Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio

This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small mission community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!

The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.

We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!

Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM

We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saints Peter and Paul

There is often much confusion over the saints whose memories we celebrate today.

It is often said, especially by our brothers and sisters in the West, that Peter founded the Church in Rome.  This is not true.  Peter founded the Church in Antioch, the place where Saint Luke records that the disciples of our Lord were first called Christians. 

The Church of Rome was founded by Saint Paul.  This is the reason that he wrote his epistle to the Romans – the people there were his spiritual children.  Peter did not write to the people of Rome.  It is believed that Peter was in fact illiterate, and ‘dictated’ his memories and thoughts to Saint Mark, who wrote them down in a Gospel, and later wrote from such dictation the epistles of Peter.

It is also claimed that since Peter founded the church of Rome (which we now see to be untrue), this somehow gives the Church of Rome a primacy, a place of authority over the other churches.  This also is clearly not true.  If it were, the Church of Antioch should be capable of making this claim – a condition which has never occurred.

This ‘authority’ is based upon the reading we just finished from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, wherein Peter’s confession that our Lord is in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God is met with words from our Lord in praise of the statement.  Note that we do not conclude that the Lord’s words are in praise of the man, but of the understanding and wisdom that was granted by the Holy Spirit to men, to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the true Son of God.  This is the unanimous interpretation of all the Church Fathers throughout the history of the Church, and it is borne witness to by the writings left to us from Blessed Augustine.

Saint Augustine wrote, “The profound confession of our Lord’s divinity, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,’ was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear the answer, ‘Blessed are you, Simon…. I tell you, you are Peter (‘Petrus’), and on this stone (‘petra’) I will build My Church.”  “This stone” (petra) is that upon which Peter said, “You are the Christ…”  It is on this confession that the Lord builds His Church.  Therefore, that is by this confession “You are Peter,” that is, from the stone (petra) you are Peter (Petrus), and not from Peter is the Church.”

This later distortion clearly is foolishness, implying that there is no Church without Peter!

Further, when our Lord was preparing for His Ascension, He ‘restored’ Peter for the three denials, asking “Do you love Me?”, and then commanding in return, “Feed My sheep.”  Jesus did not command Peter, “Feed YOUR sheep,” for the Church is the faithful, and the faithful are not Peter’s, they (we) belong to the Lord!

Another distortion often applied to this Feast is that somehow Peter represents the Church of the West, and Paul the Church of the East.  This also is untrue, and an invention that is very recent indeed.  Both Apostles were Jews, both came from the east, and went to the west.  In the words of the Apostle Paul himself, the Church is not ‘of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas’ (1Cor 2:12), but the Church is Christ’s, it is His Body!

Such discussions attempt to legitimize a ‘separation’, a division of the Church.  Division within the Church is not possible.  Christ is not “divided,” and therefore neither is His Body, the Church.  If we see ‘division’, we must recognize it for what it is – a falling away from the truth, and not “division”!  We will pray shortly the Creed, in which we say that we believe in “One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”  We say each time we pray this prayer that we believe in truth that the Church is One!  For the Lord is One, God is One in Trinity.  And it will remain this way until the end of time!

So, what can we say of Peter and Paul?  Certainly, they were very different fellows.  Peter was one of the twelve.  Paul had none of those experiences or direct memories of walking with the Lord in His ministry, for Paul was converted after the Ascension.  Peter was a simple fisherman, and as we’ve stated, most likely illiterate.  Paul was educated in the Temple, a highly educated rabbi.  Peter was a common man under domination of the Romans.  Paul was a Roman citizen.  Peter’s name, Simon, meant “he who obeys,” and was changed by our Lord to Peter, “the rock.”  Paul’s real name was Saul, meaning “the destroyer,” and was changed to Paul, which in Latin meant “short in height.”  Perhaps he was another Zacchaeus!

Peter renounced our Lord three times before His crucifixion, and this resulted in his triple repentance after the Resurrection in response to our Lord’s question, “Do you love Me?”  Paul persecuted the Church, taking part in the martyring of the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen.  Peter spent his life in ministry traveling to convert the Jews.  Paul traveled wherever he could, becoming known as “the Apostle to the Gentiles.”

Despite all of these differences, there was one core element in common between the two.  They were both obedient, both repenting for their failings and sins, and they both shared in the crowns of martyrdom, with tradition holding that they both gave their lives on this same day.

In this, they together show us the path to salvation – a path paved with great faith and repentance, living a life in accordance with the will of our Savior!

It’s a glorious Feast!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On the Coming of the Holy Spirit

Saint Gregory Dialogos writes of this Feast by teaching, "Consider the greatness of this solemn Feast that commemorates God's coming as a guest into our hearts!"  It never fails to amaze me how the Fathers boil down into easily manageable ideas that most complex of issues.

God truly comes to dwell not just near to us, but within us!  The prayer of the Feast, which constitutes the opening prayer of every Divine service, includes the words, "Come and abide in us."  The words don't ask God to give us words of inspiration.  They don't ask Him to help us in some obscure or oblique way.  They ask Him to live within us.  And the most amazing thing is that He desires this, sinful as I am.  He wants me to change, to seek Him with my whole heart, conforming that heart which is stony to that which He has given me as an example through Jesus Christ.

Saint Basil the Great has perhaps written the definitive work, titled "On the Holy Spirit."  Within that wonderful work, there are yet more such teachings which are simple to grasp.

When Saint Basil teaches of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit, he says, "He is distributed, but not changed.  He is shared, yet remains whole.  Consider the sunbeam.  Each person upon whom its kindly light falls rejoices as if the sun existed for him alone, yet it illumines land and sea, and is master of the atmosphere.  In the same way, the Spirit is given to each one who receives Him as if He were the possession of that person alone, yet He sends forth sufficient grace to fill all the universe.  Everything that partakes of His grace is filled with joy according to its capacity - the capacity of its nature, not of His power." (Ch 9, Para 22)

With respect to the relationship within the Holy Trinity, Saint Basil spends a great deal of time.  But among the more approachable arguments is, "The Father creates through His will alone and does not need the Son, yet chooses to work through the Son.  Likewise the Son works as the Father's likeness, and needs no other cooperation, by He chooses to have His work completed through the Spirit.  'By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the Spirit of His mouth.' (Ps 32:6)  The Word is not merely air set in motion by the organs of speech, nor is the Spirit of His mouth an exhalation of the lungs, but the Word is He Who was with God in the beginning, and was God (Jn 1:21), and the Spirit of God's mouth is the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father. (Jn 15:26)  Perceive these three: the Lord Who commands, the Word Who creates, and the Spirit Who strengthens." (Ch 16, Para 38)

On the ability to know God and our eternal salvation, Saint Basil teaches, "One cannot see the Father without the Spirit!  It would be like living in a house at night when the lamps are extinguished; one's eyes would be darkened and could not exercise their function.  Unable to distinguish the value of objects, one might very well treat gold as if it were iron." (Ch 16, Para 38) "On the day of judgment, (the Spirit) will be completely cut off from the soul that has defiled His grace.  That is why Scripture says that in hell no one confesses God and in death none can remember Him (Ps 6:6), since the Spirit's help is no longer present." (Ch 16, Para 40)

On the issue of our carrying our faith even when it seems to us that we are doing so without support of others, he teaches, "I learned from the example of the children in Babylon (the Three Holy Youths) that when there is no one to support the cause of true faith, we must accomplish our duties alone.  They sang a hymn to God from the midst of the flames, not thinking of the multitudes who rejected the truth, but content to have each other, though there were only three of them." (Ch 30, Para 79)

As we come to this Great Feast of the Church, the "birthday" of the Church of Christ, let us pray that our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit.   In so praying, let us take the necessary steps to purge from our hearts all that separates us from God - anger, hatred, fear, covetousness, pride, gluttony, lusts, and every human frailty.  Let us "make room" for Him in our hearts, that He may truth fill us.  As we sing in Stichera on Lord I Call from the Vespers of Kneeling after Divine Liturgy on this coming Sunday,

"The Holy Spirit is without beginning and without end, fully united with the Father and the Son, known as our Life and Life-giver, and as Light and Light-giver, good by nature and the fountain of goodness, through Him the Father is known and the Son is glorified, teaching us to worship the Trinity as one Rank and Power."