Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Storm before the Calm

WhatamIgoingtobuyformydad? WhenamIgoing-tofindtimetoruntheselasterrands? Icannotstandthe-trafficanylonger! Ohno!DidIgetsomethingformy-sisteryet? RunaroundRunaroundRunaround. Rush
RushRushRush. Does this seem familiar? This is the storm before the calm.

But, it can be fought, and conquered! Tuesday through Friday nights we will celebrate the Vespers and Canon of Compline of the Prefeast of the Nativity. Don’t get caught in the whirlwind of the details of shopping, cooking and planning. So often, we create the storm around Christmas by our own frenetic pace. Be still! Be at peace! B R E A T H E! Take a moment. Take 45 moments. Enter into the feast calmly with us…

Enter into the vesperal light of the quiet Church and pray with us as we anticipate the Nativity of our Lord.

O come, all you faithful,
Begin the celebration:
Sing with the magi and
the shepherds:
Salvation comes from the Virgin's womb,
Recalling the
faithful to life!

(Stichera from Lord I Call, December 20)

Schedule of Services this Week
Tuesday-Friday 5:30pm Vespers and the Canon of Compline
Saturday 5:30pm Vigil of the Nativity (Compline/Matins)
Sunday 9:10 (hours) 9:30 Liturgy of the Nativity

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Letter to the Editor, published in the Post and Courier 12/14

Christian principles

Hopefully, the Dec. 3 article about the execution of Shawn Humphries appeared on Page 7B of The Post and Courier (as opposed to a more prominent place) because we are ashamed to publish it as news. But, to quote an ancient saint, "Fie on the outrage!"

How many times a year do we read about citizens incensed that the Ten Commandments are not posted here or there or are removed from public view, and yet we consent, at least by our silence, to state-sanctioned murder? We do a fine job of "cleaning the outside of the vessel," as did the Pharisees, but we are morally bankrupt inside. On what Christian grounds do we defend capital punishment? And in South Carolina!

"An eye for an eye" is no Christian principle. Jesus himself made this clear: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:38-44)

Jesus also said something about murder: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21)

Who stands uncondemned? Let him inject the first needle.

If we so fervently desire the "monuments" of Christianity - or at least of so-called "Judeo-Christian values" - to be displayed in public, perhaps we ought first to demonstrate that we are truly Christian people, as St. James, the brother of the Jesus, urges in his epistle: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only." (James 1:22)

Otherwise, we may find ourselves more than doubly damned. Lord, have mercy.

The Rev. John Parker
Holy Ascension
Orthodox Church
816 High Battery Circle
Mount Pleasant

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What shall we offer Him?

What shall we offer Him?

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ,
Who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man?
Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks,
The angels offer a hymn; The heavens a star;
The wisemen gifts; the shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave; the wilderness, a manger.
And we offer Thee a virgin mother.
O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!
(Lord I Call, Vespers of the Nativity)

As online stores warn us of the final days after which “Christmas delivery” is not possible and local marketers tempt us to buy from them “the perfect gift for the person who has everything” (something that will wind up in a drawer or a closet and then at a yard sale as just some thing), we pause as we prepare for the Nativity of our Lord.

Rampant capitalism urges us in a relentless tide to buy, buy, buy, and to give gifts, to splurge. “You deserve it”. But the simple hymn listed above, from the Vespers of the Nativity, beckons us to something much different, far deeper, and of infinitely more value: The question, “What shall we offer Thee, O Christ?” Everything made gives thanks in some way, and humanity offers the Virgin Mother of God for this miracle. But what thanks do I myself give?

The Icon of the Nativity shows an ox and an ass peering into the manger. These animals do not appear in the Gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke. Rather, they are found in Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” Do we recognize our Master as the dumb animals do? Will we be found on Christmas Day, peering into the manger, giving thanks to the King of Glory, receiving Him in the Eucharist as we give Him the only thing we can: ourselves?