May 2020 Bulletins • St. Silouan Chapel at St. John the Compassionate Mission
Sunday of the Paralytic — May 10, 2020
From The Gospel According to John 5:1-15:
“...One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ĎDo you want to be healed?í”
Kontakion of Sunday of the Paralytic
“I am grievously paralyzed in a multitude of sins and wrongful deeds. As You raised up the paralytic of old, also raise up my soul by Your divine guidance, that I may cry out, “Glory to Your Power O Compassionate Christ.”
“For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (from Ps 50)
How does this paralysis of the soul begin, when engulfed within a multitude of sins and wrongful deeds? It is hard to say when and how it starts, but let us rather ask what does it really do to the heart? To the human heart.
Many times we listen to things that are hard to listen to. You would rather look for silence, but then you donít find silence within your own soul. Peace does not come from ignorance but from giving up on hiding for the sake of the Truth. So when we do listen to dreadful things we do not do that to analyze them and to dissect the soul but rather to see the mercy at the very bottom of it and the thirst of the soul to be alive and to taste forgiveness. There are no bad secrets in a human life (as I agreed with somebody this week), only a ferocious need to break from the violence which is the tool of fear, inflicting in a human soul the illusion of death, trying to bribe the soul in order not to rejoice within the resurrection of Christ.
The dreadful story I heard this week was about a four year old child . The child is old now. Almost close to retirement. But he cannot forget, he said , when he was 4 years old, and his step father burned his hand on the stove to teach him a lesson: not to play again with the fire or with the buttons from the barbecue.
What does this lesson do to the innocent heart of the child? When we hear dreadful stories, the first reaction is to punish the oppressor, to lock him down. With the hope to erase the memory and the pain. However, there is something done already to the human heart. What did really happen?
He has seen many things since then in his life. More dreadful things. Four times he was in circumstances when people lost their life through a violent death. He was locked in a prison as well. But from everything he has seen or done in his life, good or bad, this was the memory that was the most vivid. He cannot forget it. He tried many times without success, to bury it in forgetfulness. No chance. It stayed there until this very day.
Another thing that it did to him, he said, was that after that incident, he became insensitive to pain . He would not feel any physical pain. He told me stories and showed me things to prove his point.
Altogether, he bore a heavy cross. He locked himself out from the pain but he couldnít do that from the memory of the violence. To live with the certitude you lost your innocence but not to be able to mourn it in order for the healing to take place. It looked like a broken puzzle with a decomposed image that you donít want to see.
Something did change though after Wednesday, I think. When we were talking, he realised that it is not about forgetting the memory of the evil deed done to him, but rather keeping that dearly within his heart. Where the fight is real and something new to discover. When an evil deed is done to an innocent soul it is not for the mind to figure it out but for the heart to receive.
The renewal of life happens within a human soul from within, in Christís resurrection. The spring of the fountain of life has a tiny stream of water within our heart that is looking to flood and wash the tomb with life.
“My soul refused to be comfortedÖ
And I said: Now have I made a beginning; this change hath been wrought by the right hand of the Most High.
The waters saw Thee O God, the waters saw Thee and were afraid.
Great was the resounding sound of the waters, the clouds gave forth a voice” (from Ps 76)
We pray by the empty tomb of Christ in order to receive and find complete life within our heart. The tomb is empty in order for us to drink from within.
Many times in our lives we feel as though we are addicted to evil deeds that happened to us. With or without our own will. These are deep wounds that a human mind cannot comprehend, not to mention find a vaccine for them. And that makes us captive. The resurrection of Christ moves something essential within our heart. In receiving Godís love we discover within our heart something new. We are no longer vulnerable children who were refused love, but grown up men and women who can answer with no fear “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”
The tomb is still empty
There is something about the tomb of Christ these days. The Pascha is eternal and the people who come through the doors just cannot stop sharing that with you. Our guest, among other things he shared with me, also mentioned the way the chapel welcomes him. There is a peace here that does not resemble the peace of the world he thinks. And to prove that Pascha is Eternal he remembered how he used to come and pray here many years ago. He did not say, but maybe when he was coming in and out of prison when the Don Jail was up the street. When we were a respectful neighbourhood with a jail up on Broadview, with solid walls where tormented people were looking for life and repentance. Today we have a rich neighborhood, with teeny, tiny walls, where people get comfortable when life is being stolen from our consciousness.
As there is innocence of the child, so also is there an innocence of the parent. The renewal of life is universal and touches every heart. Last year, or the year before that, Joanna took me outside of the mission to introduce the priest to a father who was taking his baby child on a walk. He was marked all over his body and soul by all kinds of wounds and scars. The mother of the child had died of an overdose. The child at the time was quiet and a different presence of life was coming from him to us. Recently, I saw the father again a few times. Once he was going up the street with somebody we had banned from the mission because he was selling pills inside the church. Another time he was going up the street in a wheelchair.
However, his presence felt more real during the liturgy on Wednesday. Maybe because Joanna shared with us the dreadful news that the child had died recently. And she thinks this happened because she was neglected, she wasnít properly cared for.
There are things in this life that we do to each other that only God can reconcile and heal. As the paralytic today who was left within his illness being ignored by many. He lived his suffering life away from human attention and care. And this kills a body and mutilates a soul. Maybe he deserved it, we might say. His sins might have been great. Jesus told him afterwards to be careful not to sin again. However, he, being neglected by the whole community, was bringing nothing good to himself in return, but a slow death.
Neglecting to care for life brings about death. This is the real story of the mission this week. How can you keep this story within the heart of our community without falling into despair? Joanna kept saying: this is so sad, so sad.
You cannot. Thatís why you ask God to do it for you. You ask Him to care wherever you neglect. And to believe that He does so, in order for your soul to have life and your heart to be renewed today within His resurrection. This is where the light of the resurrection shines the most. Thatís where you can really see His dynamis.
You have this certitude, within the gospel. Think about poor Lazarus. How God becomes a father for the orphans and for the widows.
There is something left though, through the resurrection of Christ, for the community to care for and be present to. Thatís what the Liturgy on Wednesday revealed to us. The heart of the father. This is the gift that the community needs to care for. In order for the father to regain his innocence fully and to render to God what he received in the first place: life. To receive the mercy of God and to live in it. This is the arena for all of us where God asks us to fight the good fight with Him. To witness life to a heart that fell into despair. Pain and loss can hijack a soul if not confronted with his own forgiveness and the hope of reconciliation.
Mothers looking for freedom
On Motherís day, the CBC was celebrating the event by remembering how abortion became legal in Canada. You could listen to those who protested at the time, 16 or 18 years before the legal change in the Canadian culture took place, how they were considered pioneers in legalizing “womenís rights for choice” these days. And how “women today take this for granted, without knowing the history of it and its heroes.” The words of the heroes are quoted here.
The protest at the time was on mothersí day. To ask for the right to say no to life. So life does not start in the womb but death takes its place. Thatís the choice of freedom today. And probably to celebrate now, that there is no need for a mother. Since there is no need for a child to be born. We should say that there is no freedom in a choice that says no to life.
This was good to remember. Especially for the church I think. When we pray to go back to the normal life we had before the virus appeared. To see what the normal looks like. Because, with every day going by, we forget more and more what the world we live in today looks like. To remember the children who are harmed today before being born.
When we see the evil we tend again to focus only on it. Which we should, in the first place. To uncover it. But by doing that, we sometimes forget to become a witness of the holy innocents. The martyrs are always remembered and their witness becomes for us living water. The forgiveness of the innocents is for us today in Canada the prayer of the day. Every day so we can see the freedom of the Mother of God: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 28)
The most important thing, if you did not know:
Talking about more important things than life today we should not overlook the confession of a politician south of the border, who, being in his own mind, spoke the mind of many: “There are more important things than living,” he said.
He was referring, of course, to money. I think it is a shame to see rich countries crying for losing their income. But who is really ashamed today? Like somebody was telling me these days: where is the income going to go? They have the power anyway. Some would say, the system would collapse, not the economy and they want to preserve that. It might, but in the very end, every idol looks to take us away from the empty tomb of Christ. So, it comes just natural for rich countries today to reopen everything, after they had closed everything the day before. Even though the situation did not change. And to sacrifice those who do not live according to their quality of life standards.
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” — Pope John Paul II.
81% of Covid deaths are in nursing homes in CANADA — Toronto Star.
“I like white because it has all the colours” (Ronny, on Wednesday).
I listen to many stories these days about how the virus changed peopleís lives. For better or for worse. Ronnyís story was special. He is 67 but he adapted quickly to the new situation. He sleeps more during the day and walks at night because it is safer for him to be outside at that time. He goes out at 2:00 am and spends a few hours outside. He also gave up completely on listening or watching the news but he started instead to read the newspapers again, after many years. He was surprised to see how many things he can learn at his age.
He said another thing. That he wants to start to wear something white all the time. He talked to me about something that happened in his childhood. He is native but raised by white parents, as he likes to say. He remembers when his parents took him to church, how a white light encircled him. And he thought it was a mistake. He kept saying to the light. “It is not me. I am Ronny. I am not religious. It should be for somebody else.”
He said he feels like he should be wearing white clothes these days. Not everything white. Maybe only a t-shirt . I took him in the chapel so he can see that the chapel is white too during this time of the year. And that there is somebody else wearing white. In the icon of the resurrection. It made a lot of sense to him.
I know, when I say these things it seems like it did not happen. But the truth is that the resurrection is real and it touches peopleís hearts and changes their “lifestyle” in unexpected ways. We cannot be silent about this for it is not for us to keep anything for us but for God to share His very light with His people. Thatís what we are witnessing here at the mission, the light of the resurrection in the hearts of the gentiles. Of those who are not formally in the church but witness His presence in an unquestionable way.
This time br. Luke was with us and he witnessed this as well. So the people would not judge us that we spread false rumors about the resurrection of Christ.
Please sing along and do not stay outside the chapel — there is lots of room inside for you.
|Wednesday||11:30 am||Prayers||Friday||7:00 am||Othros/Divine Liturgy|
|4:00 pm||Vespers/Dinner||11:30 am||Prayers|
|6 pm||Bridges||3:00 pm||Jesus Prayer|
|Thursday||11:30 am||Prayers||Sunday||8:30 am||Othros|
|3:00 pm||Jesus Prayer||10:00 am||Divine Liturgy/Reader Service followed by Agape meal|