Friday, August 27, 2010

Begin the New Year with Thanksgiving

Dear Parish Faithful,

"The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork."

The "presentation" of the beauty of the natural world that accompany this meditation may strike you as a bit superficial - if not "hokey" - at first. But the images are impressive, and I was looking precisely for some arresting images of the natural world to "promote" a service we will have next week as we prepare to begin the Church New Year on Wednesday, September 1. Many of you are familiar with the Akathist Hymn "Glory to God for All Things!" Those who are familiar with this Hymn unanimously praise its beauty and power. We have chanted it often in the church over the years. This remarkable text is attributed to Archpriest Gregory Petrov (+1942). This hymn is replete with prayerful thanksgiving to God for the glory of the natural world in which we can more than detect the hand of God. In the praises from the hymn, we hear:

Glory to You, Who have shown me the beauty of the universe,
Glory to You, Who have opened before me the sky and the earth as an eternal book of wisdom ...
(Oikos 1)

Glory to You, Who brought out of earth's darkness diversity of color, taste and fragrance,
Glory to You, for the warmth and caress of all nature,
Glory to You, for surrounding us with thousands of Your creatures,
Glory to You, for the depth of Your wisdom reflected in the whole world,
Glory to You, I kiss reverently the footprint of Your invisible tread ...
(Oikos 3)

The Hymn, of course, speaks of other aspects of life for which we praise God - of His over-all providential guidance of our lives and the world to their ulitmate fulfillment in the Kingdom of God; of our relationships of love and fellowship with others; of the gifts of creativity and human endeavor, etc. As this Hymn expands our mind by effectively bringing to its attention the endless range of the world's diverse beauty that surrounds us; it can simultaneously expand our hearts to "open up" to God's presence in the world and in the face of our neighbor. The Akathist Hymn "Glory to God for All Things!" is "uplifting" in the best sense of the word. For it lifts one out of those daily perceptions of life that only vaguely remind us of God's presence; into a clarity of vision that sharpens that presence by reminding of realities we know of but often bury beneath our narrowly-focused preoccupations.

Many people - and I include myself - like new beginnings. For a new beginning means a new and fresh start. And this in turn leads us to (re)assess our lives in relationship to God. The Church New Year on September 1, may be little more than a neglected note on the church calendar hanging on the refrigerator or wall. In the endless "battle of the calendars" it may pass right by. In the "daily grind" it may seem quaint in its utter insignificance. However, if it can somehow catch our attention, it may be the starting point of renewing our relationship with God - and with our neighbor and the world around us. To take the time to observe the beginning of the Church New Year may be a small victory that reveals a larger and often hidden desire to make God first in our lives.

We will serve The Akathist Hymn "Glory to God for All Things!" on Tuesday evening, August 31, at 7:00 p.m. Please note that on your calendars and make an honest attempt to be present.

Fr. Steven

1 comment:

  1. The Akathist of Thanksgiving CD is so lovely, especially the opening prayers and closing prayers. I wish we had stuff like this in the Roman Church!


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