Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coptic Easter

Last night I was honored to be able to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord with a classmate of mine from the medical school. My classmate, Mina, is of Egyptian descent and is a Coptic Christian. I met him near the beginning of the year and after talking a bit about the Coptic Church he invited me to celebrate Pascha at his church. So last night I headed to Covina, to St. John Coptic Orthodox Church. I was blessed by the nearly five hours of beautiful liturgy celebrating the Resurrection. I had a harder time following along than I did last year when I celebrated Pascha at an Orthodox Church in America parish as only about a quarter to a third of the liturgy was in English. As far as I could tell, elements were used from both the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Gregory. The songs and chants of the night had the intonations which one would hear in the calls to prayer coming from minarets in the Muslim world. I think the foreign musical scale made it harder for me to learn some of the hymns that were chanted many times throughout the night. By the end of the night I had begun to pick up one of the hymns and it was very cool to try singing with the Arabic intonations instead of the Western that I have always heard and sung. The homily was first preached by a Coptic bishop either in Arabic or a Coptic dialect and then was read by a deacon in English. I will leave you with the words from the chorus of the Coptic Resurrection hymn, "Very Early Sunday Morning," which we sang many times toward the end of the night:

Resurrection is my song,
Resurrection gave me life,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Random Update...

So I get online at my local Starbucks, which is really my home away from home, and I look at my forlorn blog with its increasingly infrequent posts and I feel like I'm somehow abnegating some responsibility. I just haven't had anything I've felt strongly enough about to write about lately. School is starting to get crazy with two and a half weeks of exams coming up at the beginning of May. I went to the Army base at Los Alamitos yesterday and got ACU's, boots, rank and various other things I'll need for my Army training in Texas this summer. I also got my hair buzzed off so I could get my military identification. On the home-front I'm hoping to move into a house with four other guys from the med school next year so we checked out a great house in Loma Linda a few days ago. Church is going great as usual. There's a men's retreat coming up in a few weeks where Archbishop Orombi will be preaching. I had hoped to attend but my exams will unfortunately not allow for that. I finally checked out an Adventist church here in Loma Linda. It's a charismatic church so it's not really a taste of traditional Adventism but I liked it and had a wonderful time there worshiping my Lord. I read a book recently that my mom gave to me. It was interesting and good although I was slightly uncomfortable with certain parts of it. Maybe I'll write a blog about it later. On the lighter side, I was happy to catch my first episode of The Office in a long time a few days ago. Well, there you go. If you actually read through this blather I apologize. Until my next procrastination episode I bid you all Lebe wohl.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

I was reading Romans the other day, through a passage I have read many times, and a short instruction from the Apostle Paul jumped out at me. This instruction was, “mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15b)” I guess part of the reason it jumped out at me was because of a recent conversation I had with a friend. This friend has been dealing with some hard times lately and he’s been grappling with depression. He is also a friend who helped get me through a battle with depression a few years ago. We both realized that part of what we appreciated about each other’s friendship was the fact that neither of us just tried to solve the other’s problem. Instead we actually “mourned with those who mourn.”

It’s not that it’s never right to try to solve someone’s problems. But the reality is that often there is no easy solution to the problems and struggles a person faces. Maybe a person doesn't even have a good reason to "mourn" yet they seem unable to find joy in life. I think that there is a common assumption in our Western, modern culture which is that there is a solution to every problem if only we are intelligent enough, or perhaps from the Christian point of view, only if we know our Bible well enough or if we’re close enough to God. If this is your point of view, then a person who mourns and who cannot be easily consoled will only seem like a problem to you. Perhaps you will get frustrated with the person and avoid being around them because their mourning depresses you. But this is not obedience to the words of the Holy Spirit written down by the Apostle Paul. In Ecclesiastes, we see it affirmed that there can be a season for mourning. If we are to allow for “seasons” of mourning instead of thinking we can quickly solve every problem, and if we are seeking to love those who mourn, I think we must be obedient to the words of Paul and mourn with those who mourn.