At last night’s service, Fr. Andrew talked about the need to be aware for Christ’s coming. I had some unwelcome flashbacks to my childhood in a denomination obsessed with the Rapture, but other than that it was a good thing to hear. But I guess I’ll contrast the Orthodox idea of watchfulness with the modern Evangelical idea of Rapture and all that it brings.
As a child, I often wandered into my parents’ room and watched my mother sleep. I was so worried she’d been Raptured away while I was sleeping and I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to be taken because I never seemed to feel saved. So during many sleepless nights, I trotted upstairs in a panic and watched her snore, figuring, I guess, I could somehow go with her if I was close to her. That fear never left until I became Orthodox. The services of my childhood were fraught with the reminders of how you did not want to be left behind. We watched “The Thief in the Night” and the sight of that electric razor clattering around in the sink still gives me chills to think about. (I’ve mentioned it before on this blog.) We had revival services that talked about it. We read the news with an eye for prophesied goings-on. And then, in the 90’s and early 00’s, Tim LaHaye decided to puke the Left Behind books on American culture.
This is not the Orthodox understanding of the end of days. And it is not the point of what Fr. Andrew said last night. We are to be watchful. We are not to be slothful. We are to be aware. The services give us the example of the foolish virgins who sleep and the scripture reading puts the whole discussion into context (Matthew 24:36-26:2), But we don’t just talk about one-taken, one-not (and the warning not to try to figure it out). We include the parable of the talents and the sheep/goats. We are to be watchful, not just for the end, but also for when He comes to us daily — in the opportunities to serve Him, to meet Him in those in need.
The Christian walk is not just about avoiding the “Great Tribulation” or getting your “fire insurance.” It is about being ready for Christ and serving Him with our whole hearts and focusing on that. It’s not about being “left behind,” it’s about living in such a way that we are not shut out of the Kingdom.
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.–Bridegroom Troparion