Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
Friday, December 2, 2022
Monday, November 28, 2022
Sermonette on Luke 13:10-17
There’s a curmudgeonly expression in our language that says, “No good deed goes unpunished.” If it is true, then our Lord is the most punished person in the history of the world, for all He accomplished were “good deeds”.
Think of it. Consider all the myriad of people whom our Lord encountered in the three-year ministry we know of. Can we find one who was harmed?
You will say, “What of the rich young man whom Jesus instructed to sell all that he had? Wasn’t he ‘harmed’?” The response would be, “Certainly NOT!” He was given the great blessing to exchange a small amount of earthly blessings (regardless of how massive his riches might have been) for the promise of eternal and unlimited blessings in becoming a follower of our Lord! He chose to reject a great blessing. He left in sadness, when he was given the opportunity, like today’s multitude, to leave rejoicing!
Perhaps the issue is that we live wearing spiritual ‘blinders’ - you know, those things put on horses’ eyes so they can only see what lay ahead, not to the sides. Only in our case, the ‘blinders’ block our view of what has happened before and what our Lord has promised us will happen ahead. We see today—only.
We all know people who seem to never have a good day. When we encounter them, we almost fear to ask them, “How are you?”, because we don’t want to deal with the barrage of complaints that we know will follow. It’s likely the reason for our developing a persistent negativity towards such people is summed up on a lyric from a 70’s song from Jackson Browne that says, “Maybe people only ask you, ‘How ya doin?’ 'cause it’s easier than lettin' on how little they could care.” Society indicted!
But what of us? Where and when do WE find rejoicing? The question is framed for the days we find ourselves within, because without joy there is no giving of thanks.
Metropolitan Joseph wrote this past week an Archpastoral message to all of us, his spiritual children. He began that message with words from Elder Thaddaeus which teach the following. “God has given us everything, but we are always unsatisfied and gloomy. Instead of thanking and praising God for everything, we only express our thankfulness with our lips, and our hearts remain cold. Joy is thankfulness, and when we are joyful, that is the best expression of thanks we can offer the Lord, Who delivers us from sorrow and sin.”
If we are honest with ourselves and if we see ourselves in the light of the Gospels, then in the hierarchy of thankfulness, deliverance from sin has to rank in the number one position. And for one who has been delivered from his (or her) countless sins, how can sorrow, except over our sins, be a part of us? Being delivered from them must result in the greatest joy…
And if this happens to enough of us, then truly, on this day and on all subsequent days, we, the multitudes, will rejoice!
As we prepare for the coming in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in four short weeks, let us individually and collectively recognize the ever present Reason for rejoicing. For our God has chosen, beyond our human ability to understand the miracle, to assume our flesh, to become one of us, and to deliver us from our sins.
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.” (Ps 5:11)
Happy Thanksgiving 2022!
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos
Heb 9:1-7/Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28
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:
Today, the Mother of our Lord, the Mother of God, is brought by her parents to the Temple. She who is to be the temple which houses her own Creator, who weaves for Him a human body so that God the Son can fully share in our humanity, comes to dwell in the very presence of God, within the House He instructed to be built as His dwelling place on earth.
In Vespers, when we sing the Aposticha in Tone 3, the Theotokion which ends the Aposticha says, “By the will of the Father, without seed, of the Holy Spirit, you conceived the Son of God! He was born of the Father before eternity without a mother. But now, for our sake, He came from you without a father! Do not cease entreating Him to deliver our souls from harm.” In the Feast’s hymnology we proclaim the Theotokos to be a tabernacle, a living Ark and temple, pointing to her as the Ark of the Covenant, the place which from ancient times was seen as the seat of God, that which on earth could ‘contain’ Him. In the Proskomedia we speak of the Virgin with these words: “for in the cave, the Tree of Life has blossomed forth from the Virgin. For her womb has been shown to be a spiritual Paradise, in which is the Divine Plant, from which having eaten, we will live and not die as did Adam.”
As we ponder all these words, we come to see that the Mother of God is a focal point for all times. It is she who divides that which comes in the eternity of Christ before He took on our flesh from that which comes after He did so. And in His being truly God, and therefore truly immortal and without time, the Second Person of the Trinity existed fully at the Creation, in heaven and eternally with the Father and the Spirit. God in Trinity created all things by His Word, and the Word, as Saint John teaches in his Gospel Chapter 1, is Christ. It is by Him that all things were created. And so the Creator of the world begins the process of creation by engendering all that would become necessary for His taking on our flesh before He completes creation, for He knows our fall is coming, He knows that it must be by His own action that His creation, fallen mankind, will be restored to that place for which He is creating us.
We are confused by these kinds of terms, wherein we speak of things accomplished which have not yet happened, or things that have happened as if they are in the present. But this is the realm of God. Being timeless Himself, such terms as these are not inconsistent with His being. He has effected Creation, and this is His means of providing for our salvation within His Grand Design.
God provides on this day a 3 year old child. He will keep her, providing for her within His Temple for three times three, or nine more years, so that at the age of twelve she will be sent to be betrothed to a man whom God already has chosen to be her caretaker. In those nine short years this child whom we come to honor today will speak with the angels, be taught by them, and literally be fed by their hands – both physically and spiritually. She will witness things of which men cannot speak. She will come to be so comfortable with the mingling of the temporal, the earthly, with that which is eternal that when the Archangel Gabriel comes to her at the Feast of the Annunciation to pronounce the beginning of our salvation by her taking God within her pure and virginal flesh, she will not be frightened by his coming, by his pronouncement of the miracle, or by the prospects of what might come as a result. Nor will she view as something impossible his proclamation of an event that has no example in all of human history, that of a virgin birth. His arrival will seem normal, a natural thing to her. In these nine years within the temple, the Theotokos will come to accept God’s will as her own will. She will see no reason for her life not to conform totally to His requests of her. She will have no fear of the things God asks her to do, for at the tender age of twelve, she will already understand that God’s will should and must be done.
As Orthodox Christians, we come to understand “things” differently from others. We come to understand things inside the Church as “holy” – set aside for God’s purpose, not for the use of people in general. The word we use is "consecrated." We would never place the chalice onto a dinner table to be used for a common drink at a meal. In fact, we come to view the chalice as something holy in and of itself, so much so in fact that the un-ordained do not even dare to touch it, with the exception of venerating it when offered at the time of Communion.
Is there something different about the metal used to fashion the Chalice? The metal itself is common. Sometimes we attempt to make it appear to us to be more precious by coating it in gold, or by adorning it with jewels. But the metal remains common. The gold or jewels make it more pleasant to the human eye, but do not alter in the least the Divine function of the vessel. The metal remains common until it is consecrated, set aside for use in holding the precious Body and Blood of our Lord. It is the association with the physical touch of Christ that makes the common metal into something uncommon, even unearthly – heavenly.
If the Body and Blood of our Lord does this to a piece of common metal, what does it accomplish within our own bodies? He did not come to save common metal. He came, he took on our flesh, He brought about today’s uncommon child to be brought into His temple so that she, like the metal of the chalice, could be consecrated, set apart from that which is common for an uncommon purpose.
He has already accomplished this with the Theotokos. He came to receive flesh from her body so that He might save all of us from our sins, and from that which is present in this world that seeks to keep us nothing more than “common” people. Jesus comes and calls us to ourselves be uncommon, to be holy, to be set aside from worldly things, to be consecrated, sanctified to His purpose and His will, in our lives, and in this world.
Within her virginal womb, the Theotokos will literally set in place the Body and Blood of our Lord. They are created through Him, for Him, through her. If our communion is truly His Body and precious Blood, then they are truly present within her from conception.
Common things do not detract from that which is Holy. But that which is Holy can transform that which is common into that which is also Holy. That which is Holy, when it contacts something common, makes the common itself Holy. We are here this day to become yet more uncommon ourselves, to become more holy. Like the Mother of God, we have come to our own temple. We have ascended to the place where God dwells even today in our midst. He is here - as simple and austere, and “common” as this building might seem to others. He is here to give to us the gift of being able to make ourselves less common compared with that which is of the world, and having more in common with that which is Godly, more holy. It is for this purpose that our Savior has set aside today this three year old child, blessing and sanctifying her so that through her voluntary consent to bear Him, He might bring Himself into this world, exactly for this purpose, to save us from our sins.
As we contemplate this pure child, who in joy ascends the steps to the sanctuary, a child whose purity desires nothing more than to be in the presence of her God, let us attempt to share in that purity, and then in that love of God above all else, so that we may also share in her desire to be in His presence – forever!
It’s a glorious Feast!