Agape, the Greek word for love. Isn't that what we are celebrating when we go to church? God's love for us, our love for each other, has a lot to do with the community we create when we go to our services.
A lot of that has been out of reach now that our parishes have had to close their doors to us. I admit my family hasn't been streaming services. We've been holding short prayer services, followed by a lectio divina that my husband, my two twenty-year-old children, and a friend who FB Messengers in, and I participate in. It has been a lovely way to get deeper into the texts and gain a sense of conversation with God.
Our churches have been closed, and now that I have been denied Liturgy, I really miss it. How typically contrary of me! So, the Lord has led me to participate in the Liturgy from Elwood City by YouTube. Ironic isn’t it: Once I cannot have something, like a child, now I really want it. However, this distanced Liturgy in my own bedroom, gives me a unique chance to really hear the prayers.
We are re-running this blog post in honor of the Myrrhbearing Women, who are celebrated soon after Easter. They brought their gifts and their desire to serve--even though they had no idea how they were going to manage. Theirs is also the story of supporting one another through great loss and grief--not least if we accept the tradition that Mary the Mother of God was one and that she was accompanied by her sister Salome.
They came because they knew they had to.
They came even though they were afraid.
They came as a group.
They came giving each other courage, and hope, and fortitude.
They came because they knew somebody had to do something.
When I wrote my thesis for my MDiv degree at St. Vladimir’s I chose Holy Friday Vespers: the development of a new service and icon in the 11th13th centuries. At this time of distancing during the Corona virus pandemic, I don’t know whether our churches will be open again, and whether we will be able to attend that most beautiful of Passion Liturgies. So, I thought I would evisit my thesis and write a blog about it.
Reflections on Palm Sunday (Philippians 4:4–9): Throughout history, people have journeyed to physical spots or destinations of spiritual significance to them. In pre-Christian times, pagan believers traveled to various cultic sites—for instance, the oracle at Delphi. Similarly, the Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem. This was the site of their temple, the privileged locus of the presence of their God. In establishing a covenant with the ancient Israelites, God commanded that they should come to Jerusalem three times a year to keep feast to Him.
The Lenten period is a time of focused preparation. Its clearest function is to prepare us for the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that Lent puts before us, in the form of church services, fasting discipline, prayers, and confession of sin, ultimately serves that purpose. That is because the suffering and death of the One who created and loves the world is not only the most significant event in all of history, it is also disturbing, puzzling, and awe-inspiring. Each year, we are called to look inward, and take action through our bodies, minds, and hearts.
We remember St Mary of Egypt on the 5th Sunday of Great and Holy Lent every year. When she was a young woman she ran away from a prosperous home to the city of Alexandria, where she lived a life of depravity and lasciviousness. One day she saw a group of young men, pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Cross.
She followed them on the boat, paying her fare with her usual custom, but when she joined them to go to church she was stopped, blocked, by a powerful force, greater than any she had ever known. In that state of paralysis and rejection she felt a profound realization of the depth of her sin.