The Feast Day of the Annunciation: The Backstory of Salvation

The Feast Day of the Annunciation: The Backstory of Salvation

“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

St. Luke 1:27

The Feast Day of the Annunciation - Peter Silas .comAs we enter Great Lent, just over one week past the start of our complete abstinence from all animal products, one must wonder how it all began. By “began” I don’t mean the beginning of the Son of God, for the Trinity always was, is and will be. But rather, from our perspective here on earth, when were the initial signs that this world would be forever changed by His presence? To most it is known and remembered on a yearly basis that He was crucified (Good Friday) and had resurrected (Pashca). Fewer, but many still, also take part in Great Lent or at least some period of fasting and prayer. One Great Feast day, however, really explains how it all started – how it was that God’s only begotten son was mystically, on a cosmic level, able to fulfill His plan into stripping the burden of sin from our backs and reveal to us the path to an eternity with Him through Salvation in our Savior. And through understanding, or at the least being exposed to, the basic premise of The Feast Day of the Annunciation, we can learn a big part about how in all of us is born the opportunity to live a life in Christ if we were only to open our ears to the Word.

In general terms, the Annunciation is the announcement to our Most Holy Lady Theotokos – the Virgin Mary – of the coming conception of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This announcement to her seems rather unambiguous from our perspective, as we have the luxury of knowing this through the word of God (the Bible); after all, it was clearly stated in the Scripture that Gabriel explained to her that not only she was going to give birth to the Son of God, but also to name him Jesus. But Mary did not have that luxury. We could all safely admit that, in this day and age, one would assume that it was instead “something one ate.” The Theotokos still believed it, however, and through her trusting in God she did not doubt this to be true but rather humbly revealed her inability to comprehend how it could be possible if having not been with a man. What a great example of one who does not rely on what they see or understand to have faith in the works of God; what a great example of one who is humble and has favor in the eyes of our Lord.

The Feast Day of the Annunciation - Peter Silas .comBy listening to an angel – one who was in the form of a man at that – a parallel was created to today’s world where we often have the opportunity to listen to the voice of God within us or through others, but lack the strength to see or understand. This is not because of being uneducated or not even necessarily for to a lack of trying – but instead it could be looked at as not being a true “fool for Christ:” to genuinely follow Him in all our ways without doubt, question or the need to prove anything at all to oneself. And this is where the mystical connection between Him and us becomes particularly fascinating: for as the Annunciation marks the first true sign to the world of Christ’s connection to humanity, it reveals that one who is truly humble and trusting can be worthy of Him and that truly the lesser of us could be the first to enter His kingdom. It reveals humanity’s connection to Him and how therefore his essence, being fully divine and fully human at the same time, allows us to know that we are in His image and moving toward His likeness. He is thus identified with us and us in Him. All this we gather from the Annunciation.

Without this knowledge of the conception (which to our knowledge is the only understandable way toward the Incarnation, betrayal, crucifixion and Resurrection), and without this conception being more than a only an allegory in the bible, there is no real way we can claim anything about our future in Him to be true. Once we get beyond the initial mystery, and accept it as both a mystery and a blessing – we as humans do tend to avoid things we do not understand and so that is why we struggle in faith – we can then begin to understand a little bit more of the purpose of why it is that we celebrate important but little known days such as the Annunciation. With this, we see the importance of the Church, our relationship with all of humanity and last but not least the path we take in our daily lives to become closer to eternity forever in bliss.

The Feast Day of the Annunciation - Peter Silas .comTherefore the Annunciation is the true backstory of how Christ was to save us, as being both fully human and fully divine was in God’s plan the beginning for Jesus to die on the cross, suffering for us, and saving us through the Resurrection. And it’s consequently the first – the “beginning” – of four great feast days during or near the time of Great Lent – the others being Palm Sunday, the Ascension and Pentecost.

Until the next Feast Day,
Peter Silas

The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross: Kindle Free Promotion Results!

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The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross by Peter Silas

A Boy gets prepped with Eldership 101 by saints and angels alike, before undertaking a gauntlet of faith.

Results are in! Stay tuned for an upcoming post regarding my journey, from a religious perspective, of course!

To all my fans: Thank you for your support. I broke the coveted top 100 in entire Kindle Store for Free Promo! I will have a blog post upcoming for the specifics regarding my first Free Kindle Promo, but here are the results:

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Kindle Free Promo – The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross!

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A Boy gets prepped with Eldership 101 by saints and angels alike, before undertaking a gauntlet of faith.

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How to Get Through Your Day Job Using “Secular” Gifts, which Eyes Cannot See

How to Get Through Your Day Job Using “Secular” Gifts, which Eyes Cannot See

This is perhaps one of the biggest struggles that I deal with on a daily basis: making it through just another day at work. A day in which, week after week, seems to take one further away from her or his goal of spiritual enlightenment. For those who work the weekdays, it can be sometimes disheartening that the weekend is over, and particularly for those who grow so much in a two day period from the blessings given from services it can be a bit disorienting to return to a setting that is the polar opposite.

But there certainly is hope.

Get through your Day Job - Peter Silas .com“Joshua said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.'” – Joshua 10:25

The other day I was reading about the virtues of which we must attain, to move nearer to the likeness of God. I had the ability to take a few minutes during my workday to do this – and being the season of Lent it seemed fit to read specifically during my lunch (I’m eating a little less and find myself to have more room to soak in what the Holy Spirit graciously was willing to instill into my heart). From what I read, I was reminded about the opportunities that we have on a daily basis to turn a disheartening event into something that is good. It’s hard to believe, especially for those of you who are new to the concept, but God grants us certain situations where we can practice the virtues and actually grow if we do not lose sight of them. For example, if a coworker of mine was to throw me under the bus, I could interpret this as a chance to remain humble and not react or confront the individual.Get through your Day Job - Peter Silas .com

Seems a little mundane day after day to feel demoralized, but the opposite is what I am trying to say – if you’ve grown closer to God through a situation in your daily life, how less important is that (and perhaps it is even a greater thing to achieve) than celebrating the Liturgy with your brothers and sisters?

What God has in store for us we cannot say on a micro level – consequently that is about all we can comprehend – but by paying special attention to opportunities in disguise and bringing yourself into the invisible dimension on a daily basis, opening your heart to Him in this way, and while using your senses to connect to the mysteries of this world and beyond, you are accomplishing a goal He certainly hopes for us to meet. Keep this message not only close to you, but give it to who you love – everyone – and at least once a day pay special attention to an opportunity in disguise. Begin now and get through your day job!

Peter Silas

Book #1 in The Parables of the 24th Elder Series now available on Kindle!

The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross now available on Kindle!

Softcover available March 23rd

Upcoming: The Feast Day of Annunciation

The Feast Day of the Annunciation: The Backstory of Salvation

Coming your Way on March 3rd, 2013: The Feast of the Annunciation

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The Meeting of the Lord Feast Day

The Meeting of the Lord Feast Day

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel” -St. Luke 2:34

Thanks for returning to read my second feast day blog topic! Or, if it is your first time reading a blog post of mine, then welcome, and please make sure to read my last blog regarding Theophany.

For Theophany, I had focused on a specific theme regarding living in the world but not of the world. To me, that fit perfectly with Theophany for many reasons. I would like to keep this theme going in some manner throughout all of my feast day blogs because it is such an important concept to always keep in your mind: that we are here for a very specific purpose which is to, throughout our daily lives amongst the beautiful creations He gave for us to keep, progress toward Him in a way that relates to His likenesses rather than in those ways that are native to the fall of man and the secular environment, which instead has captured our attention on a regular basis. To put it simply, let’s just say that these feast days can provide for us a way to connect to the invisible force that pulls us upward toward an eternity of happiness, as one is able to abstract a clear connection between the seen and the unseen regardless of intellectual gifts. The gift, rather, is in the Word, and it is all of ours to have.

Meeting of the Lord Peter Silas .comThe Meeting of the Lord is probably one feast that many could say they have not heard much about. It’s not like there is any famous song about it for which we celebrate out of context, and there are certainly no obvious references to it when we go shopping during this time of year. But that is why it is so special in its own way, and furthermore so very indicative of the importance of the Church in our lives. The Church is the setting, if any at all, where we would find the necessary reminders where the yearly calendar provides us several opportunities to connect to Him – beyond those few times a year where one may feel “required” to pray and take communion. So, last Sunday after Divine Liturgy I got this very reminder about the upcoming feast day. Of course I knew in the back of my mind it was coming up: I had to make another post on my blog! But when I heard my priest speak of the feast day and the additional worship times coming up, I was blessed enough to be given the sense of mind to take a step back and realize it is so much more important to me than just an opportunity to write another post.  It’s a chance to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us… not that He needs our help, but we certainly are responsible for being open to intercession as imperfect as we are. Of course, we all have our ways to keep our focus on Him, and so at the same time writing these posts goes along with another concept from my post for Theophany: sometimes we have to utilize tools that we have on earth, because our senses are so primitive that we have to use what we can see to connect to our Lord and in return that connection will bless us and make us ever stronger to keep Him in our hearts.

So what are the events surrounding the Meeting of the Lord? Well, here’s the basics: 40 days after birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. (The practice of bringing a son to the temple 40 days after birth, keep in mind, was done for two reasons. The first relates to the bearing a firstborn, as directed by the Law of Moses. Number two was due to the purification of the mother, but I will delve into that when I reach the discussion around Mary). It may seem simply out of tradition at first glance that Jesus was brought to the temple, forty days after His birth, and furthermore may seem like another event that relates to the number 40. But it is so much more! Here, we see one of the first examples of Christ revealing His ability to connect to us, empower us and be as one of us. And in these things we can find the “hidden earthly reminders:” the reminders for which are relative to events that happened here on earth long ago, that aren’t very obvious to everyone of us, but are still within our power to grasp with a little help from a brother or sister; the reminders that give us additional strength to continue our faith in Him with even a basic understanding of the [Hypostatic] union of God with man. To put it in few words, He was like one of us in that He went to the temple out of tradition and obedience to the Law, which led to the empowering of two specific individuals that he connected to in a very deep and mystical way. That leads me right into the other very important takeaways of the Meeting of the Lord: it’s who met Him.

Meeting of the Lord Peter Silas .comFrom a messenger, St. (Elder) Simeon was given insight into the fact that he would not pass from this Earth until he would hold the Lord in his arms. Acting out of complete trust in His plan, Elder Simeon made his way to the Temple in time to meet the Holy Family. Imagine that –  not only trusting that going out of his way to make a trip to the Temple would be following His plan, but doing it while fully knowing that his life would soon thereafter end! And from St. Simeon following the path laid before him, we Christians gain the benefit of his wise words that he uttered to Jesus and then to Mary (see Luke 2:29 and 2:34). To connect to this in modern times, we repeat these words during Vespers, and so we have another hidden reminder at a (for many of us) weekly interval… another reason why tradition is so important: to keep in our hearts always the life of our Lord and Savior.

Thirdly… wait, I know, how can I be getting so much out of a feast day such as this? Well, that’s the beauty of His ineffability: there is an infinite source of knowledge associated with the messages, gifts, tools and even parables. So, as I was saying, the third is Anna the Prophetess: an 84 year old widow who prophesized about “the One” who would redeem Jerusalem. What I get mostly out of this example is how she constantly worshipped, prayed and fasted (see St. Luke 2:36 – yes, I am following the order of events in the Bible!). These tools that she used – the seemingly ceaseless praying, fasting and worshipping – are what we can gather that opened the channel for her to receive the powers of revelation in the first place. And so, lo and behold, we can refer to again an earthly event and have another reminder of the importance of why we do what we do in honor of our Lord.

Meeting of the Lord Peter Silas .comAt last I have finished discussing, and hopefully relating to your life today, one of the oldest feasts we celebrate – formally we can safely say since the sixth century – in His Church… the Church that continued from the Apostolic times, which in itself validates why we know it to be the one true Church. Not a denomination, but rather the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which continues as his everlasting Bridegroom, from the Word to His Apostolic succession and now to us.

Dear readers, while we need to keep faith and not constantly search for validation of His existence (meaning being a fool for Christ is a positive thing – where is the fear in His Truth otherwise?), we at the same time do need to discover these “hidden earthly reminders” to give us strength. For, being weak and incomparable to his ineffability, we often have to rely on tangible methods to strengthen our faith and so take this post relating to a feast, just forty days after Christmas, and keep in mind why He is everything to us in this temporary life that we struggle through. “Lift up your heart!” as an angel tells a boy in my novel The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross (I had to throw that in there!), and find a way to connect to Him through the means that we have available, so long as those means are virtuous, unlike the means that are most likely not hidden but, unfortunately, quite obvious and hard to avoid.

Oh, and what did Elder Simeon say? (Patience is a virtue!) Let me repeat these words to you, just as we say before departing from Vespers: “Now let Thy servant depart in peace, for I have seen Thy salvation.” (St. Luke 2:29)

Until the next feast,
Peter Silas

Upcoming: The Meeting of the Lord Feast Day

The Meeting of the Lord Feast Day Blog: Hidden Earthly Reminders 

Coming your Way on February 2nd, 2013: The Meeting of the Lord

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Theophany Feast Day: Part II

Theophany Feast Day: Living in the World but not of the World, Part II

Rules, Tools and Consumerism

Let me start off the second portion of this blog post by reminding you that we are given the tools we need to grow closer to His likeness. As the image of God, we can use these tools to be virtuous and through the grace of the Holy Spirit one day be deified. But how can we do this if we are caught up in our daily lives, being of the world, and submitting to Satan and his evil, greedy plots? Christ indeed gave us a new life in Him and revealed to us everything that is important through living it as one of us, but, sadly, to many of us Christ is only a persona; a character of the past; an example to “be good on earth.” It is no wonder that the true meaning of feast days, such as The Nativity (Christmas) and The Resurrection (Easter) is lost in the world’s self-serving interpretations. Songs such as The Twelve days of Christmas truly have the ability to take the Christ right out of Christmas, especially if the origin and tradition is not known or is misconstrued.

So what can we ever do to free ourselves from the chains of the world? Well, we can’t ever do this completely, as even the saints struggled, and even one day, when we witness the Second Coming of Christ, it will not be through our own accord. It is best to take a step back and take a good look at where you are in your relationship with Him. Some of you may be on one side or the other: on one side, you wish you could live in Christ and survive without having to touch the secular at all. You feel you are doing all the right things, and if only you could be rid of the temptations of daily life and hide from the corrupt world. On the other side, many of you may not quite be there yet; instead you may be satisfied with what you have in the world and wish you could get closer to Him at the same time… but find it extremely challenging because of peers or even just finding the time to worship. If one understands this from a high level perspective, however, there is really a synergy – a balance between the two sides. It is necessary to understand that the fine line one walks in this balance is the act of being a Christian as the image of God and struggling to one day realize His likeness through virtue. And what makes this line so fine is that we are limited to the tools we have here on earth that are so easily misinterpreted, and so face losing our focus in each and every single thing we do, every second of our short lives.
We try to stay healthy by taking care of our bodies. After all, this is a sacred gift given to us. We eat right, exercise and stay away from damaging habits. Sounds like a good thing, right? But, what if we are doing this without humility and thankfulness? Pride sets in. Or, possibly we were not being prideful, but instead it causes jealousy in others and instead we are subjected to hateful feelings and thus tempted to respond in kind.

There is no real way to fully avoid these challenges and so we have tools to help us (this is where I find refuge in the Lord):

Theophany Feast Day Part II: Rules, Tools and ConsumerismTheophany Feast Tool #1: Prayer. Through prayer we can direct our thoughts and energy toward Him.

Theophany Feast Tool #2: Fasting. Through this, we empty ourselves of worldly things and allow the Holy Spirit to instead fill us up.

Theophany Feast Tool #3: Community. With others, in His Church, we can share praise for the Lord through a commonality of love for each other.

Theophany Feast Tool #4: The virtues. By emulating His likeness, we are better prepared to deflect the forces that would otherwise destroy us.

The Orthodox Church of course is big on all four. Where Orthodoxy is misunderstood is that many think we have the previous strict rules to follow. But, they are not rules! They are tools. They are given to us to keep Jesus in our hearts to the best of each individual’s ability. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and by doing our best in a pious and humble way we can then, through our weak senses, not be ruled by sin because we rather utilize the tools given to us by Him. And do not treat them like rules, either. It can be dangerous to not only ourselves, but to those we are trying to help, who could easily walk away from listening to the Word because of pious, yet excessive pandering and proselytizing.

This is not to say that we do not have other tools that can be used during our daily lives. Firstly, for example, we utilize things created in this world such as a book. Our senses are very limited and so through reading we can hear the Word of God through something tangible so that we are able to relate to the concept of God. We can use the material to help us with our association to the immaterial, and like a full circle the immaterial can then give us the strength to properly use the material (the Saint’s lives help show us this, and so that is why we honor them).

Secondly, we have all been given some type of gift by God and this gift can be a tool to help others; to be compassionate and show our love – although many do not realize that they are doing this each and every day. My mother, for example, just underwent brain surgery. Through medicine, she was healed. Theophany Feast Day Part II: Rules, Tools and ConsumerismSome may disagree in looking at this example, which peers into the inner workings of the body, as they fear we may lose the mystery of Him – but it is the contrary! Instead we see how there is still so much that we do not know, and how complex our body, which He has given to us, really is. Does anyone think that we fully understood the body, or ever fully will? Of course not, and so it will simply suffice to state that it is only our understanding – our perception – that has changed and that will continue to change. God already knows of what exists as He created it. He understands completely how each thing works. We, as meek humans, only have been enlightened by a glimpse of the mystery and of His ineffability and so God can still exist despite a discovery of some new technology or medical breakthrough. Simply put, we just haven’t understood God in that particular context before and thus, just as the Church, we are ever evolving yet without our substance changing.

I bid you to now take a moment before each secular holiday to look at the history, tradition and true meaning of the day. Think about the balance between the Church and the secular world, and how important and possible it is to incorporate the virtues available to you in your daily life. No matter where we are in the secular world – at work, spending time with one another or out and about anywhere at all – we can help each other and ourselves with Love in Christ so that we may not lose sight of what He has given us, which is beyond symbolic but rather a reality in our faith. We have been given a world that in its creation reveals to us his power, and if we can use these tools appropriately and have Him as our central focus then by all means you shall accomplish a path toward living in the world, just not of the world.

Love in Christ,
Peter Silas

Theophany Feast Day: Part I

Theophany Feast Day: Living in the World But Not of the World, Part I

“They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world” (John 17:16).

 Although the Orthodox calendar year begins in September, I would like to connect to the general audience by bringing my first post to you in January – for the modern New Year. How much more relevant could it be to living in the world but not of the world than to discuss Church traditions, which fall on dates associated with the secular new year, but that have no relevance otherwise?

For those new to Orthodox theology, bear with some of the initial abstract content; soak in what you can; you should find part two of this post especially relevant, as I will relate the more in depth content to the world that you live in at that time. But, as I will be doing throughout my feast blogs, I will first start out with a bit of background information into the feast day itself, which in its own way is also linked to living in the world but not of the world.

Part I: A Reflection into Theophany

Theophany Feast Day - River Jordan - Peter SilasJanuary 6th, Theophany Feast Day, caps off the twelve days of Christmas as the first major feast day that I am writing for. And, despite it being the end of the “Christmas season,” it is really only the end of the very beginning. For Orthodox Christians, we had been fasting with prayer for forty days prior to the celebration of Christ’s birth, and then again today, January 5th. In fact, twelve days later what we have is a “segway,” if you will, from the mystery of the child, which mankind had attempted to behold, into what became a substantial revelation of the Trinity to the disciples. This, during the baptism of our Lord in the river Jordan, is beyond symbolic: it is one of the most significant events during the life of Christ, save His Resurrection. The voice of God, Christ incarnate and the Spirit in the form of a dove each culminate into a tangible view into the personhood of God. Where there was any doubt as to the actual person of Christ, it was suddenly very real to those who witnessed this miracle. This was clearly a gift to the human race, as without our senses we are blind in this world. And for one to have been able to use his or her ears and eyes catch a glimpse into Christ’s being! Hearing the voice of God, as well as seeing the Spirit – in the form of a dove – Theophany Feast Day - River Jordan - Peter Silasdescending during His Baptism, presents our first real ability to consider how the hypostatic – mystical – union is something real; a union that identifies the link between God and man, and in Jesus Christ we then partake in this mystery as the image of God, and hope to live forever in his likeness.

And so, through the revelation of the Trinity to the Disciples on earth, in our own world we now view how God is omnipresent and not something only to reflect on perhaps once or twice a week. It is instead necessary to imbue Him into everything we do during life. In my first novel, Parables of the 24th Elder: The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross, the protagonist’s best friend realizes something profound through charity, which is a virtue of the likeness of God indeed, and ponders, “…if the daily life one lived was contradictory to the most basic foundations of where his or her faith came from then what was anyone trying to prove?” And how true this is. We have been given the necessary tools, and through the Church the Truth has been passed down to us. Without Him as our central focus in everything we do then what does our faith mean? The temptations of this world would have us disregard that question, subjecting ourselves to simply eat, drink and be merry Christians. “Do good works and you will be saved,” one may say to you. I would argue, however, that good works come naturally from being a Christian, not the other way around. Was not Jesus our Lord and Savior first, regardless of when he performed the good deeds on earth?

Thus we come to the Church. What base in Him would the majority have otherwise? She carries Theophany, in addition to all else that we celebrate, to us through tradition year after year. Through the Church the communicants can be especially connected to Him so that they may live in – but not of – the world. This concept, as with the sacraments, is a mystery and reminds of why He is the center of our life. A reminder of why we are here on earth and what our mission really consists of. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12:2 implores us. Again, Theophany is more than a symbolic story but rather a miracle that explains how He is related to us and also us in Him.

In my attempt to live as a Christian, I find that the Orthodox Church gives me a distinct advantage to peer into the real meaning of the feast days, with Theophany being the current example. What a gift of stability and refuge from difficult times our faith brings to us; one that is a very tangible outlet away from the secular world, and yet gives us the strength to continue with His love in the world through prayer, kindness and compassion. The world is still ours to rule over and care for, and is not to be neglected.

Before I begin with the second part of this blog post, Rules, Tools and Consumerism, I would like to again pose to you this one question: why believe if Him if He is not the center of our life? Alright, a second question: what does our faith, or anything else, really mean if we are not always realizing the full potential of our life in a journey toward His likeness? The answer to that question can be attained in part by considering the history of the Church and how, as many moved away from tradition to conform to the “change in times,” we soon lost sight of the central focus of our mission. For many, what is most important is hidden from the senses and so one can be left with an emptiness just waiting to be once again filled. With Orthodoxy, however, we find a way of life – and as Orthodoxy is ever evolving but never changing, we are able to adapt to the times and live in, but not of, the world.

Come back tomorrow, January 6th, for Part II: Tools, Rules and Consumerism, on Theophany Feast Day.