Friday, November 15, 2013

Letter to My Wife - 11/15/13

Dear Emily,

I wish to continue with the topic of rhythms and cycles. There exists daily, weekly, and yearly cycles. The daily is fairly simple.  We awake in the morning to the rising of the sun (well, many will sleep past dawn haha) and go to sleep sometime after the sun slumbers below the horizon.  Our day is book-ended with changes in the sky and the in-between is filled with repetitious tasks:  work, school, meals, exercise routines, chores, etc. Following the Creation narrative the weak is a repetitive seven days. Starting on Sunday--which for Christians is both the First and Eighth Days--the day of resurrection, of new creation, this is why most Christians go to church on Sunday. The weak ends with Saturday, which for the Orthodox is the day of the dead, the day Christ descended into Hades; it’s the day He was in the tomb. Even most people see Saturday as the weekend, with no religious significance. We as humans desire some order and structure. We order and tend to things to make sense of the world. Even the most disorderly, chaotic people say there’s a method to my madness. The yearly cycle has a lot to do with seasons. Nature in a way begins to die in autumn and goes into the grave/tomb in the winter. And spring is new birth and new life. Farming relies on the seasons. Holidays are seasonal. Each and every year the calendar ends and starts anew. Year after year. So we have these faster, smaller cycles and then the larger slower cycles.

The Church in its fullness follows these cycles.  We have daily cycles, these are called the Hours: prayers and readings throughout the day, which are for the most part the same every day, and reflect the changes during the day. Weekly we have the days set apart for fasting and the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, this repeats every week. We have major fasting and feasting periods that are tied to major holidays like Easter and Christmas (the West), Pascha and Nativity (the East). It’s no coincidence that Easter is celebrated in the spring, a symbol of new life; and Christmas in the winter, symbolic of Christ being born into a dead world.  The Church calendar resembles the natural cycles that we all take part in. 

Participation in the divine life happens within the Church (which is not necessarily within the confines of the church walls). The Church is a living thing, the Body of Christ, both on earth and in heaven, it is the new creation. Following the cycles and patterns allows the Church to be more attuned to creation and the overlapping, penetrating presence of heaven. Heaven is here, now. God’s Presence is here, now. And the Church is witness to this. This is an unfathomable mystery. The Christian life should also be the mystical life: that all we do is in the Presence of God; all moments have the ability to become sacred; all places have the “capacity” for the Holy. Remember in my last letter I wrote that Christ has renewed, or deified, all creation, but the fullness of this is yet to come, which is why the world still seems so broken.  St Paul writes in the book of Romans, that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The Presence of God fills all things, He is always at work renewing and saving all things as we go along messing things up. 

Hopefully, this helps clarify a few themes from the previous letter. 

Your loving husband,

Michael

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