I could have written something between work and the Paraklesis yesterday evening. I needed a good laugh and found this website of fashions from the 1970′ and posted one of those horrid leisure suits on my Facebook page. What was once impressive and sophisticated in clothing is now the object of ridicule and scorn. (Okay, that was a loaded sentence that I am nor even prepared to continue to expound on)
Advent Paraklesis/Parakesis prayers are probably one of the least most popular services in Orthodoxy. Worshipers are to stand through the whole service. It is held on Friday (start of the weekend, favorite TV shows, kid’s high school sports) night. There is no meal or repasts after the service. Going to a Christmas party seems far more fun, especially if there is food that fits the Nativity Fast. After all, we have prayer books, the priest is neither serving the Eucharist nor giving a sermon.
In this time of Christmas being degenerated into the Winter Festival, I find that being in the presence of God at these prayers a welcome refreshment. The sight of the icons and smell of incense transforms me from tacky outdoor decorations to the place of holiness. The chants and prayers explicitly focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior without reindeer, snowmen, and the false perpetration of one of the favorite saints of the Church. At this prayer service, the connection to Orthodox doctrine is strengthened ( this is also a good time to recommit to the Nativity Fast that is so easily broken).
For the non-Orthodox, I invite you to come and see for yourself. Because there are relatively few worshipers, you may even have time to talk to the priest and learn about the ancient faith. But, if you refuse, do take a portion of your week away from the Santa dominated decor and focus on your prayer life. To the Orthodoxy, go to your icon corner and worship if you cannot make it to your church. But, make every effort to maintain this wonderful tradition of prayer.
I still remember the moment I heard it. I was in the hallway on my way to the kitchen back in my teens. Turning on the radio, expecting to hear the Duran-Duran sort of pop stuff or the newly emerging (or should I say expanding) sound of hip-hop when something very different hit my ears as I was tuning into various stations. Piano? Who the heck plays that in a song? And an off-tone, flat piano at that. The riff was haunting. Not quite like Black Sabbath’s “devil’s third.” But it rang with a melancholy that sincerely begged me to listen. So, I did.
The voice of the singer gave words of hope and bemoaning. Things should change. I want them to do so badly. But, “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” Lyrically, he took my hand through a rapturous possibility of the anticipated newness. An ecstatic union girded with a pledge, “I will begin again.” The obligatory “bridge” was established with that same haunting tone of the piano now laced with the muted wail of a guitar echoing in tear like unison. Another guitar overlays yet intertwines with its predecessor with an apex that brought me back to the vocalist yearning for the possibility to come true. Alas, conditions won’t allow for the desire to be met. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”
And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis
“Where Do We Go From Here?” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Too often we tend to expect change on January 1st. For the most part, we do strive to approach the new year with a greater sense of optimism and purpose. But, as we struggle with internal and external demons and don’t see better days, we tend to fall by the wayside within the first few months (if not weeks). Constant world conflicts, political bickering in our individual nations, and the woes of banks and corporations also aid to squelch our hopes for positive changes.
The Eve Of Something Greater
Yet, on the island of Patmos, John saw a vision of celestial creatures describing the overall greatness of the Lord God. He “was and is and is to come.” Something that “was” is past. Even if it were to be altered, time has a permanent record of that thing’s former state of existence. John’s Gospel teaches us of the God and Word that “was” before anything else. Something that “is” still exist. We tend to rely on things that we can hold on to in times of despair and distress. The disciples were greatly confused and saddened as Jesus spoke to them before the crucifixion. But, he assured them that “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The Lord that “was” and “is” provides a foundation for consistent optimism that is not dictated by a calendar. Faith is what drives us to see new mercies morning by morning. And there is no greater mercy than the promise that he “is to come.” This world shall come to and end. The lamb that was slain with lead the great multitude who belive in him to a reward of eternal life.
I bid you Happy New Year and pray that you will succeed in your resolutions. When you find that nothing changes on New Year’s Day, have faith in the Lord God who doesn’t change as well.