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 19, 2018

Nativity and Gifts

Christs is Born!  Glorify Him!!!

The world that surrounds us would have us believe that the Feast we celebrate today is not about Christ, but about giving.  If the world would have its way, they would forcefully instruct us that the Lord is a fairy tale, but the mall Santa is real.

As Orthodox Christians we know a different side of the Feast.  And the giving of fruitcakes, video games, and high definition electronics isn't what it's about.

What are the gifts upon which we, as Orthodox Christians, focus?

We need to go to the Stichera on Lord I Call for Vespers for the Feast.  Here is what the Holy Orthodox Church teaches about gifts and the Nativity of our Lord:

What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes has appeared on earth as a Man?
Every creature made by You offers You thanks.
The angels offer You a hymn;
The heavens a star;
The Magi, gifts;
The shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave;
The wilderness, the manger;
And we off You a virgin Mother.
O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

So you see, gifts on this day DO have meaning.  But our greatest gift to be offered on this day is defined in the third line of the above hymn - thanksgiving!  But more than this, the Holy Church's teaching shows us that there is but one single portion of all creation that does not offer praise to God for the miracle of the Incarnation.

What is that one single portion?  It is the remnant of mankind which, by deceit of the enemy, opposes God at all times.  For even as the Savior comes into the world as an Infant, there are those who already seek His destruction.  It was true in the time of His birth.  It has been true throughout all of history since.  And, it remains as true even today.

We all know the Nativity account.  A child is imminent, and the family responsible for Him comes to Bethlethem where they find no one who will accomodate a young woman who is delivering a Child.  If there was an inn (and Scripture tells us there was), you can believe that there were people in that place who had a room and were quite comfortable thank you very much, but could not and/or would not be bothered to give up their comfort for the sake of a woman and her Child.

The world didn't exactly welcome God into it, did it?  Did WE?  And to this day we treat Him still with perhaps not contempt, but at least indifference.  All those days He knocks at the doors of our hearts and asks to come in, but we "are full" - we have no room for Him to enter, no capacity to allow Him to change us from the earth-bound creatures we have become, no vision of our need to be heaven-bound as possessors of the promise He came into this world to assure to us.

Ergo, on this great Feast of the Incarnation of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, let us come to Him as did the shepherds - filled with the wonder inspired by the hymn of the angels.  Let us come as did the Magi, offering to Him that which we have.  Gold was the gift of a King.  We may have no gold, but we have that which is precious to the King, the desire to be obedient to His commands.  Frankincense was the gift of the High Priest.  We may have no frankincense, by we have that which is precious to the High Priest, prayers offering up our thanksgiving.  Myrrh was the gift of One Who is to be buried.  We may have no myrrh, but we have that which is precious to the One Who comes into the world to suffer and die for our sakes - the heartfelt desire to repent of our sins.

And so, we may come to God on this day, and on every day, bearing gifts that are precious in His sight.  Let us therefore run to the cave, as did those shepherds, so that we might fall down and worship God, Who came into the world in His love for us.  Those shepherds loved their sheep, but they abandoned them to go and find what the angels proclaimed to them, God With Us! 

For this is that Love, the Love of God, and it is the greatest of all gifts!

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2018

What Good Is Fasting, Anyhow?

It's a question that's asked silently more often than aloud, but if truth be told, most of us who "hold fast to the Orthodox faith" have at some point in time considered the question.

We know the drill.  We fast every Friday.  And yes, we're supposed to fast on Wednesdays as well.  That's our "weekly" schedule.  But we also know that there are four fasting seasons.  There's the Great Fast, and second to it in duration is the Nativity or Advent Fast.  Next in duration - well, that's difficult.  The Dormition Fast always lasts for 14 days (Aug 1 thru Aug 14).  But the Apostles' Fast is "variable."  It begins on the day AFTER the Sunday of All Saints (one week after Pentecost), and extends until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on 29June.  So in those years when Pascha falls early, the Apostles' Fast is longer than those years when Pascha falls late.  I recall a year not so long ago when the Apostles' Fast was only one or two days long.  Of course, if you're lucky enough to worship on the Old Calendar, 29June comes 13 days later, so there's an additional 2 weeks to the Apostles' Fast!!

I just took a look at calendar 2019 ("New" Calendar, that is).  When one observes every prescribed Wednesday and Friday, and all of the days of each of the four fasting seasons, one fasts for a total of 182 days - almost EXACTLY half of the year.

But back to the title's question - What good is all this fasting?  What do I accomplish from it?

In too many instances we've heard people openly state, "I'll lose weight during the fast...."  Perhaps you will, but that's NOT the purpose of the fast.

The purpose of any fast is to put the body to war with the spirit, and to allow the spirit to emerge victorious over the body.  If we for a moment think that our lives are fully conformed to the fullness of the instruction and example our Lord gave us for living, we're deluding ourselves.  And in that separation from His perfection we should be striving for it as our goal, for He commanded us, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect..." (Mat 5:48)  Can we achieve that perfection?  No, but we won't even get closer to the goal unless we struggle, strive, FIGHT - spirit against body.

The body loves to eat, and to overeat.  The body loves to recline and rest.  The body calls to us to satisfy any number of "wants" including those of the more base fleshly desires.  Is there anything sinful in taking food?  No.  But when we overeat, our bodies become lazy, and we don't strive to labor to help those in need.  Is there anything sinful in the condition of human love?  No, when approached in the light of God's gift between husband and wife, it's a beautiful gift.  But when we focus on that any gift to extremes, we deny ourselves the vision of those around us who need to feel love from another person.  That love can be accomplished with a smile, or a kind word, or a visit to one ill and shut in.

Fasting allows us to gain control over those things in the world that we usually allow to effect control over us - the stimulus of an advertising sign showing delicious food, making us desire it; the stimulus of a person speaking with us and talking about another in an unflattering way, urging us to participate in that unrighteous talk.  When we fast, we consume time in other ways - giving alms, reading scripture, and yes - hearing our stomach's complain (growl) as we deny them what they crave.  That feeling and that sound remind our spirits that they are winning - and strengthen them for the battle!

So fast as many of those 182 days as you can.  In fact, fast more if you can!  Define your fast as not "just" from food, but from the passions that tear us down.  Then add to your fast cultivating the virtues that bring us closer to God's perfection.

If we can do this, we'll not need to ask what the fast is accomplishing in us!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Journey of the Fast

Beginning.  Making a start.  Launching an effort.

What are the things that we as human beings do when we set out to accomplish something?  Let us say, for example, that we are planning "the vacation of a lifetime", a journey to see places and things we've longed to see for many years.  How would we go about the task of planning such a thing, and what would be the first things essential to assure success in attaining our goal?

For you see, it is that goal that brings focus to every action that we will take. 

And so we begin by laying into order all the things necessary to achieve that goal.  We start by study - we seek information about modes of travel, places we might pass through that could add to the joy of the journey.  We search out costs, maximizing the use of our resources in the trip, but not 'skimping' because, after all, this is the "vacation of a lifetime", and it needs to be as perfect as we can make it.  We look for travel guides, not the cheapest, but those who have reviews from others who have journeyed attesting to their benefits, to the degree to which their participation in the journeys of others.  We would have complete and total knowledge of every aspect of this "vacation of a lifetime" EXCEPT for what we would experience when we actually get TO our destination.

What better explanation is there, what better 'analogy', to our living our lives as we "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness"? (Mat 6:33)

For us, the "mode of travel" is our Faith.  Read Hebrews Chapter 11 to understand what "by faith" means to us, how it is "by faith" that all things are accomplished.  St. Paul goes so far as in attesting to the faith of so many of the forefathers that he say about them, "of whom the world was not worthy." (Heb 11:38)

Those of us who have embraced Holy Orthodoxy therefore "travel toward the Kingdom" by our Faith.  Holy Orthodoxy is our "ship" that carries us toward our destination, the Kingdom of Heaven.  Even this analogy is not an accident, for many Orthodox churches are built in the shape of an ark, the ship of Noah which saved the souls of those set aside by God before the flood.  And the book that contains our living instructions, the Canons of the Church, is known as "The Rudder" - the implement by which a ship is guided, steered upon stormy seas.

We add to our "journey" those places and events which make the journey more than it would be otherwise - the calendar of the Church, the Twelve Major Feasts which are in and of themselves joyous events, and they sustain us in our joy was we travel the seas of temptation, still seeking our "goal", our coming to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our "travel guides" are the Holy Fathers.  Their teachings, their writings, their wisdom, their having lived and walked the paths that lay before us now attests to their qualifications as being sound and proper guides for us as we begin our journeys. 

The only thing that we cannot comprehend is the total joy and bliss that will exist upon our arrival at our destination. 

And so we set out on the journey through this year's Great Fast.  This is a "little journey" - with the goal of experiencing that joy we'll see at our Lord's Pascha.  The planning is also a microcosm of our life's goal of attaining the Kingdom.  So what is our plan for this present journey?

As we enter this year's Great Fast, we begin with yesterday's Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, where we prayed these words:

Let us hasten to humble the flesh by abstinence, as we set out on the God-given course of the Holy Fast, and with prayers and tears let us seek our Lord and Savior.  Laying aside all memories of evil, let us cry aloud: 'We have sinned against You, O Christ our King; save us as You saved the men of Nineveh in the days of old, and in Your compassion make us sharers in Your heavenly Kingdom.

Our plan is outlined for us by the Holy Church.  We have exalted our flesh, fed it, overfed it.  Our bodies have become our masters.  It is time for the spirits to be elevated, to "humble the flesh" by abstaining from food.  But we also must humble the ego by abstaining from that which feed it - gossip, idle talk, vain thoughts and pursuits, reading things that do not profit the spirit.

Our plan includes intensified prayer, and not just any prayer, but prayer which searches out the inner depths of our hearts, sheds God's divine Light on the darkest corners, so that we can find and root out that which is unclean and remains within.  This often brings us to tears, recognizing things we've forgotten, finding things we didn't know were there.  The Holy Fathers teach that our tears of repentance are another baptism, washing away the sins which caused these tears to flow from our eyes.

We do these things to seek our Lord and Savior.  And as we confess our sins to Him, we know His promise to forgive all we confess.  In this certainty, we lay aside all memories of the evil we have done, for it is wiped clean by His forgiveness, and in the joy that comes from this knowledge, we admit those sins freely, easily, openly, joyously. 

The reference to "the men of Nineveh" comes from Jonah Chapter 3, where the prophet finally accepts God's divine will and prophecies to the people of Nineveh that God will destroy their city because of their sins.  The book reveals,

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 
 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 
 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.
 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 
 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? 

They repented.  They fasted.  They no doubt prayed.  And, the result was,

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Our yearly journey to Pascha is made its best when we take part in the fullness of the Church during the Fast.  Our participation in the services helps our planning, fulfills our desire for maximizing the benefits of the trip, gives us the guidance to be had from the Holy Fathers through the hymnology of the Church.

This is our promise for this year's "journey" within the Great Fast!  The Fast began yesterday with this reference to Jonah.  Interestingly enough, this passage is read as one of the Old Testament Readings during the Holy Saturday Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil - the Liturgy at which the Resurrection of our Lord is first announced with the hymn, "Arise, O God, judge the earth, for to You belong all the nations!"

It is with the greatest joy that we invite you to journey the Great Fast with us at St. Herman's!  See our web page at www.sainthermanchurch.org for the calendar of the week!

Glory to Jesus Christ!