Member Login / Register / Forgot Password
Everything you want to know about Orthodoxy, from the ground up.
Cyprus, the island of Saints, has endured many trials and tribulations, the most recent of which has been the banking crisis. Throughout Lent, I worried about my younger sister and her family in Cyprus and continue to be concerned about the years of hardship ahead for the people there. It has been the worst crisis since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
I confided in a close friend last week that the thing that makes me most nervous about Holy Week, besides losing my voice, is distributing Communion on PalmSunday, because as you saw last Sunday, it took over 40 minutes. Forty minutes is a long time to stand still in one place under any circumstances—take a chalice, full of Communion, move up and down dozens of times for the children who are receiving, try to remember every name, and not drop anything, that’s hard. Try to do it with a neurological condition that causes unwanted, involuntary twitching, the task becomes not only daunting but a little scary.
This Paschal season, there has been a calendar controversy that has been missed by most of the Orthodox world.
This is shocking because controversy loves to rear its head during Great Lent.
If you don’t know about it, you are forgiven. It’s a local problem only affecting approximately 2000 Orthodox Christians, but it’s a problem nonetheless.
As a priest, I hear confessions. In fact, I hear confessions all the time, not simply when I am officiating the formal Sacrament. But, many times when people think that they are confessing to God, they are really telling me of an event in their lives that continues to cause them pain. That is, they are not telling me that they did something wrong, but rather that something wrong was done to them that still causes them pain.
As Boston emerges from its recent lockdown and as America struggles to come to terms with the recent tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, perhaps one of the most disturbing features of the events may be found in the persons of the bombers. The two brothers responsible for the terror and the carnage were to all who observed them completely normal people, not unlike everyone else around them. Boston is a great city, full of ethnic and religious diversity, and it is not unusual to find people there of foreign ancestry. The brothers who planned and carried out the acts of terror, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar by name, seemed to be (in the words of one person who knew them) “just normal American kids”. A classmate of theirs described the younger brother as “so normal, no accent, an all-American kid in every measurable sense of the word”. Friends said that he laughed at everyone’s jokes and tried hard to get along with everybody. A youth counsellor who went to school with the older brother described him as “just a big friendly giant”. He had a wife, Katherine, and a young daughter. After he won a Golden Gloves boxing match he told a local newspaper, “I like the USA…America has a lot of jobs”. So how did these normal American kids become the Boston bombers? How did the friendly giant become the terrorist?
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
We are soon approaching Holy Week, and on that first day, we commemorate the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph. Joseph is a type of Christ and should be praised. Like Christ, he was betrayed by his own race, thrown into the hands of foreigners, falsely accused even though innocent, imprisoned for his righteousness.
Our present secular culture has fixed a great gap between people of my generation (i.e. those from the Jurassic period) and modern young people. And this gap is most easily observed when looking at our divergent understandings of fornication. Indeed, I remember once giving instruction to a young (chaste) catechumen, and casually mentioning that the Church opposed fornication. The eyes of the young’un glazed over a bit before asking me what fornication was. The person wasn’t asking for a more precise definition; rather, the person had no idea what the word meant. The word had effectively vanished from modern vocabulary and could only be recovered by looking it up in the Oxford English Dictionary. The current phrase used to describe the practice is, I am told, “hooking up”.
April 8 saw the deaths of two famous women, both “cultural icons”, and women who could hardly have been more different from one another. I refer, of course, to the Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. The differences between the two are stark indeed.
There are certain disadvantages to knowing how a story ends. This is true in the case of our Gospel story: we know that the story ends in triumph, and joy, and Resurrection. This knowledge tends to blunt our sensitivities as we read along, and cause us to miss certain things in the flow of the narrative before it comes to its end. In particular, we miss the main element of the story of the first Holy Thursday, which is fear.