Saturday, July 26, 2008
Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope it has gotten off to a great start for all of you. On New Year's Eve, I hung out for a couple of hours at the hafleh at St. George, and then I went home around 10 PM. Even though it was New Year's Eve, I wanted to turn in early because I wanted to get up early the next morning and go to Liturgy. For those of you who don't know, January 1st is not only New Year's Day, but it is also the double feast of St. Basil and of the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ (for those of you who aren't familiar with circumcision, it is the act of removing a bit of skin from the male reproductive organ, usually of a baby, a ritual common in many cultures and religions.) More on that later.
Anyway, I said my prayers, and laid down to go to sleep around 11:15 PM. I heard some noise coming from outside of my bedroom window. I looked out the window, and what did I see? My next door neighbor, along with about 10 other people, having a New Year's Eve party, 10 feet from my bedroom window, as I was trying to sleep! At first I brushed it off. I thought, "Well, it's only once a year." I tried to lay down on the couch, but it was uncomfortable. Midnight came and went. It was now approaching 2 AM, and I still hadn't slept, and they were still partying!
At that point, my anger got the best of me. I opened the window and yelled at them to be quiet, or I would call the police. I WAS ANGRY!!!
My wife wasn't as rude as I was. She went over there and nicely asked them to quiet down, but she got the cold shoulder. Eventually, despite my anger, I fell asleep, and woke up very tired. Thank God, I still made it to liturgy in time.
As I admitted, anger got the best of me. That's not a good thing. I tried to justify my anger by saying that the neighbors were loud, it was late, etc... But was that the right thing to do? What I should have done was to look at Christ, and discover that He was showing me a "better way" (1 Corinthians 13).
Back to New Year's. Like I said, January 1st is also the day that we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. What's the big deal about baby Jesus getting circumcised? What's the point, and what does it have to do with me being angry on New Year's Eve?
Jewish law commands that every male child be circumcised eight days after birth. So eight days after the first Christmas, the baby Jesus was circumcised. This happened for several reasons. First of all, because Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Jewish Law, and He perfected every commandment, He was circumcised. Even as God, the creator of the law, He subjected Himself to His own law when He became a human baby.
Secondly, our Lord felt pain when He was circumcised. In a way, this was the beginning of His suffering for us.
Finally, Christ's circumcision teaches us something. In the same way a piece of skin is cut off when a baby is circumcised, we should "cut off" the sins and passions that attack us on a daily basis. St. Paul writes, "...in Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ..." (Colossians 2:11)
What does that have to do with me being angry the other night? Instead of allowing my anger and frustration to get the better of me, leaving me exhausted and stressed out, I should have cut off the anger as soon as I felt it attack me, and turned to Christ, and asked for His help, which He would have gladly given me.
I encourage you all to do the same. Anger isn't always sinful, but if it controls you, it becomes something that can destroy relationships and souls. Cut it off before it gets a chance to get a grip on you. Circumcise the sins of the flesh from your body. Cut them off, and be done with them. Then you will find that peace and grace come to you from God, and the happiness that will come across your face is infinitely better than any "angry face" you can put on.
The other day, someone asked me if it was sinful to have tattoos or piercings. At first, I didn't know what to say. But then, I started to think of what St. Paul once wrote:
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor. 6:12)
Now, it depends on who you ask: some Orthodox Christians will say that tattoos and piercings are sinful, and others will say they are not. In my eyes (and this is just my opinion, not official Orthodox doctrine), I think it's best to go back to what St. Paul said.
Just because something is "lawful" (in other words, technically speaking, "not sinful,") that doesn't mean that it is profitable/useful for us. Yeah, I can go get a tattoo, and probably not worry too much about it, but I'd have to ask myself, "why?"
What would the tattoo do for me? Is it just something that I'm getting to show off to my friends? If so, than you may have a problem with pride and vanity, and you'd be better off not getting the ink.
Am I getting the tattoo to feel like I'm part of something? People in the military often get tattoos that represent their branch of service. They do this to identify themselves with their comrades. But as a Christian, your strongest identity is shown in your relationship with Christ and other Christians by way of baptism. When you are baptized, you put on Christ. You are identified with Christ. You bear His name. You die with Him. You rise with Him. What stronger identity can one have? A tattoo just wouldn't do it justice.
What about tattoos of Christian symbols? Like a cross, for example? Let me first ask you this: Before you tattoo that cross on your shoulder, is it engraved in your heart first? If not, then you're just a poser. This is even true of people who wear a big golden "bling" cross, and live an un-Christian life. "Tattoo" the cross in your heart through prayer, fasting, and repentance, and you won't have to wonder if you should put it on your skin.
This same reasoning can be used when discussing things like alcohol and smoking (that include arghilees.) Just because something is technically "not sinful" doesn't mean that it is useful. Alcohol, for example, can be fine in moderation. But if you let it get out of bounds, it begins to control you. You are "mastered" by it, instead of you being its master. Same for smoking - nothing good comes of it but lung disease, bad breath, rotten teeth, and other bodily damage.
Here's what can happen to your mouth if you smoke:
Bottom line: Just because a tattoo, smoking, drinking, etc... is not exactly sinful, that doesn't mean it is profitable for you. In most cases, it probably isn't. Don't let yourself be mastered by the desires of the flesh. Your body is fine as God gave it to you. There's no need to alter and change what God created; your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Don't defile it with things that have the potential to harm body and soul.
In the end, it's just not worth it.
* photos of tattoos from http://www.ratemyink.com/
* mouth cancer photo is in the public domain.
2.) Is saying food doesn't taste good sinful?
Mom, this food is yucky!!!
1.) Instead of asking if it is sinful to roll your eyes at someone, ask yourself, "What is sinful about rolling my eyes?"
Sure, everyone does it from time to time. It's usually a reaction to someone saying something stupid....and we all know people who say stupid things (including ourselves.) So, my answer would be, if you're among friends, and just joking around, there's nothing wrong with it.
However, if you're rolling your eyes out of disrespect to a parent, teacher, priest, youth director, or other people who are working to help you out, it is sinful, since you are not honoring the people that God placed in your life to help you grow.
2.) What about saying food tastes bad? You know, my mom is a great cook. She cooks a lot of traditional Arabic food like grape leaves, kefta, mlouchia, hummus, zatar, etc... But every now and then, she'll make something new that comes out pretty poorly. Now, I could come out and say that the food stinks, but what would come of it, other than hurting my mom's feelings?
Same with my lovely wife. Being a new wife, she's just learning how to cook. She's awesome at making desserts, so I have no complaints there. But sometimes, when cooking a main course, she'll burn it or make it too salty. Knowing it would only hurt her feelings to say that it's gross, I eat it anyway.
Instead of saying that the food is nasty, you can say something like, "Mom, thanks for taking the time to make this dish for me. Next time you make it, can you maybe add a little less salt?"
Or better yet, don't say anything at all. It isn't sinful not to like a certain type of food (for example, I can't stand raw onions,) but it is wrong to say so and hurt the cook's feelings, especially if theyr'e someone you love.
Hope this answers your questions.
Tommorow we tackle the question: What is the difference between Catholics & Christians?
A lot of people think St. Mary was a prostitute before repenting and turning towards God. That's not exactly true. You see, a prostitute expects money in exchange for her "services." Mary of Egypt just did it for free.
One day, she saw a ship leaving Egypt and heading towards Palestine. It was full of men on their way to Jerusalem. Mary had a desire to see the City of Jerusalem, and she boarded the ship. She didn't have money, but she offered to keep the men "entertained" to pay for her passage.
Finally, Mary arrived in Jerusalem. She went to see the famous Church of the Resurrection, which is built over the spot where Christ was crucified, and which also contains His empty tomb.
However, when she tried to enter the church, something stopped her. She wasn't able to pass through the door.St. Mary tried to pass through the door above to the church.
At that point, Mary, the lustful call girl from Alexandria started on her path towards God, a path that would eventually change her to SAINT Mary of Egypt.
After her promise to change, Mary was able to enter the church. She venerated the relics of the True Cross, and following God's voice, she settled in the desert across the Jordan River.
She lived a life of fasting and repentance in the desert. For the next forty years, she prayed constantly and ate only what the desert provided.
Towards the end of her life, a priest named Zosimas was walking in the desert, when he came across St. Mary. She was covered in rags, thin from fasting. St. Zosimas asked Mary to tell him her story, and she did. While speaking, Mary revealed many secrets and events from Zosimas' own life, even though they had never met - this was a gift from God. Zosimas recorded Mary's story, and promised to return the next year to bring her communion.
St. Zosimas brings Holy Communion to St. Mary
Zosimas brought Mary the Holy Communion on Great & Holy Thursday. She asked Him to come back during Lent the following year. When he returned, he found Mary dead, with these words written in the sand next to her body:
"I died the same day that I recieved Holy Communion. Bury my body here."
Zosimas began to dig, and found it difficult. Eventually, a lion approached and helped him dig the grave. He buried her and returned to his monastery, telling others of the life of St. Mary. Today, St. Mary remains an example of repentance to everyone. She shows us that no matter how great the sin, a person can always turn towards God and reach a level of holiness that the rest of us can only imagine.
Through the prayers of St. Mary, may God have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
"Gimme that old time rock & roll"
Hey Macarena Part 2
Macarena Part 3
Hopefully we'll do this again next year, and invite teens from other churches for an even bigger crowd!