“I had supposed that worship is fundamentally an act of communication, in which one expresses to God one’s adoration and devotion and, presumably, receives some sort of message in return. But Orthodox worship is not like that. It is not so much an act of communicating something to God as that of entering into his presence. Better yet, it is to enter into the presence not of God alone, but of the angels, saints, and all of creation, all joined in unceasing praise of the Holy Trinity.”
“The world is intended as God intends it, not as an end in itself but as a milieu in which and through which human persons translate natural dependency and determinacy into creative and free communion among themselves and between themselves and God.”
There are times when I feel that life is too difficult to bear. When death and darkness and pain and suffering and listlessness force themselves upon my soul. I cry out to the Lord in utter desperation: “Father, please! Why is this happening? Please save me, please have mercy . . . I can hardly bear it anymore.” I wait for a response but I hear nothing. Am I alone? Days and nights blur together as each week presents another challenge, another tragedy, another heartbreak . . . “O God!”, I cry, “I’m so afraid!” I turn to the Psalmist for comfort only to find despair:
“O Lord God of my salvation, I cry day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my supplication, O Lord. For my soul is filled with sorrows, and my soul draws near to Hades; I am counted among those who go down into the pit; I am like a helpless man, free among the dead, like slain men thrown down and sleeping in a grave, whom You remember no more . . . Why, O Lord, do You reject my soul, and turn away Your face from me?”
It feels as if my heart is in constant anguish. I weep bitterly as the people I love suffer. I look on as my beloved wrestles with deep wounds from her past and unending physical maladies. I feel helpless. I feel lost and out of control. I feel unable to provide. Why must life be this way? Why are there so many sorrows? Why is there so much pain? O God do you hear me? Do You understand me? . . .
I stare at the icon of the Theotokos holding her child. There is sadness in her eyes as she clings tightly to the boy of promise – the One born of the Holy Spirit. I remember that the first Christian, my spiritual mother, the one who gave birth to God in the flesh, struggled and suffered. My eyes fixate on the little boy in her arms, so small and fragile . . . I remember that his mother could find no place to sleep, no rest, and no safety on the night of his birth. I remember how she was forced to have her baby in a stable surrounded by animals, hay, and the fresh cent of manure. I recall her fleeing to Egypt to rescue her son from the hands of a mass murderer. I remember how He experienced the limitations, temptations, and futility of human existence growing up in a small town in the desert. Everything flashes forward. I remember Jesus languishing in the garden . . . the blood dripping, the agony, and the resolve. I remember the guards lashing out at Him; tearing open his flesh. I remember the crown of thorns and the intense mockery. I remember how He carried the cross and was nailed upon it; how He died. I envision Mary weeping at His feet . . .
Then in the midst of the storm I hear the still soft voice, “I love you Josh . . .”