CUTTING CONSUMPTION

We live in a time of perilous over-consumption, mass extinctions, potential global catastrophe… This is not the will of God. On the contrary: “God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good [beautiful]” (Genesis 1:31). God intends not just the salvation of man but the restoration of all things (Acts 3). Colossians 1 reminds us that we are not everything in the covenant of God. We have a place in the covenant, truly a very high one, but we must learn humility before God. It is not man, but Christ who must be “all and in all”. (Colossians 3:11). We read in holy scripture that God’s plan encompasses all creation: “every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, or the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you” (Genesis 9:10). God has a covenant with all creation: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). That is not only His specific covenant with Noah and his descendants, but one which embraces “every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). It is all one covenant, the same which God established with Abraham, with Israel, with David, and with us in Christ (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:4-5; Acts 2:39). We can see that creation itself also shall participate in the glory of God’s people: “The earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waits for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19) – the entire creation, not just “all peoples”, but also “sun, moon, stars and light, heavens, waters, fire, hail, snow, ice, winds, mountains, hills, trees, animals, cattle, creeping things, birds…” (Psalm 148). This creation which “was made subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20) as a result of man’s sin (Genesis 2:17 and 18). Our individual sins disfigure all creation, “all creation groans in pain” (cf. Romans 8:20). We have a responsibility to make amends. Our prayers and actions aid the transfiguration of all things. For there is always hope: “the creature also itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). In Colossians 1:20 we read explicitly- “to reconcile to [Christ] all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven”.
When Saint John sees the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21: 9-10) he sees also a new heavens and earth. That is not only the Church, that holy city in which God dwells with His people and is their God, but all things. God’s covenant embraces not only the new Jerusalem and all those who dwell therein, but the whole of the created order, cleansed, renewed, glorified.
As practicing Orthodox Christians we should care deeply that God has made a covenant with His creation, and that in fulfillment of the covenant, “the heavens shall confess [God’s] wonders” (Psalm 88:4), and all things will be gathered together, “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). We love and honour all life, all things, all creation.

Where to begin to act…? In small ways we can be agents of real change. Of course action is necessary, but prayer is foundational. First, we pray for the restoration of all things, the salvation of all. And, also, all of us should look closely at our consumption (of fuel, toys, food, non-essentials, luxuries, single-use items, etc.).
As a parish we must immediately reduce waste: plastic cups and all single-use plastics, are to be avoided. Paper, cardboard, glass, recyclable plastics, etc., should not be binned but recycled.
Christmas in the west is a period of gluttony and rabid indulgence. Let us not be swept along by the tide. Last Sunday’s Holy Gospel (Luke 12:16-21) demonstrates to us the bewitching danger of material things. Much as we love our children, spoiling them with too many material things is counter-productive. Above all, our children need love and stability and a prayer-filled home life. Let us slow down and climb off the dizzying consumerist merry-go-round for a second. Here are a few practical ideas on how to begin to slow down:
Pray more.
Recycle more.
Buy less junk.
Ikon cards are very beautiful, but should be avoided if the recipient is likely to discard them. Ikons should never be thrown away.
Please note that silver or gold paper cannot be recycled. Use brown wrapping paper (available from the post office) or simple printed papers.
Selo tape cannot be recycled. Please remove it from discarded paper before placing papers in recycling sacks. It doesn’t take very long. Leaving it on the paper will prevent the entire batch from being processed.

This year, we will not be sending out cards. Instead we will donate the equivalent money to charity. Please do the same, if you wish. You have no need to send us a card, your nativity prayers are a most invaluable gift!

At the New Monastery

Beauty is not a luxury… it ennobles the heart and
reminds us of the infinity that is in us. 

~ John O’Donohue (poet)

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[ inside Saint Seraphim’s Cell ] 

I returned home on Friday evening from the holy Monastery of Saint Antony & Saint Cuthbert in Shropshire which is now under the omophorion of our Metropolitan, but which formerly was the home for eighteen years of our beloved Father Silouan. I was truly blessed to play a tiny, tiny part in building up this place of prayer, and I was privileged to be the first non-monastic priest to serve Divine Liturgy in the tiny chapel. The work there was hard, relentless even; there is so much to be done; the winter climate is harsher still, but that place is staggeringly beautiful and aggressively holy. The days were filled with digging, weeding, construction, cleaning, 12 hours of silence, scripture reading, holy services, and much prayer.  Archimandrite Barnabas [Burton], of blessed memory, who lived not that far away from the monastery, said that “if you wish to know God, then you must also know the earth of which you are made.” Truly, this is so.

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[ Saint Seraphim’s Cell, in the Woods ]

I passed on your prayers and the donation of cash. The brothers need your prayers and material and financial help if they are to survive there.

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[ view from the Monastery, frosty early morning ]

This week, I did not encounter a dour or miserable monastery. It was certainly cold (we had snow!) and it was very, very muddy; and the days were filled with toil, but I was blessed only to encounter happiness, and a rich communal love: joyful service to God and His people; hard working, smiling, happy Christian people, pulling together. This is how it should be in a monastery, and should be replicated in every parish.

IMG_20181030_064441[ Jess, monastery dog ]

May God grant that we punctuate our own life with hard work, hard prayer, deep love; may our remaining time on earth be spent fully in keeping with our Orthodox belief that the human role in God’s creation is to make it more beautiful and help it reach its full potential, in living a life of peace and repentance. May our journey, together, be enriched by a deep repentance and because of that, an even deeper joy.

In Christ God,
Father Jakob 

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[ Dawn, from my (temporary) Cell ]

 

The Grace of the Holy Priesthood

Through the Mysteries we have a strong connection to the Holy Spirit. The ordination happens, not by any power of our own, but by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. In ordination, all priests have this gift from God, this gift of the Holy Spirit. It [the charism] is a free gift from God but we must also protect it from everything bad. We can stand against that which would snatch away the gift by pursuing goodness in our lives. This goodness is born out of humility which itself comes from obedience; obedience to Christ and to the bishop. If the bishop says: “Go here. We need a parish in this place,” – this is what we must do. This is for love!
It is the same for the chanters as the priests.
Do you chant for the priest? No!
Do you do this for the people? No!
You do it for God.
By His gift of the Holy Spirit we can become sons of God. We must not hate our brother or else we will lose this gift. We must seek to be holy. God and His Church can make you holy if you will.

Why do we have ikons in our temples? It is so that we can see the holy persons and become holy ourselves. [The bishop then turned to Father Paulinus to give him the gift of a prayer rope] We must become a prayer each day in every circumstance of our lives.
Sometimes some people may say something bad about us but you must only love in return. Yes, you are to listen to the people and learn what you need to, but you do not obey them; you obey only Christ in the Gospel and the Canons of the Church.
Having done this through your life as a priest you will have something good on their behalf to present to Christ. Today, the bishop said, there is a remembrance of the fallen. This too is our martyrdom, to love God and His people to the end.

 
[Synopsis of the Sermon by H.E. Metropolitan Silouan at the ordination to the holy priesthood of Father Paulinus, 13/11/16.]

LOVE and CLAY

from Bishop Daniel [Krstic], ‘Divine Philanthropy: from Plato to John Chrysostom’, Θεολογία, vol. 54 , no.1, 1983, pp.140-141.

The tremendous greatness of the divine philanthropy obliges us to return to pristine nobility, especially since God, despite our sinfulness, lets us enjoy the whole of creation.190 God’s philanthropia is realised in the consolation of the fallen man, 191 mainly in the fact that He spoke to them directly Himself 192 and, above all, in salvation.193 In facing the thorny problem of the free will (autezouseion) in Rom. 9:19-24, Chrysostom recommends first that the analogy of the potter and the clay be not pressed so as to draw exhaustive conclusions from it.194 Pharaoh, for example, by remaining incorrigible after so long a show of patience on the side of God, cannot blame anyone but himself for his lot, since he also was the object of the divine kindness (chrestotes).195 Chrysostom did not miss the occasion to emphasise that it depends entirely on the deliberate choice (proariesis) of men to be “vessels of mercy”or  to be “vessels wrath”, while God exercises His kindness (chrestotes) on both equally.196

In the same column philanphropia is equated with charis, 197 and the glory of those who shall be glorified is the main concern of the divine philanthropy.198 Even the foreknowledge of God is “crucified” between the little something that men are expected to contribute in their cooperation with God199 and the great dependence of men on the steady philanthropy of God.200 With such a style of thinking Chrysostom could remain an apophatic theologian by wisely asserting the parallelism of the divine and of human freedom, without rationalising the mystery of their cooperation. He thus preserves joy as the hallmarkof the Epistle to the Romans, according to which, God channels His kindness (chrestotes) and love towards mankind (philanthropiathrough all. The only shadow that remains is the eventual refusal of some to respond to the grace of the philanthropic God, who forces no one.201

———————————————
190. In Romanos II PG. 60, 492.
191. Ibid. PG 60, 530.
192. Ibid. PG 60, 534.
193. Ibid. PG 60, 536.
194. Ibid. PG 60, 559. Otherwise, a coarse dealing with this imagery would imply that God pre-judged everything at the outset of creation.
195. Ibid. PG 60, 560.
196. Ibid. PG 60, 561.
197. Ibid. PG 60, 561. Cf. PG 60, 650.
198. lbid. PG 60, 561.
199. In Romanos XVI PG 60, 561.
200. Ibid. PG 60, 561.

201. In Romanos XIII PG 60, 579.

 

Ana Blandiana: Humility / Umilinţă

Humility  ~ Ana Blandiana

I can’t stop the day from lasting twenty-four hours.
I can only say:
Forgive me for the length of the day.
I can’t stop the silkworms from turning into butterflies.
I can only ask you to forgive me
For the silkworm, for the butterfly.
Forgive me if the flower turns into fruit,
The fruit into seeds, the seeds into trees.
Forgive me if springs turn into rivers,
Rivers into seas, seas into oceans.
Forgive me if love turns into new-born babies,
New-born babies into loneliness, and loneliness into love . . .
No. I can’t stop anything.
Everything follows its course. Nothing consults with me –
Not the last grain of sand, not even my blood.
I can only ask you to
Forgive me.

(from A treia taină, 1969.)

Umilinţă ~ Ana Blandiana
 
Nu pot împiedica ziua să aibă douăzeci şi patru de ore.
Pot doar spune:
Iartă-mă pentru durata zilei;
Nu pot împiedica zborul fluturilor din viermi,
Pot doar să te rog să mă ierţi pentru viermi, pentru fluturi;
Iartă-mă că florile se fac fructe, şi fructele sâmburi,
Şi sâmburii pomi;
Iartă-mă că izvoarele se fac fluvii,
Şi fluviile mări, şi mările oceane;
Iartă-mă că iubirile se fac nou-născuţi,
Şi nou-născuţii singurătăţi, şi singurătăţile iubiri…
Nimic, nimic nu pot să împiedic,
Toate-şi urmează destinul şi nu mă întreabă,
Nici ultimul fir de nisip, nici sângele meu.
Eu pot doar spune –
Iartă-mă.

(din A treia taină, 1969.)

Poet-Theologian-Poet

In the strict sense, of course,
We invent nothing, merely bearing witness
To what each morning brings again to light
Gold crosses, cornices, astonishment

~  Richard Wilbur

The true theologian is a poet, and the true poet is a theologian. By this I do not mean that the theologian is a poetaster or versifier, a mere scribbler of verses, but a ‘poet’ in the sense that he reveals; nor that the poet writes exclusively about theological matters.

In order that human beings bring about the most radiant conditions for themselves to inhabit, it is essential that the vision of reality which poetry offers should be transformative, more than just a printout of the given circumstances of its time and place. The poet who would be most the poet has to attempt an act of writing that outstrips the conditions even as it observes them.
~ Seamus Heaney

The poet-theologian does not offer analysis, reportage or explicatory material; he is not the one who explains but the one who unveils.  

 The two most engaging powers of an author are to make
new things familiar, and familiar things new.
~
Samuel Johnson

The poet’s task is not “strictly” creative, or to be precise. It is creative (classical Greek has the noun poema “a created thing”, and the verb poiein “to make”), but only in so far as it is revelatory.

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.
~ Percy Byshe Shelley

The poet’s “making” is akin to the forensic- just as an archaeologist brings to light what was already there; the restorer brings out the patinal beauty of dulled down old wood, the historian discerns patterns behind apparent chaos , the palaeographer pieces together fragments of broken papyri. But these comparisons and analogies fail- because the poet evokes. Revelation is a Christ-centred operation (Col. 1:16), achieved not through the western education-career path-process, through the memorising of facts, the regurgitation of crass data, but by something far deeper (Psalm 41:7 LXX).  What the poetic gives birth to is a sort of resurrection, a refutation, and a nexus for a transformative event which acts beyond space-time, it is able to re-shape past, present, and future (Isaias 43:19, 65:17; Eph. 4:24, 2:15; Heb. 8:13; Rev. 21:5). Through the Logos, the Word (spermatikos logos) moves outwards to embrace, permeate and to fertilise the world, and the world is pulled inwards into the womb of the Word (platytera ton ouranon).

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet
~  
Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia

A theology which is experiential and of God, easily transcends the boundaries of language. Rightly expressed, theology always attempts to speak the unspeakable.  Prose (scientific, political, historical, critical, polemical), mostly leads to more prose, more thoughts, more contentions, the endlessly devouring ouroboros of intellectualism (Mark 9:48). Only a poetry which is theopoetic, suggestive, ambiguously hinting, generously intimating, can bring us to silence (hesychia). To that Word which is beyond the word, in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud (Exodus 13:22), in the darkness (Exodus 20:21) and in the Light (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36; 2 Peter 1:16–18; John 1:14), beyond wordiness (Prov. 10:19, 21:23; Psalm 140:3 LXX; Matthew 15:11; James 1:19; Col. 4:6; Eph 4:29); beyond literal and flat approaches to the world as well as to Holy Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20). It is a striving for action and creative articulation regardless of the literal, the bluntly affirmative, and cognitive certainties, it is an overturning of world(ly) views.

Beauty of every beauty
Scent of all truth,
Friend of my heart,
Fresh air,
Clarity of my mind.
Light of lights
Beauty of all things.
I gaze upon you
.

~ Thalia Zeniou 

This is not to suggest that theopoetics is a descent into magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, or belief in fanciful explanations, fake-news, fantasies, or things which merely console, thrill or terrify us (Matthew 24:6). On the contrary, Jesus Christ is both the poet and the poetic, He is log-ic, verbal (John 1:1, 14:6), and verbaliser (Luke 18:18)- He is the one who offers and that which (= Whom) is offered (cf. Heb. 10:12).

He gave us divinity, we gave Him humanity.
~ Saint Ephrem of Syria

He Himself is veiler of His own divinity (Isaias 53:7; Matthew 26:67) and revealer of divine Truth (the supreme reality) (Luke 9:29), revealer of beauty itself, which is actualised – personalised – as beauty Himself, is that very beauty which Dostoevsky said is the salvation of the world.

Le Poète se fait voyant ~ Rimbaud (“Lettre du Voyant”)

The poet is a seer. He may not be able even to articulate in intellectual-logical terms (Isaias 53:7) what he is expressing poetically (Psalm 46:6 LXX), as what is expressed may be beyond his rational compass (Luke 23:24), or he may be blinded by ambiguity (Mark 4:12) or the “dérèglement de tous les sens” (Rimbaud, ibid.). He sees all things in God, God in all things (cf. Gal. 3:28), he discerns God’s presence in each person (Matthew 25:40).

it illumines the soul interiorly.
~ Saint Gregory of Palamas

The theopoetic is a transcendence and circumvention of the tyrannical Aristotelian straitjacket of propositional thinking (1 Tim. 6:20); theo-poetics is a theo-phany.

To articulate “truth,” we must thus turn away from any sense of “truth” as a determined object or a mere product of evidence. We must instead seek out new expressions of truth (as well as renewing others) above all, toward the disclosure of the sacred as something utterly mysterious and irreducible. In so doing, a sense of “truth” is recovered as something fragmented and fragile, for such is the language of poetry and prayer.  ~ Jack Louis Pappas 

The theopoetic is a mystery. In this way it is entirely possible for the non-Orthodox, non-Christian, to express the Truth (their work may not be explicit about the importance of the Incarnation).

Light is Love revealed.
Light is Life manifested.
Light is God fulfilled
.

~ Sri Chinmoy

even as he exists in a “post-truth landscape”, and is not confessing to or believing in the Truth or in any one thing or in anything per se (the theopoetic is an unknowing), not as syncretism, but as long as that which is expressed is congruent with Truth (John 14:6, 16:13; Rom. 8:29).

 Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with your every breath.  Then indeed you will appreciate the value of stillness.
~ Saint John Klimakos

It is also possible for some “thing” which is entirely  non-literal/non-literary to be poetic- even something entirely non-verbal, the writing of a holy eikon, acts of compassion and self-emptying, a life devoted to Christ, self-sacrificed for Love,  the sweeping of the holy temple, the breaking of bread, are filled with and made possible by poetic Truth. For the Truth is beyond our personal experience; it entirely transcends the entire cosmic order. It is a wealth which the world cannot contain (Matthew 6:21). The poet is the one who sees with a pure and wondering heart (Matthew 18:2-4), un-seeing within the Dionysian divine darkness.

Only wonder understands anything. ~ Saint Gregory of Nyssa

The role of wonder is (among other things) to slow us down, make us quiet, help us pay attention. There may in the theopoetic be an inadvertence:

The poet Nicholas Bielby, in his poem ‘A Painter on Luing: Edna Whyte’, recognises what the artist (Edna Whyte) does not, that the light which she captures so brilliantly in paint, is God:  

light that transforms, transfigures, that lights
a fire here, now, in earth’s hearth.  

Whyte sees light, even ‘the hidden source’, but the light for her does not open up, lead to, or enable the perception of and assimilation to the deeper truth.  It is for this reason that the epigraph of Bielby’s poem is so apposite: ‘There is only one fault: incapacity to feed upon light’ (Simone Weil). Even though Whyte denies God, she paints ‘religiously’, she paints God:  ‘The God she does not /believe in is what she paints’ Bielby declares truthfully.  She paints God in spite of her rationalist rejection, her lack of belief. Truly, the Sprit blows where He wills (John 3:8).

A theopoetics may be outwardly beautiful- and where it is a revelatory it cannot fail to be beautiful outwardly and inwardly, but the “aesthetical” as understood within the academy and by contemporary culture is not its concern (Isaias 53:3).

In imitation of the method of the bee, I shall make my composition
from those things which are conformable with the truth and from our enemies themselves gather the fruit of salvation. […]
I shall add nothing of my own.

~ Saint John of Damaskos

The theo-poet is like a bee collecting pollen- even from the garden of the enemy, to form the honey sweetness of salvation, the theopoetic is inherently communal, invitational- a feeding of the thirsty, a hospitality.
The one who sees theopoetically is like someone who has found beautiful shells on a pristine beach and is gathering them together to form configurations of astounding beauty. Or threading petals to form garlands, a reconfiguring and re-imaging of the cosmos.

Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels

~  Richard Wilbur

A pseudo poetic is as toxic as the overly rational, a cul-de-sac, a closing off not an opening up and into (1 Cor. 1:18-31). On the other hand, the truly poetic has precisely the quality of the shell and the petal, in that it is capable of being made into that which goes beyond itself, just as the saint is the one who has – through a synergy of grace (Eph 2:8-9) and co-working (1 Cor. 3:9) – gone beyond the leaden baseness of fallen humanity, to the golden glory of Christ God.

 

See also: https://orthodoxbasildon.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/perforation/

 EVAGRIOS PONTIKOS: Countering temptations not to fast

– – Against the thoughts that stir up in us the desire to eat meat on a feast day and that advise us also to eat on account of the body’s illness:

And to the people say, “Purify yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat. . . . You shall not eat one day, not two, not five days, not ten days, and not twenty days. For a month of days you shall eat, until it [the meat] comes out of your nostrils. And it shall be nausea to you because you disobeyed the Lord, who is among you” (Num 11:18-20).

– – Against the thought that seeks to be filled with food and drink and gives no heed to the harm that springs from filling the belly:

Having eaten and been filled, pay attention to yourself, lest you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deut 6:11-12).

– – Against the thought that says to me, “The command to fast is burdensome”:

 The command that I give you this day is not burdensome, nor is it far from you (Deut 30:11).

 – – Against the thought that desires to be filled with food and drink and supposes that nothing evil for the soul comes from them:

And Jacob ate and was filled, and the beloved one kicked; he grew fat and became thick and broad, and he abandoned the God who made him and departed from God his Saviour (Deut 32:15).

Words of an Anglo-Saxon Hesychast

Thus here on the earth God’s eternal son sprang in leaps over the high hillsides, mindful over the mountains. So we men must spring in leaps in the thoughts of our heart from strength to strength, striving after glorious things […].There is a great need for us that we should seek salvation with our hearts […]. Therefore we must despise vain lusts, the wounds of sin, and delight in the better part. We have as our comfort the Almighty Father in the heavens.

~  Cynewulf (Old English poet, c.8th-10th cent.), ‘The Ascension’ (‘Christ II’), ll. 744-748, 751b-752, 756-759a.

ARE YOU SAVED?

This question, “ARE YOU SAVED?”, is perhaps the most important question of all. It is often asked – rhetorically – by earnest protestants.

 Truly we have been saved by God, through the incarnation, life, suffering, death, and holy resurrection of Jesus Christ, He who has trampled down death by death; and by cleansing and illumination by the Gift of the Holy Spirit; and in the Holy Eucharist of our Lord’s most holy and precious Body and Blood.

Christ’s words, in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), about the seed implanted in heart and yet still falling away- shows that the idea of “once saved always saved” – as understood by protestants -is not Orthodox teaching. Certainly, there is a time “before” and a time “after” salvation, but until this occurs we remain free to say “no” to God and can always fall away into sin. Adam and Eve were saved but they then chose to sin, and fell away. Faith and love and works continually work together – salvation is a continually ongoing process – we are continually being saved.
We shall be saved by doing what Christ instructs, by keeping on loving, asking, seeking, knocking, finding, and applying ourselves diligently, and with humility, to these things. So, we are not saved by faith alone, nor by works alone (what we do), but ultimately we are changed – and saved – only by the grace of God.

One answer to this big question is given us by Molly Sabourin (who, among other things, is a journalist, podcaster, wife and mother). Her response is loving, articulate, measured and poetic, and forms both a practical aide-mémoire and a heartfelt prayer. Here it is:

 I will, (Lord have mercy), be saved at the Great and final Judgment when I give an account for a lifetime of actions, when it becomes clear whether or not I cooperated with the grace so generously bestowed upon me. Who of us, having been blessed beyond all comprehension, should feel the need to insure that regardless of our choices a reward will be ours free and clear? Who of us dare to sit idle with our assurances, interpreting the conditions of the Bridegroom’s invitation while our lamps for illumining the darkness run out of oil?

My individual salvation is being worked out with fear and trembling through the unique responsibilities God deemed best to set before me. Based upon the model of the publican who beat his breast and begged for leniency, I am careful to not assume I have a handle on the spiritual state of others. I would do best, rather, to stay focused on my own flagrant shortcomings, reverencing both friends and enemies, all of whom were created in God’s image, as living icons of Christ Jesus. I share my faith, yes, but not out of obligation; a soul that’s found its meaning cannot help but be a witness to such joy. My ongoing testimony is presented through acts of service, in accordance with Christ’s commandment to love God by loving your neighbour. I pray ceaselessly for the courage to fight the good fight, staying faithful until my very last breath upon this earth.

You can hear Molly read her text here: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAlCze3ZFjA

BUILDING COMMUNITY 

In a document (promulgated in January 1993 by the Holy Synod of Antioch, under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatios IV of blessed memory) pertaining to good governance of parishes, we find set out a beautifully lucid and simple definition of how we participate in Christian life: “The faithful take part in the life of the Church through their participation in the life of the parish to which they belong” (emphasis added). 
This means that whatever else we do, in particular that which we do outside the temple or outside of worship time (which should certainly always be informed by this fact of participation), is, at best, subsidiary to it. Truly, we are created as liturgical beings – to be Christian is first and foremost to be engaged in parish life. 
Being of the Church is actualised (made real) for the Christian, within the parish, by, in, and through, participation in local parish life (Holy Eucharist, worship, service to God and man, fellowship). Being of the Church is impossible outside this arena, impossible without “participation in the life of the parish”. 
This “participation” is possible only when we are dedicating to God our life. We then move from passive noun (onlooker) to active verb (engaged Christian, participant in grace). This is done, as the late patriarch tells us, most emphatically, “through participation in the life of the parish to which we belong”. 
To “belong” means that we have love for each other, for the priest and for our fellow Christian, for our holy services and for the holy temple (which is our true and ultimate home). It also follows quite naturally that we witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ:  We take the liturgical into the secular desert of our daily life, and water it with tears of repentance and prayer so that it forms a fertile oasis of faith and hope and joy for all those with whom we come into contact. We do this, out of love, for others, so that they too might be enabled to drink – through us – from life-giving waters. 
At the epicentre of parish life is Christ in the Holy Eucharist: spiritual nourishment, the fountain of immortality, the eternal banquet in the Kingdom of God.
The more fully and joyfully we engage with the processes of parish life, the more fully Christ engages with us, and transfigures us; and the more fully we are alive and may joyfully carry our cross, and are enabled to inspire and engage others.

In Christ God,
Father Jakob