Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God

Today we commemorate the Dormition ("Falling Asleep") of the Most Blessed Theotokos. Here is a reading from a sermon by St. John of Damascus (+760 AD):

What is this great mystery about you, O holy mother and virgin?

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Blessed are you for generations of generations; you alone are worthy to be called blessed. Behold, all generations do call you blessed, as you have said. The daughters of Jerusalem – that is, the church’s daughters – saw you, and the royal princesses – the souls of the just – proclaimed you blessed and will praise you for all ages.

The Prophets, then, proclaim you. The Angels serve you, the Apostles revere you, the virginal mouthpiece of God takes care of the ever-virgin who was Mother of God. Today the Angels minister to you as you go home to your Son, joined by the souls of the just, of Patriarchs and Prophets. The Apostles are your escort, with a countless throng of inspired Fathers gathered from the ends of the earth as in a cloud, by your Son’s divine command, in this holy and sacred city, Jerusalem. In their godly enthusiasm, they sing holy hymns to you, the source of the Lord’s body that is for us a stream of life.

Oh, see how the source of life is carried over into life, through the midst of death! See how the one who overcame the defining limits of nature in her childbearing now gives way to those same limits, and submits her unsullied body to death! It was only right for that body to "lay aside what is mortal and put on immortality" (I Cor. 15.53), since the Lord of nature Himself did not refuse the test of death. He died in the flesh, and by that death destroyed death, bestowed incorruptibility upon corrupt nature, and made death the source of resurrection. See how the Maker of all things receives into his own hands her holy soul, now separated from that tabernacle that received God. He rightly honors her who was by nature His handmaid but whom by His saving plan He made to be his mother, in the unfathomable ocean of His love for humanity.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Christian Artist in the World

I recently discovered the article, "The Christian Artist in the World," by Deacon James Bryant. The article presents a perspective on art by an architect who is a deacon in the Orthodox Christian Church.

The article originally appeared in The Handmaiden Vol. 8 No. 4.

Photo Copyright © 2006 by Dana S. Kees

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Women, Health & the Orthodox Mission

According to a report on FOXNews, "Mental health experts say more and more youngsters are being influenced by the 'sexualization of girls,' a term coined in a report released earlier this year by the American Psychological Association." Apparently, mental health professionals are realizing that the message sent to young girls through the media and affirmed by the actions of some female "role models" have negative effects on the mental health of girls. Read "Young Girls Going Wild, But at What Consequences?"

We also live in a world where some people actually advocate eating disorders as a way of remaining physically thin. See the BBC Report on "Seeking 'thinspiration' ."

Without the active, spiritual experience of our Creator in our lives, human culture declines and people suffer.

These articles highlight the importance of the Orthodox Christian mission in society. As the Church, the body of Christ on earth, we have been called to reach out into the world with love and compassion to bring those around us into the safe haven where souls are healed and life is renewed. We have the anthropological knowledge and understanding of the world necessary to help young girls (along with their parents) and young women know what it means to be a healthy person in body and soul. Through education we can offer a worldview for the mind, but even more importantly, we can provide a place for the nurturing of innocence (not naivete) and a way of healing from the scars that have already been inflicted upon heart and mind.

A lot of secular people probably think that Orthodox mission and evangelism is about making converts that belong to the same organization and think the same way. This misunderstanding is unfortunate. The Orthodox mission is a medical mission. Our common vocation is to bring healing through divine grace so that people live healthy lives. If anyone ever wonders why our society needs the Orthodox Church, look around at those in need. If we're honest with ourselves, we don't have to look very far.