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! We are open, and we welcome inside the Church all visitors who follow state COVID guidelines.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Resolutions

 03Jan21 - Sunday/Before Theophany

2Tim 4:5-8/Mark 1:1-8

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

 It's a Glorious Feast!

 My brothers and sisters in Christ:

 We find ourselves “in that time of year” again, a time when people see the calendar and leap to the conclusion that when the digits in the year number change, somehow that occurrence is related to a “new beginning.”  And so, it fosters what we’ve all come to know as “New Year’s Resolutions.”

 I was listening to a radio program this past week, and a guy was being interviewed about a book or an article he’d written on the topic of resolutions.  His argument went something like this:

 1) A resolution is good, but it carries no weight, and virtually all resolutions are therefore shortly forgotten, which promotes the idea that attempting to make a change is pointless.

 2) When a resolution is enhanced by making a plan, it is improved.  If the resolution is to lose weight (and oh how very many are!), even setting a goal of “x” pounds means less than saying, “I’m buying a gym membership, and I plan to go at least twice each week.”  As noted, this is better than 1) above, but still carries little “meat” that will prevent overbooked schedules (or laziness) from causing one to miss the goal.  And once missed, it again promotes the idea of pointlessness.

 3) When a resolution becomes a commitment to make a change on a personal level, then there is something to grasp and to live up to.  Instead of resolving to lose weight, if you say, “I’m the kind of person who looks out for my health on a daily basis.”  Now, you’ve made a change.  Now, with this as a personal description and commitment, you choose a salad for lunch, you pack your gym clothes and put them on the front seat so that you can stop at the gym on the way home.  You start a log of what you ate and how it affected your weight – and your sense of health.  This third way of looking at things is the way of change. 

 So let’s take this discussion to our spiritual lives, because they need “a change” as well – not by “resolving” not to commit a particular sin any longer, but by committing ourselves to a description of ourselves that effects a change.  Suppose we’ve come to confession a number of times and confess, “I have ignored doing things for others who are in need.”  It confesses the sin.  It acknowledges the failure.  Now, if we take that confession to the place where, when we leave, we say to ourselves, “I have become the kind of person who will care for the needs of another every day.”  Inside of that statement is a commitment to change from a sinful pattern of ignoring the needs of others to choosing a path that will at least acknowledge those needs and proactively seek to do something about it.

 And it is the way we must approach change in our lives with respect to our salvation.  St. Matthew records this about our Lord beginning His public ministry, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”  In this verse, the word used for “repent” is the Greek word μετανοέω.  It means to think differently, to reconsider, to feel moral compunction.  It means that in considering how I have fallen short of God’s expectations of me, I understand my need to change.

 Change as a word occurs elsewhere in Scripture.  With today being the feast day of the Prophet Malachi, it’s appropriate that we pull some material from him.  The Aposticha in Tone 3 from Vespers says, “You are the changeless God, Who suffering in the flesh was changed.” In Malachi 3:6 we find these words: “For I am the LORD, I change not.”  The Hebrew word for change here is שָׁנָה, pronounced " shaw-nah’ ".  It carries the meaning to alter or transmute, to become something it was not before.  It is different from repent, which we just tied to the idea of change.  Here in Malachi, the Prophet is pointing to the fact that God, being timeless, is not subject to change.  This is the reason that we understand THIS as our time for repentance, for after we fall asleep in the Lord, we too become “unchanging”, outside of time.  Change is a function of time!  So indeed, THIS is the time for our change!

 We just stated that repentance, true repentance, will effect a change in us.  Repentance brings change.  But change does not necessarily bring repentance.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I can be impacted by something another person does that I judge to be evil, and I can change my attitude toward that person.  My behavior matches evil for evil.  If I behave in such a fashion I’ve changed, but certainly not repented!

 Where is this discourse leading?  Having survived 2020, we find ourselves worried about 2021.  Will the mutant strains of COVID become another new full blown pandemic?  Will the vaccines work?  Will we be able to “unmask” finally?  Will our children be able to return to some ‘normal’ life in school.  Will we be able to interact socially again?  The year now past was a year of unexpected and undesirable change.  Can we have hope that the coming year’s change will not be so traumatic?  

 As we enter this new year, those are the thoughts in the minds of most Americans.  I find myself focused on other pressing matters.  We missed Pascha in 2020.  Will we have a Pascha in 2021?  Will we be able to restore our community life to the family that is our parish?  Will I find it in my heart to make repentance my number one priority in my changed life?

We WANT change, but we want that change to conform to OUR thoughts, hopes and plans, without considering God's plan in sending change our way.

 When I start to ask such questions of myself, I go to the Fathers for help.  We’ve spoken in the past of a little book from St. Theophan the Recluse titled "The Spiritual Life".  It’s filled with gems which have a connection to our discussions this morning.  I believe St. Theophan was speaking to just such an issue of repentant change when he addressed these words to his spiritual child:

 Live without making empty plans, but doing the works that fall on you with respect (to others) and to all people.  Do not think at all that this life is empty.  Everything that you do here, no matter what it is, will be a work, and if you do it with the consciousness that such a work is according to the commandments and that God wants such a thing, then the work will be pleasing to God.

 Specifically as change relates to repentance, St. Theophan says this:

 God gave us this life so that we would have time to prepare for the next one.  This one is short, but the next one has no end.  Although this life is short, during its course one may lay in provisions for all of eternity.  Each good work goes toward this end like a small contribution; from all such contributions comes the overall capital, the interest of which will determine the upkeep of the saver for all eternity.  He who makes larger contributions will have a richer upkeep, while he who makes smaller contributions will have a lesser upkeep.  The Lord will render to each one according to his works.

 As we find ourselves changing as a result of our repentance, St. Theophan instructs us that ‘monitoring’ our progress is very easy indeed, and that our efforts do not need to be monumental – they simply need to be efforts consistent with the opportunities that the Lord gives to us.  He says,

 We already believe, what else is needed?  Carry out the commandments, for faith without works is dead.  Also give thanks to the Lord: that it suited Him to determine the value of our works, not by their magnitude or greatness, but by our inward disposition when carrying them out, having at the same time given us a multiplicity of opportunities for doing good works according to His will, so that, if we pay attention to ourselves, we may at every moment perform God-pleasing works.

 Do we hear the wisdom the Saint is presenting to us?  AT EVERY MOMENT God gifts us with ways to do that which pleases Him – MULTIPLE WAYS!  If we chose HIS ways as opposed to our own, and if our hearts are filled with joy in doing His will – we are found to be favorable in His sight!!!

 We’ll close with these words from St. Theophan.

 Just look around yourself each day and each hour; on whatever you see the seal of the commandment, carry it our immediately, in the belief that God Himself this very hour requires this work of you, and nothing else.

 When our Lord exits Jordan this week, and He goes to begin His three-year ministry, when He gifts us the words, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” He is giving us the gift of seeking change through repentance.  When we see how very easy living UP to the change can be, how can we not marvel at the goodness and love that our Lord shows us on a daily basis.  He has laid at our doorstep, at our very feet that which we require to serve Him in a way that is pleasing to Him such that our salvation can be secured.

 Following Him from Bethlehem, to Jordan, to Tabor, to Bethany, to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, to the Mount of Olives – His path is the focus of our efforts, for following where He has led is the key to finding ourselves always near to Him.  That path is to be found here, in this place, His house. 

 May our Lord bless us to once again find our way through following His steps, hearing His words, doing His will – without fear or concern for anything else we might find around us in things we can NOT change.  COVID or not, the world will be a better place if we change ourselves to be more Christ-like!  Let us ask His blessing to help us change what we CAN change (ourselves, our hearts, our failings) before it’s too late.

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