Today we remember the beheading of the Glorious Forerunner John. Father Lou spoke about how this day reminds of who we are living to please, God or man. John lived to please God and both of his parents (Zechariah and Elizabeth, my namesake) did as well. In my very first Orthodox service, almost a year ago, I learned about how Zechariah lost his life to the Jewish soldiers sent by Herod to kill all the baby boys under 3 years old. The soldiers came looking for John because everyone no doubt knew about his miraculous birth and Zechariah refused to tell them where John was. Elizabeth had taken John into the wilderness to protect him from the coming soldiers. Zechariah was murdered in the temple, refusing to please man instead of God. Most Christians know the story of John, but I had never heard Zechariah’s story. Just one in a million new things I have learned about my faith in the last year.
I’ve also been learning so much from this podcast series on relics, starting with this one. It’s really not about relics but much more about how we Orthodox view salvation and the incarnation and the Trinity. It gets into to really deep stuff but has been so eye-opening. Yesterday and today I was learning about how the western mind makes no distinction between God’s essence (personhood) and His energies (actions), but the eastern mind does. If there is no distinction, you end up a Calvinist because of determinism within the mind of God. However, we don’t have to be in that position because we believe God has free will and that God’s essence is beyond our understanding; we participate in His energies, becoming through grace what Christ is by nature.