Monday, June 22, 2009

Things to Remember for the Summer

Dear Parish Faithful,

In yesterday's newsletter/bulletin I included a short list entitled "Things to Remember for the Summer." For those of you who were not in church; and for those who are not inclined to read what is printed there on a weekly basis, I would like to share that list and the points made there as we now officially embark upon the summer. I will expand upon the list as I share it with everyone today, adding some further commentary.

Things to Remember for the Summer

There is hardly a good reason to be less "Church-centered" in the summer than during the other seasons of the year. When that mysteriously happens, it means that the "summer vacation" mentality has intruded upon our ecclesial consciousness. The fact that the Church School is no longer in session can contribute to this unfortunate impression among parish families with Church School-age children. Be that as it may, we know full well that there is nothing "seasonal" about God. If the God Who exists, and Who we believe in, were to withdraw His presence for a moment - for the "twinkling of an eye" - then we would simply cease to exist! God is "everywhere and fillest all things." As St. Paul told the Athenians while proclaiming the Gospel to them in the middle of the Areopagus (quoting a Greek philosopher/poet in the process!): "In him we move and have our being." (ACTS 17:28) The "unknown god" that the Apostle was appealing to is, of course, for the Church, the "holy, consubstantial, and undivided Trinity." This is the most basic theological and existential Truth that we live by.

Here, then are some suggestions meant to maintain our vigilance with the arrival of the summer months:

+ Inform me if you are travelling, so that we can pray for your safety and well-being in the Liturgy.

+ While travelling, make a point of of trying to be near an Orthodox parish on Sunday for the Liturgy when you are out of town. Sunday is the Lord's Day, from which a "vacation" makes no theological/spiritual sense. In addition to this over-arching liturgical principle, it is good to avail ourselves of the opportunity of visiting other Orthodox parishes. It strengthens our sense of "connection" with other Orthodox Christians and allows us to experience some of the "variety" within our common liturgical tradition. If you intend on receiving Holy Communion on a given Sunday, inform the priest of the parish ahead of time as much as that is possible.

+ Think of making a pilgrimage to an Orthodox monastery. If you are "on the road" there is the possibility that a monastery may be in "striking distance" at least for a brief visit. Not all of our vacation time needs to spent in the atmosphere of entertainment and "fun." A visit to a monastery can make a strong impact on an impressionable child and enforce his/her faith. Possibly stronger and longer lasting than any "Disneyworld-type" experience. And, of course, there any many good Orthodox summer camps for our children.

+ Remain vigilant is preparing for Holy Communion: respect and keep the weekly fast days of Wednesday and Friday; and keep a total fast (no food or drink) from at least midnight on the eve of the next day's Liturgy. Periodically confess your sins, etc. Make your evening before the next day's Liturgy peaceful. Come to Great Vespers!

+ Participate in the Summer Bible Study, usually preceded by Vespers, thus "connecting" the Sundays in a meaningful manner.

+ Be aware of, and keep the "summer fasts," further fulfilling the fasts by participating in the Feast Days they lead up to. We are currently in the Apostles' Fast and the wonderful "summer pascha" of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Aug. 15) is preceded by a two-week fast that all serious and practicing Orthodox Christians need to observe (Aug. 14). There is also the beautiful Feast of the Transfiguration and the blessing of fruit on August 6.

+ Choose another quality book related to the Faith for summer reading. We now have a good parish library in the Education Center in the church basement. I would be glad to suggest titles or offer guidance in any particular subject you may want to read about.

+ Do not let your daily rule of prayer lapse during the summer months. Perseverance, according to the saints, is one of the keys to an effective prayer life.

If it is any longer even possible to experience anything resembling "leisure" in our fast-paced, high-pressured, and endlessly demanding schedules, it would most probably be during the summer months. Actually, we may now have the opportunity to actually do some of the things mentioned above without the same pressures that we normally experience - beginning with such basic Christian practices as prayer, reading of the Holy Scriptures, attending more church services, etc. Again, this means resisting any temptation that leads us toward a "vacation" mentality away from our life in the Church. "Redeem the time" with mindfulness of God rather than just "fill the time" with mindless distractions.

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (MATT. 6:21)

Fr. Steven

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