Friday, May 8, 2015

The Anti-Hero and the Vague Ambiguity of "Good"

I just finished watching the seventh and final season of the show, Sons of Anarchy.  I don't even remember why or how I got into this show in the first place, but I stuck with it throughout and waited with eager anticipation for the release of the next season on Netflix.  If you want to watch a show which really drives you into the pit of despair concerning humanity and just how screwed up it can be, this is a good show to point you in that direction.  Now that I've finished it, I had a few thoughts. (Disclaimer:  Spoiler alerts.)

The show's protagonist is Jackson "Jax" Teller who has worked through the ranks of his Motorcycle Club (MC) called the Sons of Anarchy to become president.  Though a social club, they are a wealthy organization due to the legitimate businesses they have, but mainly from the  criminal enterprises they support, e.g. drugs, gun running, prostitution, pornography, etc.  Throughout the show, Jax wants to reform his MC since the enterprises it has engaged in has not only cost them the lives of friends and family, but also their wealth and connections and also put them under the microscope of law enforcement beyond the local level. 

Jax's father's ghost haunts him throughout the series.  His father who started the MC and was its president died mysteriously when Jax was a kid.  His father left behind a manifesto which detailed how the MC lost its way and how it can be changed.  Jax made that his mission.  But, for all of Jax's good intentions, for all of his cleverness and street-smarts, things blow up in his face.  More friends are killed.  His connection to his kids becomes more tenuous.  His mother's interests start to conflict with his to the point that she even goes so far as to kill Jax's wife in a fit of rage over a misconception.  In fact, misconceptions pervade the characters in this show. They think "x" when "y" has actually occurred.  And because they think "x" they act out on it immediately without thinking.  Jax's mother tells him that a rival gang killed Tara which spurs him to set into action a number of events that only leads to a lot more killing, a lot of new alliances, more killing, patching up damages, more killing and round and round we go.

All throughout this process of bodies being stacked up, we, the audience, are told by other characters about how Jax is a good person.  This is a man guilty of numerous murders, numerous felonies, unfaithfulness and being an absentee father.  He claims he does everything for his family, but hardly ever does he ever stop to think.  His clever solutions often find him digging a bigger hole for himself which trigger more "brilliant" solutions and bigger holes.  It never seems to end.  But, we are still told he's good and/or decent.  This decent man is responsible for killing his own mother.

It seems that modern TV has little to no use for the traditional hero who does right for the sake of doing right with little to no reward.  There are no longer any shows like The Rifleman or Buck Rogers where the hero of the story did good for good's sake.  Now, granted even in older shows like The Lone Ranger and Zorro, the hero was checkered a little bit since he operated outside the law.  But today's TV and even movie heroes, we are treated to more anti-heroes.  We want them to win, but at the same time our moral compass is praying for them to get caught and get what they deserve.  We see the same Jax "anti-hero" in other shows like Breaking Bad, White Collar, Suits, Bosch, Hell on Wheels, House of Cards, etc.   In movies, even the modern incarnation of Batman becomes less the traditional hero and more of an anarchist.  Yet, they are still referred to as good.

How far we have come as a society where the descriptor "good" is applied more to intentions than to reality.  It is true that Jax wants to do well for his family and make sure they are safe and taken care of.  But the extent he goes to ensure that results in death and destruction for everyone, especially him.  Without doubt, everyone wants to think of himself as good.  But even Jesus balked when someone called Him good saying that no one is good save God alone.  Facts are we are not good.  Intending to be is not the same as being.  Still, we like to confuse the two or say that they are one and the same.

I cannot explain the explosion of anti-heroes in modern television and cinema.  Maybe it has something to do with Americans wanting to cheer for the underdog, even if the underdog is a hardened criminal. But even if we do cheer for the criminal underdog, why does that presuppose wanting to imagine him or make him into some good person in his own right?  Is good an absolute or a relative term?  I think if we are really honest with ourselves, we know the answer to that question.  When and where the individual reigns supreme, the overreaching definition of a word or concept goes with it.

I am not suggesting that the perpetuation of such shows is the result of the devaluation of what constitutes good and bad.  Nor am I suggesting that there should be some censorship to reverse the course.  For the latter, that is in the hands of our parents, our teachers, our clergy, our friends and ourselves.  But what I do see is that we are going to have a lot fewer Lone Rangers and a lot more Jax Tellers in our entertainment.  The word, "good", will continually be redefined for each character to the point that as an absolute, it will be almost entirely absent.  Good intentions will rule the day. Considering how much TV our children watch, it will take a lot of effort to deprogram them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

He hath trampled down death by His death

And bestowed life to those in the tombs.

Our waiting has been turned into joy and excitement at hearing the Gospel according to St. Mark announcing that the Lord was no longer in the tomb that He has arisen.   Death is no longer able to keep us captive.  We, too, will arise.  And after judgment, we will be enjoy alongside of Him the first fruits of a life in Christ.
  Let us go forth joyously and say "Christ is Risen."  Kalo Pascha.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

And now...we wait

Ever since His triumphant entry into Jerusalem with cries of Hosanna and Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord,  we have followed with the Lord every step of the way.  We kept watch for the Bridegroom to come like the ten virgins, we have been there at the cursing of the fig tree, we have been seen how the Lord will revile those who do not use the talents entrusted to them, we have been with Christ at his Last Supper, with Him at His betrayal by Judas, listened to Him speak about the hardships that necessarily come from being His Apostle and servant, watched Him as Master wash the feet of His servants, watched Him as He was tried like a common criminal by the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod, the denial of Him three times by Peter, His scourging, His agony, His ridicule, His march to Gologotha, His pleas that no one weep for Him,  His Crucifixion, His prayer for forgiveness to His Crucifiers, His bestowal of eternal life on the good thief, entrusting John the care of His mother, His cry of agony to His Father, His death, His piercing by the Spear, the oupouring of both blood and water, the confession of the Roman centurion, the destruction of the temple, the trembling of the earth, the sun blackened, the dead rising from their tombs, the tempest, His taking down from the Cross and entombment by Joseph of Arimethea and, today, His Harrowing of Hades, preaching to those already dead.  And now...we wait.

We have fasted, we have prayed, we have given alms, we have sacrificed time from our pursuits and even our families, we have denied ourselves some of our simple pleasures.  And now...we wait.

We wait as the excitement for our Lord's Resurrection as celebrated in the Rush and the Divine Liturgy is but only half a day away.  But still, we must wait.  We must not get ahead of ourselves.

The waiting IS the hardest part. You don't need Tom Petty to tell you that (although it is a pretty nice song).  His Resurrection will come.  And it will bestow eternal life to those in the tombs.  But now, we wait...and wait some more.  But, it WILL come.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Not Getting What You Expected

In a remote area of England following the end of the First World War, a small country school  was given great news:  the King of England himself would be making a stop at the train station of their little town during his tour.  The children were excited like it was Christmas but unlike Santa Claus, they would actually be able to see their king in the flesh.  For the next few days, the children were busy making signs and greeting cards and decorating other knickknacks to present to the king.  At last the great day arrived and the king's train pulled into their little train station.  The children could barely contain their excitement when at last the door to the last passenger car. which had the Royal Seal on it, opened.  The King of England himself stood before the schoolchildren who were clapping, shouting and smiling like it was the best day of their life.  Several kids were able to give the cards they had made to the king and it was clear that he was very grateful for such an enthusiastic response.  After a few minutes, he waved again from his passenger car, got back in and the train left.  The schoolchildren were still left in a state of shock and awe after having witnessed such a spectacle.  The teachers rounded up the kids and were taking them back to school when one of the teachers noticed one child in tears and clearly upset.  She approached the little boy and asked him what was wrong.  He responded, "I didn't see a king today.  All I saw was a man in a suit."

Today, the Orthodox Church celebrates Palm Sunday, the triumphant entry of Jesus into the Holy City Jerusalem.  In front of him, cheering throngs received Him as He was carried in by an ass' foal.  The crowd laid down palms to mark his way.  Children shouted and sang "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!"  The joy and excitement which overtook this crowd so suddenly about this prophet from Nazareth did not look like it would dissipate soon.  But, it did. For we know the rest of the story:  Betrayal, Trial, Agony, Suffering, Crucifixion, Death, Burial.

The throng that had greeted Jesus as He entered was awaiting the Messiah who would bring about a new golden age for the Jews and would start by ending the tyranny of Rome which had ruled over their country now for nearly a century.  Before the Romans, it was the Seleucids.  Before them, the Persians. Before them, the Babylonians. Before them, the Assyrians.  Before them, Philistines. Before them, Amalekites, Canaanites, etc. Before them, Egyptians.  The Jews knew suffering and oppression.  Maybe now, just now, with this prophet coming into the Holy City to celebrate the Passover, a time of deliverance from one of Israel's enemies,  the people were gazing upon the very man who would deliver them from any more suffering. Unfortunately, what they expected they did not receive.

I'm sure Christ Himself was confused as to just how wrong these people were, but He didn't stop to tell them that their reason for celebration and expectations were wrong.  For, as the Scripture says, which serves as the Orthros Prokeimenon for this day, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, Thou hast perfected praise."  They were rejoicing, which was right, but for the wrong reasons.  They all had an image of a conquering King, which was right, but wrong in what He was going to conquer.  And how quickly that joy and exultation turned to disbelief, anger and even hatred.  How quickly those cries of "Hosanna" changed to "Crucify Him!"

Such is the problem when people believe in an idea.  The idea may well be fine but not manifest in itself in the way you have hoped and prayed for.  I'm sure that was the issue for the Jews who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday.  The problem with believing in ideas is that the idea itself doesn't care if you believe it or not.  That is why it is so dangerous, even in our postmodern culture, to reduce God with whom we can communicate personally to a mere idea.  Many people will say that they don't believe in God, but like the idea of God.  They like the idea of a God who is love, is compassion, is mercy is whatever good noun you can think of.  But, ideas cannot love you back.  Ideas cannot be compassionate or merciful with you.  Ideas don't work that way.  The Jewish people who had been suffering for so long were looking for an idea to save them.  God saves; ideas about Him do not. God loves; love as an idea does not love you back.

When that idea does not turn out as you would expect, it's very easy to immediately give in to anger, hatred, indifference, hardness of heart, etc.  Such a phenomenon doesn't just occur to Jesus on Palm Sunday, but happens all the time.  We have an idea of how the heroes of our culture are supposed to act and behave, but then react incredulously when we realize that they are just as sick and twisted as the rest of us.

Fortunately, for us, God does not and did not carry a grudge at those who had a false idea about what His Son would do.  Jesus still enters the city. He still is crucified and buried.  And He still rises on the third day.  A lesser God or a better man may well have reacted to the cheers and the laying of palms on the ground with "You have got it all wrong. And because you have it all wrong, you're not getting anything now!  I'm going home!"  But He didn't do that. His crucifixion and death and burial and resurrection were still for all.  Remember that even His Apostles still did not know what was going on.  The myrrhbearing women had to tell them and remind them of what Jesus had preached for all this time leading up to His Passion.   

As we enter into Holy Week, we know that we will receive what we expect:  The Lord, Resurrected, Triumphant over Death for us. For us.  FOR US and our salvation.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why does Jesus weep at Lazarus' tomb?

The Orthodox faithful have now reached the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.  In a way, today and tomorrow are small, short-lived breaks or feasts, prior to the trial, agony, suffering, scourging, crucifixion, death, burial and triumph over Hades of Jesus before His Resurrection.  Today, we commemorate the rising of Lazarus from the dead, an event only recorded in the Gospel according to St. John, an event that occurred before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem where He would be humiliated and sentenced to a horrible death. 

The story is familiar to most people and its entirety is read today at Liturgy as the appointed Gospel reading.  It is some 45 verses long; a little longer than most Gospel readings.  However, as I was standing there, my thoughts concentrated only on one verse which has only two words:  Jesus wept (verse 35).  In context, it makes perfect sense.  In the verses prior, Mary was weeping as she chastised Jesus for not being present while Lazarus was still alive, although ill.  The company of Jews who had come to console her were also weeping.  There was a lot of weeping all around.

Why does Jesus weep?  There is no shortage of explanations, some of which can be found here.  The Canon written by St. Andrew of Crete which is appointed to be read at Compline the night before unambiguously attributes Jesus' weeping to His human nature which contrasts with His Divine Nature which allows Christ to raise Lazarus from the dead after four days.  Perhaps Jesus was weeping because it is perfectly acceptable to do so at a funeral as many of us know. Or perhaps Jesus wept simply because He knew that death was a tragic consequence of the sin that our parents, Adam and Eve, dared to commit in paradise.  If I dare to be presumptuous, maybe Jesus will weep over my tomb.

Though no theologian, I would posit a slightly different reason for Jesus' weeping though it is based on several of the explanations above.  As I wrote earlier, Jesus' raising of Lazarus occurs before His entry into Jerusalem and thus also right before His Trial, His Suffering, His Crucifixion, His Death and His Burial.  Before he was betrayed by Judas and lead by the guards to Pilate, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsamene that His Father would let this cup pass from Him, that there could be a way out.  Of course, Christ goes on to pray, saying "Let Thine, not mine, be done."  Even on the Cross, Christ cries out in agony "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"  There are no shortages of instances in the Gospel according to St. John where Jesus shows us that He is even afraid, scared to death, as it were.  I think that his weeping as he stands before Lazarus' tomb may indicate that He is frightened of the impending death and burial that is to await even Him in but a few short days.

Of course, this is only a guess.  St. John the Theologian doesn't explain why Jesus wept and maybe the question itself is, in the scheme of things, an unimportant one.  However, as we embark upon Holy Week and a walk with Christ in His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial, even though we know the joyous outcome of all of this, maybe we are called to weep before His tomb as He did at Lazarus' and even our own.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

St. Mary of Egypt: Crazy? Lunatic? Delusional? Too hard on herself? Self-centered? All of the above?

In the fifth week of the Great Fast, usually on a Wednesday night (or sometimes on a Thursday morning to coincide with Matins or Orthros), the theme of Lent--repentance--comes once again to the fore.  As in the first week, the entirety of the Great Canon is chanted, but this time the whole Great Canon is chanted at the same service rather than being drawn out over four nights.  In addition, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt, written by Patriarch SOPHRONIOS of Jerusalem is read in two different sections.  Because of how the Feast of the Annunciation fell this year on that Wednesday, the Great Canon and her life were moved to Monday evening.
St. Zosimas giving the Eucharist to St. Mary of Egypt before her repose

Reading the Life of St. Mary, either alone or with others in the Church, is a bit of a struggle.  It is not a story one would expect to hear in a church especially if there were children present.  Also, it's just not an easy story to read as there is narrative and some dialogue and written in a language (even in translation) that is just hard for many to grasp.  However, for those who manage to get through the whole thing, the story is supposed to turn us to one more shot at repentance before Lent ends and Holy Week begins.

But the sad truth is that many Orthodox, if not MOST Orthodox Christians, have NEVER heard the Life of St. Mary of Egypt.  They may know that the fifth Sunday of Lent commemorates her, but they don't actually take the time to read it themselves or go to Church to hear its reading liturgically.  I have any number of theories as to why this is so:  Many people consider repentance to be nothing more than self-improvement and so the repentance that demands sacrifice and even denial of self is considered way off the deep end; there are others who believe that her repentance was sincere but it didn't need to go to such lengths as what she did; there are those who think that her repentance is exceedingly self-centered because what she "should" have done instead was helped others; more, still, think that the story is a complete fiction and should be disregarded simply because there's no proof as the written version did not come around until 100 years after she died.   Whatever the reason for Orthodox Christians staying away from this story, a lot of work needs to be done in Catechesis.

But let's consider the objections to the Life of St. Mary.  If you want to get a list of all possible objections, read no further than the comments left on Rod Dreher's post on the American Conservative.  St. Mary is actually denounced by many commentators who think that she is crazy, a lunatic, self-centered, etc.  Even when she was not called one of those derogatory terms, she was still labeled as someone who went too far, as someone who didn't need to do all of that.  It is absolutely infuriating that Christianity for many if not most Christians has been redesigned to be only a moral or ethical code.  And, what's more, that moral and ethical code needs to be updated to "get with the times."  I think it's a good time to point out just how Christianity and philosophy differ.  When you consider that the bulk of Christianity is what has been revealed by God to man, then to change Christianity into only a philosophy or ethical code is to strip it of any of that revelation and the residue will then form the foundation.  And that residue will be morality with a small tincture of theism.  God would be all but removed.  And if God is renewed, then the central tenet of Christianity would also have to be removed--The Resurrection!  St. Paul reminds us in his epistle to the Romans that without the Resurrection, our faith is in vain!  And what is required for Resurrection?  Death and then rebirth.

The Christian life was never meant to be a passive one.  It is not cheap psychological therapy. It is active. And it is self-denial which is a death of self, a death of ego, a death of "I."  For all the complaints about St. Mary of Egypt, we cannot and we should not dismiss her actions in the desert as something only a self-centered person would do.  A self-centered person does not deny himself and does not rid himself of the temptations of this world. A self-centered person calls all those things to him.  A self-centered person wants to be recognized and admired and adored.  St. Mary wanted no such thing, hence why she ran away from St. Zosimas.  A self-centered person does not give himself to prayer unceasingly.  A self-centered person prays only to himself and thinks of himself as God.  To rid ourselves of "I" we must rid ourselves of the world and embrace God.  Each person has a different path in his self-denial.  For St. Mary of Egypt it was to rid herself of the world; for someone like Mother Theresa it was to give of her self so that others could have a life in this world.  But for both women, their path was to deny self, not embrace it.  St. Mary embraced God by forsaking others; Mother Theresa embraced God by giving to others.  Who is to say which one is better?

Does repentance really need to go that far?  The only people who complain about this are people who rarely, if ever, even go to confession.  These are the Orthodox Christians who believe, like Protestants, that the only person you need to confess to is God.  But that's laziness.  You don't think God already knows?  I think that the reason many Orthodox do not go to confession is simply because they don't want a punishment.  A penance is NOT punishment.  It may require work, but if you were actually punished in accord with the sins that you confess, what you got was NO punishment but a slap on the wrist at best or a talking-to at worst. Now, THAT is self-centered! I remember once that I was given a penance to say the Jesus Prayer ten times with prostrations. I thought, "That's it?"  My priest thought it was sufficient so I did it and added 10 more for good measure.  I probably didn't go far enough.  To be honest, I think confessing the sin is much harder and much more humbling than the repentance that follows.  Who is to say that St. Mary's repentance was "too much."  If we are going by a strict measure of meeting out punishment for crime, maybe it was.  But approaching it in such a juridical way undermines what repentance is supposed to be--a change of self.  For St. Mary, this rigid self-denial changed her from the person she was into the person she hoped to be.  Death to the person she was and reborn as the person she wanted to be.  Who is to say to what degree repentance should take?

Can this type of repentance lead to vainglory and boasting?  Sure, but so can anything.  Anything can be abused.  Liturgy can be abused; sermons can be abused; doing charitable works can be abused. Should we do away with everything lest it not be abused?  Maybe we should just kill ourselves so that we don't have the temptation to sin any more!  Of course, that's ludicrous.  I got into an argument with a pastor of the LCMS who is a friend of mine about how he made his congregation wipe off the ashes after Ash Wednesday services lest any of them be tempted to boast.  I objected in the strongest terms.  Rather than let the parishioners decide for themselves, he decided for them.  Part of the spiritual life is screwing up.  One of the things that we, as a society, have really done as a disservice to our kids is making sure that they cannot screw up, especially in school.  We can't let them receive failing grades so we give them retakes; we can't let them get a 0, so we give them more time to do the project; we can't let them have 10 times to make up a quiz, so we give them 20!  We cannot learn, if we do not fail.  And yes, even in repentance, there is the possibility of failing.  We are to get back up and try again.  I doubt all of St. Mary's repentance in the desert was perfect.  Though the text doesn't mention it, I'm sure there were times she threw up her arms and said "What's the point?"  Failure must accompany the spiritual life.  Vainglory and boasting are undesired but often do happen in the midst of the repentance.  But that should not mean that we rid ourselves of good works to prevent those.  Faith without good works is a DEAD faith, says St. James. 

Let's also consider briefly about whether this story took place. So what if it didn't?  I ask my students if the story of the Trojan War as told in the Iliad would be a better story or a worst story if the Trojan War actually happened.  Most of them respond that it doesn't really matter.  And it shouldn't.  Just because Star Wars never actually happened (remember, it takes place in the past) does not make it a better or a worse trilogy.  If St. Mary of Egypt never lived, the TRUTH of the story should not be obscured just because it never factually occurred. 

The ambivalence of many towards the reading of the Life of St. Mary and even towards St.Mary of Egypt herself reveals a lot about how Christianity is practiced today.  It reveals that too many self-professed Christians see it as too hard and too serious and too burdensome so its requirements have to be lessened and made less than encompassing of our whole life.  Repentance is a necessary component of the Christian life.  Both Jesus and St. John the Baptist begin their ministries with that one word: "Repent!"  Thank God, in the end, that our repentance is not dependent on salvation.  But that does not mean we rid ourselves of it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Conversation between Mary and the Archangel, Gabriel

Scene:  Nazareth
Time:  About 4:30
Dramatis personae:  Mary, a young, unwed though betrothed maiden who has spent the last 12 years of her life in service of the Lord;  Gabriel, an Archangel, Captain of the Heavenly Hosts, and messenger of the Most High God.

Gabriel (alone and thinking to himself):  How is it that He Who is in the highest and incomprehensible shall be born of a virgin?  He Whose throne is Heaven and earth His footstool, how shall He be contained in a woman's womb?  How was he pleased to be incarnate of her by a word only, He Whom the six-winged Seraphim and those of many eyes cannot gaze upon?  He who comes is the Word of God?  Why then do I hesitate, and not address the maiden as I was commanded, saying:  'Rejoice, O full of grace, the grace of the Lord is with thee?  Rejoice, O spotless Virgin!  Rejoice, O groomless bride!  Rejoice, O Mother of life; blessed is the fruit of your womb?'

Sees Mary in the courtyard and appears to her and speaks.

Gabriel:  Hail, Mary!  Full of Grace!  Rejoice, O unseeded land!  Rejoice, O burning bush!  Rejoice, O depth inaccessible to vision!  Rejoice, O bridge leading to he havens!  Rejoice, O lofty ladder whom Jacob did behold!  Rejoice, O jar of manna! Rejoice, O dissolution of the curse!  Rejoice, O recall of Adam!  The Lord is with you!

Mary:  Truly, you have appeared to me as a man.  Why then do you utter supernatural tings saying that God shall be with me and dwell in my womb?  Tell me, how am I, then, to become a spacious place of sanctification for Him, who rides on the cherubim?  Mislead me not with deceit; for I have known no pleasure and have not approached wedlock.  How, then, shall I give birth to a son?

Gabriel:  When God so wills, the order of nature is overcome, and that which is supernatural is accomplished.  Therefore, O all-pure and holy one, believe my words. 

Mary:  Let it be unto me as you have said and I will give birth to the Incorporeal One, Who shall take a body from me so that, by His union with mankind, He may raise man to the first rank since He alone is mighty.

--Adapted from the Stichera and Doxastikon of Psalm 140 of the Vespers of the Feast of Annunciation

One of the things I have always loved about Orthodox hymnography is how much of it is framed in a conversation between a saint and the Lord, or an angel and the Lord or a saint and an angel.  Did such conversations actually take place?  Maybe, maybe not. But that is hardly the point.  The truth contained in those conversations is what matters. 

We have to remember that in the ancient world, many of the "Speeches" and "dialogues" even found in the great historians like Thucydides, Xenophon, Herodotus, Caesar, Tacitus and Livy were invented by the authors themselves.  They were not invented to deceive but to give a dramatic flavor to the events they sought to describe to their respective audiences.  Such is the case with much Byzantine hymnography.  Whether or not the conversation really took place is to miss the point.   The aim is not to supplant the Scriptures or to suggest that they are deficient but to give a dramatic edge while at the same time proclaiming the Gospel.  

In this case, the good news is that Christ will be born a man from a virgin, taking on human flesh to unite God with Man because of the separation that exists between the two because of sin.  And what a perfect time to remind the faithful of this news, especially as we are in the midst of Lent and the desire to worship the Lord's coming to Golgatha for His Crucifixion, His entombment and His Resurrection on the third day grows each day as we wait eagerly with anticipation:  That God, having become Man, died and rose again, born in humility and poverty though announced splendidly by the chief captain of the Bodiless powers.  I needed to hear this today.  I would dare say we all do.   Happy feast, everyone!