Residents of large cities are almost never able to see the beauty of a starry sky. The light of the street lamps and the bright advertisements blot out the stars from them, and they appear faint and feeble. And only when one gets out to a field or the mountains, amongst nature’s quiet wind, on a calm night, does the boundless starry night open before his eyes in all of its beauty, and then the words of the Psalmist ring out in his soul: "The heavens declare (in Russian: preach) the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Psalm 18:2).
Something similar often happens with man in his relationship to God’s Church. The quiet wind of heavenly life blows within Christ’s Church. Through her is established a connection to the World on High, and mystical contact with eternity. In her is defeated death, which becomes a rest from labors and a portal to "the best and most useful." Nevertheless, the majority of people, blinded by the sorry trumpery of life, does not notice the mystical spiritual life in the Church and cannot draw from her that water of life, about which the Lord said that those who drink of it shall never thirst; that is, they will receive complete spiritual fulfillment.
Modern apostates from the Church, sectarians, accuse Christ’s Church of supposedly forgetting to preach the Gospel and turning her whole life toward outward ritual. This accusation is based on an inattentive or dishonest attitude toward the Church. The life of the Church is an uninterrupted and never-silenced preaching of the Gospel, which is realized in a strict and elaborate order, inspired from above, and is revealed in every avenue capable of influencing human perception.
When my husband and I became Eastern Orthodox seven years ago, I knew I had come home. However, I wasn’t sure how to make my own home reflect my new faith. This series–”So I’m Orthodox, Now What?”–is based on the questions I asked myself in the first few years after our chrismation: How could I make our home a “Little Church”? How could I instruct my children in a faith that I myself was only beginning to explore? After some experimentation, conversations with older and wiser Orthodox mothers, readings, and instruction from spiritual fathers, I have found ways to create an Orthodox home. I hope that this series can provide encouragement and practical ideas for new converts and a forum for more seasoned Orthodox families to share their practices.
I remember it so clearly. It was Holy Week, and I was in church with my very active two-year-old. All was somber as we began the Procession for Holy Friday. So quiet and reverent…..until my son made a beeline for his father, who was holding the cross in the procession. He ran right in front of the priest and nearly tripped him, knocked into the subdeacon holding the incense, and ended up on my husband’s feet at the front of the procession.
Needless to say, I am not a woman who can speak with confidence about female matters in a convincing sort of way. I was raised to have the utmost respect for those persons about whom I know very little or nothing at all, never to judge them based on my own perceptions and stereotypes that I may have formed in my own mind and heart. In life, man is typically an observer and an interpreter but very rarely a participant. Yes, we hear about or witness the plight of another as outsiders and indeed we formulate opinions based on our observations, but we can only know about the other and his problems but not them fully. Theologically speaking, unless we can “incarnate” ourselves in the very reality of another human being, unless we become the other person, to not only share his pain but to assume it completely as our own — and if at all possible — to exempt the other from his suffering, we can never know the full impact of Christian love or Christ Jesus our Lord in the fullness of His divine eros, or “passionate love”, for the cosmos.