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!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Prophecies on Our Lord's Coming in the Flesh

Matthew 1:1-17 gives the genealogy of our Lord through the birth record of Joseph the Betrothed.  This birth record was promised to Abraham directly.  "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 12:3)

Among the patriarchs, the promise was continued in Isaac.  "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." (Gen 17:21)  And it continued still in Jacob.  "Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


The first and the last of these prophecies share a common thread that is important to us.  "All the families of the earth shall be blessed."  All the families!

As Christians, we tend to think of ourselves as segregated, and especially as Orthodox Christians it seems that sometimes we "wall ourselves off" from the people around us.  Perhaps this is because we truly think of ourselves as "in this world but not of it."  Regardless of the reason, we miss the importance of these prophetic promises when we do this.

That guy and his wife across the street who never have seen the inside of any church?  They're blessed by the coming of our Lord.  That terrorist who wants to steal from us our peaceful existence?  He's blessed by the coming of our Lord.  The people who work in the abortion clinic?  They're blessed by the coming of our Lord.

You see, there is no place in all of creation that the coming of the Savior in the flesh has not changed, and in that change, it is blessed by His touching His own creation from the human fleshly state.

When we bless things in the church, we do so by transferal.  We sprinkle Holy Water onto things, and we declare them to be blessed.  When the antidoron is blessed at Liturgy, it is done by touching one piece of the bread to the chalice and diskos, and by transferal, all the other pieces in the bread bowl are also blessed.

God's feet have walked this planet. His Body was immersed in the River Jordan.  The rain washed His face, ran to the ground, and entered another cloud, thereby sanctifying every portion of the entire globe - eventually.

Truly, ALL families are blessed by the coming of the Lord.  Our world is not the place that it had been before His coming.  We, who dare to touch Him by taking His Body and Blood within us through the Holy Eucharist are even more intimately connected to Him, being thereby sanctified, made holy, made different from other things around us.

And like that small piece of bread, we are not to sequester ourselves in a corner of a bowl and not ever touch any others who surround us.  Instead, we are to reach out and touch all who surround us, bringing the sanctification we have received to them as well.

Because EVERY family of the earth is blessed by His coming!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Who Love Nicholas the Saintly

The perversion in the contemporary world of all that is holy and pure proceeds without abatement.  It reminds one of the prophecy from Isaiah Chapter 8, "the spoil speeds, the plunder hastens,"  a prophecy to which we return during this time of the coming in the flesh of our Lord.

But specifically I speak of the perverting of the image of Saint Nicholas, whose Feast we celebrate on this day.  How many miracles have we come to know of related to this wonderful saint of the church?  They seem innumerable.  And yet, every time we think we've heard them all, yet another comes to us from yet a different source.  We'll not take the time nor space here to detail these.  It is profitable research for those who wish to do so, however.

The world has taken a man who is the image of purity, the image of love, the image of peace, and most of all, the Image of Christ, and they have attempted to cover all that he is.  I do not say, "all that he WAS," because Saint Nicholas' impact on our lives continues unabated until this very day, and will continue until our Lord returns.

They've covered his omophorion in red velvet and white fur.  They've covered his bishop's mitre with a funny little hat.  They've taken his physical poverty and spiritual wealth and turned them upside down, giving the impression that he has unlimited physical resource, and a spirit that's good only for a good laugh now and then.

This is the world's (and the enemy's) means of attacking the Image of Christ.

Don't allow it!  For the sake of the memory of this truly great Saint, remember him for who he truly is.  He is the image of his Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  As we pray for his intercessions, we should pray to share in the image he shows us.

The final verse of the hymn we sing in his honor on this day belongs here:

Holy Saint, listen to our prayers.
Let not life lead us to despair.
All our efforts aren't in vain,
Singing praises to your name;
Holy Father, Nicholas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Is There Life "Out There"???

Those who know me know that I spend my weekday daylight hours as an electrical engineer, and therefore I am what most would describe as a technology freak.

Ergo I spend time perusing technology and science articles.  Today, one caught my attention.  The title read, "Scientists Confirm Existence of Earth-like Planet Kepler-22b."  We are so very preoccupied with finding "other" life in the cosmos that people dedicate their entire lives to the pursuit.  In this particular article, the planet in question is a mere 600 light years away.  Let me put that into perspective for you.  The fastest spacecraft ever created by mankind achieved a speed (as it will pass the planet - oh, I mean rock - Pluto) of about 50,370 miles per hour.  The speed of light is 186,000 miles PER SECOND (not "per hour").  Thus the fastest thing mankind has ever built could make it to this wonderful potential little oasis that is 600 light years away in nearly the blink of an eye - if it took your eye roughly 8 million years to blink.

Problem is, we're looking for life in all the wrong places (sorry - I'm NOT trying to paraphrase or play on words from popular songs....).

The life we should be looking for is eternal life.  While it's true that the focus is therefore not "of this world", it is neither part of any other "pseudo-earth."  The life we seek, being eternal, is not related to things that are perishable.

So if you see a confused astronomer or physicist, point them to Holy Scripture, or better yet, to the doors of an Orthodox Church.

We can show them life, and abundantly!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The "Occupy Heaven" Movement

Thanksgiving.  It’s a government sponsored feast which we’ve just passed.  Today’s Gospel reading is done at every Moleben that is served to offer thanks to God for any particular event in our lives.

Thanksgiving is a word indicative of our posture as “takers” in this world, those who wait upon the Lord to give of His bounty to us.  I get upset all too often as I watch the sometimes violent demonstrations in the streets of our country today by the “Occupy” movement people.  Like many, I sit and think, “Get off the streets and go and find a way to support yourselves.  Quit screaming, “Gimme, GIMME, GIMME! 

And yet, isn’t this who we all are with respect to God?  Without Him blessing our endeavors, without His granting us the grace to succeed, to hold meaningful and profitable jobs, we would have nothing.  And therefore, to a large extent, I too am saying constantly to God, “Gimme!”  In my sinfulness, I’m insatiable.  I never have enough of anything.  When food is before me, even though I don’t need to take seconds, I do, because the bounty of the Lord’s blessings is present before me.  Do I thank Him for this?  Not often nor well enough!  When rest is available, and sometimes even when it should not be, I become lazy and seek some refuge from the constant barrage of requests for my time in the world, and I seclude myself.  This, while there are people who need the spiritual blessings that I have been set to provide through His blessings upon me.  When I go to make a purchase for something I need, do I take what will suffice, or do I go for something more.  I do the later, and in so doing, I rob resources which could be donated to benefit this mission, or to give alms to those in more need than I.  When I see something that has become popular in this world, I want it, and I take steps to attempt to acquire it, even though the need is not present – only the want

“Gimme, Lord – Gimme!!”

In today’s Gospel, the Lord is on one of His journeys.  The verse immediately before today’s reading makes it clear that Jesus is traveling throughout Samaria and Galilee.  The particular “certain village” is not known.  But it is fascinating to study the faith indicated in today’s reading.  Again, we often “gloss over” things without trying to understand the depth being offered to us.

Lepers were not permitted to live among the general populace.  People so feared the disease that if a leper was seen outside a leper colony, he or she would be stoned.

I mention the high level of faith because here we find a group of ten lepers, all of whom leave their leper colony and risk death at the hands of the general populace.  Further, somehow they must have come to know that Jesus would pass that way.  How this information reached inside the leper colony, we can’t know.  But it’s clear that these ten waited patiently for this opportunity, and when it came, their faith led them to seize the moment.

This is why Saint Luke records that they “stood afar off,” for getting any closer to the crowds that surrounded Jesus would have brought certain rage and retaliation from those very crowds.  But in their faith, they call out to the Lord.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Yes, they are gravely ill.  But in the theme of that which we are focusing today, the general tone of the message is, “Gimme.”  “Lord, will You hear us?  If You hear us, will You acknowledge our need and heal us?” 

There is not an instance in Scripture where one who has come in faith to Jesus has left unanswered.  Even in the instance of Saint Paul, who teaches us about his “thorn in the flesh” (2Cor 12:7), and how he prayed to the Lord that it be taken from him, even in that case, the Lord’s response, “My grace is sufficient for you…” is not a denial, for indeed, His grace was a greater gift than the healing could ever be.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that, at least with respect to God, the “Gimme” attitude is completely without merit.  However, it’s in fact the attitude that matters.  Let me explain.

We have children, most of us, and we know how they are.  There’s a certain “Gimme” mentality in all of them.  How do you as a parent most lovingly respond to your child’s “Gimme” nature?  Is it when they simply demand – “GIMME!”  Or rather is it when they in all seriousness come to you and say, “I have no right to ask, but would you give to me….???”  You can complete the request as you may choose.  But you see the point, I think.  Both postures are founded in the “Gimme” mentality, but one makes a demand presupposing that the positive response will happen because “it’s deserved” or “it’s unjust for you not to conform to my demand.”  The other is a contrite request, recognizing a lack of foundation, and therefore expressing something more of a need than an excess.

The people in our streets today who are part of the “Occupy” movements are aligned with the “I deserve, I demand, you are unjust” mentality.  I heard an audio capture from a news report in Canton, Ohio this past week where there was an inner-city woman, 35 years old, unmarried, with 15 children.  You do the math – it boggles my mind.  In her rant, she was telling the reporter that society owed her whatever she needed to support her family.  Now, if you’ve delivered 15 children by the age of 35, you have not spent much time productively contributing to society, except perhaps by increasing its size.  But to demand that others pay for the life she has chosen to live, that’s what we see in the world around us.  And while our Lord indeed told us, “the poor you have with you always,” as He responded to the chastisement regarding the ointment that the sinful woman poured upon Him before His passion (Mat 26:11), there are poor who are truly unable to provide for their needs, and then there are poor who are in that state because they choose to have others take care of their needs.  One is the result of an unfortunate condition, the other is the result of poor choices.  Helping the first leads to recuperation.  Helping the second leads to repeated exponentially increasing poor choices.

And so I propose a new kind of “occupy” movement, one that we can get behind, one that should resonate with any who truly seek salvation and a place in the eternal kingdom of our Lord.  As Christians, we should have the “Occupy Heaven” mentality! 

Those in Occupy Wallstreet have abandoned homes and lives for the sake of protesting to receive that for which they have not labored.  We in Occupy Heaven should abandon our ties to this world for the sake of seeking to receive the blessing of attaining a place in eternal life with Christ, a gift and a grace for which we have not labored. 

Those in Occupy Wallstreet are demanding equality in terms of redistribution of wealth, not recognizing that if this were to occur, there would not so much be piles of money that resulted, but rather piles of debt that has already been incurred.  We in Occupy Heaven are not demanding equality, but rather praying for mercy, because we know that we have amassed a large debt of sin, and we seek to have it forgiven equally.  Some of us have larger debts than others, but the equality we seek is mercy that forgives all debt from all of us debtors.

Those in Occupy Wallstreet are demanding free tuition, free housing, free health care, free living, without the need to contribute on their own to that which is required to house, feed, and sustain their existence.  We in Occupy Heaven are seeking a home in a place where there is no sickness, no sorrow, no sighing.  In short, we are seeking entry to the one place in all of creation where “need” does not exist, and so indeed, if that is true, all of our needs will be met by the One whom we seek to serve in faith and love.

The Occupy Wallstreet people hate the system, and hate the people who are part of the system.  The Occupy Heaven people love one another, and although we do so imperfectly, we love even those who hate us.  The only system we are part of is the system that is the Church, who is the Bride of Christ, and while she, being in this world suffers from the sinful place in which she resides, she is beautiful, she is being made perfect to be received by her Bridegroom, and we also therefore love her, for we are part of her.

There is no positive example in what we are seeing in the world for us to follow.  But as you see, if we take the rantings of the world, if we find the places where the world is failing to follow Christ, and if we truly and literally “go the other way”, we have hope, for there is full faith and credit in the kingdom of our Lord.

"Going the other way" is the definition of repentance!  We simply need to decide where our allegiance lies. 

Here or there?

Each of us has ‘free will’.  We get to pick.  But we must choose wisely.

To the choice of heaven or here, the only response I can offer is, “Gimme heaven”!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Mid-Point of Advent

During the Great Fast, we watch for the day known as "mid-Fast."  We wait for the Sunday of the Cross to indicate to us that the fasting season is half way through.  It is simultaneously a comfort and an admonition.  It comforts those who have labored to fast, knowing that they need only struggle yet a little while longer.  It admonishes those who have not attempted to enter the Fast in the knowledge that the time grows short, and if any spiritual gain is to be made, the time is now.

We are entering that mid-point in this Advent Fast at the beginning of the coming week.  And so, it's good to take inventory.

How has the time been going for you personally?  Are you more spiritually connected than 20 days ago?  Has your reading of scripture increased, or have you attended more of the Divine services at your church?  Have you increased your almsgiving?  Have you taken on additional service projects to those in need?

In three short weeks the Creator of all is coming to be born in the flesh.  He will assume all of our human conditions except for sin.  His very life will be threatened from the day of His birth.  Tens of thousands of innocents around Him will be slain by evil men because they know of His coming.  How do we live a daily life in partying ignoring these things knowing of them in advance?

The time grows short to the Day of our Lord's Nativity.  But our time in this life grows short at the same time. Are we diligently preparing for our eternity, or are we living today as we lived yesterday, without care for tomorrow?

The Advent Fast still gives us time, but the sand is running to the bottom of the hourglass.  Don't wait, for once the end comes, it is too late....