Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio

This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small 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. See our Parish web page:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

A Nativity Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom

"I behold a new and wondrous mystery!
My ears resound to the shepherd's song,
piping no soft melody, but loudly chanting a heavenly hymn!
The angels sing!
The archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The cherubim resound their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!

All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead herein on earth and man in heaven. He who is above now, for our salvation, dwells here below; and we, who were lowly, are exalted by divine mercy!

Today Bethlehem resembles heaven, hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and, in place of the sun, witnessing the rising of the Sun of Justice!

Ask not how this is accomplished, for where God wills, the order of nature is overturned. For He willed. He had the powers. He descended. He saved. All things move in obedience to God.

Today He Who Is, is born! And He Who Is becomes what He was not! For when He was God, He became man-while not relinquishing the Godhead that is His...

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him angels, nor archangels, nor thrones, nor dominions, nor powers, nor principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His incarnation has He ceased being God.

And behold kings have come, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven; Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of childbirth into joy; Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin;  Infants, that they may adore Him who became a little child, so that out of the mouths of infants He might perfect praise;  Children, to the Child who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod; Men, to Him who became man that He might heal the miseries of His servants;  Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for His sheep;  Priests, to Him who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek;  Servants, to Him who took upon Himself the form of a servant, that He might bless our stewardship with the reward of freedom (Philippians 2:7);  Fishermen, to the Fisher of humanity;  Publicans, to Him who from among them named a chosen evangelist;  Sinful women, to Him who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant woman;

And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Since, therefore, all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice! I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival! But I take my part, not plucking the harp nor with the music of the pipes nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ!

For this is all my hope!
This is my life!
This is my salvation!
This is my pipe, my harp!

And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels and shepherds, sing:

"Glory to God in the Highest! and on earth peace to men of good will!"

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Forefeast of the Nativity of Our Lord

Today is the first day of the "Forefeast", a term which describes our own preparation for that which is to come within the Feast of our Lord's Nativity.

The Gospel of Saint Luke records, "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"   And so, Joseph and Mary would have made the journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth.  The distance traveled would have been about 80 miles, a journey that a normal person could make in about 4 days.  But the Virgin was ready to deliver her Child.  We do not know how long the journey took - perhaps a week.  What we do know is, on THIS day (5 days before the birth of our Lord), they were in the process of making a very rugged journey.

As were the Magi.

And even the heavens shared in the preparation, for the Star assumed its designated place to be a guide.  And the angels of heaven lay in wait to proclaim the glad tidings to those who were simple enough and vigilant enough to hear their message.

It seems as if the world was preparing for the coming of its Creator.  And within the hymnology of the Feast, and especially of the day, we hear exactly that concept:

"Bethlehem, be prepared, Eden is open to all.  Ephratha, be made ready, 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.  Christ is born to raise the image that had fallen."

And from this preparation, what response did the world give?

The Magi offered that which was most precious to them.  The shepherds offered all that they could, which was worship of the One whose birth they heard the angels proclaim.  Again, within the hymns of the Church we find the wonder of creation and its own offerings to God in response to His coming in the flesh:

"What shall we present to You, O Christ, for Your coming to earth for us men?  Each of Your creatures brings You an offering of thanks.  The angels offer their singing.  The heavens offer a star.  The wise men offer their treasures.  The shepherds offer their worship.  The earth offers a cave, and the desert offers a manger.  But we offer You the Virgin mother.  O Eternal God, have mercy on us!"

Within these next four days, we have much to prepare.  Our homes will fill with loved ones.  Our kitchens will fill with the aromas of food we've not shared over a 40 day fast.  Our minds will fill with things too earthly, being concerned over assuring that all will "go according to plan."  These are not 'bad' things.

But let our hearts most especially fill with the best of things - the joy of knowing that we will be among those who offer praise and thanks to God for His gift of salvation to us.  And to make that preparation of our hearts, we need only a very few things.  We need true repentance, recognizing our need for God's forgiveness.  And we need the firm knowledge, from the depths of our being, that Christ the Lord is come, in His love for us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saint Herman

The life of Saint Herman of Alaska, our Patron, carries with it spiritual food for us all!  If we take to heart the example of Saint Herman, our lives, and the lives of many who surround us, can be changed, and we can be moved to repentance and love for the Lord.

We know him as Saint Herman.  But this is an Anglicized form of the Slavonic 'German' (hard G, as in 'go').  In his youth, Saint Herman accepted monastic tonsure at the Trinity-Sergius monastery, which is located near to the coast of Finland.  While still a novice there, he developed a severe illness, a swelling which could not be healed.  And at this young age, Herman resigned himself to the fact that he was dying.  In a dream, the Mother of God appeared to him, and after this, his condition simply vanished.  This event so moved the young man that it served as an inspiration for that which God would accomplish through him for the rest of his life.

From this monastery, Saint Herman moved to the monastery at Valaam.  He had a wonderful tenor voice that would fill the chapel during divine services.  Saint Herman and Saint Seraphim of Sarov were both disciples of the Igumen Nazarius at Valaam.  At this time, Patriarch Gabriel chose ten monks to make the journey to Alaska to be missionaries to the native people there, and Saint Herman was among that group.  

The islands of Alaska were even more bleak and conditions more severe than even in Siberia.  Here, Saint Herman and the group labored among the natives, teaching them the faith, building schools, churches, an orphanage.  Over the course of the forty years that Saint Herman lived here, the ten original missionaries dwindled through attrition, some returning to Russia, most dying in their labors, until only Saint Herman remained.

Who can number his spiritual gifts?  By his faith and prayers, a tidal wave was stopped before it could harm his beloved people.  A forest fire that threatened the same people was stopped by his labors and prayers.  When an epidemic struck, it was Saint Herman who labored to heal those who could be healed, and to comfort those whom the Lord would take to be with Him.  People would come to his cell for spiritual instruction, and Saint Herman would speak with such people until all hours of the night.  When invited to go to speak with people, he would not eat of their food.  If he had to remain overnight for some reason, the bed prepared for him by loving followers would not be slept in.  He took from no one, but gave all he had to all who had need.  Animals of the forest and even bears would eat from his hand.

Saint Herman never returned to his homeland, but died and was buried as he foretold and as he desired at his new home, which he named "New Valaam" in honor of the warm memories that he retained of his beginnings.

Blessed Father Herman of Alaska,
North-star of Christ's Holy Church,
The light of your holy life and great deeds
Guides those who follow the Orthodox way.
Together we lift high the holy Cross
You planted firmly in America.
Let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ,
Singing His holy Resurrection!

The prayer that we use to close the Akathist is a good place to honor our patron.

Most wondrous, favorite of God, our venerable Father Herman, as a good laborer you did your great spiritual work in a harsh climate in this land. In your service to God, you were faithful in the little things. And, as the Lord said: “You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much.” (Matt XXV, 24) Now, when this word has been fulfilled in you, the Lord has set you over our Holy Community as her heavenly protector. We call to you in fervent prayer: Entreat the Lord to keep our Holy Church steadfast in Orthodoxy, to reveal her to be an adornment of our community. May He protect her from all the dark powers of the enemy and drive out all adversaries. May He grant us purity of faith and beauty of soul.  Pray that He will grant us all the spirit of peace and love, the spirit of humility and meekness and drive out the sin of pride. Save us from self praise. Be our guard against false teachings. Give healing to the sick; to the sorrowful be a comfort.  To those who hunger for spiritual truth, give the heavenly food; that we may attain our true desire, and receive the reward of faithful servants at the final Judgment. With all the saints we will praise with song: the Life creating Trinity, the Ineffable Father, the True and Only-Begotten Son, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, for ever.  Amen!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Conception of the Theotokos

The Orthodox Church has always held that the conception of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, was not "immaculate" in the way taught by the church in the west, but rather that the child Mary was an answer to prayer in exactly the same way as was Isaac to Abraham and Sarah.  The aged Joachim and Anna prayed fervently to God that He would release them from their bonds of barrenness, and that fervent prayer was answered in the way that all human births occur.  

Saint Joachim was the son of Barpathir, who was of the tribe of Judah, and was a descendant of David the King.  God had revealed to David that the Savior would be born from his progeny.  Anna was of the tribe of Aaron, a Levite.  And so the Theotokos was descended from royal blood through her father, and priestly blood through her mother.  Living in Nazareth, Joachim and Anna were childless well into their old age.  Joachim went one day to make an offering in the temple in Jerusalem.  There, the high priest Issachar refused Joachim's offering, saying, "It is not right to accept gifts from you as from a true Israelite, for you are barren, and not blessed by God."

Joachim accepted the message as a judgment against himself for sin, and so he withdrew to the wilderness, near to his cattle, where he spent 40 days begging God to forgive him, and to bless him and Anna with a child.

For her part, Anna heard of what had happened to Joachim.  She knew that others judged her for the guilt that resulted in the couple's barrenness.  And so she confined herself to her room, in fasting, tears and repentance, asking God to bless her and Joachim.

After this, Anna heard the voice of the Angel, who proclaimed to her that God had heard her prayer.  He foretold that she would give birth to a daughter before whom all knees will bend and bless her, and that through her the salvation of the world would be seen.  The Angel proclaimed the child's name - Mary.  Joachim also received a heavenly visit, giving the same message.  The two met at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem, and they later conceived, on this blessed day, the child who would come to be known as "more honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim."

In the Vespers for today's Feast, we sing the following in Tone 4:

The barren Anna leaped for joy when she conceived Mary the Virgin,
Who in turn will conceive in the flesh God the Word.
From the fullness of her joy, she cried out:
'Rejoice with me, all you tribes of Israel,
For I have conceived according to the will of God my Savior!
He has answered my prayer and ended my shame,
In fulfillment of His promise, He will heal the pains of my heart
Through the pains of child bearing.'

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saint Nicholas

Sometimes we must marvel at how far we allow the world to usurp our hold over that which is our own, and our treasure, and further, how we allow the world to drag the glorious and honorable into the depths of ... of...  well, perhaps depravity is the best word.

The mind is drawn to such thoughts as we ponder the beloved of Christ and the treasure of the Church, Saint Nicholas.  Let's compare and contrast the Church's view of this great Saint with the image of him painted by the world.

THE CHURCH:  Saint Nicholas was a model of abstinence, with legend holding that he refused to nurse at his mother's breast on Wednesdays and Fridays until after the time that his parents completed their evening prayers.                  
THE WORLD:  An obese man, prone to eat whatever things you might leave on a plate for him.  Especially fond of milk and cookies, regardless of what it means for health, let alone that he would be in a total fast on the one night they choose to engage him (Christmas Eve), because the Eucharist will be celebrated in the morning....

THE CHURCH:  A staunch defender of the faith against heresy, to the extent of "punching" the heretic Arius for his blasphemous portrayal of Christ as not both man and God, for which Saint Nicholas was temporarily defrocked by the council, until in a dream it was revealed that his actions were pleasing to God.  (Yes, there are times that it's OK to 'fight' for the faith, and Saint Nicholas showed this)
THE WORLD:  A man who is ever jubilant, jolly, always laughing at some one or some thing.  Never inclined to say a discouraging word or to give a disapproving glance (reference recent Mercedes Benz commercials showing this caricature's glance at a car spinning its wheels).

THE CHURCH:  A man first of faith, dedicating his life to Christ, first as a reader, then as priest, then as bishop and archbishop.  Never judging, he was always to be found in prayer, which was the means by which the Lord revealed Nicholas to be His choice for bishop by virtue of Nicholas' habit of being first to church every morning.
THE WORLD:  Faith has no place in the caricature.  There are no blessings, no words of hope or encouragement, only judgmentalism (were you 'naughty' or 'nice', and we must presume that these would have been assessed by Nicholas' own standards).

THE CHURCH:  Serving the church as a first priority, the bishop would be clothed in the black robes of a priest, long and flowing, with vestments being worn only for the purpose of accomplishing prayer in the church and performing the sacraments.
THE WORLD:  Clothed in an ostentatious red felt with white fur only, never to be seen in a church, but rather only in a 'workshop' - with elves whom he holds as slaves, albeit in some kind of nondescript benign patriarchy.

THE CHURCH:  He lived among the people of Asia Minor, in what is contemporary Turkey.  There he labored to give to those in need that which God made him able to provide, distributing first his own inheritance and wealth to the poor, and then laboring to provide as he could until his own death.                  
THE WORLD:  Lives at the North Pole, for some completely unknown reason, with the possible explanation to remain out of contact with people except for when and how he himself chooses.  He must have cash reserves to buy the raw materials he creates with his slave labor.  But it's used not to help any who are in true need, but every one equally.  Just ask - He'll give it to you!!!

The name "Nicholas" means "the people's victory."  To us, Saint Nicholas is our victorious haven to whom we run with all earthly needs.  In the Vespers for his Feast day (this coming Friday, 06Dec), we sing the following:

Nicholas, the servant of Christ,
You were shown as truly victorious to the faithful people,
Strong in temptation, and worthy of your name!
Called from all places, you are swift to come to those who turn with love to your protection.
Appearing by day and night to the faithful,
You save them from danger and temptation!

There is nothing in these words that remotely brings to mind any of the characteristics that the world paints of our holy Saint!  Not in the picture offered above, nor in any other picture or caricature they paint of him.

And so it remains to us, the faithful, to draw the beloved image of our saint from the mired image offered by the world.  In Hudson for many years, we offered a presentation at this time of year, revealing to the people "The REAL Saint Nicholas".  It was received with smiling faces who, after viewing an impassioned defense of the saint from the image the world has attempted to create of him, they left, and returned to "life as usual", many I'm sure thinking, "All that stuff is just made up legend," preferring to believe the "truth" of a fat man in red as compared to the 'legend' of a known bishop and wonderworker in the church!

For us, let us take to heart the words we sing in the hymn we offer to Saint Nicholas himself...

O who love Nicholas the saintly,
O who serve Nicholas the saintly,
Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need, 
Holy Father Nicholas!

And, as we honor his name within the Church, let us sing his praises to God.  His Troparion:

You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith,
An image of humility and a teacher of abstinence.
Because of your lowliness, heaven was opened to you.
Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.
Holy Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Shall I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?

As promised, and because of lack of speaking voice, the following is the content of today's intended sermon, which is a "nearly verbatim" transcription of a sermon by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on today's Gospel lesson from Luke 18:18-27.

It is not only awesome, but at times it is frightening to preach the Word of God, because the Lord said "By your words you shall be judged." Judged, because if you proclaim God's truth and remain idle and not the doer of what the Lord has commanded, and what you know well enough to proclaim to others — then, how shall you stand before the judgment of God? This does not apply only to the priest, but to every Christian who is called to be a witness, an apostle, one that brings God's word to the people who are in darkness or twilight, who need divine light, and truth and life.

To-day's Gospel challenges us all so sharply. It begins with words that may be interpreted in more than one way: "Good Master — what shall I do to have eternal life?" And the Lord answers, "Why do you call Me 'good'? Only God is Good". Jesus doesn’t say, "You are wrong". He does not deny His right to be called good as God is good; and thereby, to those who have ears to hear, those who have a heart capable of perceiving the surpassing goodness of the Lord, surpassing all human goodness, all human beauty and truth — it is a testimony: Yes, you are speaking to your God, and it is your God that will answer your question.
And then Christ gives us two indications. The one is: if you wish to have eternal life, keep the Commandments. The Commandments of God are not only rules of behavior (although, of course they are such), but as one of the Psalms puts it, should be in our innermost hearts. It should be from the depths of our heart that we accomplish the Commandments, not because we are commanded from outside, but because they have reached us with the ring of truth; not because God has spoken, but because with all our being we have answered "Amen!" This is truth, this is life, this is the way into eternal life.

When we hear Christ mentioning these Commandments — where are we? Who of us can say that he was faithful to every word of this short list that indicates that without which we cannot live? Where do we stand? I, who am preaching, you who are hearing, because it is as responsible to hear as it is to speak. How often do we think — as this young man, and with how little reason — that we want perfection. We want perfection without having first trod the road of the Commandments.

But Christ says to us quite clearly: "If you want perfection — give all you possess." It is not only material things which we can give: every one of us has treasures hoarded in his mind and heart, in his soul, things which are more important to him than anything material, that is his wealth. Each of us should turn inward and ask himself, "What is there which is my peculiar treasure? What are those things which I will not give away even for life eternal, for God?"

We do not put things in such a crude manner, but we hug those things which are precious to us, and still we hope that we will enter the Kingdom of God, we will reach perfection, we will become in all fullness what we are called to be, the kind of persons of whom God dreamed when He created us — and it is not true.
In the Book of Revelation there is a passage that says, "I have only one thing against you — you have forgotten your first love". This first love,  for each of us, is the Living God, Whom we call in so many ways: we call Him 'Life', we call Him 'Fulfilment’, we call Him 'Happiness', we call Him by all the names that mean that we should reach the fullness of our being. At times we know that only in God it is possible, at times we imagine that we can outgrow ourselves — all the same, this is our first love: to become as great as God has dreamed us, willed us.

And we do not follow the Commandments because we think that we can achieve it in a simpler manner; and we do not give away all we have, that is: the only thing we are not prepared to give away, in a hope that God will accept us, and our burden.

Let us reflect on this story. This is not even a parable, it is something that has happened to a young man. It happens to all of us when God says, "Have you been faithful to the way of life which I have described to you in terms of commandments, outlined in these terms as one can outline a road by milestones? Do you want to attain fullness — start at that point." And if you are aware of having been faithful in these things, then ask yourself the further question: what is the treasure which I will not give away, even for eternal life?

The young man heard the words of Christ, and went away sad. He had earthly possessions, but we have so many possessions which are not material and which are our burden, our fetters.

And yet, there is in this story one thing that can give us so much hope. Christ did not condemn this young man; Christ let him go without a word of reproach, because what He had said was like seed sown into the mind and heart of this young man. He let him go wounded at the heart, puzzled in his mind, called to be himself by an act of heroic will and surrender, let go of himself, as Christ said, give everything away and follow Him. Where to? Along the road of human life on one hand, on the other hand — into the fullness of life eternal.
When Christ says to us "Follow Me", He does not call us to walk a frightening, dark road; He says, "I have trodden this entire road, I know every turn and pitfall in it — you can safely follow! I am the Good Shepherd that walks in front of His sheep, meeting all dangers Himself, so that the sheep may be safe."

We all will go home like the young man, perhaps saddened, that neither are we keeping the Commandments, nor are we able to give away our most precious treasure: but remember — we will not go condemned, we will have been faced with an ultimate choice, and as long as we can struggle on earth — there is time.

But let us not be beguiled by the length of time: time flies, time goes — let it not be too late, let us turn to life, let us become all we are capable of being.

The answer to today's Gospel is evidently clear — "Who then can be saved?" — To man it is not possible by our own strength; but to God, all things are possible." That is our hope: God is with us, and nothing is too much for us, because nothing is impossible to Him.