How Icons Show Salvation

On the weekend of October 14-16, St. Paul Orthodox Church in Dayton, OH, is hosting an Icon Exhibit, “Mary and the Saints.”  The Exhibit is free and open to the public.

Icons reflect the Orthodox theology of salvation.   In the face of criticism that the veneration of icons is idolatry, 8th Century Saint John Damascene,  offered a theological defense of the use of icons in worshiping God:

‘I do not venerate matter, I venerate the fashioner of matter, who became matter for my sake and accepted to dwell in matter and through matter worked my salvation, and I will not cease from reverencing matter, through which my salvation was worked . . .’”    (cited in Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, Kindle Loc. 1880-83)

An icon affirms the truth of the incarnation of God in Christ, which is the salvation of the world.  The godly truth which Orthodox Christianity proclaims is that when God created the heavens and the earth, God created something distinctly “not-god”.  Creation is not the Creator.  Yet in the Gospel claim that the “Word became flesh” (John 1), the Bible lays out simply that in the most mysterious way, in the greatest miracle ever, God became that which is “not God.”   God became “not God” that “not God” might become God (to paraphrase the post-apostolic thought).  This greatest miracle ever became possible in and because of the Virgin Mary.  She became Theotokos which enabled the incarnation which makes salvation, theosis/ deification possible.

We will celebrate our salvation in exhibiting the icons which show our salvation, which make the incarnation visible to us throughout the ages.

This exhibition features more than 75 rare icons of the Virgin Mary and various other saints commemorated by Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Taken from private collections across the United States, the exhibition will include unique examples from 15th century Medieval Russia, 16th and 17th century Greece, through 19th century Imperial Russia as well as contemporary Icons painted in America. This is a singular opportunity to view prime examples of the spiritual art of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they were originally intended in their appropriate setting. Admission is free. Both self-guided and docent tours will be available.

St. Paul Church, 4451 Wagner Rd, Dayton, OH 45440
Friday, October 14th : 5-8 PM
Saturday, October 15th: 10 – 5 PM
Sunday, October 16th : 12 PM – 5 PM

Church Phone: 937-320-9977

The Greek Street Food Truck will be present, selling their fare on Friday evening from 5-9pm.

 

St. Paul the Apostle and the Gospel

As our parish community celebrates its heavenly Patron, St. Paul the Apostle, here are two quotes with some thoughts about St. Paul.   First biblical scholar Peter Ellis notes that St. Paul’s faith deepened with experience.  The original Twelve Apostles didn’t like Jesus discussing his own death, but wanted to sit at His right hand in His triumph.  They learned that Christ’s death and triumph were the same event, and they were called to share in it!  So too St. Paul had his own lesson about this to learn.

“Paul’s close brush with death at Ephesus, reflected in Phil. 1:12-26 and 2 Cor. 1:8-11, had a double effect on him: it made him realize that he might not be alive for the Parousia and that following Christ meant more than sharing in his victory – it also means sharing in his sufferings and death. This latter realization was the more significant. It led Paul to a more profound conception of Christian existence and its relationship to the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Growth in Christ meant sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” (Seven Pauline Letters, p 7)

As St. Paul himself wrote about this in Romans 6:3-11:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Scripture scholar N.T. Wright points out that St. Paul is consistent in all his thinking about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

“According to Paul’s view of creation, the one God was responsible for the whole world and would one day put it to rights. According to his covenant theology, this God would rescue his people from pagan oppression. His messianic theology hailed Jesus as King, Lord and Savior, the one at whose name every knee would bow. His apocalyptic theology saw God unveiling his own saving justice in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. At every point, therefore, we should expect what we in fact find: that, for Paul, Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.” (Paul, p 69)

St. Paul Church’s Backyard (August 2011)

Our parish is blessed with a 9+ acre property, a large part of which is wooded, rated a wetland with a creek running through the property.

We have also been blessed with a parishioner, Les, who has spent a great deal of effort, time and his own resources in beautifying the property.   Maintaining the landscaping is labor intensive, and hopefully also a labor of love!

Neighbors do visit the property – both human and other animals! – and can enjoy strolling through our backyard.  The deer, enjoyed by many, can also be a destructive nuisance to the flora landscaping.   Les does not quite enjoy their visits as some of the rest of us do.

Moths and butterflies enjoy our backyard, and add floating, flitting color to the landscape.

The parish backyard gives to many the opportunity to enjoy God’s creation, and to offer thanks to the Creator.   At the heart of creation is beauty, and mystery which allows us to sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy Name!”   We also know that creation groans with us because this is the world of the fall (Romans 8:19-23), and we are reminded that our Creator is also our Savior.

You can view a set of photos I’ve taken this year of St. Paul’s Backyard (2011) on my Flickr page.  There are photos beginning from January of this year.   It is a bit refreshing in August to be reminded of the snows and cold of January.

St. Paul’s Backyard (July 2011)

I haven’t posted for a while photos from around our church, so I thought I would offer a few views today as the heat of summer broils us.

The hibiscus have been in full bloom, despite the heat.

Above is a view from the back acreage, across the creek, looking toward the church (which is not visible in the photo).  This was before a windstorm blew through downing a number of trees.  Our parish gardener, Les, continues his labor of love in creating a beautiful landscape in the church’s backyard.

The flowers bloom and thanksgiving is offered to God our Creator.    We are grateful also for Les’ hard work in creating a peaceful garden.   If you can’t get there to walk through it, enjoy this photo-journey.

A pink poppy in late bloom part of the wildflowers Les has established ‘across the creek.’

Above: also in the wildflowers, a purple coneflower.

Of course the flowers as beautiful as they are serve a purpose – to attract pollinating insects so the continuation of the flower’s species is guaranteed.  Creation’s biodiversity is needed for the survival of each species, as all species, including humans are interdependent on this diversity of life, the bio-systems which make up planet earth.  So far as we know, ours is the only planet with the uniqueness of life.  Some scientists keeping searching the universe for other signs of life and for planet capable of sustaining this life.

Beauty and diversity speak to me about a Creator.

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for You, O God.”  (Psalm 42:1)

You can view all of my photos of St. Paul Back Yard starting from January, 2011 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/sets/72157626101966379/with/5931435228/

There click on the “slideshow” button above the thumbnail photos to watch a slideshow.

 

 

 

 

A Panoramic Tour of St. Paul Church, Dayton, OH

Thanks to digital camera technology and computers, you can now take a virtual panoramic tour of the St. Paul Church building in Dayton. OH.

Once you get to the Everyscape webpage, the instructions for how to navigate through the church and to see the exterior of the church are at the bottom of the screen.

Please make a virtual visit us to see our new iconography.   Join us at the 9:30am Sunday Liturgy or Saturday Evening Vespers whenever you able.   Visit the St. Paul Parish Webpage to see our schedule of Services.

All of the photos in the virtual tour were done by Olga Anisimov.

You can also see a slideshow of photos of our church grounds which one of our parishioners tends as if it were God’s own garden in Eden: St. Paul’s Backyard (2011) or last year’s photos at St. Paul’s Backyard (2010).

Reflection: The Called and Gifted Workshop

On December 3-4, 34 members of St. Paul Parish assembled together to continue work  on the parish goals of Helping Orthodox Parishioners be Effective (HOPE) and on changing loafers into bakers

Fr. Michael teaching about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Fr. Michael Butler led us in the Called and Gifted Workshop, an effort to help parishioners discern their spiritual gifts so that all in the parish can contribute to the up-building of the Body of Christ.

Talking about Spiritual Gifts within an Orthodox parish is at least in modern times a fairly unexplored topic in the Orthodox world.  Not enough has been done to explore active lay ministry in parishes, and clericalization in the Church creates a passive attitude in the membership as they ever await direction from the clergy.  The Called and Gifted Workshop challenged us to see ourselves, the world and the Church in a new light, in order to help us change our vision of the life in Christ.  “It is  more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus taught (Acts 20:35).  The Called and Gifted Workshop endeavors to help all parish members fulfill the role of being active givers to the world and to the church not just passive recipients of God’s grace.  It helps us see ourselves as imitating Christ who didn’t sit around waiting for the apostles to wash His feet, but who went around washing the feet of his disciples (John 13).

To have the new vision of ourselves as servants of Christ and not just passive disciples, we have to change our self-centered thinking in which we look for what we get out of church and instead begin to see what we have to offer to the church and to the world through the church.  We do not attend church just to have our personal spiritual needs met, but rather so that we can work for the salvation of the world – to carry out the mission and ministry which Christ established for us (Matthew 28).  The Church exists for the sake of the world and for its salvation, and we must come to live our lives and be both the salt of the earth and light to the world.

Workshop Participants

The new vision of ourselves as the Body of Christ in which all are active co-ministers of the Gospel and in which all are engaged in the priesthood of all believers is given to us by the Holy Spirit and sustained by the gifts which the Holy Spirit distributes upon all of the members of the local church community.

“ And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

All gifts from God are given for the common good.  We are to use the gifts in order to build up the Body of Christ.  The gifts (charisms) of the Spirit which are given to each baptized believer are not just desires or wishes, but are real manifestations of God acting in the lives of each and all believers.

Having learned about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and having made an effort as community to discern those gifts in individual members, we will continue as a parish to discern what God has gifted us to do as community, the Body of Christ in Dayton.

For me as priest, I realized more than ever that the parish really is the Body of Christ, made up of many members, of which I am only one.  I do not possess all of the gifts of the Spirit, and in fact lack many significant ones.  But as only one member of the local Body of Christ, the Church is not limited by me.  When all of the members are aware of their spiritual gifts and are working together to build up the Body, then the fullness of the Church is realized.  Like a giant jigsaw puzzle all of the pieces of the puzzle are needed for the purpose and the witness of the Church to be made clear.  When all members realize they are both called by God and gifted by God, then the priest can fulfill the words of St. John the Baptist who said of Christ that He must increase but I must decrease (John 3:30).  As one member of the Body of Christ or as one piece of the parish puzzle, I am important to the whole, but the whole is not limited to or by me.  When I work within the Body together with all the members, humility and love allow me to take on the role assigned to me, not to lord it over the community, but to work out my salvation in it.  And indeed Christ increases while I decrease.

Spiritual Gifts: The Called and Gifted Workshop

St. Paul the Apostle Church in Dayton is hosting a Called and Gifted Workshop, December 3-4, led by Fr. Michael Butler.  The workshop uses an inventory first developed in the Roman Catholic Church to help parish members discern the gifts which they have received from God for use in building up the local community.  The program also helps a community to discern what gifts God has bestowed on its members which it can use to further the growth and development of the local Church.  “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Information on how to register and a registration form are available online.   For those who register before November 21 the cost of the workshop is $20; after November 22 the cost is $25.  Registration fees include lunch on Saturday.

On Friday, December 3, from 7-10pm, participants will learn about spiritual gifts and then take the inventory which will serve as an instrument to help parishioners discern their spiritual gifts.    Then on Saturday, December 4, from 9:30am to 4pm, Fr. Michael Butler will discussions on spiritual gifts and their role in the life of the parish.

“It means only that the salvation of the world is announced and, in a sense, entrusted to each person, is made a personal vocation and responsibility and ultimately depends on each person. … The whole world is given– in a unique way — to each person and thus in each person is ‘saved’ or ‘perishes.’ Thus in every Saint the world is saved and it is fully saved in the one totally fulfilled Person: Jesus Christ.”   (Fr Alexander Schmemann)

This program is part of the effort of St. Paul Parish to encourage the active participation of all members in the life, ministry and mission of the Church.  The parish leadership has been working on such themes as Helping Orthodox Parishes be Effective (HOPE) and how to help its members move from being loafers to being bakers.    In 1985 St. Paul community began as a mission with the goal of establishing a church. Now we are a church (gifted with wonderful church facilities) and working to re-establish our mission!

“A vibrant parish learns to conduct its affairs in a manner that unites the faithful dynamically, makes Christian truths live in the hearts of people, integrates these truths into life, and acts upon them in concrete ways.  Hence, the continuous renewal of parish life must be of primary concern and importance to the Church-in-mission.”   (Alkiviadis Calivas,  Essays in Theology and Liturgy, Vol Two:  Challenges and Opportunities:  The Church in Her Mission to the World,  pg 49)

If you have any questions about the workshop, please contact St. Paul Church at office@stpdayton.org or Fr. Ted Bobosh at frted@stpdayton.org.  Otherwise you can mail your registration forms with check directly to the church:  St. Paul Church, 4451 Wagner Road, Dayton, OH  45440.

“Hence it is valuable and proper that each one should strive with zeal and diligence to achieve perfection in whatever work he has undertaken, whether this be something he has chosen to do or something he has been given grace to do.  He can praise and admire the virtues of others, but he ought never to depart from the profession which he himself has picked.  For, as the apostle says, he knows that the body of the church is one but its members numerous, that ‘our gifts differ in accordance with the grace given to us.  If one’s gift is administration then let it be used for administration, if teaching then let it be used for teaching, if exhortation then let it be used in exhortation.  Let the one who distributes do so in all simplicity.  Let the one who is in charge be so solicitously and let the one doing the works of mercy be cheerful’ (Rom 12:6-8).  One member cannot undertake the work of others.  The eyes do not perform the task of the hands nor does the nose do the work of the ears.  Not everyone can be apostle, prophet, or doctor.  Not everyone has the grace of healing.  Not everyone speaks in tongues.  Not everyone is an interpreter.”  (St. John Cassian, Conferences, pp 157-158).

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.