The Journey to Antioch (Part VIII)

3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to September 2003 (Part C)

In July 2002, I began six months of reading and study, reflection and writing on the key questions to which I needed answers. Answers that would address not merely intellectual matters, but the issues of the life of faith. This project, though it did not begin quite so large as it ended, was much less about an academic study of, say, whether or not the Church had always believed that the elements of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, but rather, if this is indeed the case, what am I then to do about it? So, what began as an anticipated handful of questions I might answer in a paper grew to eight related essays (three on the nature of the Church alone), totaling some ninety-two typescript pages and more than thirty thousand nine hundred words. I started the first essay on 31 July, and began the last essay on Christmas Eve (finishing it the day after New Year’s Day). [Note: Those essays have been posted online and can be found here.]
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Sunday of Forgiveness

Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness, the last day prior to Great Lent (which technically begins this evening during Vespers).

The Gospel (Matthew 6:14-21) for today reads:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Kontakion of the Sunday of Forgiveness Tone 2
O Thou Guide unto wisdom, Bestower of prudence, Instructor of the foolish, and Defender of the poor;
establish and grant understanding unto my heart, O Master.
Grant me speech, O Word of the Father;
for behold, I shall not keep my lips from crying unto Thee:
O Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen.
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Gospel Tellings

This week has been an amazing preparation for Great Lent.

It began, rather innocuously enough, on last Sunday after Divine Liturgy. I had run back upstairs to catch Father so as to have him refill our bottle of holy water. Having accomplished my mission, Eva, who had taken up the baskets which had contained the antidoron, offered me one of the pieces remaining. I took it.

You should know that it has been my practice, up until Sofie’s birth, to take home a piece of antidoron, when I could, to consume a bit each day through the week. But since Sofie’s birth, my observance of Morning Prayer has been nonexistent–except for sporadic bursts here and there. During the previous months, I would take home antidoron, intending to follow the pious custom I’d been habituated to, but almost always failing to do so, with the result that I would almost unfailingly have dry, mouldy antidoron to deal with each week. So I stopped taking any antidoron home.

But I have, of late, been convicted of my lack of prayer, especially since Sofie is on a more regular schedule, and my lack is not a matter of attending to her needs so much as the inertia of lethargy. Eva’s offering to me, then, was something like an act of faith. “Okay, God, clearly you want me to get back into the habit of prayer, and are offering me this blessed bread as symbol and incentive.”
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