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September 23rd, The Conception of St. John the Baptist

September 23, 2008

Today, the Orthdox Church (New Calender) celebrates the Feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist as described throughout Luke 1.   It is more than a story about a miraculous marital act – it is a contrast between steadfast faith and doubt, trust and disbelief, but in the end always about thanksgiving to God for unexpected blessings. 

So many of the events of the Old and New Testament deal with marital relations (or the lack of marital relations) and childlessness.   There’s a lot of vaguely worded or implied stuff going on that, frankly, can be a bit hard to explain to young children and which inevitably raises questions that parents cringe over – it’s usually along the line of “where do babies come from”.    No matter how you stumble through the mechanics though, children are always open to the miraculous and get right to the most important part – God’s working through the life of others, even the most intimate and private parts. 

You’ll see this below in the award winning, animated short from the 60’s that used children’s storytelling  to explain the events around St. John’s conception and birth as told from the point of view of the Mother of God.   Which is exactly the point of view of all the events surrounding the miraculous conception of St. John the Baptist.  These are stories that are not so much about the baby John, but are the stories about Christ and his revelation to the world even at the time of his conception, and the conception of him who was his greatest messenger – he who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah.    Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, pray for us.

September 21 Leavetaking of the Exaltation of the Cross

September 21, 2008

In Orthodox tradition, feasts that celebrate the Holy and Lifegiving Cross always contain the singing of the hymn “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship…” while making full on-the-floor prostrations.  In my pre-Orthodox life, I had never bowed down before anything – literally and figuratively.   Now, the feasts of the Cross are one of my favorite worship experiences.  There is something so profound about the act of dropping to your knees and bowing your head to the ground.  It is an act that leaves you with a feeling of total submission and love for Christ through the Holy and Lifegiving Cross.  And why not venerate the instrument of God’s love?  It is his instrument of love and eternal life, not pain and death.

The Cross, is wood which lifts us up and makes us great … The Cross uprooted us from the depths of evil and elevated us to the summit of virtue”.  St John Chrysostom