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Monthly Archives: April 2008

You know, it’s funny how you can hear something several times and be moved by it. Then, there is that one time you hear it, and it just knocks you down.

Very early this morning, this officially became the most moving sermon I’ve ever heard.

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If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

Amen.
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CHRIST IS RISEN!

Classes ended yesterday.  Next week, we here at UT will start the journey through the dreaded Finals Week, keeping our eyes set on the release that awaits us at the end of it all: Summer.

As I walked around my residence hall today, I noticed everyone walking around as thought it were just an ordinary day.  And, for many, it is.  I couldn’t help but think of the contrast, though.  For them, it’s an ordinary day.  But, for the Orthodox, it’s at the doorstep of the Feast of Feasts: our Lord’s Pascha.

Just a few years ago, I thought Easter was a really cool holiday.  I mean…duh!  Jesus came out of the tomb, right?  So, yeah…it was pretty big.  But, in reality, for me and most I knew, the Big Deal was Christmas.  The Nativity was at the forefront, giving a back seat (in a way) to Easter.

Since then, however, Pascha has become the new Christmas.  Christmas, of course, is a big deal still.  But, it doesn’t compare to the joy that awaits all who make the journey to Pascha.

And, now, I must go.  For the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and it’s 10:17. So…on to church.

Last night, as I attended the service of Holy Unction, most of my attention was on the service itself and related things: the readings, the hymnography, how joyfully relieved many people looked after being anointed with the Holy Unction, how happy my non-Orthodox girlfriend was after being anointed with oil from the shrine of St. Panteleimon at the Holy Mountain, how it was nice to have _two_ priests instead of just one this year….you get my point.

But, then, as Fr. Stephen began to deliver his reflection on the night’s events, I glanced forward and looked at the icon that we’ve been seeing a lot of this week: the Bridegroom.

I saw Christ, with the reed in his hand, the crown of thorns on his head, the look of sorrow on his face (yet, still glowing with love, somehow), and everything else about it. And I began to choke back tears.

As Fr. Stephen slipped into making announcements about a youth retreat, egg hunt, confessions, post-Pasha BBQ, etc., all I could do was fix my moist eyes on that icon and think, over and over, “My Lord….my Savior….what are they going to do to you?”

They will betray Him. They’ll arrest Him. They’ll flog Him. They’ll hurt Him so much that He’ll lack the strength to carry His own cross. They’ll label Him “King of the Jews”, nail Him to a tree on top of a hill, and leave Him there suspended for all to see and to mock. They’ll cast lots for His garments. They’ll watch—some in sadness, some in joy—as He cries out to the Father and takes His last painful breath.

And we’ll be there, in the crowd, as we continue this “walk through eternity” called Holy Week.

God’s blessings as you continue on the journey toward our Lord’s Pascha.

Last night, Jamie announced via a bulletin on MySpace that a few shirts from To Write Love On Her Arms which have previously been available only online are now being sold in Hot Topic. Jamie hasn’t written the “official” announcement of it, however, so we haven’t heard the full story…like, what’s the plan, why exactly they decided to take this route, etc. So, it goes without saying, I think, that the reaction has been mixed so far, according many of the 500+ comments so far. They range from angry cries of “sell out” and worries that people will just wear them to be trendy without regard to the meaning, to excitement at the new opportunities and literally (from a few) shouts of joy that they can finally have these shirts since they can’t/don’t like to order things from online stores.

My response to the bulletin is below…it was too long to post on MySpace, so I’m putting it here:

So…yeah…this is gonna be loooong…..

I really appreciate everyone’s comments on this, even the upset comments that are little more than words expressing anger. I have to admit that I’m quite conflicted about this, as I see both the ups and downs. At first, it seems it’s at once needed and undesirable. But, reflecting on this brought a quote by C.S. Lewis to mind.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

I think this fits here, because the purpose of TWLOHA _is_ to spread the idea of love and hope to everyone, not just a select few. And, what better outlet than HT, since so many supportive bands sell merch through HT? (Paramore, Boys Like Girls, Jonzetta, Gym Class Heroes, Panic! at the Disco, Bayside, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights…) And, honestly…when was the last time any of you saw anything that so plainly spoke of love or promised hope at Hot Topic?

The hard thing about Love is that it must be shared; otherwise, it isn’t love. But, in sharing it, you open yourself up to that same love being misused, misunderstood, ignored, or even rejected. Surely, all of these things might happen to the message of TWLOHA with some people who buy the shirts. But, a) that’s not TWLOHA’s fault, and b) you can’t change that, because it’s bound to happen eventually if this movement is to penetrate further into the public eye. But, though this is certainly a risky thing to do, riskier still is to hold onto this love and keep it for ourselves. For, if we do that, as Lewis so eloquently points out, the love becomes dead and useless.

So, in the end, I have to trust that, as they’ve shown in the past, Jamie and the staff at TWLOHA have approached this very carefully and are planning every step of the way to the best of their ability. I doubt they would intentionally do anything to damage the image or effectiveness of their organization, so I think it’s pretty fair to trust them. And I do.

Remember that this movement started with one girl’s story, and it continues every day with our stories. If you see people with the shirts on, kindly start conversation with them about it, whether they know about it or not. If they don’t care, you can’t help that. And there will be those who don’t and won’t no matter what. But, let that encourage you (and me) to be even more bold and honest with the sharing of your story (or your friend’s, or Renées, or whoever’s) with those who will listen, and to even more humbly love and serve those who feel the most unloved.

I hope all is well. Take care.