This was originally a Jewish piece in the Forward. However, if one simply replaced “Jewish” with “Orthodox” or “Christian”, it had meaning for us as Christians too. Truth is where you find it, not where you look for it… now, that’s a meaty reflection!
Some holidays are fun. Some holidays aren’t. This isn’t just a Christian thing, by the way. Religion’s sole purpose isn’t to make you feel good; it’s to make meaning. real meaning-making requires accountability, soul-searching, a dash of repentance, and the space and time to look inward. This isn’t always fun, but it’s rewarding and transformative, like a hard workout, a painful therapy session, or a deep housecleaning. Prayer is also different from those things because, as Christians, we can’t do it alone… we do it in community to remind ourselves that we live in community (even when we feel like we don’t), and that we’re accountable to it and to each other. We come together at the liturgy to remind each other that we’re all flawed, all culpable, and all, ultimately, capable of great things and tremendous change, both societally and individually. We do it with people we love, with people we don’t even like, and with total strangers, because that’s what it means to live in the world.
The guilt? The repentance? The judgement? Yes, that’s part of our theology. Yes, it can be a bummer, but Orthodox theology isn’t just judgement and fire and brimstone. Orthodox theology is complex, beautiful, and multifaceted. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that our lives sit on a kind of scale, and that even as God judges us, so, too, does God have compassion and mercy for us. Or, if God language is hard for you, frame it in terms of yourself… just as we judge ourselves, we’re also asked to have compassion and mercy for ourselves. That’s an important lesson and a delicate balance, no matter what you believe, theologically speaking.
21 September 2016
as modified by BMD
the original article is here