Monday, April 26, 2010


I briefly stepped out of my comfort zone this past week and asked someone who I don't have a close relationship with, to grab coffee with me. I was so over whelmed with the frequency and over exposure of the people around me that I was almost forced to seek a different sort of expression or personality. I knew one of the youth from a near by church (and from a different school) was on campus visiting some of the girls, who were currently in class, and as I was heading towards the exit of the school she caught my eye. Now I'm not one for spending time with girls who I don't know extremely well but at the moment, I needed to break out of my routine social atmosphere and felt that there may be potential for a more than superficial conversation with this person. As we drove to the corner Starbucks, to her surprise, I wasn't the person that she had perceived me to be and the the twenty minutes discussion far exceeded either one of our expectations of the other's ability to think and speak. Later in the week, we were again gathered together, but this time in a group of people who couldn't seem to move past surface level conversation. Recognizing the futility of the atmosphere, she singled me out by saying: "lets continue our conversation of the other day." Let me emphasize something very important: we never actually sat for coffee; she only accompanied me as I drove and picked up the coffee, so there is no essence of romance from either side.
We both sat and tried returning to what we had previously discussed and came to the conclusion that the interest in the previous discussion was not in the topic of the discussion, but rather in the "difficulty" of the discussion. It was evident that the momentary connection that we had taken notice of a few days prior was not a connection over a single topic but rather a connection over a desire for more. At that point, we both took a step back and realized that the value of our words amounted to more than the whole group's conversation: our talk took thinking, exposure, and had some essence of risk. It was by all means "demanding." By this point I had already spent the weekend with family and had snapped out of my strange self pity that I carried with me when we had previously talked and was more aware of the exchange that was taking place. To her credit, she had noticed the higher level of conversation before I had.
Why do we gather in uselessness? Why do we speak in that which has no value. Why is the voice not silenced in exchange for the ear's heightened sense of focus. Why are words used to mask rather than to expose. Why do real words feel more like judgment than edification, regardless of who they come from? Why do we waste words on each other rather than uplifting each other with love. Love is not in word but in action. Had Christ's crucifixion only been spoken about and the death never enacted then Christ would be the biggest hoax in history. Had St. Paul only said "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" without imitation then 14 out of the 27 new testament books would be falsified.
I like to talk and have always enjoyed exchanging ideas with people. In conversations that have no set focus I find myself lost in all the commotion and desiring to find one person who's eyes hold a deeper concern for the people around them than just if we should be going to Duncin'Donuts or Starbucks. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 St. Paul's wisdom, and what I like to pin as a character trait, is displayed when he writes: "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another." Useless discussion between friends paints no picture except one of deception and indifference. I wonder how different this world would be if we could break down our own superficial walls and speak and act in love and edification.
But then I turn and ask my generation, how can we edify each other if we ourselves have nothing to offer?

Monday, April 5, 2010


Christ is risen...hide the EGGs!!!
Why does our country insist on secularizing everything that the church esteems? Matrimony, Nativity, and the most arrogant of all, "Easter," the Celebration of the Risen Christ. In the 6th hour our the blessed Good Friday service (in the Coptic Orthodox Church) we do a ceremonial walk around the church in a clockwise manor. Regularly these processions are done with joyful tunes, loud cymbals, and most importantly, in a counterclockwise direction around the church. When in the church we are more than symbolically considered to be in God's house or His heavenly kingdom; as we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "on earth as it is in heaven". The saving Ark of Noah is likened to the church in that while in the ark, humanity survives yet while outside the vessel, humanity parishes. The counterclockwise movement around the church is symbolic of the church's opposition to the way of the world and its pursuit of hope through Christ rather than by the means of world. James 4:4 reads "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Going back, in the 6th hour of Good Friday we walk with the direction of the world in a clockwise manor to symbolize Judus and his betrayal of the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. But later, in the Liturgy celebrating the Feast of the Resurrection, or more notable, "Easter", we joyously walk against the world and proclaim the living God with hymns and procession. Yet and old sunday-school lesson, with seasonal implications arises: when we're outside the church walls and yet still carrying the joy of the rinses Christ, which direction are we in fact walking?
The question I then pose, is what happens to our spiritual lives after the countless hours of church services, spiritual reading and meditation, and training in self control after the 55 day fast is over. Granted, after Liturgy, we have made it customary, although not correct, to go home and indulge in the foods that we left behind during the fast; the 8 week period of spiritual and physical progression quickly changes over to a 45 minutes session of gluttony followed by a two hour session of temporary paralysis. And for a lot of us, the loss of self does not stop there. We lose and forget all the beneficial practices that we acquired during the time of the fast and preparation; what then were we preparing ourselves for? Pope Shenouda writes in his papal address to the lands of immigration: "In the period of the fifty days, the focus is on prayer, spiritual reading, contemplation, praising and hymns, deep spiritual meetings, exercises of repentance and spiritual growth." The time of lent should be taken as a chance for each of us to find our weakness, work on it, and regardless of if we come out cleaner on the other end or not, the important aspect is that a relationship with the Helper was formed along the way. The post-lenten period is then the time where the preparation and retooling of the self should be implemented. We should be more aware of God throughout the day, more aware of Christ in our actions, and significantly more aware of our own weakness. If a solider retreats from a battle, he spends his time back at the base camp restocking the necessary supplies, and when he goes back out into battle he is well armed and ready for the enemy. If its not already too late, if we haven't yet wasted the "blessing" that "we fought with God" for, then this is our time to recover from our lapse in responsibility to ourselves and to the world. This is our brightest hour. At no other time does the Christian light shine so brightly. At no other time does the Light of the World so strongly magnify our actions. Will we still insist on walking against it?