Those Who Suffer Alone at Christmas

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“I feel the need to write this, despite it not being in the ‘Christmas spirit’ of the world these days. … 

I write this thinking about very specific (and, unfortunately, very many) people I know who are carrying heavy crosses on their shoulders, alone and in silence. I write this thinking of you, who are alone on hospital beds; you, who are trapped in your homes caring for your elderly parents; you, who have lost a loved one and feel the pain slowly suffocating you as Christmas draws closer; you, who look at your loved ones as they are stolen away by debilitating diseases, dementia or Alzheimer’s; you, who are abandoned by all in prisons; you, who are abandoned by all because you have lost one too many battles with alcohol or drugs; you, who could never recover from abuse, and for whom no one cared enough to really listen to you and help you get up and start again.

Christmas belongs to you, not to the world – have no doubt in your heart about that. Christmas is not about making merry with wine and gifts, putting our feet up and relaxing. Christmas is not ‘time off’, but the otherworldly joy of a Saviour who comes precisely for you. For you, who suffer. For you, who are alone. You are the reason for the Feast. Your pain is the reason for Christ’s Incarnation. Christ does not come to put His feet up and rest for a week – He comes precisely to start His Work of Salvation, His Ministry in the world.

Do not worry, and have no doubt. Christ is not of this world, and He comes precisely to transform (that is, to change) this world. Christ does hear. Christ does see. Christ does not even need you to reach out and beg for help, for He reaches out first and He begs you first to give Him your pain. Christ begs us to pile all our filth, all our sins, all our suffering on His Divine shoulders.

Christ does not come into the world at Christmas expecting to rest, but to act. Christ does not come to be pampered, but to start His journey to the Cross. The gifts He wants from you and I are precisely our sins, our loneliness, and our pain. He wants to take it all away from us, for He alone is Love.

I just want you, the ones burdened with pain, to know that you are not alone for Christmas. In the silence of your loneliness, in the emptiness of your homes, in the abandonment of all people, in the stories you are not allowed to tell and the images of pain you are not allowed to share – in all of it, you have Christ within you. At Christmas, the world will have Christmas trees, rich dinners and gifts, but you will have Christ as the Divine Guest of your heart. You will have the Source of Life in the cave of your being. I am in awe of you, I bless you, and I ask for your prayers that miraculous night.”

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For the complete post by Hieromonk Seraphim Aldea visit his Mull Monastery blog

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Entering Hell

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With Prayer 

The cycle of prayers assaulting Hades reaches a climax on the day of Pentecost. On the evening of that Sunday, the faithful gather for Vespers. During that service, they kneel for the first time since Pascha. And in that kneeling, the Church teaches them the boldness of prayer, the cry of human hearts for God’s solace and relief. Three lengthy prayers are offered, the third of which completes and fulfills the prayers that began so many weeks before in the Soul Saturdays:

Priest: … O Thou Who didst descend into Hades, and demolish the eternal bars, revealing an ascent to those who were in the lower abode; Who with the lure of divine wisdom didst entice the dragon, the head of subtle evil, and with Thy boundless power bound him in abysmal hell, in inextinguishable fire, and extreme darkness. … Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, dost deign to receive oblations and supplications for those bound in Hades, and grantest unto us the great hope that rest and comfort will be sent down from Thee to the departed from the grief that binds them. (edited for length)

 

Source: Father Stephen Freeman Glory to God for All Things — excerpted

Therefore Go, Οὖν

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“Our Easter joy is offered in order to be shared with others. … A pious custom among Orthodox Christians is to share with others the light of Christ the moment their candle is lit. This sharing of Christ’s Light highlights the duty of the faithful to evangelise, to spread the Evangelion (Ευ-Αγγέλιον), the Good News of our Lord’s Resurrection, like the Apostles. Our resurrected Lord said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  And He added:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). Πορευθέντες οὖν.

So, there is one consequence, one “therefore”, one “οὖν”: Don’t limit yourselves to your own personal salvation and joy; you have a holy responsibility to spread this Evangelion to all those who ignore this Truth. This Hope must not be kept hidden, must not be confined to only one community. This Hope is for all peoples, for the renewal of all mankind.” (Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Easter Message 2017)

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“A Candle Before the Icon”: Archbishop Anastasios

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“As a young person I had been moved by stories of Father Damian, a Catholic priest who served lepers in Hawaii, and also Albert Schweitzer. I asked myself whatever happened to our missionary tradition in the Orthodox Church? Where were the Orthodox missionaries? What are we doing to share our faith with others? What are we doing to reach all those people who have never heard the Gospel? I realized that indifference to missions is a denial of Orthodoxy and a denial of Christ. How had it happened that a Church called to baptize the nations was so indifferent to the nations? Saint Paul brought the Gospel to Greeks. Who were we bringing it to?”

It was a pivotal question that would shape the rest of his life.

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Indifference to missions is a denial of Orthodoxy and a denial of Christ.

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‘Krishti u ngjall, Zoti eshte me ne, lavdi Zotit!’ — ‘Christ is risen, God is with us, Glory to God!’

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While his official title is Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania, Anastasios has occasionally been called the Archbishop of Tirana and All Atheists. It isn’t a title he objects to. “I am everyone’s archbishop. For us each person is a brother or sister. The Church is not just for itself. It is for all the people. As we say at the altar during each Liturgy, it is done ‘on behalf of all and for all. Also we pray ‘for those who hate us and for those who love us.’ Thus we cannot have enemies. How could we? If others want to see us as enemies, it is their choice, but we do not consider others as enemies. We refuse to punish those who punished us. Always remember that at the Last Judgment we are judged for loving Him, or failing to love Him, in the least person. The message is clear. Our salvation depends upon respect for the other, respect for otherness. This is the deep meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan — we see not how someone is my neighbor but how someone becomes a neighbor. It is a process. We also see in the parable how we are rescued by the other. What is the theological understanding of the other? It is trying to see how the radiation of the Son of God occurs in this or that place, in this or that culture. This is much more than mere diplomacy. We must keep our authenticity as Christians while seeing how the rays of the Son of Righteousness pass through another person, another culture. Only then can we bring something special.”

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People look at the difficulties of life here and say to me, ‘How can you stand it? It is so ugly!’ But for me it is so beautiful! It is God’s blessing to be here — not the blessing I imagined but the one I received. …

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“People sometimes ask me about my expectations, but I don’t know about the future! You can only do your job with love and humility. I am not the savior of Albania, only a candle in front of the icon of the Saviour.”

For more insights into Archbishop Anastasios legacy go to “A Candle Before the Icon: Archbishop Anastasios”, from Jim Forest’s book Resurrection of the Church of Albania, WCC Publications

Don’t spill the Grace. Keep it there!

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One young convert, radiant after experiencing his first Pascha in the wilderness, was asked by Fr. Seraphim: “Well, how did you like the Feast?”

“It was wonderful!” replied the elated pilgrim.

“Don’t waste what you’ve been given,” Fr. Seraphim said, echoing the words of Bishop Nektary. “Don’t spill the grace. Keep it there!” As he said this, Fr. Seraphim tapped the young man’s chest, right on his heart.

Christ is Risen!

 

 

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