Update on Fr. Ted

Friends, Parishioners, and Blog Followers,

My dad asked that I post an update about his back surgery.

As some of you know, my dad recently underwent a procedure known as a multi-level lumbar spinal fusion. About thirty-five years ago, his back was injured in a car accident (this was before airbags, crumple zones, and seats belts with shoulder restraints). The injury ultimately caused degenerative disc disease, which has slowly caused his spinal column to compress and stiffen over time. Over the past year, this condition worsened and caused a pinched nerve that made it difficult for him to walk.  To relieve the pinched nerve, doctors uncompressed and strengthened several vertebrate by attaching (fusing) titanium rods with screws to both sides of several discs in the affected area.

The surgery itself went very well and my dad is progressing exactly as the doctors expected. He has started physical and occupational therapy and is walking on stairs. Although he is moving slowly, he does not require the use of a cane or a walker. He has been discharged from the hospital and is currently resting at home.

As for relief, my dad reported to me that the pain caused by the pinched nerve is gone.  He seemed very happy with the results of the surgery.

For the next month, my dad will be recovering from the spinal fusion surgery and is limited in what he is allowed to do.  It may be several weeks before he gets back to blogging on a regular basis.

We all appreciate your thoughts and prayers,

John Bobosh

A Resurrection Gospel

Normally on Saturday evenings in our parish Vespers, I read the Gospel of the Resurrection at the end of the service. The Orthodox Church has divided the passages from the 4 Gospels which deal with Christ’s resurrection into 11 separate readings. (This includes Matthew 28:16-20 – 1 Lesson, Mark 16:1-20 – divided into 2 Lessons, Luke 24:1-49 – 4 Lessons, and John 20:1-21:25 – 4 Lessons). One of these 11 Resurrection Gospel lessons are then read on a rotating basis each Sunday as a way of proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ from the dead – the main message of Christianity itself.

Sunday in the Orthodox Church is always dedicated to celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, for it is on Sunday morning that the empty tomb was discovered by the women disciples of the Lord, and they learned from the angels that Christ is risen from the dead. The 11 Resurrection Gospel lessons properly belong to Sunday, and really are the Gospel lessons which define the theme for every Sunday of the year. The 11 Gospel Resurrection Lessons are supposed to be proclaimed on Sunday morning, during Matins, before the Divine Liturgy. At the Liturgy itself are then read a different repeating cycle of Gospel lessons which offer more instruction to the faithful about how we are to live knowing that Christ is risen form the dead. In our parish we are not doing Resurrection Matins on Sunday morning before the Liturgy, but we do Resurrection Vespers each Saturday night, and it is in this service that we read from the 11 Resurrection Gospel Lessons. As I have mentioned in a previous meditation, if you as a Christian want to return to the first and the most important message of Christianity, you need to come to Saturday Vespers to hear the Resurrection Gospel Lesson proclaimed. That will always bring your faith journey back to the very origins of Christianity.

Orthodoxy loves symbolism and remembering the events from the life of Christ which are for our salvation. The attitude often is when we remember an event – proclaim its Gospel Lesson and sing about it in the hymns of a liturgical service – we are in a way “recreating” the event so that we can personally participate in it. The Resurrection Gospel is supposed to transport us to the very events of the Gospel – we ourselves are witnessing the resurrection! After the priest proclaims the Resurrection Gospel, the chanter or choir sings the hymn, “Having beheld the resurrection of Christ we behold the Lord Jesus…” The hymn is not saying we remember what others saw or said about the event, we having heard the Gospel participated in it so we too are witnesses – we’ve seen the truth. As we sing at the end of every Divine Liturgy – “We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith….” We are saying that we personally have experienced the Resurrection! We are not singing about what others have claimed, we are saying we have experienced this truth in our own lives in the Liturgy and through our personal participation in the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord.

A week ago on Saturday during Vespers I read Luke 24:1-12, which is the 4th Resurrection Gospel Lesson.

I have been reading that Lesson as one of the 11 Ressurection Gospel readings for the last 28 years at Vespers and this time around my mind was drawn to a very particular idea.

The myrrhbearing women come to the tomb and encounter two “men” in dazzling white garments at the tomb. These “men” are thought to have been angels of the Lord, not humans. These messengers from God (for that is what an angel is) tell the myrrhbearing women at the tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again” (Luke 24:5-8).

The Myrrhbearing women come to the tomb, seeking Christ, much like we often think of ourselves as going to Church to find Christ. At the tomb of Christ, the women first hear the proclamation that Christ is risen from the dead; however, in Luke’s Gospel Lesson, they in fact do not immediately encounter the Risen Lord. Instead, they are told to “Remember how he told you….” They come to the Tomb of Christ, the fountain of the Resurrection as we Orthodox call it, the place where the Holy Fire, the Light of Christ is still given to the faithful, and they find that Christ in fact is not there. They then are told what they really need to do is to remember what Christ spoke to them and taught them in His lifetime. Finding Christ. for these first disciples, is not as important as remembering what He taught!

We’ll have that same experience on Saturday night when we come to Vespers and hear the Gospel Lesson proclaimed. Christ will not be there, instead what we experience is what the Myrrhbearing Women experienced – the absence of Christ means we need to remember what Christ has taught us! We need to call to mind the Gospel lessons in which we learned what our Lord Jesus Christ had to say to the world. And now we need to remember His words also!

It is when they experience the absence of Christ – He is not where they expected to find Him – when they realize He is risen, “Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest” (Luke 24:8).

When we in Church experience that Christ is risen from the dead, and not only risen but also ascended into heaven – when we experience that He is not where we expected to find Him but that He is someplace else -that is the very moment when we need to remember His words, teachings, lessons, commands, example, so that we know what is now expected from us. We need in that moment to make Christ present through His teachings, by remembering what He has taught us!

The Women Disciples of the Lord then hurried to talk about Christ’s words and teachings with the other disciples. We need to do the same. We need to take the time to remember the words of Christ and then to talk about them with one another so that we can know how we are to live and what we are to do.

We may come to church looking to find Jesus, like the women disciples did when they went to the tomb of Christ. What we might just experience is the angelic message “he is not here”. Instead of looking for Jesus, we are told to remember His words to us, and then to discuss them with our fellow disciples. And in the end, instead of looking for Jesus, we are told to go tell others about the resurrection.- tell others about what we have experienced! Seeking our Lord doesn’t result in finding Him, but rather leads us to telling others what we have learned from Him and experienced through Him!
Of course we also need to be prepared for the reaction others – including our fellow Christians – might have to our message. When the Women Disciples of the Lord told His chosen Apostles about their experience of the empty tomb and the message of the Ressurction, what was the reaction of Apostles? “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). It is a tough sell, even to fellow disciples. That however does not excuse us from sharing the Good News anyway, even if others find it hard to believe, we are to remember Christ’s words to us and share them with others.

We know the story of the Resurrection of Christ did not end in disbelief, for eventually the Apostles do believe and the message of the Resurrection has been presented to every generation down to us. The realization that Christ is risen from the dead, becomes the very basis of our life as Christians.

And a final word, the most difficult of all. As Christians, those who have encountered the empty tomb and believed the message of the Resurrection of Christ our Lord, sharing the Lessons which Christ taught us is to be a normal part of our lives. It is because the Resurrection changes the way we understand the world, life and death, good and evil, that we live a new and transfigured life as Christians. The hard truth is it is our lives which are to be the witness to Christ. We are not to rely on others reading the bible to come to know Chirst.

For the message of the Gospel is not written just in books – it is to be written on our hearts. It is when it is written on our hearts that others will read the Gospel in our lives and come to believe themselves.

As St. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:2-3).

Imagine that – it is not a bible that St. Paul claimed to be writing. It is not the bible that St. Paul imagined people would be reading. Rather he envisions our hearts and our lives being the very Scriptures which others see and read and come to believe in our Lord.

So it isn’t handing out bibles that is most important, it is having the words of Christ written on our hearts and governing our behavior which is going to be the Word that will most change the world.