Fr. George Matsushima
The World where we live is unclean. We who live there are unclean, too. But somehow, when we hear the birds singing in the park, or when we see a baby smiling, our heart becomes full of joy with love for this world and for our life, without any logical reason.
It is because this world and our life were originally a good "GIFT" from God.
But we, human had spoiled His gift. When we spoiled our new dress, a present by someone, or when our new car gets a scratch, we feel sad, as if the first beauty and brightness are gone, and then we forget, moving on thoughtlessly, about to gain other stains and scratches.
That is what happened to the world and to human life. We got used to such "uncleanness", and see "Life as nothing worthy."
If we hurt someone's heart, we often think "He is too weak to feel that, " and we do not care. We are not surprised to hear of adultery. If one betrays his spouse, he says "Many people do it," and he adds another betrayal . We are accustomed to "The war is necessary to make peace," and we lost the words to oppose.
Into such a world, for such people as us, Jesus Christ, Incarnate God is born.
He was born not only in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but also is born again and again in this unclean world and among us who had been spoiling it.
It is because He gives His Life as His "second gift" in order that we would receive God's love and praise the world given to us and love each other.
The Gospel says, Christ was born quietly in a mangeron the outskirts of the town crowded with visitors. Only a few people saw the Son of God. It should be a silent night. Our joyful Christmas liturgy shows this silence.
How long have we been weeping since we had lost the time when the life was joy and simply life itself?
In this silence, we must look for the new born child, Jesus Christ. Listen carefully. We have to find our grief for our life, for this world, for our miserable heart as the grief of Christ God, who is born in us.
Indeed, when we look at the grief, we find that the joy is growing, as Christ God walk along with us and in us, saying, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Christ is Born!
Translation: Maria M and Ilya Kharin
(Mark 1:15 Monday on 15th week after Pentecost)
Some people live as if they were invulnerable; with the arm around the shoulder of their fellow passenger, they would drink whisky straight from the bottle and speed along a highway, holding a cigarette between their fingers of their right hand on the wheel. Others, in the same way, sacrifice everything else, even time to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom, to earn as much as possible. On the other hand, some other people live as if they would believe that men might not need to die once they push very hard. They would try every single piece of health food and how-to information, or they would walk with pedometer, whether it rains or the wind blows every morning.
Lord said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)” and started His mission. This was nothing else that this world was soon to end and that the kingdom of God was coming close: the “good news.” But it was cold water over their heads to those who believed that this world does not end, no matter how badly injustice and brutality were flourishing, or that the end of the world could be avoided if people observed the divine commandment.
Christians do not ignore unavoidable death; on the contrary, they trade expectation in asking too much from this world with hopes for the kingdom of God. Moreover, the end of this world means time to settle their accounts; they make their best to prepare their thoughts and deeds for The Last Judgment, learn that man has limitations, and entrust God with himself and this world.
The faithful of apostolic churches were on tiptoe with expectation for the end of this world. The faithful of current churches, who are tired of waiting, lead a sluggish religious life as if the end of the world were withdrawn. Some “Christians” insist that it is ridiculous to demand modern people believe in the end of the world and the kingdom of God, as well as Virgin Birth and Resurrection. But do you think a religion can stand steadfastly without faith? Have the words of Holy Apostle Paul, “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not to moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard (Colossians 1:23)” gone with “the end of this world?”
(Matthew 18:13, Gospel Reading on Monday after Pentecost)
An English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) expressed his view of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham claimed that, pleasure is good and pain is bad, and that maximizing the total value of each individual’s pleasure minus the total value of his pain should be the society’s challenge. According to him, therefore, it makes sense to take away pleasure from some of the individuals for the sake of the greatest number of people, or to force some individuals to accept pain. Our society considers it as common sense to make arrests of bike gangs who are “enjoying themselves” riding recklessly, or to force people out of their properties for road expansion.
On the other hand, the teachings of Christ are always out of line; he does not chop logic, but speaks in images: “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes away, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray (Matthew 18:12-13).”
Our “common sense” may criticize this, claiming what if a wolf pack makes an attack on the remaining ninety-nine sheep. However, there is the truth that may sound improvable with common sense.
God loves each of us “lesser creatures” as one and only. His love is so great that He cannot help but going out looking for one stray sheep, even to give up the rest of ninety-nine. Those who follow the Lord (The Church) form a community to live up to such love of
God. Should even one single person go astray from this community, joy of this whole community would not be complete.
The Church, as well as such totalitarian regime as prewar Japan and present North Korea, dislikes hard-boiled individualism of Bentham and advocates good cause and ideal. These two look “alike.” However, under totalitarianism, be it of an ethnic group, nation, or social class, one becomes the scapegoat for all. Meanwhile, in The Church, with Christ-God as the head, all care for one, spare no pains, and ignore efficiency. Because the present love itself is a joy and the definitive step toward the Kingdom of God.
Translation: Theodora N,
We are members of the Orthodox Church who worship together in Nagoya. The Orthodox Church is the Christian community which has most faithfully maintained the unbroken tradition of the Ancient Church to the present. Orthodoxy was introduced to Japan by a Russian missionary, St. Nicholas, in the 1860’s. The Orthodox Christian community began to form in Nagoya in the 1870’s. After many relocations, the current church in the medieval Russian style was built in the Shōwa ward in January of 2010. Church services are normally held on Saturdays, Sundays, and Church Feast Days.
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A sample of Nagoya Orthodox Church singing (Communion hymn, from Psalm 148):
Orthodox mission in Japan dates back to 1861, when the Russian hieromonk St. Nicholas (Kasatkin) arrived to these shores. The first Orthodox church was in Hakodate, but soon he transferred the mission headquarters to the Kanda district of Tokyo, where he built the famous Tokyo Resurrection cathedral (Nikorai-dō).
The first gatherings of Orthodox believers in Nagoya began in 1874, when the Annunciation Church was launched in Okeya-chō (near present-day Fushimi). In the last years of the 19th century the community purchased a plot of land in Fujitsuka-chō and moved there. During the Russo-Japanese War, when many Russian POWs were interned in Nagoya, our humble Japanese house church became their spiritual home. In 1913 a larger two-story church was built on the same spot, but it burned down during the aerial bombardment of World War II. After the war, the parish relocated to Yamahana-chō, Shōwa ward, where a temporary building was constructed in 1949, and then replaced by a larger structure in 1972. Gradually, the community outgrew that space, so that in 2006 we decided to acquire the current site in Yamawaki-chō and construct a dedicated Orthodox church. The consecration of the new church followed on January 11th, 2010.
The landmarks of Orthodox Christian architecture in Japan include the grand Tokyo Resurrection cathedral (Nikorai-dō) in the Russo-Byzantine style of the 19th century, and the elegant provincial churches designed by Fr. Moses Kawamura Izō – especially the ones in Toyohashi and Hakodate. The Nagoya church has introduced to Japan the medieval Russian style in which a system of vaults (three along the façade and four along the sides) supports a single drum with a large onion-dome. While the structure is made of reinforced concrete, the interior is coated with fine wood paneling and centered on a Byzantine-style choros-type ringed chandelier, creating a light and airy atmosphere.
Orthodox churches are dedicated to the Feast Days of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Theotokos Mary, or else bear the names of various saints. The designation of our church, which means “the appearance of God,” refers to the revelation of God as Holy Trinity that took place when Jesus Christ, God the Son, received baptism in the Jordan, God the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and God the Father called Him “My beloved Son” (see Matt. 3:13-17).
Address: Yamawaki-cho 1-3-3, Showa-ku
Nearest station: Arahata, Nagoya Subway Tsurumai Line、OR, JR Chuo Kine, Tsuruma Station