Vespers: The Setting of the Sun

At Vespers each evening in the Orthodox Church a hymn to Christ, “O Gladsome Light,” is sung.  The hymn call upon us as we contemplate sunset and the approaching night to think about Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. 

For in the beginning (Genesis 1) when God said, “Let there be light,” there was light even though there was no sun.

“Now that we have come to the setting of the sun, and behold the light of evening, we praise God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit…”

Each evening after the sun has set, there is that Light which is God’s: not sun but Son.  Each evening we return at Vespers to creation, to the Light which needs no sun, to the loving Creator.

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Turning Loafers into Bakers

One theme our parish community has dealt with from time to time is the notion that all parish members are Christians, and thus all parish members come to church in order to serve, love and minister to one another.  We each should show up at the Liturgy prepared to serve someone!

Yet, many come to Liturgy expecting to be served, expecting someone else will serve them, looking at the Liturgy in terms of “what I will get out of it.”  A concern of any Christian community is how to change this self-serving attitude of its members into a Christlike attitude of serving others.  When Christ washed His disciples’ feet, he gave us an example as to what we should be prepared to do each time we assemble with our fellow Christians.

I have coined a phrase for this  Christian effort to help each of us be more Christlike.  Instead of showing up at the Liturgy assuming someone else will have baked the prosfora for communion, that someone else will be prepared to read the epistle, that someone will have cleaned the church, that someone else will have done the bulletin, that someone else will have prepared the fellowship food, one needs to look each week at what I can do to minister to the needs of my fellow parishioners.   Taking the cue from the expectation that someone (else!) will have baked the prosfora, I have said we must as Christians turn loafers into bakers.

In that spirit, a group of parishioners met together in a parishioner’s home to learn how to bake the prosfora so that they can come to the Liturgy as bakers, not just loafers.  Accepting the notion that all Christians are gifted by God to serve the community in some way, these parishioners are learning a skill in order to serve the community.

Being a Christian Neighbor

Luke 10:25-37 

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Quotes below on the theme of neighbor  from The Pearl of Great Price: The Wisdom of the Fathers of the Holy Orthodox Church,  edited by Fr Antonious Henein and Maryann Shenoda, pgs 58, 59.

Neighbors

“We will find benefit for ourselves when we start seeking benefit for our neighbor.” (St John Chrysostom)

“Do not ask for love from your neighbor, for if you ask and he does not respond, you will be troubled.  Instead, show your love for your neighbor and you will be at rest, and so will bring your neighbor to love.”   (Dorotheos of Gaza)