Fountain of Immortality

The Divine Liturgy is the beating heart of the life of the Church. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist and our partaking of the precious Body and Blood our of Lord Jesus Christ is the culmination of our life in Christ and the most powerful foretaste of the Kingdom of God which we can experience in this earthly life. At every celebration of the Divine Liturgy we literally have the opportunity to stand in the choir of the Saints, to be in the presence of the Angelic Orders, and most importantly, to meet our Lord in the flesh and even dare to partake of Him. For many centuries, if someone was to miss more than three of these Eucharistic celebrations without good cause he would be cut off from the body of believers. This fact communicates to us, amidst the busyness of our modern lives, the incredible sense of our belonging to a different world, a different kingdom –the Kingdom of God. It is this reality that must begin to shape the everyday content of our lives. If we truly believe that our Lord comes to meet us in His very Body and Blood at every Liturgy, are we really going to miss Him because of a few worldly distractions or scheduling difficulties? Instead let’s hear the words of our Lord, “Martha, Martha… There is one thing needful.” And let us come to Him.

In our new life as a full-time parish here at St. Herman’s, as we try to become people who live in and for the Divine Liturgy, I want to share a little film with you which speaks of the mystery of Liturgy as it was known, lived and celebrated by the saints of our Church. The Fountain of Immortality was filmed in a Russian Orthodox Church here in the States and includes some beautiful particularities of the Russian liturgical style. Enjoy!


The Dormition Fast

dormition2This Friday, we will begin the fast in preparation for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Please read the article below which provides some excellent thoughts to keep in mind as we enter this beautiful season in the liturgical life of the Church.

Why is there a Dormition Fast?

It would be a gross understatement to say that much has been written about the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Yet very little has been written about the fast that precedes it.

Every Orthodox Christian is aware and generally knows the reason behind the fasts for Pascha and Christmas. But while they may know of the Dormition Fast, few follow it, and more than a few question why it is there, neither knowing its purpose. First, given the pervasive misunderstanding of the purpose of fasting itself, a refresher on its purpose is always a good idea. There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us “suffer” gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set, and do not merely diet) that please Him. We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who in the famous passage was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. In essence it helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.

So why do we fast before Dormition? In a close-knit family, word that its matriarch is on her deathbed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family; word that our matriarch is on her deathbed, could not (or at least should not) have any different effect than the one just mentioned. The Church, through the Paraklesis Service, gives us the opportunity to come to that deathbed and eulogize and entreat the woman who bore God, the vessel of our salvation and our chief advocate at His divine throne. And as, in the earthly family, daily routines and the indulgence in personal wants should come to a halt. Fasting, in its full sense (abstaining from food and desires) accomplishes this. Less time in leisure or other pursuits leaves more time for prayer and reflection on she who gave us Christ, and became the first and greatest Christian. In reflecting on her and her incomparable life, we see a model Christian life, embodying Christ’s retort to the woman who stated that Mary was blessed because she bore Him: blessed rather are those who hear His word and keep it. Mary did this better than anyone. As Fr. Thomas Hopko has stated, she heard the word of God and kept it so well, that she of all women in history was chosen not only to hear His Word but give birth to it (Him). So while we fast in contemplation of her life, we are simultaneously preparing ourselves to live a life in imitation of her. That is the purpose of the Dormition Fast.

hat tip

Orthodox Studies Class

dsc_0418_21This coming Wednesday, August 4th, we will begin a series of discussions about the Orthodox Christian Faith. As a starting point for our conversations we’ll be listening to a series of talks by author and priest, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, called Foundations of the Orthodox Faith. Fr. Andrew’s talks are about 25 minutes apiece and over the course of eight lectures he succinctly lays out the Orthodox approach to theology, worship and the daily praxis of our Faith. Our hope is that these talks will provide everyone with an opportunity to formulate their specific questions about Orthodoxy which can then be discussed after the short talks by Fr. Andrew. Orthodox Christian, catechumen, inquirer or just curious –please come join us! Vespers begins at 6 p.m. every Wednesday, with class to follow.