Dean Franck is a first year student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
Christ’s love for us all is something we can encounter not just on Sundays at the Divine Liturgy, but anytime and anywhere, like this story from the streets of Boston.
The Three Hierarch’s vigil was held in the Holy Cross Chapel. We finished the beautiful dedication to the great Father’s of the Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom, somewhere around two in the morning. After the service, a handful of us piled into one of cozy dorm rooms for some quiet post liturgical fellowship, which mostly consisted of Artoklasia and dried figs. About three o’clock our heads finally hit the pillow and we rose again at six thirty for “liturgy on the streets.”
“Liturgy on the streets,” affectionately referred to as LOTS, is a fairly regular practice of the Missions Committee and other organizations here at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The main purpose is to positively engage the homeless and estranged, who live on the streets of Boston. We generally take a group of students down to the city commons, split up into smaller groups of about three students, and then take about twenty dollars a group to buy breakfast or coffee for someone in need.
The “bread” is merely a means to the living water which flows forth from the experience. As Archimandrite Sophrony wrote, “We see in others that which our own spiritual experience has shown us about ourselves, and so man’s attitude to his fellow is a sure sign of the degree of self-knowledge to which he has attained. Whoever has experienced how deep and intense the suffering of the human spirit can be when excluded from the light of true being, and, on the other hand, knows what human man is when he dwells in God, has no doubt that every human being is a permanent eternal value, more precious than all the rest of the world put together. He is conscious of man’s worth, conscious that ‘the least of these my brethren (24:40)’ is dear in God’s sight (St. Silouan the Athonie).”
On the morning of the Three Hierarchs, it turned out that the discount lot where we usually parked the van had no vehicles, but there was a line of homeless people waiting to get in the back door of a soup kitchen. We found out it was a weekly thing, that starts at nine am. It was about seven thirty by then, but all these people were lined up waiting to get in at nine. “They usually serve hot chocolate by this time!” a sweet shivering blue eyed girl exclaimed. She was laying on the concrete median, with her head on her boyfriend’s lap. “Its just so cold.” Her tone sadly trailed off. Under her big synthetic parka and hood all I could see were glazed eyes and the shaking jeans on her little curled knees.
On the way down to the commons we passed occasional homeless people, some pulling their belongings behind them, headed up Beacon Hill towards the soup kitchen. The commons were much emptier than usual, but inside the glass doors that lead down to the subway we saw a young man slouched up against the wall. He was trying to roll little bits of tobacco and marijuana into a piece of newspaper. He was no older than I, thirty or so, about six foot tall, and he was very dirty. His hands were lined with scabbed wounds with fingernails that were long and brown. His fits of laughter were quite unexpected and his big wide pale eyes were soft as cotton in the wind. I struggled inside but smiled when I shook his hand. I knew Christ would touch Him. When he stood up his jacket was covered in mucus and other debris.
Through our new friend we were able to meet a band of others who were in search of a little breakfast. There were a variety of characters, a beautiful simple looking girl from Detroit, who was very quiet but humbly told a little of her story. Two other guys, one just wanted a coffee and a quick chat, the other a breakfast burrito and a long conversation. Finally, a man who was painfully addicted to drugs, mainly heroin. His honesty was incredible, as if he wore it all on his sleeve hoping someone could grab it and pull him up from his living hell. He was real calm and personable the whole time, but almost walked out when the word love came up in conversation. He agitatedly said, “I have never felt love.”
My greatest regret was, the last time I saw the young man we met by the subway, he came running at me with the excited stoned affinity he had developed towards us and I dodged out of his hug a bit. I half hearted it because I was afraid of the dirt and the mucus. Here at the seminary I squeeze my brothers upon embrace. Yet with this man, my brother, no more or less, I flaked out. I half hearted it. Maybe he didn’t notice, but I pray Christ will forgive me and show that young man His love in spite of my weak flesh. That was a chance to transfigure the temporal mess into Paradise, to really squeeze him and let God’s love be among us. “Therefore through Him let us always offer up a sacrifice of praise to God. That is to say, the fruit of the Lips confessing the name of Him. But of doing good and sharing do not neglect; for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:16-17).”
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