Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Questions and Answers

Christ is risen! Xpucmoc Bockpece!

As we moved through the services of Holy Week, time seemed to disappear -- at least, when we were in church. It's a blessing when you are disconnected from the aspect of "stage managing" what is taking place, and can instead listen to the words of the hymns and the prayers. There can come a most profound moment when the love of God for us in Jesus Christ arises in your heart in the midst of the service. There were several such moments on Great and Holy Friday, during the vesperal Divine Liturgy on Saturday, and during the Divine Liturgy of Pascha itself. By the time we celebrated the Vespers of Pascha early Sunday afternoon, there was a strong feeling of peace and calm and joy. How wonderful it was... while it lasted.

Alas, it was gone, all too soon. Back to a world of answering the telephone, of paying the bills, of typing up another service that we will need for this week -- and another week of commuting as our daughter returns to the last few weeks of student teaching for the semester. I gave some serious thought to changing the name of this to, "Observations from the Highway to Hell," as I could undoubtedly rant exclusively on that topic, day after day. I know... Boring! Please don't. I won't.

While trying to go to sleep last night, my mind was turning over questions such as, "Why is it that when time is not an issue, the road is always open and you make all the lights; while when you leave a bit behind schedule, traffic is always heavy and you get stopped at every red light on the route?" There were several other questions of no importance in the same category; but then the questions got more serious. "Why is it that we do things when we're more or less anonymous -- as when we're in our cars -- that we would never do face-to-face?" "Why do we value ourselves more highly than we do others?" "How can one human being degrade and destroy another?"

Then the questions became "God-questions." I recognize that some of these came to mind from typing up the details of the Molieben service during Holy Pascha -- which bears very little resemblance to the "ordinary" general molieben. Those familiar with the molieben service will know that there is a petition in which we pray for the deliverance of our city, and every city and town, from a list of calamities, some man-caused, others from natural causes, such as earthquakes. There are a great many moliebens served at our cathedral in San Francisco. Why are there earthquakes there, when we offer so many prayers for deliverance from them? Are our prayers worth nothing? Or would there be even more earthquakes if there were suddenly to be no more uses of the molieben prayer?

The last question, of course, cannot be answered in this world, in this life. Only God knows the answer -- and He ain't sayin'. The answer to the preceding question is that, of themselves, our prayers are completely ineffective, until the Lord, in His love for us (even when we are sinners), chooses to act upon them.

The only answer I can see is that we must trust in God; certainly no great revelation there. But, if nothing else -- for one of the possible answers to the question about the apparent ineffectiveness of prayer is that there is no God -- our trust in God in the apparent absence of any good reason to do so becomes, in a strange way, an affirmation of our faith, and so becomes a lifeline, an anchor, a safe haven from the storms of life. Given the alternative -- that everything here, life itself, is accidental, having developed or evolved in the absence of God -- the results for us all are too terrible to contemplate. Just one example: if everyone felt their life, being an accident of the universe, and so without purpose, how much worse would the freeway be?

But where there is life, there is hope; and with the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over death, we certainly have reason to hope. Truly, He is risen!