Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A New Blog

Clement Ferguson writes: "I moved my blog over to blogspot where all the cool kids hang out. Would you please update the link on your site? Thanks!"

Sure thing Clement!

To give you an idea of what Clement and his blog are about, here's a bit from his latest post.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Tithing Our Time:

I know that I've really had to learn to organize my time lately, especially with getting ready for marriage in less than a month. But on top of this we have work (or school) and family and friends and cleaning and shopping and reading and, occasionally, time to relax. When balancing all these things, it's important that we place Christ first -- for if we lose track of our life rooted in him, we end up being bounced around all over the place. Our actions and even our desires will be like a yo-yo swinging up and down, and we will be overwhelmed by the chaos of our everyday lives. The Church Fathers often likened the Church to a boat traveling through stormy seas, and many early churches in the middle east can be found which have round windows in emulation of ships. Without putting Christ first, our time can really slip out of our hands, to the point where we feel that we don't have any time.

For us people out in the "real world" of work, we're often exhausted by the time we return home. And for those who haven't graduated yet, school places great demands on a student. Yet we must make sure that we encourage ourselves to understanding that God must come first. This is part of what must happen if we as individuals, and collectively as the Church, are to truly experience transformation.

For individuals, a comparison can be made with tithing. Tithing ensures that we give our firstfruits back to God in gratitude and that he is first and foremost in our mind and heart. It sacralizes the economic aspect of our life and ensures that we truly value our money: giving 10% of one's income necessarily means that one has to more closely examine each purchase and consider if it is really necessary or not. Furthermore, tithing ensures that we give out of gratitude and for growth, not just to meet the bare needs of the church.

Likewise, we must make sure that we are at the very least tithing our time to God, with us preferably laboring on the path to "pray without ceasing" instead of just meeting "spiritual needs." Do I feed and clean my body in the morning without nourishing and cleansing my soul through prayer? Do I labor many hours in video games and YouTube and Facebook without laboring equally in scripture and spiritual reading? Do I talk at length about this world without revealing to others the Kingdom through the Gospel? Do I examine and scrutinize my neighbor without investigating myself? I am guilty of all these things!

For the parish, while we must handle things like maintaining the building and celebrating important events, we must ensure that -- far more than tithing -- our parish life is centered on Christ. When we read St. David writing in his psalms of praying seven times a day, he is referring to the Liturgy of the Hours that was present in Judaism and which has been preserved by the Orthodox Church.

Can you imagine praying seven times a day, for 15 minutes to over an hour at each of these occasions? To do something like this -- something that certainly I don't do, something actualized for the most part only by monastics -- means that each day in our lives very visibly revolves around the worship and service of Christ. It means that we really have to focus in those moments of prayer, and we have to make those moments outside of that prayer purposeful because we recognize that our time is limited. By structuring time in this way, we ensure that we use our time wisely.

Since most of us aren't monastics and have numerous tasks that often prevent us from praying aside from morning and night, this means that we really have to prioritize. And we also have to remember that prayer is not an end in itself, just as life in "the world" is not an end in itself. We have to ensure that we're living a life that finds its life and joy in receiving God's love and pouring that love out. But if we don't make the effort to reorganize and restructure our time, then we can't really proceed further to using the grace of God to investigate ourselves and to open ourselves to be transformed into his likeness.

One thing that we must recognize is that tithing our time and tithing our money share one important aspect, an aspect central to all actions of love: sacrifice. It means to put aside ourselves and to take up what we must take up. It will be difficult at first. But as we progress, the things that we used to distract ourselves with seem like so little in comparison to the fulfillment and joy that God grants us when we bear this cross and thus open ourselves to be loved by him.

We Orthodox have the church calendar which assists us in sacralizing our time through a particular cycle of feasts and fasting periods. Furthermore, each day is guided by a number of readings from Scripture, and also celebrates the victory of a variety of Saints commemorated each day. The daily readings and the lives of the saints can be read on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese web site. Another useful tool for spiritual growth is the Prologue from Ohrid, which has detailed lives of the saints, readings, and meditations for each day. Try spending 15 minutes or so each morning reading from each of these resources, and see how it begins to transform not only your time but your faith. As you use the church calendar to transform your seasons, you will begin to transform your days, then your hours, then every moment of your life.

Also, for more information about the Liturgy of the Hours, its roots in Jewish worship, and its transfiguration in the light of Christ's Gospel, I recommend Father Alexander Schmemann's Introduction to Liturgical Theology.

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