Gladsome Light Dialogues – An Orthodox Blog

A journey through our Orthodox faith as we live it every day

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The Narthex as a Dynamic Place of Transformation

August 8th, 2016 by Fr. Vasile
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narthexThe icon of the Fest of Transfiguration which we celebrate on August 6th is a beautiful metaphor for the union and the reconciliation that Christ brings between the Old and the New Testament. In this icon we see Christ in the Uncreated Light flanked on each side by Moses and Elijah prophetic figures of the Old Testament while prostrated in front of the transfigured Christ we find three of His disciples Peter John and James.

St. Ephraim the Syrian makes a point of this “reunion” of old and new to say:

“The Prophets and the Apostles gathered on the mount were filled with joy; the Prophets rejoiced for they have beheld here His humanity which they did not see before; the Apostles rejoiced for they beheld here the glory of His Divinity which before they had not understood. They stood before the Lord as ministers and looked at one another Prophets at Apostles and Apostles at Prophets. There they mutually extended to themselves the sights of the prototypes of the Old and New Covenants. Thus the mount represents the Church itself because Jesus united in it the two covenants accepted by the Church and has shown that He is the Giver of both. ”

The prophets of old who have received the revelation of His Coming but have experienced only God the Word pre-incarnate get to see Him now in His humanity while the Apostle’s who that have experienced Him incarnate get to see Him now into His divine glory. Both of them ascend the mountain where Christ is transfigured as the key to the Kingdom promised to all.

From an Architectural perspective the Orthodox Church is also trying to represent this dynamic association between the Old Covenant and the New pointing towards the promised Kingdom. Entering an Orthodox temple we see an carefully crafted advancement from the Narthex through the Nave and towards the Altar.  This is also the progression of any man or woman that come into the faith and enters the Church in the hope of the Kingdom.

The first room of the Church the Narthex is a key element in this endeavor because it represents the fallen world before coming of Christ and the unredeemed part of the world outside of the Church after His incarnation. It is therefore fit as a place for catechumens preparing to enter the Church and for repenting people that have been temporarily excluded from full communion with the Church. Both these categories were considered outside of the fullness of the Church but still attached; yet they could not partake in the fullness of the liturgies.

The Narthex is not a static place however where people just wait to be allowed to enter further into the Christian mysteries but just as the world reacts to the presence of the redeemed Church in the world there is also movement from and towards the Narthex a dynamic that is beautifully expressed in the liturgical life of the Church

First there is an inward movement form the Narthex to the Nave (i. e. from sin to virtue).  A prime example is the beginning of the Service of Holy Baptism when after the reading of the Prayers for making of a Catechumen the baptismal party proceeds through the Royal Doors (the doors between Narthex and the Nave) and enter into the Nave for the remainder of the Sacraments of Baptism Chrismation and Holy Communion.

Second there is an outward movement form nave to Narthex for instance during the Divine Liturgy when before the reading of the Creed and the beginning of he Liturgy of the Faithful the catechumens and the penitents were dismissed from the Nave back into the Narthex and the door was closed allowing access only to the faithful for the remainder of the Liturgy.  The call “the doors the doors” and the dismissal at this point emphasizes the necessary preparation in order to access the Kingdom.  A famous illustration comes from the life of Mary of Egypt when being in a sinful un-repented state she could not enter into the Church of the Sepulcher from the Narthex into the nave because of her sins but only after repenting and making a promise of virtue she was allowed to enter and receive the Sacraments.

There is however another more “positive” outward movement towards the Narthex the Lity Service during the celebration of Festal Vespers when the priest preceded by Altar boys and the icon of the Feast exits from the Nave to the Narthex and celebrates there the festal Lity service with intercessory prayers for the entire world. The Lity takes place in the Narthex as a gesture of reaching out to the catechumens and penitents who were not allowed to enter the nave in the old times. In this way the Church goes out into the world inviting the entire kosmos to participate in the joy of the feast.

The iconography of the Narthex further enhances the preparatory role of this space. It generally consists of scenes of the Old Testament: the Creation and the Fall views from the Life of Abraham Moses and other prophets of the Old Testament. We might also see prophetic scenes that shed light on the life of Christ like Jonah a symbol of Christ and His burial and resurrection after three days the Three Youth in the furnace another symbol of Resurrection and so forth. Sometimes mostly in monastic settings we could also find ancient philosopher like Plato Aristoteles etc as a symbol of the fallen and incomplete wisdom of the world before the knowledge of Christ.

In the iconographic vision of the Church Architecture the Narthex remains the place of the origins the starting point of Creation and the path to its redemption in Christ the Savior. Anyone that visits an Orthodox Church has to go through this space and recall the origin of the world from God as one gets engaged in the salvific movement of the Church and reaches for his personal transfiguration into the Kingdom.

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Child Versus Gorilla – How To Live Together For The Kingdom

June 7th, 2016 by Fr. Vasile
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Icon-of-creation

The recent child versus gorilla controversy has brought up an older moral question about the status of human life versus animal life. When one is faced with the decision of saving a human life endangered by an animal life, what should one do? In our story the zookeeper clearly stated that their choice was easy because a human life is more valuable than an animal life.[Round of applause from all parents of toddlers] But what does a poor zookeeper know?  A recent tweet that condemned the gorilla killing went as far as blaming the entire humanity for the gorilla death saying:  “Humans imprison gorilla. Human enters gorilla prison. Gorilla gets shot dead for being near human. Humanity… Continue reading

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‚ Mystery and Divine Magnetism: a Conversion Story">Beauty Mystery and Divine Magnetism: a Conversion Story

April 15th, 2016 by Fr. Vasile
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Come and Seeby Daniel Bishop

I often hear stories from people I’ve met along the way about the path that lead them to Orthodoxy. More often than not, these stories involve books by particular authors or saints whose writings made an influence on their perspective and opened them up to the wealth of the teachings of the Church. These are stories of beautiful and brilliant minds seeking truth amidst the pages of history, leaving no stone unturned until they found the true path. I sincerely wish I could give you such a brave story of my conversion. The thing is, I can’t manage to retrace my steps through books or knowledge, though I did read a lot while… Continue reading

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The Christian Family Suspended Between Tradition and Temptation*

March 4th, 2016 by Fr. Vasile
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Root of JeseeBeloved Brothers and Sister in Christ,

As you can see, even from my short greeting, this talk about family is actually a talk in the family. I am not here to preach to strangers, but to converse with people familiar to us who will be able to better understand what I have to say, because you are hearing it from within. You hear a lot from the outside as well; there is a lot of talk about family these days, with everyone trying to define, or rather re-define, what family is, many times based on personal thoughts and feelings or ideologies of various groups of interests, creating a lot of confusion. In the midst of all… Continue reading

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An Icon of the Christian Family

January 12th, 2016 by Fr. Vasile
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Everyone’s favorite time of the year is the period before Christmas, when the air is filled with joy, peace and expectation. We are blessed to live in a country that looks forward to Christmas although we might seem to have lost some of its meaning along the way.  We have radio stations that air carols without ceasing, exalting the season, although many of them speak about snow, jolly figures carrying gifts, family time and other things that are all fine, but missing maybe the point of all this festival. It is wonderful that everyone celebrates Christmas, in their own way, and even people that don’t believe in God enjoy the season and try to be “good for goodness’ sake”, as a recent billboard from our atheistic friends reads recently (we… Continue reading

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Giving Thanks to God for All Things

November 10th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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Holy 40 martyrsEvery year on Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to God for our wonderful life. We rejoice in the fruits of the earth (with or without feathers) gathered around a table of abundance. A good thing indeed! Saint Basil the Great advised us to do this as early as the 4th century:
”When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the… Continue reading

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A Union for the Kingdom

June 26th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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Greek-Orthodox-WeddingIn case you haven’t been following the news, the Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of the recognition of same-sex unions throughout United States. Does this come as a surprise? Absolutely not! We knew it was just a matter of time. But how did we get here? How come that we need a court of law to decide what marriage is?

Before we start pointing fingers at the state for changing our understanding of marriage, we have to admit first that even in Christianity, there are different views of what actually marriage is. Most Christians would agree that marriage is a union between a man and a woman that mutually agree to spend their lives together, but looking deeper… Continue reading

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Equal to the Apostles

May 21st, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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Constantine-signBlessed be the providence of God that makes all things evolve towards the order that best suits our progression in the Kingdom of heavens. All that God chooses to happen is for our edification in Him and for our development into His divine mold. This year for instance we celebrate the Holy Ascension (a moving feast) in the same day with the celebration of the Sts. Constantine and Helen (a fixed feast). One may say it is just random, at the end of the day even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

Let me explain my train of thoughts in this particular instance. The Ascension of our Lord commemorates the… Continue reading

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From Hearsay to Social media – a Tale of Rumor Spreading

May 19th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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pillow“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” – Socrates

There is a story that circulates in Christian and Jewish circles about gossip. I was not able to track its origins but the story goes like this.

“There was a woman that liked to talk about other people’s affairs and spread unkind words around. One day however she felt remorseful and went to the priest to confess her sin. The priest listened to her confession and asked her if she truly understood the consequences of such hearsay activities. She uttered a rather unconvincing yes. Reading between the lines, the experienced priest offered her a penance, a small feat, he said, that will… Continue reading

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The Icon of the Kingdom

March 5th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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St. John the Baptist GOC, Euless, TX - AltarEvery year, in the first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate our Orthodox heritage. It is a wonderful festivity involving a touching procession with icons, lifted up high, around the church and ending in the declamatory proclamation of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy.  Since we do it every year, it became so engrained in our fiber that we rarely stop to ponder about what does it really mean to us. It is important to know, after all, what we celebrate; otherwise it makes no sense to go on with a party that we know nothing about.

So let me start by asking you a simple question. What is Orthodoxy to you? A place called… Continue reading

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