Saturday, March 14, 2009

Meditation: 2 Lent (8 March 2009)

The Gathering

Our Liturgy is a “drama” in four acts: The Gathering, The Service of the Word, The Service of the Table (Holy Eucharist), and The Sending. Beginning with Sunday, 2 Lent, we are spending time exploring the significance of each act. These explorations are more discussion than sermon; for that reason I will not post sermons through the remainder of March. I will however, post brief meditations which illustrate or summarize a theme developed during the discussion. I encountered the following story first in a podcast (Glory To God, available through Ancient Faith Radio, by Father Stephen Freeman of Saint Anne’s Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee). How wonderfully it captures the mystery of the gathering of the church.

At Saint Antony’s Monastery apparitions of saints are routine, as are healings, exorcisms, and other spiritual phenomena. According to Father Dioscuros, “even when we cannot see the departed fathers we can always feel them. And besides, there are many other indications that they are with us. Well, take last week for instance. The Bedouin from the desert are always bringing their sick to us for healing. Normally it is something quite simple: we let them kiss a relic, give them an aspirin and send them on their way. But last week they brought in a small girl who was possessed by a devil. We took the girl into the church, and as it was the time for vespers one of the fathers went off to ring the bell for prayers. When he saw this the devil inside the girl began to cry: ‘Don’t ring the bell! Please don’t ring the bell!’ We asked him why not. ‘Because,’ replied the devil, ‘when you ring the bell it’s not just the living monks who come into the church: all the holy souls of the fathers join with you too, as well as great multitudes of angels and archangels. How can I remain in the church when that happens? I’m not staying in a place like that.”

From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple, Henry Holt Publishers, p. 407.

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