The season in which we find ourselves is often either confusing to or ignored by many who call themselves Orthodox faithful. I've often wondered why this is.... The season is one that can carry a very important significance to us, if only we allow ourselves to immerse ourselves in that which is prescribed by the Church. How is this true, you might ask???
First, we need to go back to Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Herein, our Lord is being questioned by the disciples of Saint John the Forerunner, who come to the Lord and ask, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" Perhaps it was 'just a question'. More likely, it was a question sourced from jealousy. Ancient Hebrew tradition included fasting, and the rabbi's compared a fast with offering up ones own body in a symbolic sacrificial way, depleting ones blood and fat which compared with the burnt offerings at the altar. In that 'tradition', fasting was 'absolute', i.e. no food nor drink from 'first light' (before dawn) until sunset.
In responding to the query from Saint John's disciples, our Lord instructed them: "Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them?" In this response, Jesus clearly links fasting with this perspective of mourning. But the Lord continues, saying, "The days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and then they will fast."
As we find ourselves in this season after our Lord's Ascension, when the Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not inconsistent for us to relate these words to exactly this season. But if this was true for our Lord's Apostles, what does it say about us? Are we not also His disciples in the most literal sense? And if we are, why would we not avail ourselves of this season?
"But it's so hard, father!" many will say. "This is the beginning of vacation season. We go on picnics. We travel. Why do we need to fast now?"
The questions are posed from the wrong perspective, I fear. For indeed, one may reasonably ask, "When is the season in which we should not fast?" With all due respect to the Pascal season that we've just exited, when is it ever a bad idea to bring our bodies into submission to the Spirit?
Fasting for us is not aligned with the above 'idea' of the ancient Jews, where it is some symbolic replacement for a burnt offering, a sacrifice to please God. Fasting for us as Orthodox Christians is a tool, a God-given means of weakening the flesh so that the spirit may increase. Will we feel hunger? Certainly. Will we desire things that we set aside 'for a season'? Absolutely! But how much more savory is the food from which we've separated ourselves when the season ends?
In my own household, my children (when they still lived at home) would come from time to time during the year and ask, "Dad - will you make some Pascha bread? It sounds SO good...." And my standard answer was, "NO!" It was something quite special, and our eating that sweet bread was always related to one day in the year, and no other.
While some may think that our 'fasting regimen' should end with Holy Saturday until the next year's Sunday of Orthodoxy, if we live in that way, we deprive ourselves of the differences of the fasting seasons throughout the year.
What can one find "special" here within this fasting season which can benefit our spiritual growth? Given that this is the Apostles' Fast, how about reading from the lives of the Apostles? What benefits might we accrue if we came to the firm realization that the Apostles were "just normal people" like us, except that they allowed the Holy Spirit "space" within themselves to change their lives?
In our homily this past Sunday, we recalled a story - I can't remember the source. But it was about a little girl who came to church all the time. One particular evening, she had been noticeably focused on the stained glass windows of the church, and the images of the saints which were cast into them. When it was dark, and the service had ended, she approached the priest and said, "Father, I remember those windows from Sunday morning. The saints aren't as pretty without the sun's light shining through them."
What a profound thing! The saints are not beautiful unless they are filled with the light of Christ....
Remember - We are all called to be saints!
Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!
The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.
We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!
Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM
We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible! We are open, and we welcome inside the Church all visitors. See our Parish web page: