by Fr. John Abdalah
from The Word, April 1999
There is an anecdote of a priest who begins a new assignment at Pascha. He delivers a brilliant sermon, and receives many compliments. On Thomas Sunday, the priest offers the same homily, and again receives several compliments. On Myrrh-bearing Women Sunday, he repeats the same Pascha homily, but receives fewer compliments. The third week after Pascha, when the priest delivers his Paschal message for the fourth consecutive week, he is met by a delegation of Parish Council members at the coffee hour. “Why have you offered the same message four times?” they demand. The priest replies, “Because you have not changed yet.” Well, if any message would change a person or a congregation, it is indeed the Paschal message, Christ is Risen! But what kind of change can we reasonably expect, and what would that change look like?
The change that we seek is a change of attitude, an attitude that reflects an understanding of the world from God’s perspective. God’s perspective is that He loves us, He is faithful to us, He has taken on flesh and opens to us His life. Through His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, He loves us and saves us. With this clearly understood, we can look into His empty tomb as well as into our own graves with new understanding. Our purpose is not to come to the end of our lives with a massive count of possessions and accumulated wealth that we leave behind. We are created to love God and to be loved by Him, to enjoy the treasures that He has prepared for us.
Nevertheless, most Christians still need to go to work on Monday morning. But work takes on new meaning. The workplace now offers opportunities for us to be loved by God and to be faithful to Him. At times, our “new attitude” will allow us to be kind and content when others around us are anxious and without hope. At other times, it may require us simply to listen when our coworkers express the pain in their lives, offering them the peace we have knowing that God has worked out salvation for his world. This “new attitude” may even lead us to share our own faith with others who are ready for it and are seeking.
At home the “new attitude” requires songs of thanksgiving and of Christian joy. We offer thanksgiving for both the good and bad times that strengthen us. We can come to learn to give thanks even for the trying times that offer opportunities to bear witness to each other. We can show witness that may lead to salvation for those that we love and those that are close enough around us to see us.
In the parish, the “new attitude” requires constant examination of our actions as stewards. Does our fund-raising reflect an appropriate witness to our faith? Does our worship reflect the joy of the Resurrection with appropriate preparation and fullness? Do our social events reflect a level of decorum appropriate to those who have been called out of the world to be witnesses of Christ? Is our love for each other great enough to bear witness to Christ? Our “new attitude” indeed will allow us to begin to look and act like our Master, who is patient, caring, kind, forgiving and loving.
When I attended Sunday of Orthodoxy this year, the reciting of the Creed by the faithful sounded to me like thunder. This thunder shook the building, reflecting a faith in God and the Resurrection of Christ that could change me and the attitude of this world. Our world needs the thunder that shakes the earth and offers Peace and Joy. I join the priest in the anecdote in proclaiming that Christ is Risen. Are you changed yet?
Ss. Constantine and Helen - May 21
O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross, Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man. He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care. Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God, for Thou art the Lover of mankind.
Kontakion of Ss. Constantine and Helen, Tone 3
Today Constantine and Helena his mother expose to our veneration the Cross, the awesome Cross of Christ, a sign of salvation to the Jews and a standard of victory: a great symbol of conquest and triumph.