the first Saturday of Great Lent, the Church commemorates the Miracle of the Kolyva by Saint Theodore the Recruit. It is a historical event which remembers when Christians were the target of hatred. Knowing that Christians were fasting for the first week of Great Lent, the pagans sprinkled blood over all the fresh food in the marketplace to contaminate the food with blood from idols. This was done boost the practice of paganism in the fourth century. Through the guidance of Saint Theodore the people didn’t eat the contaminated food.
One of the joys I have during Great Lent is experiencing the rhythm of the Church. This ancient life, which the overwhelming majority of Christians today consider only a historical footnote, includes morning and evenings prayers along with times of quiet solemnity and bright joy, all sprinkled throughout the week. If you haven’t noticed this rhythm, chances are you weren’t in Church this week.