We Orthodox have a tradition where each person celebrates his or her “Name Day”, which is the feast day for that person’s patron saint. Today, June 9, was the feast day of Saint Columcille (Columba) – one of the great Irish Fathers of the Church.
St. Columcille was a great evangelist, monastic, and “fearless accuser of sin and avenger of the injured”, according to the reading from the Synaxarion put out by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA.
I have been unable to write in this blog for a while (working 7 days a week will do that) and, worse, I’ve been unable to attend any Divine Services at church lately. If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of months, it’s the importance of regular church attendance. One of the things about the Orthodox Church that appealed to me was the emphasis on corporate prayer and worship – the communal aspect of Christian life was significantly stronger than anything I’d seen or experienced before. My parish priest has said several times that one “Lord, have mercy” said in church is more powerful than an entire Psalter sung alone. I never fully understood the impact of corporate prayer and the divine Presence in the Liturgy until now. I’ll have to reflect for a while longer to better articulate that point, but the point is that I now better understand how corporate prayer and worship feeds into individual prayer life and spiritual growth and healing.
And that healing even includes physical healing. For about three weeks, I was struggling with a cold (and possible sinus infection) that I could not get knocked out. Part of the problem was my lack of opportunity for rest, but even loads of vitamin c and medicine couldn’t get me over this nagging illness. There were, however, two significant turning points. The first was when I was on the brink of exhaustion and my cold was steadily worsening. After days of misery, I decided to drink some Holy Water before bed. The next morning, I felt much better! I wasn’t totally cured, but I felt well enough to finish out my last week at work. The second turning point was today. This morning I was still struggling with the last remnants of my illness and then after I came home from church, I again felt significantly better! I still have a slight cough, but I don’t have any more sinus pressure or problems with congestion or runny nose. Some people might chalk it up to coincidence, but if you understand that God can and does use His uncreated energies to heal people through physical means (i.e. Holy Water) and through the Divine Presence (at Liturgy), then the idea becomes much more plausible. This is especially true when we understand that the universe is a much more “open” system than most Westerners, who are children of the Enlightenment, are aware of.
To close, I just want to say that it’s good to be back. It’s good to be back on the blog and it’s especially good to be able to attend Services at church again! I can’t help but see a providential hand in the fact that my return to church fell on my Name Day – the Feast of Saint Columcille of Iona. It gives me hope and encouragement as I search for a job – one that I hope will allow me to use my gifts and education to teach young people about how to talk about God in an increasingly secular society.
Holy and God-bearing Father Columcille, pray for us!