"Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith."
St. Paul defines in His epistle to the Hebrews, what we must strive for in life. The season of summer has arrived. School has come to a close. Church ministries tend to slow down. Most of our parishes shut down Sunday School and the Adult Education Ministries. Summer is a time when most us slow down our schedules and desire to relax. Vacations are healthy for the family. The summer can be a wonderful time for us to spend quality time with our family and friends. Some of the best vacations can be experienced in our own backyards.
The Church celebrates the major Feast of Pentecost during a season when most people are trying to take break. In June we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints. The Feast of All Saints is not a left over Sunday for people named 'Bubba' or 'Wolfgang' to celebrate their name day. The Church celebrates the entire family of God, the family of holy men and women dedicated to God. The Feast of All Saints celebrates the family to whom you and I belong.
We should be thankful and take advantage of the major Feasts being celebrated in the summer. It is good thing for us to slow down our schedules this summer, especially when it relates to the Church. Father Calivas would remind us at Seminary, "Be careful when serving the Church. Do not create just a bunch of programs. Serve the Church and offer the Church to the people."
We will celebrate the Feasts of Pentecost and Saints Peter and Paul in the month of June. We can slow down our schedules and realize especially this month the spiritual gifts we have received from God. Many of us have been rushing for one meeting to the next and trying to climb one ladder of success after another. I have experienced myself the mistake of placing my ladder on the wrong building. The Feasts of June remind us of our true purpose in life, to share in the life of Christ. Bishop Gerasimos of blessed memory shared these words which he lived, "The Orthodox religion is a living experience of the presence of God."
Saint Paul's life changed on his way to Damascus as he traveled to persecute a sect of Jews following Jesus. St. Paul's whole understanding of God was transformed after his encounter with the Risen Christ. The Apostle no longer saw the Jewish Law as a means of pleasing God, but realized that God wanted his complete loyalty to focus on Jesus Christ. We read this in the Book of Acts 9:1-6. St. Paul experienced and witnesses a new life in Christ. After being arrested, Paul and Silas were placed in prison. The jailer witnessed the saints praying, singing hymns to God (Acts 16). St. John Chrysostom wrote about the surprise of the jailer becoming converted. "The jailer opened his heart to the Apostles when he sees the doors of the prison open." The jailer came very close to killing himself after the earthquake opened the doors of the prison. St. Paul could have walked away from the jailer as he was just about to kill himself, but instead called out to him, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." The jailer experienced God in a much unexpected situation. St. Paul embraced him, and not only the jailer, but his whole family were baptized. "And he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God" (Acts 16:34).
The summer can be a wonderful time for us to remember and rejoice in the gift we receive at Pentecost. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the gift of the Church. Pentecost celebrates that we do not have to be separated from God or from one another. If a jailer could experience God in a prison from a man he was guarding, imagine the potential we have to grow and share the love of God. Embrace the Feasts of our Lord this summer. Spend time with your family and friends. Invite them to your home and share your love and enthusiasm for God. Miracles can happen in the summer. Archbishop Anastasios of Albania wrote, "When confronted by a convert of the faith, I also am a convert. Each and every day I am converted to a deeper understanding and relationship with my Lord
and God." Have a great summer!
Father Jordan Brown is married to Presbytera Marika. They have four children. Father serves the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church located in Austin, Texas. He was 1993 graduate of Holy Cross.