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, November 14, 2015

A Prayer for France, and for the World

When we see carnage at the hands of demonically motivated murderers as we witnessed tonight, we certainly pray for the victims and their families.  We pray first for those who lost their lives.  We pray next for those whose lives will never be the same because they happened to be near, to be eyewitnesses, to the evil that occurred.  We don't often think of praying for the perpetrators, but as Christians, we are called to do even this.

Our Lord, after putting down yet another attempt by Pharisees ("the world") to trip Him in His own words, took His Apostles aside, and He taught them.

"I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:4-5)

Blessed Theophylact explains that those who kill the body do a small thing, for the body will die anyhow.  Men, he teaches, can direct their rage only against the perishable body.  The last step of their plotting against us is the death of our flesh.  But men have no power whatsoever against destroying the soul.  Only God has the power to cast the soul into hell.

If we serve our Lord and are faithful to live according to His commandments, to repent of our sins, to love our neighbor, and to love our enemy, then the death of our flesh is simply the event that brings our passage to eternal life.

The deranged murderers who plotted this evil against the people of Paris who, having killed others before killing themselves, are not the martyrs in this event.  The martyrs are the innocents whose bodies were slain, but whose souls were sent to their Creator.

May our Lord comfort those suffering tonight.  May He remember in His kingdom those whose bodies were slain, but whose souls now rest with Him.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"(Your Group Here)" Lives Matter!

We've been barraged with news items related to the movement whose motto is "Black Lives Matter," and to the efforts of this group, we offer a hearty, "Yes, they do!"  We pray that your efforts will make a difference!!

But are these the ONLY lives that matter?

We've also been inundated with stories - horror stories - of the atrocities worked by those who claim a medical title (we refuse to dignify such people by referring to them with the righteous title of 'doctor'), people who at times trick vulnerable young women into choosing abortion, who manipulate the unborn to murder them in ways that save precious body parts for resale, who place their abattoirs in locations where the more vulnerable of such people are located - in short, nearest to the poorest neighborhoods.  And we ask ourselves "How can a person sleep at night, having worked such atrocities upon the most helpless?"  In all honesty, as a priest, I've had people ask me exactly this question.  What is my own response?  Again, in all honesty, I tell them, "I have trouble sleeping at night knowing how little I've done to defend those who have and who continue to be slaughtered!"

At our little mission, we dwell upon the lessons taught us by our Lord in Matthew 25 - "Feed the hungry.  Give drink to the thirsty.  Take in those in need of shelter.  Clothe the naked.  Visit and heal the sick and the imprisoned."  These are simple-to-understand commandments from the lips of our Lord that teach us how we are to live our lives.  We are to live selflessly - even though we are in a selfish world.  We are to give from what He has given us, for it is His, not ours.

Why do we dwell on these things?  We do so because of the promise that our Lord makes in giving us these instructions.  What promise?  To those who in fact live according to them, He promises an invitation - "Come, you blessed of My Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  But our Lord gives a corresponding promise to those who refuse to live according to His instructions.  What promise is this?  "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."  As in all instances, He gives to us the choice.

And it seems an easy one to make.

But let's dig just a bit deeper into the text of Matthew 25.  For in both the blessing and the curse, our Lord uses the same operative word in His granting grace to the first, and a curse to the second.  To those blessed, He says, "Inasmuch as you have done (or NOT done) this to the least of My brethren you have done (or not done) it to Me." 

So, we should ask, "What does Jesus mean by "the least of His brethren"?

NOW you've got the most important question of this little mini-homily!

The Greek word used for "least" is ἐλάχιστος (el-akh'-is-tos).  It translates to "least, very small, very little, short.  Strong's Greek Concordance lists μικρός (mik'-ros) as an 'equivalent'.

Now, return your thinking to where we started - to the unborn.  The depraved thought and 'instruction' given by those who slaughter the unborn to the young women seeking help from anyone who seems to 'care' is that the "fetus" is not "viable".  If it could not live on its own, it can be eliminated without guilt.  Can a 2 year old child live on its own?  Should it be capable of being terminated at the whim of anyone who "bears" (or bears with) him or her?

Our Lord's words in Matthew 25 focus on those who are the very smallest.  We can interpret these words in any number of very valid and important ways.  "The least" may be those who are the poorest, who have the least influence to gather and garner what they need to exist.  "The least" may be those who have the least physical strength and ability to go and do for themselves.  "The least" may be those who are mentally challenged and cannot function in society without having someone to care for them and provide for their basic needs.

But "the least", the mik'-ros, the "micro" in our world, could have also been 'covered' by our Lord's words, with Him instructing us to do for those who are being slaughtered - by the millions - while still in the womb.  These are ones who fill ALL of the above categories, and more!  They have no voice if we do not provide one for them.  They have no advocate.  There is no 'judge' who decides their fate in a court of law.  That one decision was made in our country once in 1973, and it will remain until such time as our citizenry and our courts awaken to the misery caused since that unrighteous decision and demand a return to preserving life - all life, both born and unborn!

So, what are we to do?  If we honor the words given us by our Lord in Matthew 25, we must become advocates for the unborn.

UNBORN LIVES MATTER!

Get out and stand in a protest line in front of a Planned Parenthood building.  Write your Congressperson or Senator.  Don't ask.  DEMAND that the status quo be changed, reversed.  Take a stand.

Be a follower of Christ.  Desire with your whole heart to be one who on that last day will hear His blessing, and not His curse!  Following our Lord is not always a place of comfort.  But it IS a place to which we are called, if we are going to claim His name and truly be a Christians!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

To Those Who Deny That History Repeats Itself

Today, 05Mar on the New Calendar, is the Feast day of the Martyr John of Bulgaria.  For those following the happenings within the world around us now, the following should bring chills to the body, and strength to the spirit.

Pray for peace in the world!!  Pray for persecuted brother and sister Christians!!  Pray for their persecutors!!!

Fr. B

                                                        ------------  +  ------------

The holy New Martyr John was born in Bulgaria in 1775.  Since fanatical Muslims believed that they would be assured of an eternal 'paradise' where they would enjoy beautiful virgins and an abundance of food if they could force Christians to deny Christ and follow Mohammed, they spread no effort to convert Christians through flattery or by threats of death.

When John was still a boy, he fell with Muslim companions.  Through various ways, he was led to renounce Christ and to follow Islam.  He came to his senses when he was about sixteen, and was stricken with grief at his denial of Christ.  He fled to Mount Athos, to the Great Lavra.  There he spent his time in repentance under the guidance of an Elder.

He lived a monastic life of great strictness for three years, yet his conscience continued to trouble him.  With the blessing of his Elder, he decided to travel to Constantinople to wipe out his apostasy by confessing Christ in a public way and by shedding his blood.

The young monk dressed himself as a Turk, which a Christian was not permitted to do.  Arriving in Constantinople, he went directly to the Church of Hagia Sophia, which had been turned into a mosque.  Before the Muslims gathered there, he made the sign of the Cross and began to recite Christian prayers.  Then he said in a loud voice that he had been born a Christian, but had fallen into error and renounced Christ.  Now, he declared, he wished to renounce the false religion of Mohammed in order to follow Christ once more.

The Turks fell into a frenzied rage when they heard his words.  They seized him and began to torture him in various ways.  'Renounce Christ,' they said, 'and return to Islam, or you will be killed.'

Saint John replied, 'Without Christ, there is no salvation!'

The furious crown dragged the Saint out into the courtyard to behead him.  In this way, Saint John received the crown of martyrdom in 1784 at the age of nineteen.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Expulsion From Paradise

We Liturgically celebrated this event two Sundays ago, on the Sunday of Forgiveness.  But here is the event inside of today's prescribed readings, from Genesis 3:

"Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever' -- therefore the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man; and He placed Cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life." (Gen 3:22-24)

For those who deny the Triune nature of God, take note of the first sentence.  To Whom is God speaking?  If He says, "the man has become like one of Us," Who then is part of "Us"?  Is it not God speaking to God in Trinity?

But the true beauty of this passage remains for us to uncover, for God then, in His discourse with Himself, reveals His plan for the eternal nature of man.  It was always His plan for man to be with Him eternally.  It was only Adam's (and Eve's) sin that brought physical death to them.  But sooner or later, God would have shared with them not only of the Tree of Knowledge, but also of the Tree of Life.

It is fascinating that in this passage it is Cherubim who guard the entrance to where the Tree of Life is to be found.  Why is this 'fascinating'?

Consider the Divine Liturgy.  It is the Cherubic Hymn that "guards" the entrance of the gifts we bring so that God can, through the Holy Spirit, effect their change into the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.  And it is us here on earth, you and me, who share in the guarding of this entrance to this very day.  For we sing, "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-Holy hymn to the Life Creating Trinity now lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all, Who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts.  Alleluia!"

"Mystically" we represent these very angels, who have guarded the "Tree of Life" since mankind's expulsion from Paradise.  How God allows this is truly a mystery, beyond our human ability to understand.  And if only we can set aside all that ties us, binds us to the cares of this world, then we may be found worthy to receive the King of all, our Lord and Savior, His very Body and Blood.  For the Cross is the Tree of Life, and the fruit of the Cross is the Body and Blood of our Lord.  He came to share the Tree of Life with us, so that we might again receive the promise of dwelling with God in Paradise forever!

What is the 'price' of our entrance, to receive He Who is priceless?  Repentance for our own sins.  Forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.  Caring for the 'least of His brethren.'  Loving neighbor as ourselves.  The requirements are simple, easy.  Loving is so very much easier than hating.  Repentance is so much easier than carrying guilt.  The path may be narrow, but our Lord has made it obvious, not hard to find.

Our bodies are in the world, expelled from Paradise.  But through the Tree of Life, through the Eucharist, our spirits need not dwell there as well.  And where the spirit is, there is the heart.....

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy - 2015

The following was delivered as today's (01Mar15) homily in Hudson.  We pray that you will find it helpful.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus Christ.

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

Together we’re going to go to a couple of places today that other faithful were taken by two who far exceed the humble abilities of your priest to preach on a topic.  In 1985, Fr. Schmemann gave a sermon on this day that is perhaps one of the most moving we’ve read.  So, in part we’ll go to school today at the lectern of Fr. Alexander.  In 1984, Metropolitan Philip gave a sermon on this day, and it charged the American people with a solemn duty to also carry Orthodoxy forward.  We’ll paraphrase from both of these sources as best the Spirit allows us.  It’s not unworth the investment to find the originals of both, and I’d encourage any to do so if you’re interested.

The Holy Orthodox Church celebrates this day on this Sunday of the Great Fast every year.  It was in 787 at the Seventh Ecumenical Council that the victory of the Church over the iconoclasts occurred.  But it wasn’t until a regional council of the Church was called in Constantinople in 843 that this particular celebration was instituted.  At that time, Empress Theodora, her son Michael III, Patriarch Methodius, and monks and clergy restored to the temple Hagia Sophia the iconography that had been removed.  From that day, on this first Sunday of the Great Fast, the Holy Church has celebrated this victory. 

So in a very special way, today is a feast of the past.  And certainly if we are celebrating it today, it is a feast of the present.  But we, as the faithful of the Church today, need to take our place in the life of the Church to assure that the feast will also be a feast of the future.

While the focus of the Triumph of Orthodoxy which we celebrate today is that of the use of icons, there are many “triumphs” in Holy Orthodoxy.  The first and foremost is the reversal of the ultimate defeat that became the most glorious victory.  This of course is the death of God the Son on the Cross, only to have that defeat become the most glorious victory in the history of the world – the triumphant Resurrection.  This is the foundation of all that we are as Orthodox Christians.

The next victory is not unlike the first.  For our Lord chose twelve simple men, uneducated, unskilled, and He gave to them the Holy Spirit, and the power to preach about that defeat turned into victory.  He sent them to the whole world to preach and baptize and build up this Church.  These men were hated, and all save one martyred.  But even their blood was another victory, for the Church grew, until it filled the universe with the True Faith.  Ultimately, the earthly kingdom that sought to snuff out the fledgling Church was converted to the Church.  It only took 300 years for the Roman Empire to become the Holy Roman Empire.

Throughout this whole time persecutions arose.  As did heresies.  As did enemies of the Church.  There were attempts to change this Faith, to change the truth.  But holy people, men, women, and even children defended the truth.  Martyrs all, the Church is washed in their blood.  All of this happened before the council and the events which instituted today’s celebration.  But since then, there have been more such trials. 

And so we ask ourselves today:  Do all the victories of Orthodoxy lie in the past?  Fr. Schmemann makes this observation:  “My dear friends, if the triumph of Orthodoxy belongs to the past only, if there is nothing else for us to do but commemorate, to repeat to ourselves how glorious was the past, then Orthodoxy is dead. But we are here now to witness to the fact that Orthodoxy not only is not dead but also that it is once more and forever celebrating its own triumph — the triumph of Orthodoxy. We don’t have to fight heresies among ourselves, but we have other things that once more challenge our Orthodox faith.”

The challenges that Fr. Alexander outlined are those from that era – a church united by a core faith and divine services and councils, but otherwise ‘divided’ by ethnicities.  We are now thirty years after this proclamation, and what has changed? 

One change is the movement associated with the Assemblies of Bishops throughout the world.  This is a precursor to a new council, scheduled for 2016 in Constantinople (Istanbul).  And that is a momentous and wonderful development for the Church.

Unfortunately, the challenges that face the Church today are more than those associated with ethnicity and the lack of a unified council for more than 12 centuries.  Christians, and many of them Orthodox Christians, are being slaughtered in the political and religious press of Islam throughout the Middle East.  This is perhaps an even greater issue for the Church than the issues intended to be discussed when the upcoming council was first considered years ago.

Still, a unified Orthodox presence worldwide is a stronger advocate for the faithful of all countries and jurisdictions, and therefore, the dream of Orthodox unity around the world is a dream that we need to bring to fruition.  Metropolitan Philip’s address in 1984 contained a passionate plea along these very lines.  Here are a few words from his address.

“It is indeed astonishing that we have not had an ecumenical council since AD 787, despite the many changes which the Church has encountered during the past 1197 years. I shall mention but a few of these global events which affected the life of the Church directly or indirectly since the last Ecumenical Council: the 1054 schism between East and West; the fall of Constantinople; the European Renaissance with all its implications; the Protestant Reformation; the discovery of the New World; the French Revolution; the Industrial Revolution; the Communist Revolution and its impact on the Orthodox Church; the First and Second World Wars; the dawning of the nuclear age; the exploration of space and all the scientific and technological discoveries which baffle the mind….  You might ask, what is the reason behind this Orthodox stagnation? Did our history freeze after AD 787? There is no doubt that the rise of Islam, the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, and the fall of Tsarist Russia have contributed much to our past and present stagnation. The sad condition of our mother churches across the ocean is indicative of this reality….  Have we then lost all hope for an Orthodox renaissance? Is there not a place on this planet where we can dream of a better Orthodox future? I believe that there is a place, and this place is the North American continent. We have a tremendous opportunity in this land to dream dreams and see visions, only if we can put our house in order. Where in the whole world today can you find seven million free Orthodox except in North America?  We are no longer a church of immigrants; the first Orthodox liturgy was celebrated in this country before the American Revolution. Many of our Orthodox young people have died on the battlefields of various wars, defending American ideals and principles. We have contributed much to the success of this country in the fields of medicine, science, technology, government, education, art, entertainment, and business.  We consider ourselves Americans, and we are proud of it—except when we go to church, we suddenly become Greeks, Russians, Arabs, and Albanians.”

Here today, inside of St. Herman’s, we still suffer from this schizophrenia, in that we are the home of people with Greek, Slavic, Russian, Serbian, and speaking for my wife, even a little hillbilly background, and we worship under a Bulgarian omophorion by the grace of God.  And please, this is not a complaint – rather, it is simply a statement of fact.

This unity needs to be found so that the voice of Holy Orthodoxy becomes meaningful within our society.  You've all watched the news.  When moral issues arise, you'll find news reporters seeking clarification from Catholic and Protestant clergy.  But where are the Orthodox?  Why is the voice of the True Faith silent in these important discussions?  It is this way because we have marginalized ourselves by our ethnic divisions.

Metropolitan Philip ended his homily with his own reference to Fr. Schmemann, using these words.  “One can almost visualize the glorious and blessed day when forty Orthodox bishops of America will open their first synod in New York or Chicago or Pittsburgh with the hymn, ‘Today the grace of the Holy Spirit assembled us together,’ and will appear to us not as ‘representatives’ of Greek, Russian, or any other ‘jurisdictions’ and interests but as the very icon, the very ‘Epiphany’ of our unity within the body of Christ; when each of them and all together will think and deliberate only in terms of the whole, putting aside all particular and national problems, real and important as they may be. On that day, we shall ‘taste and see’ the oneness of the Orthodox Church in America.”

It is a vision not only for America, but for Orthodoxy in the entire world.  Pray that our hierarchs will be moved by the Holy Spirit to achieve this unity in Holy Orthodoxy in these coming years!  That would be the next in a great series of triumphs for the Church!


Glory to Jesus Christ!

Monday, February 23, 2015

How Do I Turn From Sin?

As we enter the fast, we begin to take our spiritual inventory, and we begin to seek out the places in our hearts and souls where we know we fail in our walk towards the Lord.  And so we ask the title's question:  "How do I turn from my sin?"

The following is from St. Theophan the Recluse, and the book "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year."  The answer to the question is contained in the ending phrase;  "Be sober, watch and pray."  In our sobriety, let us root out the secret places in our hearts where sin hides.  In our watchfulness, let us carry our finding to the place of repentance.  And in our prayer, let us ask the Lord to lead us not into temptation, so that we may not again fail as we have before.

The devil approached the God-man with temptations.  Who then among men is free of them?

He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil. 
As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can.
If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labors of cleansing the heart.
If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one’s life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate.
You ask, “What then should we do? It seems hopeless and terrifying!”
For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing person demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober person of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced.
If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly.
If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.
So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Blessing My Enemies

In the world around us, there is always a worldly attempt to define friend and enemy.  The political machinations that surround us seem to try to make one from another with such great regularity that we can't keep track any longer.

The following is wisdom from St. Nikolai Velimirovich (from "Prayers by the Lake") on praying for ones enemies.  It is profound, and we share it with you hoping it will move you as it has us!

     Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.
     Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from the earth and have demolished all my aspirations of the world.
     Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.
     Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.  
     
     They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
     They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.
     They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
     They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.
     They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.
     Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them, and do not curse them.

     Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
     Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
     Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
     Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
     Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
    Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.
    Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.
     Bless my enemies, O Lord.  Even I bless them and do not curse them.

     Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly set against me,
          so that my fleeing to You may have no return,
          so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs,
          so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul,
          so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger,
          so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven,
       and, ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

     Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows - that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.
     One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

     It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends, or enemies.
     Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

     A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.  But a son blesses them, for he understands.  For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.  

     Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.