mituns: (czech cross)
In the Orthodox Christian tradition, today is the first Sunday of Lent, a day called the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" or "The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy". According to OrthodoxWiki, it is the celebration of the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Therefore, the service is to commemorate the restoration of icons for use in services and private devotional life of Christians.

One of the common practices on this day is to have the members of the parish, or the parish children, process in or around the church carrying icons. Icons are considered to be "windows to heaven", so to speak, not to be worshipped themselves, but to serve to remind the faithful of those who have defended the Faith, and often died in the process.

The priest who gave the homily spoke of an old widow in Albania, who, in the early 1990s had her house ransacked by military police who came in and destroyed all the icons in her home. As they were leaving, she told the soldiers that they forgot one, and so they went back into the home to search for it. They could not find it, and as they were about to leave again, she told them that they had missed it. Again, the soldiers went through the house and found nothing. Finally, she told the soldiers that she was a living icon of God, and upon hearing this, the soldiers beat her badly.

We are created in the image and likeness of God, "living icons", if you will. As I watched the children process around the church with icons, it became clear why a secular society would be entirely hostile to children: As children, they are closer to God. They carry in themselves something holy, a birthright that many adults have either forgotten, or have sold for a single bowl of soup. In the Gospels, when the children are being shooed away from Jesus, he reprimands those doing this, saying, "Let the little children come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven". In my own experience, I've seen this myself; my daughter, not even being two, intrinsically understood things about God that nobody had ever told her. In this fallen world, the Truth which the little children bear witness to cannot be borne, and so the world must do its best to do away with as many children as possible. No wonder having more than an "acceptable" number of children these days seems more and more a political statement!
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James 4:13-14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

From reports on the internet, last night Andrew Breitbart went about his daily business, tucked his kids into bed, took a walk in the neighborhood, stopped by a local bar and talked politics, did some twittering, and on his way back home, collapsed and died. The man was 43 years old. He leaves behind a wife and four children, and thousands of fans as well as many who could not stand the man or anything that he stood for.

I had the chance to see Mr. Breitbart speak in 2010, and he was one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the chance to listen to. Many have characterized him as a "happy warrior", someone who with all cheer confronted those who worked to shout or tear him down. His favored method of dealing with these people seemed to be holding up a proverbial mirror and letting them make fools of themselves in front of the whole world. At the event I went to, there were people who were bussed in to protest; Mr. Breitbart confronted them and asked them questions about why they were there, and the answers were completely incoherent. I don't feel that he ever had malicious intent toward anybody, yet he had skill in calling out the hate directed at him and making it ridicule. (Strangely enough, I think of a parallel between his methods and the way Boggarts are handled with in the Harry Potter series.)

Life is a gift. Forty-three years on this earth goes by in but the blink of an eye, and yet, by all accounts, Mr. Breitbart used the time he had to live life to the fullest, to make every day count, to actually go out and achieve something grand in the small amount of time allotted his lifespan. How many of us can say the same? I know there have been times in my life when days seemed to plod on, days of falling into despair, days of seemingly being put on this earth for no reason in particular. Mr. Breitbart may have had days like these himself, but in all the praise for him from those who knew him well to those who didn't, it seemed as though he had an indomitable spirit, a joie de vivre, that also served to inspire those around him.

Joy is a concept that is rarely discussed in this day in age; we may be amusing ourselves to death, we may be seeking the road to happiness, but joy is something much deeper, and is something that comes about not with self-esteem, but in the deep conviction that one is living the life that one was designed for and accepting the gift that life is every day and multiplying its blessings. None of us can be certain that we will even see tomorrow and so it is imperative that we take the talent that we have (or which we have been loaned) and really do our best to fulfill our potential in all that we do.

Mr. Breitbart's life shines forth so brightly because he took each day as it came, enjoyed it to its fullest, was bold in his beliefs, and was genuinely kind to others. In that sense, I'm sure he was more "ready" for being called away from this earth than most. Mr. Breitbart's death certainly is a sad event, however, even sadder are the legions of people who see this life as a wasteland, who, if they would die tomorrow, would not have accomplished anything that their lives were meant for.

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September 2013

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