Monday, April 23, 2012

Community - that's where it all started.

     One week after celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.. how do you feel?! All churched out? Giving yourself the extra notch on your belt from all the food? Yes, I feel a little similar as well :) How should we really feel? The whole pinnacle of our faith is based on this event. St Paul says, "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" 1 Cor 15:17.  St Gregory of Nazianzus calls it the "Feast of Feasts". What do you call it? Or better yet, how do you live it?
     A big emphasis I keep trying to focus on is living the true Christian life.  The reason I'm doing so, is to help remind myself of things I need to do and focus on, as well as help my brothers and sisters who are in the same boat.  St Athanasius emphasizes that a spiritual life without a liturgical life is lacking much, and a liturgical life without a spiritual life is just rituals.  They can't be separated, and the Orthodox Church really puts a big emphasis on this in many aspects - liturgical worship, communal prayer, fellowship, and community.  Community is something that seems so easy to have, but if not taken care of, will reveal the opposite of what it should be!
     I am really excited about the new St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church starting this weekend in Arlington, VA - Fr Anthony Messeh discusses it here. This church, as well as every other, should be a welcoming home for any person.  I'm not talking about the building, I'm talking about the 'Church' that Christ is the head of - yes, us. We must be able to really represent the body of Christ, which He gave for all. My favorite contemplation on the Cross is that Christ was nailed with His arms wide open, just to emphasize the fact that everyone is welcome, unable to pull it closed.
     St Athanasius in one of his Festal Letters that is sent out every Resurrection Feast, says "For this is the marvel of His loving-kindess, that He should gather together in the same place those who are at a distance; and make those who appear to be far off in the body, to be near together in unity of spirit." I love that! We all know the CEO Christians (Christmas Easter only), so did St Athanasius.  That is exactly why he chose this to be part of the message to be delivered on the Feast of Resurrection - to emphasize that community is an essential part of the Feast. It all started when Christ took our flesh to be among us, it all started with community.
     With that being said, let's do something about it. I function well with having deadlines and goals, so maybe it will help a few others, too.  During these Joyous Fifty Days of Resurrection, let's put an emphasis on the Community in our Church (whether it be actual church or yourselves), to make us more welcoming and loving to all, which will in turn create a whole new congregation - and even generation of a place where anyone can look to us and say "I want what they have." - because we have Christ in us. And the best thing about it, is we can give what we've freely received.