Friday, December 25, 2009

The Nativity of Our Lord

We just returned from the Nativity Liturgy at St. John Chrysostom in Fort Wayne. Thankfully the weather forecasters were a bit off in their predictions. We were supposed to have freezing rain about the time of the Liturgy, but instead God granted us clear and safe roads going and returning.

The Liturgy was beautiful. This is our first Christmas at St. John Chrysostom. Last year we were rather displaced with me being a catastrophic mess and bad weather. We had not found St. John Chrysostom yet. It was sad to be unable to celebrate Christmas at church last year. This year all things are new, though. We are newly Sealed and were able to celebrate Christ's nativity as one should: by worshiping the Son of God who lowered Himself beneath all other people in order to raise all people up to His level (as Fr. Anthony preached today), which takes place ever so wonderfully in the communion of Christ's Holy Body and Precious Blood in the unity of the Holy Spirit. For us it has truly been a celebration of Christ's Mass this year.

However, this Christmas is a little stranger than past Christmases, too. We are the only ones in our family - maybe in all of Defiance - who are Orthodox. Our families are great toward us, but there is sometimes an air of uncomfortableness. It's because we don't fit in the same way we used to fit. I imagine that it seems as if we've chosen something that seems strange and a bit extreme to our Protestant relatives. There are certain passages in the Gospel that stick out for me anew now that I am Orthodox, and if you're Orthodox you might guess which ones they are.

However, I offer myself (and anyone else in my shoes) this encouragement: Orthodoxy alone in the world knows both the joy of God's gift of redemption in Christ AND the warfare of the Christian life AND the ecclesial reality of Christ's kingdom on earth (I'm sure I could throw in a few more ANDs in there, too). My introduction into a more serious Christianity was maybe twelve years ago, and it was like basic training conducted in a battle zone. Now that I'm in Orthodoxy it is apparent that the true nature of the warfare is not only known, but it has been engaged with a consistent vision, a single multifaceted gaze piercing eschatologically through the sands of history, arming the saints in the Holy Spirit, healing the wounded with the Blood of Christ, and carrying on the victory of the Cross by the grace of our God who is glorious in His saints and calls us to share in His own glory.

I am a lazy man and tempted kick back in the face of God's goodness and condescension. May He forgive me and teach me to engage the activity of the life He has given me in Christ.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will among men.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee,
we worship Thee, we glorify Thee,
we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.

O Lord, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty;
O Lord, the Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and O Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us;
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For Thou only art holy,
Thou only art the Lord, O Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Every day will I bless Thee and I will praise Thy name forever, yea forever and ever.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
and praised and glorified is Thy name unto the ages. Amen.

Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we have hoped in Thee.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge in generation and generation.

I said: O Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.

O Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge, teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God;

For in Thee is the fountain of life, in Thy light shall we see light.

O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.


Ezekiel said...

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

We've experienced many of the same things you've noted, Ben. Our families tolerate, maybe even appreciate, but don't really "get" what happened and why we became Orthodox.

Our children, now married and with children of their own are not Orthodox. My son has sort of fallen into a sort of "Baptist" thing to keep peace in his family. Our daughter years a bit for Orthodoxy, by her husband is pretty much agnostic -- and she will have to drive about an hour and fifteen minutes to the nearest Orthodox community. She may well do that if/when their current pastor leaves.

But, we do pray for them!

On my blog "One Lately Come" I've commented on the simplicity of our worship at this time! What a difference from all the stuff going on at Nativity as a Lutheran ... hymns, planning, choirs, music of all kinds -- compared to Royal Hour yesterday morning, and Vesperal Divine LIturgy yesterday afternoon ... and Orthros and Divine Liturgy this morning: pretty much we will all give thanks and praise with one heart, one mind, and in a sense one tongue!

But we are home. Glory to God for All Things!

Cristina said...

I am a simple Orthodox mom living in Romania, Europe and I have just discovered your blog. Congratulation from the bottom of my heart for your conversion! I read about how difficult it was for you to explain to the others the reasons of your choice. I am in no position to give advice, but please allow me to encourage you to be very, very happy for having found Orthodoxy. Be sure that God will help you and your family through this way - a hard way, but the good one and the most beautiful one. Helping you, there are all the Holy Sacraments and all the saints - everyone so "specialized" in some particular needs. May God bless you and your family!

Deacon Benjamin Harju said...


Thank you for your encouraging words. Many things in our life seem to be changing, yet strangely in that one area where we should be faced with the most change - our conversion to Holy Orthodoxy - there is the most comforting stability.

The words of Christ are most certainly true: he who hears and does the sayings of Christ is like one who built his house on the rock instead of sand (Mt 7). While those words seem to aim at each of us, how manifestly true they are when seen in the light of His Church that hears and does His every word. What a wondrous Grace, what a beautiful home, what a blessed revelation.

Thank you to all who have remembered us in their prayers. A blessed Epiphany to all.