Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tiny Veins

Let us all praise King David, the ancestor of God, /
for from him came the virgin stem: / from this stem blossomed the Flower – Christ. / Being delivered from corruption Adam and Eve cry out to Him, / for He is compassionate.

Let us celebrate the memory of the God-fearing David and James! / One was the king of the prophets; / the other was an apostle and the first bishop; / that being saved from error by their teachings, / we may glorify Christ Who shone forth incarnate from the Virgin to save our souls!

Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph, / to David, the ancestor of God; / you saw a Virgin great with Child; / you gave glory with the shepherds; / you worshipped with the Magi; / you received the news from the Angel. / Pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Today godly David is filled with joy; / Joseph and James offer praise. / The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy. / They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth, / and they cry out: “O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!”
The last week of the year is a full one for me. Nativity with all its bustle, my birthday on the "feast of Stephen" that King Wenceslas went a'walking on, and today is my namesday -- the Sunday after Nativity, whenever it falls, is the day commemorating David the Prophet-King, Joseph, the foster father of our Lord, and James, the step-brother of the Lord (child of Joseph from a previous marriage according to the Church's tradition) and first bishop of the Church in Jerusalem -- so needless to say, it's been nice. Whisky and Tequila--namely, this and this, respectively -- have been reintroduced into this house by birthday request, together with some O'Connor (thanks to John's prompting) and Killer Angels (I know, more War Between the States stuff -- I can't help myself)...

Today's liturgy -- replete with the hymns from above -- was accompa- nied by Father's homily on who we are as Orthodox Christians. Paraphra- sing Archbishop +DMITRI, Father mentioned that, upon being asked what we as Orthodox believe in, it would be best, first and foremost, to say that Orthodoxy is about the Incarnation of God made man. Everything we believe, everything we practice, everything we reject -- all of this is based upon the premise that the transcendent God has taken on flesh and become man. I always get stuck (in a good way) on the fact that the Creed says that Christ became man, or ανθρωπος. Not Jew. Not Gentile. Not male or female. "He's all humanity," to take a line from Beckett, and he takes all humanity united to His Body with Him to salvation ... and this is the urgency of the Incarnation. From yesterday's lectionary readings in the OCA:
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh-who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:11-13).
The word translated here as "commonwealth" -- πολιτειας in the Greek -- is more accurately translated as a community identified by a particular citizenship. The community of Israel -- the universal εκκλησια, or Church, after the Advent of Christ -- is the body of humans united to God the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, and it is, during this time of year, not only remarkable that we -- fallen mortals who are subject to corruption -- could be united, flesh to Flesh and blood to Blood, to He who is beyond all else and is all Goodness, but also unbelievable that the divine Blood that is given to us in the Eucharist is what is now flowing through tiny veins, that the flesh He commands us to grind with our teeth (as St. John's gospel graphically records) was, at its start, the smooth, pudgy skin of a newborn babe.

It is scandalous. It is disturbing. It is incarnational. It is life, and it is salvation.


John said...

A most excellent post--from your birthday and namesday to Jim Beam to the Civil War (oops, sorry for that slip--I mean, of course, WBTS) to the Incarnation! What you quoted from Archbishop DMITRI, by way of your Father, is absolutely on targent. Any talk of who we are as Orthodox Christians--and all that that implies--must begin with the Incarnation of God made man. I particularly like your closing thoughts.

I have a question for you, as someone who has been Orthodox a lot longer than I have. It involves the whole namesday thing. How exactly do you observe that? The question may sound odd, and I guess my Orthodox instruction is lacking a bit here, but this is something upon which I am still not exactly clear. In my own case, it is August 18th, for St. John of Rila.

Mimi said...

What an eventful week for you indeed! Many Years.

David Bryan said...

"(oops, sorry for that slip--I mean, of course, WBTS)"

Your lapse is forgiven and your correction appreciated, sir! ;-)

"I have a question for you, as someone who has been Orthodox a lot longer than I have. It involves the whole namesday thing. How exactly do you observe that?" know, they didn't cover that in inquirer's class with me, either. Usually, we pray the troparion/kontakion at meals/prayers, have some kind of gift(s) given (usually religious in theme), eat out...kind of like a birthday.

I'm totally ignorant of practices of Greeks, Russians, etc. Sorry I couldn't help...