Sunday, April 20, 2014

Really Really Really Tough Laymen

Dear John,
It's Sunday evening. Last night's liturgy was wonderful, the feasting was as usual, I got home and in bed at 4:00 this morning. I was awake a good bit, also as usual, because after so many weeks of not eating meat and sweets, my tummy takes a while to get used to them again. I was up at 10:00 this morning and back to church at noon for Agape Vespers - I just did the German; Charlie did Latin. I came home and took care of the animals, called your family, and went to Brian and Bekah's house for dinner tonight. I got home before dark so the animals are happy. And so am I - tired, but happy.
I remembered this meme on the way home this morning, and had to show it to you. I was thinking about the fact that I've been in church for over thirty hours in the last eight days, I've stood for all of the services (because we Orthodox do that), I've been fasting for over six weeks, in the last week I've fasted and done prayers preparing to receive communion five times. I'm feeling pretty tough right now. You wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley.
And that kept me thinking. You might be Orthodox if - when you hear "let us complete our prayer to the Lord," you know there's at least another forty-five minutes left in the service - your church shoes are Redwings - you know how to keep a candle burning on a windy night when you carry it for three trips around the parking lot - you get home from church Pascha morning at 3 AM and talk about how short the service was - your church floor is ankle-deep in rose petals and bay leaves and nobody thinks it's strange - you can say "Christ is risen" and "Lord have mercy" in at least ten languages - your favorite sermon was written 1600 years ago, and you know nearly every word by heart.
So that's what I want to end with. St. John Chrysostom first gave this sermon in the 400s, and since then it's been read in every Orthodox church around the world every Pascha. It's good to sit on the floor and listen to it, and know that every Orthodox Christian on the planet is hearing it - it moves around the world with the time zones for 24 hours. You probably get to hear St. John himself say it. Here's the last part:
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen! O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the tomb! For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that sleep! To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.
And you are the first-fruits of our little family. Christ reigns! And you are in the fullness of his Kingdom. Last night, when earth joined in the worship of Heaven, I got a taste of that. Next year in Heaven!

Christ is risen!

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