Offering Thanksgiving in Hell. (A meditation on the Las Vegas shooting, and Edmonton terror attack)

“Keep your mind in Hell, and do not despair”.

It is a strange proposition to consider, especially as it come from one of the most renowned Saints in the last century, St. Silouan of Mount Athos. Yet with a closer look, its relevance and clarity rings out; especially in light of the insanity that has rocked the world in the last week or so.  

The context for this quote came about fifteen years after St. Silouan had a vision of Christ that changed his life. During all those years he had struggled in prayer against distracting thoughts. Tired and exhausted from his labours, he wanted one day to bow before an Icon of the Lord, yet a terrible demon stood in his way.  He heard a voice (although he was alone):  “The proud always suffer from demons” Therefore St. Silouan asked how he could defeat pride. The Lord’s response was: “Keep your mind in Hell, and do not despair”. This moment changed his life even more than that first miraculous vision of Christ.  

We have to keep in mind that Hell isn’t simply a place of punishment and torment for  “bad and evil” people; it is rather the consequence which come to  those who would rather have the universe (and people) serve them, those whose struggle for autonomy vomits a hated towards God and neighbour alike. It is consequence which come to those who choose darkness over  light,  lies over truth and ultimately death and decay over life.

This is something to consider as we recoil from the profound tragedies in Las Vegas, and Edmonton last week: that for all the security and prosperity  given to us through our Western culture, we are still vulnerable.For those who are rebelling against God, and focusing on themselves, no matter what we do, where we go, or who we have around us.

This should come as no surprise for us if we have a half a heart to see the darkness and real evil that rained down death upon concert-goers in Las Vegas, or the darkness and real evil that drove into crowded sidewalks in Edmonton; for “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). It truly can seem that humanity is in a kind of Hell.

It is in this context that St. Siloan’s vision can bring clarity and hope, especially as we celebrate Thanksgiving (Canadian style).

To despair is to reject the goodwill of God, and to hold onto the faults and circumstances of one’s life, bearing in solitude  its burdens of anxiety, fear, anger, and enmity, (however petty or profound they might be). It sees nothing more than what is in front of it; it has no relationship or community, and can not look back.

Its opposite is thanksgiving, the movement  to look  through those faults and circumstances that impede us,  to something better, and to grab hold of those bonds that unite us. It is to look back with the perspective of having been loved and having offered love; or to put it in a Christian context, to have been loved by God, and to offer our love to Him.

As Christians, we have to understand that the perfect expression of thanksgiving is embodied or accurately made divine in the life of Jesus Christ, through His life-giving passion and death (1 Cor. 11:26) .

We see this so beautifully put in the Divine Liturgy at  its offering (Anaphora): “in the night in which He was given up – or rather, gave Himself up for the life of the world – took bread in His holy, pure and blameless  hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed, and hallowed it, and broken it,  He gave it to his disciples and apostles saying: “take eat, this is My Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins”;  and likewise after supper He took the cup saying: “drink of it all of you, this is My Blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins!”.

The very thanksgiving (literally Eucharist) the Lord offered was not merely some reflection on good things of life. What was offered by Christ at that blessed table was thanksgiving, despite the Cross that stood in front of Him: who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). What was offered by Christ, despite His being forsaken all was a thanksgiving to the Father who has glorified Him and will glorify Him (Jn. 12:28); “for God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it“. (Acts 2:24). What was offered by Christ, despite the fall of humanity, was thanksgiving for the whole of His creation:  “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever should believe in Him should have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

It is in this that countless generations have been able to be truly thankful, regardless if it were at home with one’s family or in a concentration camp in Siberia. Despite being in a Hell of one form or another, those prisoners (and those who picked up their Crosses and followed Christ) could see beyond the grief and challenges set before them, clearly seeing the love of God who endured the Cross for them. They knew that nothing (not even death) could separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rm. 8:39), and that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (Jm. 1:17).

“Keep your mind in Hell, and do not despair” for Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and “wiping away every tear from (our) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4). This is truly something to be thankful for.

 

 

 

 

   

 

Thanksgiving, being thankful and being Eucharistic.

We thank you O Lord.

Everything has a value and price, especially our actions and relationships. But when the worth of those elements becomes a commodity,  there is the temptation to lose the distinction between gifts and transactions, between personal relationships and legal agreements. Even in the context of this holiday, we can some times fail to differentiate between being thankful, Eucharistic or being selfish.

A life in Christ is primarily one of thanksgiving. Even the most important service that makes real the totality of God’s saving work, the Divine Liturgy, is called the Eucharist (this word means thanksgiving in Greek).

Yet it is so easy for us to lose sight of this, when we are distracted by the world’s workings and ways the result of which is a total independence from the divine and from the neighbour. And who could blame us for losing that perspective? In a world of so much plenty and abundance and yet so much poverty and violence, it is almost impossible to see this life of thanksgiving as being anything more than sentimental and wishful.

Yet it is precisely because of these faults, and the lie that we can live independently of God and neighbour, that our loving and patient Lord acts to eternally save us. He who fed the multitudes in the wilderness and offered thanksgiving to God, and He who offered himself on the Cross for our sakes, makes a mockery of the selfish and fearful, by giving His life to each and every one of us a priceless list.

To be thankful (through the eyes of faith) is to see the Lord’s triumph and victory over fear and selfishness, over poverty and violence, and ultimately over death in everything we do. There is more to thanksgiving than a plate of turkey and pumpkin pie, a warm house, family and friends (not that those are bad). There is the undying love of  a God who offers us the gift of eternal life, and not a trade of services and goods: a God who searches for us as the Good Shepherd, and even gives His life for us. This is and not a contract with incentives.

The scripture, our prayer, our services, all help us realize this gift. But it is a holiday like Thanksgiving that brings being thankful to the fore of our hearts and minds, and presents us with an opportunity to reclaim the perspective of what it is to be thankful, not just at this time of year, but in every aspect of our lives.

May the Holy Spirit guide our hearts to be thankful in our whole lives, to be Eucharistic, so we can offer ourselves in thanksgiving to the world around us, in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Offering gifts of love and sacrifice, as the Lord has done for each and everyone of us, may we be enabled thus to make real the saving love of God to family, friends and strangers.

Looking forward through a hundred years.

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No one comes into this world as blank slate, or is born into a vacuum. Who we are, our stories, where we live, our families, friends and works, are the fruit of history, whether good or bad.

We are given an inheritance, the witness of those men and women whose stories, homes, families, friends and works were also inherited from generations past, marking our days with anniversaries of the mundane, and the profound. Some of these  stand out like mountains in our collective consciousness, and others are like the dust that settles in the corners of our homes, but all of them become part of our stories.

It is what we do with those anniversaries that shape us, and influence the stories of our children and their children for generations to come. They are the foundations that we continue to build upon, or tragically destroy. Our history and anniversaries are those intersections that we either look forward or retreat.

This is something to consider as this month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our diocese as the first ecclesiastical presence in all of Canada.

Although there had been Orthodox Christians from Ukraine in Canada since 1879, and Churches were established across the country (including ours in 1911), the establishment of a vicar diocese for Canada in 1916 marked the continuation of the Church’s mission of witnessing to the saving love of God, as encountered in the Church, His Body. But more profoundly, it marked the continuation of the work of the Apostles who in those early years of the Church would establish communities, and bishops (overseers) to serve them.

Now it might seem strange (even lofty) to consider the continuation of this Apostolic ministry in Winnipeg, and Canada of all places, especially considering the weighty challenges and hardships that debilitated the effectiveness of the diocese throughout its 100 years. Yet throughout it all there still remains a diocese, and communities that carry on the work of the Church, and that live its mission, proclaiming the Good News.

The witness of those immigrants who came from Galicia and Bukovina 125 years ago, who brought with them a Faith brought to them by St Vladimir, and the saints who manifested the life of Jesus Christ in Kyivan Rus, has been an inheritance that is our story. The work of the Apostles, whose “proclamation has gone out to the ends of the universe” (Ps.18:5 ) is our proclamation, and the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 ) is what we now deliver as an inheritance to the world around us.

This is the challenge we consider as we give thanks to God for the past 100 years of our diocese: that we look toward to the future, building upon what has been given to us. In the same way that an astronaut, as he/she rockets upwards, doesn’t look back at the distant earth, marveling on what he/she has accomplished or where they started, but rather looks in wonder towards the heavens and magnificent,  splendor; we in the Church now look to the world around us, to our families, friends, and even strangers, considering not simply where we started but rather  humanitie’s vocation to be in communion with Him, the Lord God.

Regardless if we are Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Syrian, or converts or the children of converts, this anniversary is our story, a precious one that should inspire us to continue the work offered by the Apostles, by those great missionaries, who preached the Word in foreign lands, by St. Tikhon who ministered in North America, by the blessed Archbishop Arseny whose words brought consolation and peace to his flock in Canada, and all the saints known and unknown who offered thanksgiving and praise to God for His mercy and love.

May we, like those blessed founders of this diocese, continue to look towards the heavens, as we live out our service of witnessing to the Faith within the Church the Body of Christ.

Change of Plans, services for this coming week.

Dearest all. 

We had been working with the Mission of the Theotokos of the Live Giving Springs this summer alternating our weekend vespers, but as there will be no services at the Mission this weekend, Great Vespers will be held at St. Nicholas tomorrow evening (Saturday Aug. 13th) at 5:00 pm. Not at the Mission as was noted on our calendar. 
 
Sorry for any confusion.
On Sunday we will be serving Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am and that evening at 6:00 pm we will be serving Great Vespers for the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
On Monday morning (Aug. 15th) we will be serving the festal Liturgy for the Dormition of the Theotokos at 10:00 am.
On Monday evening at 6:00 pm the patronal feast (The Icon of Christ not made by hands)  for the Winkler Mission will be held, followed by a feast.
On Tuesday morning the festal divine Liturgy of the Icon not made by hands, will be held at St. Nicholas in Narol at 10:00 am.
A busy first part of the week, but one that is full of blessings and mercy.
By your prayers.
PG.

 

Photos from Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Pascha.

We had an incredibly busy week leading to Pascha. This is just a small sampling of photos from our beautiful services.

On Palm Sunday Aaron Seraphim, Tina Sophia, and Isabel Wiebe, were baptized before the Liturgy. This was followed by the visit of Archbishop Irenee of Ottawa and Canada to St. Nicholas. Vladika served with us on Great and Holy Thursday for the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil, and the Matins of Great and Holy Friday (12 Passion Gospels).

At this service Vladika consecrated our newly renovated Altar table, and ordained to the diaconate Stephen Sharman. Concelebrating with us that blessed day was the Priest Anthony Esterbrooks, and Deacon Matthew Beynon from the Theotokos of the Life giving Springs Mission in Winnipeg. Vladika also joined us for the Vesperal Liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday.

In fine Galician fashioned we served Nocturnes, Matins and Liturgy at the sunrise on Pascha with the newly ordained Dn. Stephen, and the priest Symeon Rodger visiting with his wife from Ottawa.

 

Holy Week, and Bright Week Schedule.

 Monday Apr. 25th,  6:00 pm  Bridegroom Matins (of Holy Tuesday)

Tuesday Apr. 26th,  6:00 pm   Bridegroom Matins (of Holy Wednesday)  In Winkler     

Wednesday Apr. 27th, 6:00 pm  Presanctified Liturgy

Thursday Apr. 28th,  10:00 am  Hierarchal Vesperal Liturgy of Great and Holy Thursday, with the           consecration of our Altar, and the ordination of (Fr) Stephen Sharman to the                                                                         Diaconate

Thursday Apr. 28th, 6:00 pm  12 Passion Gospels (Matins of Holy Friday)

Friday Apr 29th, 10:00 am  Royal Hours

 Friday Apr 29th, 6:00 pm  Vespers of Great and Holy Friday

Saturday Apr. 30th, 10:00 am  Hierarchal Vesperal Liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday with 15 OT readings

Confession available before and after all the services of Holy Week!      

Christ is Risen!

Sunday May 1st, 6:00 am Pascha! Nocturns, Matins and Liturgy followed by the blessing of baskets in the Church.

Monday May 2nd, 10:00 am Bright Monday Matins and Liturgy

Wednesday May 4th, 10:00 am Bright Wednesday Matins and Liturgy

Saturday May 7th, 10:00 am  Bright Saturday Matins and Liturgy in Winkler.

 Saturday May 7th,  5:00 pm Great Vespers (at St. Nicholas)

Sunday May 8th, 9:30 am  Divine Liturgy (Thomas Sunday)

Becoming Human. A Lenten journey.

Icon of the Sundays of Lent.Despite those elements that seem to legitimize the fleeting nature of humanity (and creation for that matter), making it something akin to a candle in the wind, Orthodox Christians have never been able to understand that the tragedies of sickness disease, weakness, want, and untimely death (sadly, characteristics of life), are what we are created for.

It is profoundly tragic to see life as a “One day it is here, and the other it has vanished as if it never existed” kind of storyline.

From the beginning, Christians have always held that humanity was created out of love to live in the Trinitarian life of endless love, to reign in peace and joy with its Creator, having received everything including the vocation to be divine according to the Lord’s likeness in which Adam and Eve were created.

The tragedy is that, in Adam and Eve, humans chose to take that life on their own terms, independent of their Creator and God, independent of the divine life shared with them out of love.

Instead of trusting the Lord, they feared Him, instead of offering thanksgiving, they cursed, instead of sharing, they coveted, instead of living in the eternity of a loving relationship, they and their heirs died.

The life given was that of bearing the likeness of God. Sorrowfully, the life chosen was the likeness of the lifeless soil humanity was formed from. No matter how rich and nutritious that soil might be, without seeds, water, light and cultivation, it can never grow, let alone bear fruit. It is only ever being about blown by the elements from one place and age to the next.

It is for this reason that the Lord acts to save humanity by assuming it. He did this not by occupying some shell or mask, but by totally empting Himself out of love, so that he would share everything in common with us, including death (Phil. 2:6-8).  And by His Resurrection on the third day, the Lord shares with us that victory over the tragedies that make life seem so trivial and futile.

This victory celebrated every Sunday, the foretaste of the Lord’s Resurrection (Pascha), a feast we now find ourselves in preparation to celebrate, is ultimately the restoration of humanity to what it was meant to be: a communion of life in life, of light in light, of truth in truth. This communion is eternal and fresh, offered without cost or measure out of love, to everyone and anyone.

This Lenten season requires labour and discipline in our lives, looking  beyond the temptation living life on our own terms, independent of God or neighbour, to the Lord who looks beyond our sin and errors to save us.

So we pray, that this fast be a time of accepting the work of the Holy Spirit, that seed of hope and life, the Lord working with us and in us. May we water this seed with the tears of our repentance and contrition and warm it with rays of good works, sacrifice, mercy and peace, offered to our neighbour as to the Lord. May this be a time in which we cultivate it with a life in the Church, offering constant thanksgiving and prayer, inspired by the scriptures and the saints who teach, admonish and intercede, so that we might truly become human, and “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15), bearing the fruit of eternal life, according to the likeness we were created in.

Christ the Saviour Mission Station, Winkler Manitoba.

 

Icon not made by hands.

We constantly remember in our services and prayers our “founders and benefactors”, those men and women, clergy and faithful whose missionary fervor helped build the Church. We remember them, whether they be people like Metropolitan Leonty or Matushka Olga Michael who helped build the Church in North America, Archbishops Arseny and Joasaph who helped build the Church in Canada, or Roman and Anna Bilak who helped build our Church when they donated the land we serve on.

Our commemoration of the work done by these men and women in building our Church, isn’t simply the notation of important people in our history, but a movement of thanksgiving, and the affirmation of God’s saving love, in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, throughout the ages, by those who said “send me” (Is. 6:8) when called to declare “the acceptable time”, “the day of salvation”    (2 Cor 6:2)

Every time we come to our little Church, or visit another Church, every time we say our prayers, and read the scriptures, and offer acts of mercy, we continue the work of the Apostles and Saints, those men and women, known and unknown, whose work and witness manifested the saving love of the Lord, in building up the Church, His body.

This work becomes profoundly apparent with the establishment of a Mission Station in Winkler, Manitoba this month.

With the blessing of his Eminence Archbishop Irenee, and the dedication of our members who live in Winkler, a Mission Station will be established under the patronage and protection of our Lord, Christ the Saviour. Although it will have a modest service schedule (once a month), and temporary accommodations, it nonetheless becomes a foundation in Christ upon which to build (1 Cor 3:11).

Like St. Herman and those missionaries in Alaska who built up our Church over two hundred years ago; like St. Tikhon, Archbishop Arseny and others, who built up our Church a hundred years ago; like John Barchyn, Fr. Efimi Moseychuk and others, who built up our Church half a century ago; like Fr. Bob and Matushka Dianne Kennaugh, Steve and Marie Bilan and others who built up the Church a few decades ago, we also can help build up this Church today.

Our support, time, and especially prayers for this our daughter mission, reveal each of, and all those who leap in love at the chance to serve Him and to proclaim Him as founders and benefactors. And as we are supporting, we are continuing the work and mission of the Church, laying up for ourselves “a good foundation for the future, so that (we) may take hold of the life which is life indeed” (1 Tim 6:19) .

 

 

 

Thanksgiving, a refection on my last conversations with Papa.

It is amazing, that of all the conversations we might ever have, with complete strangers to the dearest love of our lives, the conversations that endure, always being fresh and insightful, if not prophetic, are those last words exchanged before death.

In the ten years since my father unexpectantly passed away, my life has changed beyond what I could ever have imagined, with children, and people, events, vocations and locations that make the past seem strange.  Yet I am always mindful of my last conversations with my father. Whereas the past might seem be unrelatable to the life I now live, those conversations speak to me today as if I was hearing them for the first time.

Six days before my father (or “Papa” as everyone called him) passed away, he had an appointment with his doctor to go over some test results. No one was really talking about it so I knew something was up, and I finally was able to get a hold of him while driving in an ice storm. I asked him not to beat around the bush, and tell me what was going on. So he said that he had an aggressively growing tumour in his colon, and it most likely was cancer.

But without missing a beat, he went on to thank God for everything – really everything – from his wonderful grandchildren, children, to our spouses who helped “complete us”. He thanked God for the love of his wife (who had passed away 8 years earlier to the very day that I had this conversation), the blessings of his friends and fellow priests, and the parishioners whom he had served in Ottawa and Edmonton; for being forgiven seventy x seven and healed by the Lord, and for the honour of serving at His Holy Table, interceding for creation, and bestowing the Holy Mysteries of the Church for those whom he served. He was thankful for those who had reconciled themselves to Christ, and those who had accepted the gift of forgiveness and love. He thanked God for His wonderful acts and miracles, the small and seemingly insignificant ones, and the ones that changed the course of life.

It is an understatement to say that I was a bit gobsmacked at this, but he went on, with even more clarity and sincerity, as convicted as he had ever been.

He continued to thank God that His joy, peace and victory could not be taken away by this sickness, nor blighted from his heart, for Christ is Risen, trampling down death by His death. He thanked God for the chance to put his hope on Him, in fleeing from the false hope this world offers, to a loving God who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to seek out the lost one, who fully took on our broken nature to restore us to the communion we had at the beginning. More profoundly, he thanked God for the honour to suffer with Him, so that having no distractions of health, of comfort and privilege, he might know real love, and that he was loved first by the Lord (1Jn. 4:19 ).

By this point I had dissolved into tears of grief at the thought of losing my father, mingled with tears of gratitude and joy, at what was in essence an eucharistic prayer, offered like those prayers of the martyrs of old who bravely thanked God even when the flames were licking their feet, or the beasts were pouncing.

When I had somewhat collected myself, he went on to console me, with the words of Isaiah “He does keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3), assuring me that there is peace, the Lord’s peace, even in his sickness, and a joy which no one can take away.

As it would seem, not even death could take away that joy from my father.

At the time, his words seemed to reflect the disposition of his soul, but in the context of his passing away that week, his words turned out to be the offering of a whole life in thanksgiving: not the successful moments or accomplishments, nor the fantastic and funny parts, but the whole of a life that encountered Christ through the little things life brings us, and the life-changing challenges that stop us in our tracks.

I consider that conversation frequently, most often in front of the Altar; and I am convicted at the hardness of my heart that sees only my desires and pride, a delusion where Christ is the God I demand things from, or blame things on. But I am also inspired to change, accepting the love of God who gives everything to me, that I might be a child of light that darkness cannot defeat. Christ is my life, and He brings all things to pass. Thus, even the hard things in life reveal the only element that means anything –  love.

I know that the same thanksgiving my father  offered for everything that day, he now offers at the throne of God, as he sings a new song that to this day fills up the life of those who knew him, and those whom never met him; those who loved him, and those who hated him; those who were lost, and those whom he guided; those who just try to love, and those who reveal the love of the Lord.

May we be inspired to be thankful. May his memory be eternal.

The Igumen John (Scratch) serving the funeral for the Nun Dorofea.

Advent and the Christian culture war.

The Good SamaritanIt is not an exaggeration to say that we as Orthodox Christians are somehow caught in a culture war, fought in our schools, work places, livingrooms and bedrooms. It is a war that seeks to divide the spiritual (things of God) from normal everyday life (things of man)- in short, secularism.

Secularism affects our politics, our social customs, our habits, and perspectives, through-out our daily lives. But it is most apparent in the Christmas Season.

It is at this time of year that Christmas and everything about the name is somehow glossed over and avoided so as to avoid any chance of excluding those choosing not to believe in the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. So we say “happy Holidays” and have “holiday trees” and go to “holiday parties”, and distance ourselves from the saving gift of our incarnate God.

Protests and complaints like “keep Christ in Christmas” or “He is the reason for the season” that we commonly hear at this time of year, are just a continuation of the rhetoric that Christians of all shapes and sizes use to fight in this culture war. Whether it be protests against abortion, same-sex marriages, euthanasia, or the over-sexualation of our children and families, we make Christianity into a cause, an ideology that we preach at the enemies of Christ.

Christianity is not an ideology in the same way that people are not ideas. Yet we find ourselves caught in the trap of identifying those who seek to distance themselves from Christianity as such. No one starts life wanting to be an enemy of Christ, although it is a temptation that veils itself in the cares and concerns of this world. No one wants to have abortions, yet many seem to think it is their only option. No one wants to feel that they are a mistake of nature or circumstance, yet some feel that they are. No one wants to be rejected for how they feel about those whom they love regardless of their gender, yet they do feel rejected. No one wants to be abandoned and left at the side of life, half dead, but they are. All that anyone wants is to be loved and healed.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see all humanity lying at the side of the road, wounded and broken, not dead, but not alive. And we, like the priest and Levite, who ought to know the Lord, happen to pass by. Do we preach at them, tell them what they did wrong, how it was ill-advised to walk down this road alone, and how their situations are a result of  bad choices and more importantly what they have to do to be saved? When we do this, however good the intention is, it is the same as passing by on the other side.

The Gospel directive given in this parable is that we are to minister to them even though we be outcasts like this Samaritan by our confession of Christ. Christ was rejected by those around him, by the powerful and pious alike. He was  seen as someone who blasphemed by breaking the religious conventions and traditions of the day. Yet it is His love for us, even though we are sinners (Rm 5:8.) that helps us not only see who our neighbour is, but also whose neighbour I am.

This does not mean that we pretend that certain actions and choices in this world are irrelevant, nor that our proclamation of the Truth, Jesus Christ, is just a personal opinion. Certainly there are choices and actions that separate us from God and what it is to be human, and that sadly blaspheme the Holy Spirit. However, this does not mean that we forsake those who make the destructive choices (and yes they are destructive choices) and prevent them from encountering the love of God. For Christ did not come as new-born Child born in a cavern amidst dumb beasts, to “condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17). He brings us to the safety of the Church until He comes back to repay any debt at His glorious second coming.

It is “having the mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5) in this service as the Samaritan did is how we fight this culture war, how we proclaim the Lord’s victory and saving love. It is how we keep “Christ in Christmas”, and how we keep in context the “reason for the season”. But more importantly it is how we bring healing to a very broken and confused world, that knows nothing of His unending love.