Friday, April 17, 2009

Church Family

This is a re-post from last year. This year I was again able to attend the Lamentations Service of Holy Friday. Again I was in awe of the beauty of the words, as well as way we sang them. I hope it doesn't seem like I am critical or diminutive of other churches when I talk about how much I love mine. We're very small, so it's like talking about how I love my own brother, sister, mother, father, child or grandparent when I talk about my brothers and sisters in Christ at St Elizabeth's. It's not a condemnation of anybody else, just a recognition of how super-awesome my own church family is.

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My husband has been serializing an article in our church bulletin for Orthodox parents on raising children in the Orthodox Church.

It is a thoroughly no-nonsense approach to child-training and the rearing of children to be Orthodox Christians. By "training and rearing" I don't mean the nebulous "moral," "fair to others," and the "doing unto others as you would dooblydoo" found on godless public television and elsewhere. What I am talking about is the raising of children in the Church: being fully mindful of the fasts, head-coverings, standing, sitting, standing, modesty, and how it all involves the submission of the will in an Orthodox context.

On Holy Friday last year, I stood on the "women's side" of the church. As we sang the Lamentations together as a community, I heard only the voices of the women next to me. The melody and the words, as well as my own weariness, brought into perfect clarity the mourning of the myrrh-bearing women as they stood at the tomb of Our Lord. It was a group of sisters, mourning in unison with our saintly sisters, Susanna, Joanna, Mary, Mary, Mary, Martha and Salome.

Something published in the bulletin last week confirmed a notion I have held for a long time. It was this:

But when we go to church, we enter into a bigger community and a larger family. We do not in our churches have family pews, or even stand apart as families, leaving those without families even more alone and isolated. In this context our particular family has less significance, and we adopt all those present as our brothers and sisters, our family, in the Faith. (The Shepherd, Vol. XV, Number 9, p. 17.)

In my early days I would recoil at the words, but recently, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" has become for me a reality. In Orthodoxy this brotherhood is not a clubbish, sentimental, self-congratulatory exclusivity that looks to the inside. Rather it is a unity that stands together reaching towards one another, towards the outside, and together towards heaven.

C. S. describes it: "though something goes from man to God, yet all, including this something comes from God to man. If he rises, he does so lifted on a wave of the incoming tide of God's love for him. He becomes nothing in that ascension. His love is perfected by becoming, in a sense, nothing. He is less than a mote in that sunbeam, vanishing not from God's sight but from ours and his own, into the nuptual solitude of the Love that Loves Love, and in Love, all things.
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