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)
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!
Thursday, July 7, 2016
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!