Living The Kingdom of God

In the book Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church (page 124), Michael Plekon, building upon the writings of Paul Evdokimov, notes:

 “For every Christian, the sacraments of initiation confer the dignity of prophet, priest and king. Every profession and state in life can be a form of this universal priesthood. In the liturgy, such a priest ‘makes of everything a human offering, a hymn, a doxology’. Then, in daily life, in the ‘liturgy after liturgy’ of St. John Chrysostom, such a Christian is

‘freed by his faith from the “greater fear” of his twentieth century, fear of the bomb, of cancer, of communism, of death; [his] faith is always a way of loving the world, away of following his Lord even into hell. This is certainly not a part of a theological system, but perhaps it is only from the depths of hell that a dazzling and joyous hope can be born and assert itself. Christianity in the grandeur of its confessors and martyrs, in the dignity of every believer, is messianic, revolutionary, explosive.  In the domain of Caesar, we are ordered to see and therefore to find what is not found there—the Kingdom of God. This order signifies that we must transform the form of the world, change it into the icon of the Kingdom. To change the world means to pass from what the world does not yet possess—for this reason it is still this world—to that in which it is transfigured, thus becoming something else—the Kingdom.’ (Paul Evdokimov)”

 

A Misty Fog

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“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. . . . and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.  (Jeremiah 51:15-16)

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The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is the same God who created the universe who makes fog appear on earth.   Yesterday morning was one of the foggiest days I’ve seen for a long time – perhaps a sign that God the Creator is still at work on earth.  A combination of a warm winter day with lots of moisture in the ground produced the dense misty fog.  It made it a difficult drive – for one could only see about half a block ahead.

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It did remind me of the second creation account in the book of Genesis where a mist came up from the earth just before God created the first human.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:4-7)

In the Wisdom of Sirach, there is an interesting interpretation of the above Genesis passage, for the mist turns out to be Wisdom who says:

“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
(Sirach 24:3)

You can see all the photos I took in the morning fog at Foggy Morning 2-20-2017.  The weather pattern may repeat itself again later this week so we may have more heavy, dense fog.  It would be great if it were the Wisdom of God.

Look at the Birds Whom the Heavenly Father Feeds

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker lands kicking up some newly fallen snow.  A beautiful bird, I must say.

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According to Matthew 6:26, we are to consider the birds:   “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)

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Having fed a little, the woodpecker takes off, true to the proverb.  He didn’t toil at all to cause the seed to grow, but he was able to feed on it.

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Lots of feathered friends join the feast.  The cardinal adds a little color.

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A Tufted Titmouse finds a seed, or maybe drops it for other birds who can’t hang on to the feeder, and wait below on the ground for the seeds to fall.  “… some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them”  (Matthew 13:4).

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The tiny Chickadees are usually first to arrive at the feeder.  Their chirping seems to be the all-clear signal for the other birds to follow.

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Feeding the birds allows me to imitate the Heavenly Father who also feeds them (Matthew 6:26)   I do it for the fun of it.  The Nuthatch can hold on even when up-side-down,

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All of the photos in this blog were taken from my bedroom window.  I put the birdfeeders out there to enjoy the birds.  The Hairy Woodpecker is a frequent visitor.  Though small, the other birds seem to give him lots of space.

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The snow doesn’t discourage visitors to the birdfeeder.  I on the other hand find myself more confined at home during such weather.  I continue my recovery from the spinal fusion surgery.  As mentioned several weeks ago, I no longer need a cane to walk, and the surgery has for the time being relieved the pain.  However, ice and snow put a freeze on my life and I avoid going out on it when possible.  I still have to wear my back brace, and have many activity restrictions.  The riskiest thing I do is picking up the camera to take photos from my window as the camera is near my weight lifting limit of 8 pounds.

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You can find the Bewick’s Wren other photos I’ve taken recently around my birdfeeders at Birdfeeder 12-2016  or  Birdfeeder 1-2017.

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The Redemption of the World

“First, God has created the world…To claim that we are God’s creation is to affirm that God’s voice is constantly speaking within us and saying to us, ‘And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good’ (Gen. 1:31). The Fathers state that even the devil is good by nature and evil only through misuse of his free will. Then there is a second element, inseparable from the first: this world is fallen – fallen in its entirety; it has become the Kingdom of the prince of this world.

The Puritan world view, so prevalent within the American society in which I live, assumes that tomato juice is always good and that alcohol is always bad; in effect tomato juice is not fallen. Similarly, the television advertisements tell us, ‘Milk is natural’, in other words, it is not fallen. But in reality tomato juice and milk are equally part of the fallen world, along with everything else. All is created good; all is fallen; and finally – this is our third ‘fundamental acclamation’ – all is redeemed. It is redeemed through the incarnation, the cross, the resurrections and ascension of Christ, and through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Such is the intuition that we receive from God with gratitude and joy: our vision of the world as created, fallen, redeemed. Here is our theological agenda, our key to all the problems which today trouble the world.” (Fr. Alexander Schmemann in Living Icons by Michael Plekon, p 192)

 

Thanksgiving (2016)

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St. John of Kronstadt says, ‘Prayer is a state of continual gratitude.’ If I do not feel a sense of joy in God’s creation, if I forget to offer the world back to God with thankfulness, I have advanced very little upon the Way. I have not yet learnt to be truly human. For it is only through thanksgiving that I can become myself. Joyful thanksgiving, so far from being escapist or sentimental, is on the contrary entirely realistic – but with the realism of one who sees the world in God, as the divine creation.” (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p 55)

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Autumn Leaves

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Maybe it is the season. Changing colors, reflect fading beauty.

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A touch of melancholy.  The color change, so welcomed by my eyes, also tells me of what will follow – the cold of winter winds, and dormant plants awaiting spring’s resurrection.

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Health issues continue for me in the autumn of my life.  I cannot get out to enjoy the spreading color change of fall.

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So I look out my window at home and see in my backyard the glory of autumn and also recognize what it signals about the year.

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Sadly, my ash tree, the last still standing on my property is succumbing to the ash borer.

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 It shaded my house so faithfully for so many summers.    Now it falls to sleep, perhaps for the last time.

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The leaves I photo may be the last this tree will produce.  And it is possible the ash tree  with its distinctive leaf colors will disappear from North America as even the spring won’t bring them back from their final dormition.

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All Things Bright and Beautiful (3)

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,

The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Cecil Alexander wrote this hymn for children in 1848.

Previous Blogs:  All Things Bright and Beautiful (1)   and  All Things Bright and Beautiful (2)

All Things Bright and Beautiful (2)

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Sequoia National Park by Seth Bobosh

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,

The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,

The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

Cecil Alexander wrote this hymn for children in 1848.

Previous Blog:  All Things Bright and Beautiful (1)

Next Blog:  All Things Bright and Beautiful (3)

 

The Church’s New Year: September 1

The Orthodox Church eventually recognized the civil New Year from the old Roman calendar and both adapted and adopted this into the Church’s calendar making September 1 the “Church’s” New Year’s Day.  Spiritually it seems strange, because I would say liturgically Pascha is the Church’s New Year for on that day we proclaim the beginning of our life in Christ and the beginning of the Church as is obvious in our Scripture readings from John 1 and Acts 1.  In the Bible, the New Year also begins in the Spring right before Passover.  God clearly commands Moses, Aaron and thus all of Israel:  “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you” (Exodus 12:2). [Judaism though also has a “religious” New Year in the Spring as commanded in the Torah but also a civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah in the autumn].

It seems more that September 1 was simply the Church accepting the civil calendar from the Roman government under which it operated.  We actually date things throughout the year liturgically as “after Pascha” and then “after Pentecost” (which is dependent on Pascha), not after September 1.  The September 1 New Year Day has never seemed that important to me.  Some today like to point out that the Birth of the Theotokos is the first Major Feast of the September 1 New Year calendar and August 15 is the Dormition of the Theotokos, so that her birth and death are  the bookends of all Twelve Major Feasts.  But I don’t know if that is an accidental coincidence or was intentionally designed that way, nor do I know when that idea that Feasts of the Theotokos begin and end the year was first mentioned in Orthodox literature, so I don’t even know if it is simply a modern observation or an older idea.  Many pious explanations seem ancient but turn out to be more modern rationalizations for why things are the way they are.

Be that as it may, here is a quote for us to consider for the Church’s New Year.  Genesis starts “In the beginning…” and it is frequently said that God started the first New Year’s Day by building Himself a temple.

“My thoughts turned to the book of Genesis. From the opening verses of Genesis through to the books of Psalms and the Prophets, the Old Testament envisions the whole of Creation, heaven and earth, as a vast temple in which the people gather in liturgy to give praise and honor to the Maker and thank him for the beauty and goodness of his Creation. God lays the foundations (Ps. 104:5), sets up the pillars (1 Sam. 2:8), stretches out the canopy (Isa. 40:22), and frames the windows (Mal. 3:10). He is enthroned within the temple, as heavenly and earthly choirs glorify his name.”  (Vigen Guroian, The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key, Kindle Loc. 73-76)

See also my blog The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (2016) to read Adolfo Roitman’s comments from his book, ENVISIONING THE TEMPLE..

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful (1)

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,

Reflection of children on pond

All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,

He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Cecil Alexander wrote this hymn for children in 1848.

Next:  All Things Bright and Beautiful (2)