As someone who was raised Protestant and came to Orthodoxy as an adult, I didn’t grow up with a relationship with the Mother of God. In fact, I avoided her for years. I’m a former academic, so perhaps it makes sense that I only really connected with her personally listening to the rather academically oriented sermons of Fr John McGuckin. At his parish, the St Gregory the Theology mission in NYC, he made a striking point on more than one occasion: that in all likelihood Jesus received his theological training from his mother. She is not only the source of his humanity, but also the one who raised him in his relationship to the faith.
From the time I was a little girl, I loved the beauty that filled our church. Icons with their golden halos shimmered on the walls. The analoi were covered in rich brocades, or embroideries.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Those are the first words of St. John’s Gospel. Then in Psalm 119, the center piece of Orthodox Funerals, we read again and again about God’s Word. For example: ”Your word, O Lord, is eternal.” (verse 89) And again, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (verse 108). "Word" is spoken about over and again in Scripture, so it becomes apparent that the gift of “word,” God gave us humans, is pretty serious. Not only does Word refer to the Son of God who creates via a Word, but he reveals himself to us through word into our conscious mind.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matt. 2:11)
As the days of Advent draw us closer to the feast of the Nativity, we live in anticipation, preparing ourselves and our homes for celebration. Like the three kings following a star, we too are on a journey to welcome and worship the Christ Child, the newborn king. What do we know about the precious gifts brought to Him?
To celebrate the upcoming season, we wanted to offer you a few traditions from around our jurisdictions in the US. The chief thing we have in common? Fasting! But we enjoy the season much more than that would make it seem...
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Lijin Hannah Thomas)
At Axia Women we count ourselves fortunate to have seminarians in our midst! Sometimes we ask them to use their knowledge to take us deeper into what we encoubter in church every day. Here's Tanya Penkrat delving into a word we hear regularly and often, illustrated by a photo of another seminary graduate receiving a blessing of her own at a recent service in the Malankara church.
For Thanksgiving, we wanted to remind our readers that there are always ways to actively pray for the homeless and hungry. These ideas will work whether your church community is flourishing with many ministries or struggling to support even one.
Many years ago, when my children were little, I read to them a book which started me on my mission to feed the poor. It was a lovely story called “Papa Panov’s Special Day,” an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy short story, based on Matthew 25: 31-40. Those verses touched me deeply and have been my motivation ever since to help the poor and hungry whenever I can.