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!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beginning of the Fast

Before we proceed, let us be the first to ask forgiveness of all for any offense we have committed, any sin in which we've engaged which has caused you harm or grief.  Know that we forgive all.

I've been reading "Everyday Saints" when time will allow.  This evening, I found the following passage in the book, and it seems to be written specifically for this time - the beginning of the Great Fast:

"It is remarkable but true that if one secludes oneself in prayer and limits oneself in food, sleep, and interaction with people, while not allowing any idle thoughts to enter the mind, nor any passionate feelings to enter the heart, then very quickly one discovers a truth: besides oneself and other people in this world there is also Someone Else.  And this Someone is patiently waiting to see whether we will pay attention to Him during our endless race through life.  He is simply patiently waiting, because God never forces Himself on anyone.  But if one continues to pray properly (here I must stress "properly", in other words, without arrogance, and under the supervision of an experienced guide), then before one's spiritual gaze remarkable phenomena and images begin to appear."

The wealth of the imagery of what this passage presents to us as we enter the Fast is also phenomenal.
1) Secluding oneself in prayer - Our daily prayer regimen should step up as we enter the fast.  Prayer strengthens our struggle against the body, just as fasting strengthens our desire and ability to pray.
2) Limiting our food - We know the rules, and yet we all too often rationalize, justify small cheats against the fullness of the fast, and in so doing, we do no harm to God, but rather we harm our reign over the body.  We allow the body to rule the soul, as opposed to the other, the 'proper' way around.
3) Limiting our sleep - This doesn't mean we need to "deprive" ourselves of sleep.  Rather, it urges us to guard against excess.  The issue arose in the book "Everyday Saints" in response to an urging to the young monk to pray at night, who was admonished by his elder to "remember the commandment of Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk - 'the day is for work, and the night is for prayer'."  Take some 'extra' time in the evenings to pray!
4) Interaction with people - For us, this is an admonishment against gathering to 'party' with others, or worse, to gather with others when the agenda of the gathering is to gossip.  Doing this negates any gain we might otherwise make in the Fast.
5) Not allowing idle thoughts to enter the mind - In short, keep busy.  Do good.  Give alms.  If you have 'spare time', use it to pray.  Don't allow time to become 'spare'!  Make all time "God's time".
6) Not allowing passionate feelings to enter the heart - Passionate here does not mean thoughts of lust (only).
'Passions' for this purpose are those feelings which rouse us to worldliness, to eat, to drink, to play, to follow the crowd when it leads away from God and toward the world.

If we do these things in purity of heart, even if we fail in small ways, Someone Else knows our hearts, and He will answer all those extra prayers we've labored so very hard to offer - for our friends, for those in need, for our enemies, and for ourselves.

May this Great Fast fill us all with such purity of heart, with the most sincere repentant hearts, and with changing our lives so that Someone Else has a home with us and in us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ponderings for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son

1) From C.S. Lewis:  "The gates of hell are locked from the inside."
2) From Saint Augustine of Hippo:  "There are two loves: of the world, and of God.  If the love of the world inhabits, there is no way for the love of God to enter.... You are a vessel, but as yet you are full.  Pour out what you have, so that you may receive what you do not have."
3)  From Saint John Climacus:  "If the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, as He is said to be, and as He is in truth, and if anger is disturbance of heart, as it actually is and as it is said to be, then nothing so prevents His presence in us as anger."

As we consider the Parable of the Prodigal, it is critically important to keep in mind that God gives to us the free will to create a hell for ourselves, and that entering therein (of our own free will), we can effectively lock out all who are outside, even God Himself.  And any place where God is not, that place is the definition of hell.

The Prodigal was filled with self.  He loved the world.  There was no room in him for the Father.  And the Father, recognizing this, sent him away to endure the suffering that He knew would come, but praying that the suffering would bring His son to his senses.  Once the Prodigal emptied himself of the world, he was only then able to receive what he had never recognized from the Father - His unconditional love.

The elder brother in the parable has so filled himself with anger for his brother that he has locked himself within his own hell.  The Father goes to the celebration of the return of His younger son.  The room is open to the elder brother, but he has locked the gates to the place in which he finds himself from the inside.  There is nothing that the Father could or would do to force him to give us his own free will to join the love of the Father again.  The elder son's anger has locked out the Spirit, blinded him to his own need for the same repentance that his younger brother needed, sought, and was rewarded with the Father's forgiveness.  Just as talents are not the same, neither are sins.  Envy over talents is not rational, nor is envy over how great we might perceive forgiveness to another to be.  If we believe, as today's elder brother does, that our sins are less than another, our hearts are already in the wrong place......