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!

Monday, November 14, 2016

As We Enter the Advent Fast

The following words of wisdom come from Saint Ephraim the Syrian.  They are important for us to consider as we begin today to ponder our Lord's love for us in His condescending to take on our flesh, His Incarnation, the reason for God becoming man.

The facts themselves bear witness and His divine acts of power teach those who doubt that He is true God, and His sufferings show that He is true man. And if those who are feeble in understanding are not fully assured, they will pay the penalty on His dread day.
If He was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if He was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?
If He was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if He was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?
If He was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if He was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?
If He was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if He was not God, in whose honor did the star speed through the heavens?
If He was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if He was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?
If He was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if He was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?
If He was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if He was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” fulfilled?
If He was not flesh, whom did John baptize? And if He was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased”?
If He was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if He was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?
If He was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if He was not God, who turned the water into wine?
If He was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if He was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?
If He was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if He was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?
If He was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if He was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?
If He was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if He was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprimanded her because she had had five husbands?
If He was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if He was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?
If He was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if He was not God, who through the clay compelled the blind eyes to see?
If He was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if He was not God, who by His command brought out one four days dead?
If He was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if He was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?
If He was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if He was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.
If He was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if He was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?
If He was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if He was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?
If He was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if He was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?
If He was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if He was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?
If He was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if He was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?
If He was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if He was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?
If He was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me”? And if He was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?
If He was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if He was not God, how did He say to the thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”?
If He was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if He was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?
If He was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if He was not God, who smashed the gates of Hades to tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?
If He was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if He was not God, how did He enter when the doors were shut?
If He was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if He was not God, to whom did He cry out, “My Lord and my God”?
If He was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if He was not God, at whose command was the net filled?
If He was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if He was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at My right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, etc.”
If He was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies.  But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Choose Wisely

There's a scene in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" in which the movie's characters enter a chamber guarded by a knight (the Knights Templar, who else?) where there are myriads of "grails" (for us, "chalices"), only one of which is the true cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.  The true cup (in the movie) was to bring eternal life to the one who selected it and drank from it.  As the movie's villain enters the room, he's confronted with a choice, and he asks the knight, "Which one is it?"  The knight replies, "You must choose, but choose wisely, for the true cup brings life, but any false one brings death."

We're confronted with a choice in a short month (roughly) from now.  And there are many tempting alternatives.  Here in Ohio, our ballot will include five names of candidates.  And we will have the freedom to choose from any of the five.

But we all recognize that there are only one of two who can be or will be elected.  And so, we must hear the words of the knight echo in our heads - "Choose wisely."

We write this not to influence anyone's personal decisions per se.  Rather, we write to encourage all to ponder carefully their votes.

This is important!  This can and will determine your lives for the next four years minimally, and with ramifications on the judicial fronts, it will determine much about the lives of our children and even grandchildren.

Using a vote on one of the non-mainstream candidates may make us feel really good that we've not simply acquiesced to the poor choices that the two political parties have offered us.  And yet, in feeling good about such a choice, we will have abdicated our weightier moral responsibility of voting for a candidate to whom we've been led not by peer pressure, not by what we're told by any media (right or left), but by PRAYERFUL consideration of the histories, the moralities, and the evidences we can find that lead us to our selection, however unpalatable that choice may be for us.

This isn't easy!  But it's a choice that we MUST make - PRAYERFULLY - if we are to be able to look back at this year and say, "I tried, Lord."  Let's not find ourselves in the position of the movie's villain, who after picking the shiniest cup and drinking from it, dies in a pile of dust in a corner, only to hear the knight say wistfully, "He chose poorly...."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Practical Tips for Orthodox Living

I was going through "old archive files" from my PC from decades ago (literally), and came upon the article below.  The "original" was attributed to Mother Pelagia of Lesna Convent, who allegedly prefaced them with the remark:

"Orthodox families train their children from a very early age to acquire religious habits, in some of which I was myself, as a Protestant, brought up."

The following is her list, augmented periodically with references to her suggestions (in RED Italics):

1) Prayers are said morning and evening, either together as a family or individually.
2) A blessing is said by the head of the family before a meal, and a prayer of thanks afterwards.
3) On entering a room where there is an icon, cross yourself before it and say a brief prayer.
Every room should have an icon!
4) When leaving one's home, make the sign of the cross over the door and pray for its protection.
5) On seeing a priest, abbot or abbess, or even when phoning them or writing to them, always ask their blessing.
6) Before going to bed, make the sign of the cross over your bed and pray for protection during sleep.
7) When you hear of anyone's death, immediately say a prayer for their eternal memory.
8) If discussing or planning the future, say, "As God wills."
9) If you offend or hurt anyone, say as soon as possible, "Forgive me!", always trying to take the blame yourself.
10) If something turns out well, say, "Thanks be to God!"
11) If something turns out badly, if there is pain, sickness or any kind of trouble, say, "Glory to God in all things," since God is all good and, though we might not understand the purpose of these things, undoubtedly they have been permitted by God for good.
12) If you begin a task, say, "God help me,"  If someone else is working, say, "May God help you!"
13) Cross yourself and say a brief prayer before even the shortest journey.
14) For longer and more difficult journeys, ask a priest to say a special prayer.  If this is not possible, before departing say a prayer for your trip.
Example:  Lord Jesus Christ our God, the True and Living Way, be my Companion, my Guide, and my Guardian during my journey.  Deliver and protect me from danger, misfortune, and temptation, that being so defended by Your divine power I may have a peaceful and successful journey and arrive safely to my destination.  For in You I put my trust and hope, and to You, together with Your Eternal Father and Your all-Holy and Life Creating Spirit, I ascribe all praise, honor and glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.  Amen!
15) If there is a possibility of future trouble of any kind, either for yourself or for someone you care for, say an Akathist to the Theotokos, or to a Saint.
http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/Akathist_Softener_of_Evil_Hearts.pdf
16) When you receive a blessing after a prayer, always remember to thank God.  If it is a small thing, add a prayer of thanksgiving to your daily prayers or make an offering.  For greater matters, as a priest to serve a Moleben.  But NEVER neglect to give thanks.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How Many Times?

A prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:

How many times have I promised, yet every time I failed to keep my word.  But disregard this, according to Your grace.

Grant forgiveness, O Lord, and send strength.  Convert me, that I might live in sanctity, according to Your holy will.  Sanctify my heart that has become a den and dwelling place of demons.

I am unworthy to ask forgiveness for myself, O Lord, for many times have I promised to repent and proved myself a liar by not fulfilling my promise.  You have picked me up many times already, but every time I freely choose to fall again.

Therefore I condemn myself and admit that I deserve all manner of punishment and torture.  How many times have You enlightened my darkened mind?  Yet every time, I return again to base thoughts!  My whole body trembles when I contemplate this; yet every time sinful sensuality reconquers me.

How shall I recount all the gifts of Your grace, O Lord, that I, the pitiful one, have received?  Yet I have reduced them all to nothing by my apathy - and I continue in this manner.  You have bestowed on me thousands of gifts, yet miserable me, I offer in return things repulsive to You.

Yet You, O Lord, contain a sea of long suffering and an abyss of kindness.  Do not allow me to be felled like a fruitless fig tree, and do not let me be burned without having ripened on the field of life.  Do not snatch me away unprepared, do not seize me, who has not yet lit his lamp.  Do not take me away as I have no wedding garment.  But because You are good and You love us, have mercy on me.  Give me time to repent, and do not place my soul stripped naked before Your terrible and unwavering throne as a pitiful spectacle of infamy.

If a righteous man can barely be saved, then where will I end up, I who am lawless and sinful?  If the path that leads to life is straight and narrow, then how can I be granted such good things, I who have lived a life of luxury, indulging in my own pleasures and dissipation?  But You, O Lord, my Savior, Son of the true God, as You know and desire by Your grace alone, freely turn me away from the sin that abides in me and save me from ruin.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hatred

This is such a bitter subject to deal with, for when we deal with it, it is usually for all the wrong reasons.

Hatred has been responsible for the currently 5 dead officers in Dallas.  But it has also been responsible for the deaths of 49 in the Orlando nightclub, and the nine murdered in the church in Charleston, and the 13 at Ft. Hood, and the 2996 dead on 9/11, and....  What of Syria, Ukraine, Kosovo, or if you're older (like some of us), what of Northern Ireland, or Watts, or Kent State?

You see, there is never an 'end' to destruction when hatred is involved.  Those who hate cannot be satisfied until only their perspective remains.  And the number dead, the atrocities committed in maiming and mauling innocents - these things do not matter to those filled with hate.

As followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are called to something greater than this.  We are called to love, not only those whom we know and trust, but also those who hate us.  We are to return love for hatred.

You will ask, "But Father, isn't there a righteous place for hatred?"  And the answer is, "Certainly there is!"  But if we follow where our Lord leads, we come to the understanding that righteous hatred is directed at evil, and not at people.  "You who love the Lord, hate evil." (Ps 97:10)  Before every Divine Liturgy, the priest performs a ritual cleansing of himself, washing his hands, and he offers a prayer from Psalm 26.  But in the text that immediately precedes this prayer, there is wisdom again about hatred, as the Psalmist teaches, "I have hated the assembly of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked."  And then the aforementioned prayer.  "I will wash my hands in innocence, so that I will go about Your altar, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.  Lord, I love the beauty of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells.  Do not gather my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, men whose right hands are full of bribes, whose mouths are full of blood and treachery.  As for me, I shall walk in my integrity.  Deliver me and save me.  My foot stands on level ground.  In the churches, I will bless the Lord." (Ps 26:2-12)

We are indeed to hate evil.  And for this, there is much at which we must direct righteous hatred and indignation within our world.  This is not, however, to translate into our hating others.  St. John the Theologian taught us exactly because of our Lord's example, "Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer..." (1John 3:13-15)

When hatred is allowed to change the human heart to bring that passion to bear upon another person, any other person, then we have left the path laid out for us by the Savior.  Consider His own path walked to gain our salvation.  Those whom He created, His own servants, spat in His face, beat Him with reeds and lashes, mocked Him, scourged Him, nailed His emaciated Body to the Cross, pierced His head with thorns, His hands and feet with nails, His side with a spear.  And what response did He give (in order to teach us, at times like this)?  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

There is but one path for us to follow.  We cannot teach others the Love of Christ by returning hate for hate.  And take note that there is no room in any of these words, either from Scripture or from a sinful priest, for separation of interpretation based on something as insignificant as pigments in the skin or country of origin.

We pray for the souls of those departed, yesterday, and for all the yesterday's past.  And we pray that our Lord will bless us to receive the Spirit of Love for brother and sister from His Holy Spirit, that we might in our lifetime see the abolition, not of racial tension, not of terrorism, or of nationalism, but of their mutual root - the hatred of one person for any other!

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love each other, even as I have loved you." (John 13:34)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Election Season

If you're not watching the political scene in our country, you're disconnected.

As an Orthodox priest, I am not permitted to share with you anything other than that which the Church holds as relating to what is present before us - not to attempt to bias opinion one way or the other.  And so, it is with great care and much prayer that I structure this message.

We've heard from many that they are ever more disappointed in our political system, that the choices presented to us in each election cycle seem ever more unpalatable.  There have been comments to the effect (and I'm sure you've heard them), "I can't vote for either of these two," or, "I guess I'll have to vote third party" (whatever that may mean), or, "I'm just not going to go and vote."

And so, we enter this cycle already with a perspective of defeat.  We have taken the information available to us into our own hands, decided the options given us to be wanting, and chosen to not choose, to remove ourselves from the process because "the process is corrupt."  In short, we've placed ourselves into the judgment seat, and are washing our hands of the process....

Please look at what we've just said to ourselves, and to our Lord.  "I give up!"  Where in this is our turning to Him for guidance?  Where in this is our trust that He has a plan, that we are part of that plan, and that we have a responsibility (indeed, a divine one) to seek His will - even  in choices we cannot ourselves resolve.  Where is our understanding that our Lord does things like change defeat into victory?

He has a plan.  His plan includes us.  He has given us a great privilege to live in a country in which we still have the ability to select a candidate, imperfect though he or she may be.  

I can hear you ask, "Father, how do we make such a choice?  It's impossible!"

First, with God, all things are possible.  Next, we approach the choice with great fear and trembling, knowing that in our own sinfulness and with our own God-given talents, we are not capable of seeing what our Lord sees, of knowing what He knows.

But we are capable of turning to Him in prayer, seeking His guidance, asking that by His intervention we will be enabled to make the choice acceptable to Him.  There is a wonderful prayer from the Great Compline service in which we pray, "O Lord of Hosts, be with us, for we have no other help in times of adversity but You.  O Lord of Hosts, have mercy on us!"  

Our beloved country has turned our collective backs on our Lord for far too long.  We have eliminated Him from our schools, our courts, our public gathering places.  We have too long tolerated sin as choice, error as a lifestyle.  And while we love all humanity (recognizing our own sins, and our place as 'greatest among sinners'), we accept evil in our midst, because we've been told (not by the Church) that this is what a civilized society does.

If we can find it within our hearts to turn to the Lord for His guidance, to ask in humble and sincere prayer that He guide us and our country to conform to His divine will, our insecurities over something like an election will melt away.  And perhaps in the process we'll find ourselves changing the minds of the people around us to also seek and conform to God's will in our lives!  Can you imagine that day when our Lord blesses our faithfulness and multiplies His work by growing His Church in this country?

What is the point of this discussion?  As citizens of a country that once held the highest of standards in terms of living godly lives, in seeking His will throughout times of adversity and need, those of us who find ourselves in the society surrounding us today owe it not only to our parents and grandparents, but to our children and our grandchildren, to take up the responsibility given us, to pray intently to our Lord to reveal to us His will, to "do our homework," to study all we can about the virtues and liabilities of the candidates presented to us, and then, believing that our prayers will be answered, do our civic duty and vote for the most godly choice we find.  If you call it, "the lesser of two evils," you automatically accept defeat.  Rather, call it "the better of two alternatives," and then turn the one elected over into His hands, for ultimately that is where all civil authority lay, blessed by our Lord to serve His people.  

No one said this would be easy.  It may be disheartening and discouraging at times.  Will the one elected conform her or him self to the will of God in their service to this country?  God knows!  You know that the answer to that question is not always edifying.  But as those who follow the will of God, who call ourselves by His name, we have a responsibility to seek and to do His will.  Saint Peter taught it this way:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13).

Don't "not vote"!  Don't waste your vote!  Seek His will, and then trust the rest to His divine care - for us, His people!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Water Is Important!

Christ is Risen!

Today is the eve of the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Church which calls to our attention the fact that one half of the time between Pascha and Pentecost has now passed.  The Holy Spirit will come soon to establish the Church, to make it "firm" and secure for all time!

This past Sunday we commemorated our Lord's healing of the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool - at Bethesda (which in Hebrew means 'house of kindness').  It was there that divine healing could be found for those in need if they entered the waters "when they became troubled," or when by tradition an angel was sent to stir those waters.

In the Gospel reading for this current day (John 7:14-30) we find our Lord having moved from Bethesda to the Temple, "in the middle of the Feast."  This was the Feast of Tabernacles, which which the Jews celebrate each year to remember God's provision for them as they wandered in the desert for forty years, but also to look ahead to the day when God would restore the nation to Israel, and all would gather at Jerusalem to worship God in truth.

It is with this backdrop that we find our Lord ''teaching" the teachers of Israel, to such a great extent does Jesus teach them that they are astonished.  "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Our Lord engages His detractors, accusing them of seeking to kill Him, and they in turn accusing Him of "having a demon."  

The One who fed them in the desert stands before them, and they refuse to recognize or acknowledge Him.  The One who promised to return them to Jerusalem speaks with them, and they deny Him and make accusations against Him - even as they celebrate a feast to 'honor' Him.

Several verses after the end of today's Gospel, but still in Chapter 7 of the Gospel of Saint John, our Lord says these words:  "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink."

This coming Sunday will be the commemoration of the Samaritan woman, where our Lord meets St. Photini at Jacob's well.  There He asks her for water, and then promises to her (and delivers to her) "living water."

On the following Sunday we will remember the blind man (Bartameus), who receives his sight by washing "in the pool of Siloam."

We have incidents of water, and water, and water, and water.  Why?

Because we, like the Apostles in these days who were waiting (and being prepared by our Lord) for the Holy Spirit, will come to our "baptisms", will come to receiving the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us by water and prayer and anointing, which came to the Apostles by the descent of tongues of fire, and which fills the Church with LIFE.

One thing is constant for all that we know of life.  Life cannot exist without water.  That is physical life.  That is temporal life.

But eternal life also must be filled with the water of the Spirit of God, must be founded in that which is the creative force of God, His eternal Spirit, linking us to Him so that we share in His eternal nature.

Water is important! At this 'feast' of Mid-Pentecost, the Church (in Her love for us and in Her wisdom) gives us the repeated gift of focusing us on that 'living water' that our Lord promised - not only to St. Photini (the Samaritan Woman), but to His Bride, the Church, for all time!

Christ is Risen!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fear

Pascha, the Lord's Resurrection, is now more than a week behind us.  The Great and Holy Fast set aside for us a time in which we might live "in Christ," a time in which our fasting brought us near to Him (by bringing us OUT of the world), but also a time when, through the rigorous ecclesiastical schedule, we were literally "with Him" more frequently.  It was and is a time for us to develop a sense of connectedness to Him as something necessary, as something normal, as part of our daily routine.

Now we are out of that season.  But does that mean that we must return to "things as usual"?  Perhaps the church isn't open for services today, but does that mean that we cannot or should not remain (by prayer, by reading scripture, by reading from the Fathers) connected with our Lord?

Here we sit, on the Tuesday after Bright Week.  The Apostles have seen the risen Lord.  Even Thomas no longer has doubt in the fact of Christ's Resurrection.  As the Lord came to the Apostles this past Sunday, Saint John records that He greeted them by saying, "Peace be with you," that He "breathed upon them," and instructed them to "receive the Holy Spirit."  Clearly as our Lord did this, the Spirit did not at once enter the eleven.  That is yet to come, on the day of Pentecost, weeks from now.

And so to a certain extent, the eleven still live in fear of the Jews and the Romans.  They remain "off the grid" so to speak.  There are no public gatherings in which they speak to other followers of our Lord.  There remains a certain level of fear.

So, what is it that changes in them on that 50th day after the Resurrection?  Yes, of course, they received the Holy Spirit.  But they themselves had to change.  They had to recognize God's plan for them.  They had to come to expect what lay ahead for them, and for the Church - a life lived no less sacrificially than was our Lord's life.

Imagine, twelve men sent into the world to change it fundamentally forever!  The world has spears and swords, by the legions.  The twelve have words, and love.  In the wisdom of the world, the later could never overcome the former.  And yet, "the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God." (1Cor 3:19)

After receiving the Holy Spirit, the eleven (who became twelve again) indeed set out and conquered the whole world.  And the faithful whom they taught continued their conquests, even up to this very day, so that all throughout the world might hear the Gospel of our Lord.

In our times, we fear too many things.  We fear economic disaster, pandemics, super-volcanoes, earthquakes, nuclear disaster, nuclear war, terrorism, ....  The list seems endless.  But what is there truly to fear, except for our own being found to be faithless when our Lord returns?  If I perish in this life today or if I perish in this life 30 years from today, I will perish in this life.  What must concern me is not this life, but rather life eternal, and not being found "among the goats" on that day!

There is nothing in this life that we should fear except for living a life in which we reject our Lord.  For there is no threat in this life that can touch us in eternity, as long as we live a life according to His commandments, loving God above all, loving neighbor as self, laying up treasures in heaven which cannot be taken from us!

As we do this, His peace truly fills us.  There is no room for fear.  There is only Christ crucified and risen!  There is nothing more we need know or embrace than this!

Monday, April 25, 2016

By What Authority Are You Doing These Things?

He was baptized as man, but He remitted sins as God.  He was baptized not because He needed the rite of purification Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water.

He was tempted as man, but He conquered as God; indeed, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.

He hungered, but He fed thousands;  indeed, He is the bread of life that gives life, and that is of heaven.

He thirsted, but He cried, "If any man thirsts, let him come to Me and drink."  Indeed, He promised that fountains should flow from those who believe.

He was wearied, but He is the rest of those who are weary and heavy laden.

He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea.  He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink.

He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; indeed, He is the King of those who demanded it.

He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.

He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He is man; but He raises Lazarus, for He is God.

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver, but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price was His own blood.

As a sheep, He is led to the slaughter, but He is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

He is bruised and wounded, but He heals every disease and every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life He restores us; indeed, He saves even the robber crucified with Him.

He is the Light of the world, but He wraps the visible world in darkness.

He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.  Who is He?  He is the One Who turned water into wine, Who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, Who is sweetness and altogether desired.

He lays down His life, but He has the power to take it again.  He dies, but He gives life, and by His death He destroys death.

He is buried, but He rises again.  He descends into hell, but He brings up the souls.

Saint Gregory Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 20.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Young Rich Man

The Gospel reading for 04Feb16 was from Mark 10:17-27.  If it's not already one of your favorite readings, perhaps this post will help to elevate it on your list.

The young man who comes to the Lord is filled with energy and zeal.  Saint Mark records "he came running and knelt before the Lord."  His heart is filled with the strong desire to learn, to hear, to adapt to that which will elevate him to the Kingdom!  All of these are good things.

But then he speaks.

He asks Jesus, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"  In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the man asks, "What good THING...", implying that there must be a solution to finding acceptance before God that is simple to follow and understand - just "one" thing!

ERROR #1:  Teacher?  You come to Christ as "just" a teacher?  It means that you do not (yet) recognize in Him His divinity, that He is the Son of God.

ERROR #2:  One thing?  You ask for simplicity?

The Lord, in His own way of "teaching" replies, "Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One, and that is God!"  In His answer, Jesus indeed implies to the young man, "Yes, I am 'good' because I am God, but you do not yet know this!"

Jesus responds by speaking the Law of Moses, the Commandments.  Clearly, this is the 'recipe' for pleasing God, since these are the 'rules' given by God to His creatures as their 'rules for life'.

The young man responds to our Lord's teaching by saying, "All these things I have kept from my youth."

ERROR #3:  You've not violated a single point of the Commandments?  Then you are deluding yourself in the intent of the meaning of the Law!  You ascribe to yourself righteousness.  Look inside!  If righteousness is there, why do you come to seek from Jesus an answer to "what is needed"?

And here next is the line that, if this is not yet on your "favorites" list should put it there.  Saint Mark records, "Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him...."  In this expression is a summation of God's choosing to become incarnate, of His saving action on the Cross, in the tomb, of His Resurrection and His Ascension!

Jesus looked at him.  This is not a 'glance' that has the eyes of one seeing a blemish on the face, or a spot on clothes, or noticing the quality of shoes.  This is a look that peers deep into the heart, to the very core of the being of the young man.  This is the "look" that our Lord gives to the man.  And in looking that intensely and deeply into the heart of the man, Saint Mark says, "(He) loved him."

The young man just committed a pile of errors before the Lord.  He didn't recognize Him as God.  He wanted some simple answer to his questions.  He judged himself to be righteous, at least as the Law had been explained to him.  Through all these errors, God the Son still loved him!

What does this say about us?  We, too, have misconceptions about what God expects of us.  We, too, misunderstand how it is that God intends for us to live.  We, too, judge the things that we do that are counter to God's loving rules for life to be small, inconsequential.  We believe that our sins are not worth carrying before God because "they are so small."

Point is - we, too, have so very many "errors" in our coming before the Lord.  But through these, He has the ability and the heart to "look at us."  He knows us.  He created us.  If He can find within us that same heart that desires to seek His will in our lives, then His love for us is also present.

The "prescription" that our Lord gave to the young man was to go and sell all he had, to give to the poor, and then "take up the cross, and follow Me."  The "prescription" that our Lord would give to each of us would differ.  He would no doubt single out those things in each of our lives that are being used as an earthly substitute for our relationship with God.  But the final part of the "prescription" will remain for each and every one of us.  We all need to "take up the cross".  In our lives there are small crosses, there are huge crosses.  The small ones God has given us strength and grace to overcome and deal with as we encounter them.  The huge ones are crosses that we need His help to carry.  We must never be afraid nor ashamed to come to Him for that help.  Indeed, we must at times allow for His placing others into our lives to be such helpers.  Remember, on the way to Golgotha, even our Lord had Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry His Cross!

Let us all, then, follow the One who loves us through our errors!