March 7th, 2006

HTOC

Home, In Love, In Church, Ingrate!

We returned from Wisconsin yesterday, escaping snow. We unexpectedly awoke on Sunday morning to five inches or so, and though we were not prepared, we were delighted. The chill in the air was a welcome relief from the warmth of the cabin in which the male volunteers were holed up in.

I am back to work and I find myself in the middle of many things that need to be done. And yet somehow there is peace in all of this. I don’t have the appropriate words to explain…

It is wonderful to be back though, I’ll admit that. I’ve missed Abby. I know that after a year and a half of knowing someone, one ought to be able spend four days apart without much difficulty, but alas: I am weak! And I’ve missed the life of the Church. Lent has begun and the services and cycles of Orthodox worship are intensifying. The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is being read through the first four evenings of this week. It is penitential service; an individual soul’s reflection on its own sinfulness in the light of biblical history. It is a harsh and condemning series of prayers and prostrations – it can leave one feeling defensive. But I think that the Church knows that only after we realize our misery can the words “Lord, Have Mercy!” carry any meaning. One cannot hope to rise if one does not comprehend what great height we’ve all fallen from.

A passage from the Gospel of St. Mathew was read this weekend. It was from chapter twenty-five and it was the vision of the Son of Man coming as Judge, the separating of the sheep from the goats. This is not exactly an LVC-friendly passage; it is full of judgment and hellfire and brimstone. I wrote a few words in my journal after seeing the different ways that the passage was digested:

“The mark of the gospel is that it makes those who hear it uncomfortable. The gospel offends, confuses, exasperates and challenges – it certainly does not conform. When presented with this challenge, we more often than not reel from it: we rationalize, criticize, nuance, and interpret to the point of completely explaining away its content. Our common reaction to the hard words of Christ (and aren’t they all “hard” in some way?), is to bend them, to try to make them conform to our opinions of the world and of how the world should be. But the gospel was not given to compliment a certain worldview. No, it was given to shatter every worldview that is not GOD. And thus, even though we become masters at explaining away; even though we spend whole lives trying to put it in a gentler, more kindly light; we never full succeed. The life and words of Christ still remain a stumbling block, an offense.”

His words still offend me; they still exasperate my attempts to “market” Christianity. This is how it should be.

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“I would say that the best definition of man is: ungrateful biped” - Dostoevksy