Lea Povozhaev earned a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Kent State University in 2014 and an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Akron in 2007. She spent a semester abroad in Russia studying at Nizhni Novgorod State University in 1999, where she was first introduced to Orthodox Christianity. Lea teaches writing part-time as she focuses on writing and presenting her current research on wholeness of body and soul. Two of her recent works reflect the culmination of her writing pursuits as a creative non-fiction writer who believes in merging reflection on one's personal life with current social events. She recently (June 3, 2016) had an interview with Ancient Faith Radio on her memoir: check it out! Lea aims to continue writing, researching, and presenting and invites inquiries from the audience to share her work ranging from academic (Medical Rhetoric—arguments in current health care and their implications for those who value the sanctity of life), creative and personal (focusing on family life and Orthodoxy). She lives in Ohio with her husband and their five children. Read more about Lea and her work here.
On September 8, 2017, I entered Holy Trinity, a parish on the other side of town from where we lived. It was the Nativity of the Theotokos, the God-bearer, who’s will to remain sinless cooperates with the miracle of Christ’s becoming man and saving humankind. The Mother of God’s birthday is celebrated at the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year, but it is also celebrated after her dormition (or falling asleep in Christ), according to Western time. Birth and Death, beginning and end, cycle into the timeless reality of God in Whom there is no time. He is the Alpha and Omega.
Understanding the Space of the Faith
It took some time before I was willing to accept the spiritual reality of Liturgy. In fact, it had little to do with my will turning to God. My two small children and I were engulfed by icons: the entrance of the church written deliberately in the glory of God. Above us, Christ was enthroned in the icon of the Last Judgement. Below the icon was a red “Exit” sign. People enter and leave the church under the glorious icon of the Alpha and Omega.
The passageway to Life and from death is Christ. He judges all based on the degree of good each soul offers to others. A Christian strives to do good in this world, not because it is the right thing to do, but because Christ is Love, alive in the heart and active through the body of a Christian. The Church writes the meanings of this life for us in limitless ways. For example, at this service, written in the icon of the Final Judgement Day, I understood the meaning of my life in Christ. I walked with my babies over to a large icon of the Theotokos, reached out to her, and felt that my life was a part of the world’s life. Christians are the soul of the world, and we are united together in faith and love.
The Final Judgement gives light to the meaning and purpose of this life, which is to acquire “the Kingdom of God [that] has no end” (Luke 1:33). Scripture says that one enters the Kingdom of God after a struggle (Mt. 1:12) where the Kingdom of God comes quietly into the heart of a believer (Luke 17: 20-21). This is hard in a fallen world with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Mexico’s recent earthquake. Add to the natural disasters reports of climate control and toxicities, rumored to be caused by our own government as means of controlling its citizens, and it is easy to despair. There are always more blessings, my parish priest has said, and we are to contemplate these. We need the icon of Christ and Judgement Day to realize the reason for the spiritual fight we make. Fear of God is the beginning of understanding.
Fr. Maximos Moschos says that “signs of the times” are to be observed so that Christians prepare themselves by increasing faith and spiritual struggles.
“Many people observe the natural phenomena and predict the changes of the weather while neglecting the signs which usher in the end of the world. Such people will hear the indicting word of the Lord, for they know how to interpret the appearance of the sky but give no attention to the signs of the times (Mt. 16: 1-3; Lk.12: 54-56).”
At the same time, no man, or woman, knows when Christ will return. The Alpha and Omega promises a new heaven and earth with streets of gold. Christ will become the Temple for His people; we will not be segregated by any barriers, including church walls, including our opinions, judgements, and insecurities. The smallest details of the fall will be renewed. Bees will vibrate with sweetness and no sting.
Icons reflect the promise of glory alive in Christ and made powerful in His Saints. The Lord will “separate all mankind as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And this separation will be made on the basis of the good that each person has done for others (Mt. 25:31-46; 16:27).” (Fr. Moschos).
In these times, we have many opportunities to extend ourselves and do good in whatever small and big ways we can. This is a gift through which: Christ is glorious in His Saints. We look to the Theotokos for inspiration, and we look to one another as signs of the times that reveal what humanity is accomplishing in this time.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Right now it seems good to look at what is around you and act with the conviction of Christ as the Alpha and Omega, worrying less about all other things, including the “signs of the times” that can threaten faith with the weight of despair. There is no time in Christ Jesus, and there is no “End” in Him. The beginning of the cosmos and its end will work in concord with God’s plan.
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