Jesus in the garden- Orthodox Holy Week Pt. 3
I’ve been up since 3:00 it is now about 3:40. The moon is still bright. I’m thinking about Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane last night. Just a few hours ago after He celebrated Passover dinner with his remaining disciples. There He was… under the bright light from the moon He created, kneeling on the earth He had formed… beseeching God for another way to save humanity…
I finished listening to, Priestmonk Kosmas’ talk #31 where he talks about the difference between, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and Peter’s. Both men had guilt… only one repented. Peter ran to, Jesus and asked for forgiveness. Judas threw the coins into the temple and ran away.
Every talk of his I have listened to reminds me of how far I am from even remotely becoming holy or ‘Christ-like’. That is what it means to become like God. It’s not about performing miracles. Yes, Christ performed miracles, yes, I can too through Holy Spirit but Christianity is not about performing miracles and having a big ministry. Christianity is about preparing us for eternity with God. This does not mean we pick apart every scripture pointing out what we think are errors and discrepancies. This does not mean we tell our children there is no Santa Claus but then neglect telling them about St. Nicholas and the wonderful things he did for people. Being a ‘good’ Christian does not mean arguing about infant baptism while your neighbor starves. It does not mean tithing your exact 10% but then refusing to give alms because you think poor people would not be poor if they just ‘tried harder’.
I have and I do, ‘nit pick’. I forget to put small bills in my wallet and then I don’t have anything to give to a homeless person when I see them on the street corner. I get frustrated with the people around me in church during services. I’m grumpy. I’ve cheated with food during Lent. The list goes on. But I keep going. I keep struggling. The reward is worth every moment of struggle.
I do not write this blog to shame anyone. I write it in hopes that something in its pages might touch the reader and inspire them to think hard about where they are in their journey of Christianity (or not if you are an atheist). Why are you where you are? Is it working for you? Even a broken clock is right twice a day but that does not mean it is working well. Why not attend Holy Week services at an Orthodox Church this week and see what it is all about? I have said that a person must attend at least 10 Orthodox services before deciding to become a catechumen (I may have borrowed this from someone else wiser than I.). If you attend all of the services during Holy Week, you will attend 24 services… 24! Although that is a great deal of church, it is just a tiny tip of the ice berg that is Orthodoxy.
Orthodox Christianity is not ‘a culture thing’. Meaning, you do not need to be Greek, or Russian, or Ukrainian, etc. in order to become an Orthodox Christian. There are Orthodox Christians of all sorts of different skin colors, languages, etc.
Orthodoxy at the Antarctic.
More important than conspiracy theories, more important than preparing for the impending apocalypse by purchasing freeze dried blue berries, more important than the worship music, more important even than believing in evolution or creation is; preparing your soul for spending eternity in heaven with God.
There are people in my life who refuse to come to even a single Orthodox service. I’m shocked they even came to my baptism but they did come and I am thankful for that. The excuses they use for not attending any other services since then, however, are super lame: the incense is too strong, I don’t know the worship music (you would learn it if you started attending services), I don’t like the idea of confessing to one man or calling him father (you’re not even at that point right now don’t worry about it AND if you have ever said the words ‘I’d like you to meet my father… you have already called a man father get over it). The excuses are transparent and common. Do you think you’re the only one to say such things to an Orthodox Christian? No. I take pity on all Orthodox priests. They hear these objections, and more, constantly.
Go to an Orthodox Church during this Holy Week. Attend one, or many services. Pray and ask God to reveal to you if you should begin attending catecumen classes to begin your conversion journey. You have been seeking something more, something deeper for a while now. You have been curious about Orthodoxy but you had no one to go with you to a service. I know how daunting this can be. I walked into the church by myself for over a year before anyone would come with me. The first person in my family to convert has been my dear sister. I was attending services and taking classes while she was going through cancer treatment. She was a ‘captive’ audience to my ramblings about Orthodoxy. She started coming to make sure I had not gotten myself into something horrible and ended up staying once she saw what it was all about.
Don’t be afraid to go to services by yourself. Everyone else is busy worshiping. Don’t expect a big welcome either. It is not a social club. Yes, many parishes have a meal or coffee afterward but during worship it’s all about God.
Come to Holy Week services. After each service, find a deacon or priest and ask questions. Find out when the catecumen classes are happening and attend. Attending the classes does not mean you are obligated to join the church. It means you will be educated, accurately, on the history of Christianity, orthodoxy, and how it all began. It is like taking a class on the books of Acts, plus extra and it’s at a college 301 level. Acts, 301. Also, it’s been condensed and broken down in such a way that lay people are better able to understand it… hopefully.
Come to Holy Week services. Ask questions. Take the catecumen classes when they start up again (so much is going on during Holy Week that many other activities and classes are put on hold until after, Pascha.) Lord have mercy.