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. See our most recent COVID statement at our Parish web page:

Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 - Sunday After Nativity

[Mat 2:13-23]

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

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!!

Together, we’ve spent so many weeks, since the Sunday of Pentecost, learning from the Gospels how very persistently the scribes and Pharisees attempted at every turn to entrap the Lord, to get Him to make a verbal or functional error, so that they might be able to accuse Him, to give them leverage to destroy Him.  In today’s Gospel, we come to learn that this didn’t begin with our Lord’s beginning His ministry at the age of 30.  It began with His birth.

We spoke on Friday morning about how many miracles we are witnesses to in the Lord’s Incarnation.  There are the miracles associated with the Theotokos, of her conception, of her holding the Creator of all within her body, of her painless birth giving, and of her remaining a virgin after giving birth.  There are the miracles associated with the Star, how it came to be by the Will of God, how it traveled in the night skies to indicate a particular place where the Word of God in the flesh could be found by those who knew how to seek Him.  There are the miracles of the Magi themselves, to whom God revealed such wisdom, and into whose hearts God placed a deep love such that these men were compelled to travel to seek not only Truth, but to seek their Creator in the Flesh.  There is the human incongruity of aged men, these Magi, offering worship to a child!  There is the miracle that is the Angelic Choir singing His arrival such that the shepherds, the most simple of people in the world, heard their proclamation, and having His birth revealed to them, came to find Him as the Angels had said.

There are more miracles.  Tradition holds that a midwife came after the child was born, and Joseph told her that the Child was the result of a virgin birth.  She disbelieved, and her hand withered.  Remaining to aid in the process, as she bathed the Child, her hand was restored.  And what of the angelic visitations to Joseph, to tell him not to send Mary away as an adulteress, but to take her into his house, for her child was of the Holy Spirit.  And in today’s Gospel he was visited again warning him to take them and flee to Egypt, and yet once more to instruct him to take them back to Israel, and also one final time to take them to Nazareth.

How many miracles!  It is virtually impossible to find “the normal” in amongst God overcoming nature and imposing His will – for the sake of the salvation of simple people, you and me.

We speak of these accounts, and we as Christians accept them without question.  They are part of the “fabric” of who we are as a people.  They are the account of our “family tree”, the description that is the “history” of how we’ve come to be God’s people.  And as such, we accept them totally.  The world?  The world tells us these are fairy tales, things that make no human sense, and therefore have no place in anyone’s rational beliefs.

The difference between the two perspectives is that WE believe in a God Who can and Who does as He wills.  It matters not at all if the things that He chooses to do follow some semblance of a human pattern that our minds can understand or accept as logical.  Want an example?  Human reason has a long-standing saying:  A thing cannot be in two places at the same time.  But God is beyond time, outside of time.  Indeed, He can and does occupy all places at all times.

And so it comes down to a simple question of faith.  “In what do you have faith?”

It seems to be a simple question at first glance.  But to what is it directed?  For instance, I have faith in my doctor (or, at least I should look for a doctor in whom I can have faith).  I have faith in my car, that it will start in the morning, and get me back and forth to and from work and church.  I have faith in my wife that, regardless of conditions, she will do that which her love for me tells her is in my (and sometimes not her) best interest.

Now, these are three examples.  The first is an example of faith in a person’s education, integrity and ability.  The second is an example of faith in a physical thing.  The last is an example of faith in something that transcends the personal.  It includes the divinely blessed union of people for the purpose of their helping one another to gain access to the kingdom of heaven.  It is a belief in the spiritual connection of two physical beings.

You can ask, “Why this question today, father?”  Why?  Because the world would attempt to convince you that there are many shades of grey, there is no black, there is no white.  In short, there is no singular truth nor singular good.  The spectrum between good and evil is broad, the world would have us believe.

But it is not so with God.  There is a judgment coming, and that judgment will carry a verdict, an eternal sentence to joy or torment, to heaven or hell.  And if the ending of the judgment is black and white, we must know that the life lived to the point of being judged is a life lived as black or white.

Our Lord’s incarnation brings God to His creation, to earth.  He agrees to take on the form, the body that our sinfulness has corrupted.  It is not the eternal body once given to Adam and Eve.  Their bodies became corrupt when sin entered the world.  And we are inheritors of their flesh, which is now the same flesh God chooses to be clothed in Himself.  He takes our flesh so that He can restore us to the incorruptible realm.  How?

He gives us commandments to follow where He has led.  We must be born again of water and the Spirit.  We must eat His flesh and drink His blood.  We must love our neighbors.  We must love our enemies. 

We live in these ways by the faith we are focused upon.  If our faith is in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we are on the path.  If our faith is fervent, we attempt to live the life He created us to live.  We recognize the talents He has given us, and we use them to His increase, talents employed as blessings to ourselves but also to others, whom He has called “the least of His brethren.”  If our faith is fervent, we live not from meal to meal, but from chalice to chalice, desiring noting more than to be in that living communion with Him which He left us as the means of always being in His presence.

The Body laying in a manger today is the Body that will be suspended on the Cross in a few short months.  It is the Body that He will by His grace and love for us place into the Chalice behind me that He gives us as “real food” (John 6:55)

The faith that accepts God becoming Incarnate for our salvation is the SAME faith as that which believes in His death on the Cross and His Resurrection on the third day.  It’s the same faith that holds to His Ascension, to His being equally one of the Holy Trinity.  It is the same faith that was gifted to us by pious fathers and mothers.  It is the same faith that we are charged by our Lord to pass on – unmodified by the “wisdom” of our times – to our children until His time of return arrives.

And it all begins with not just belief in, but embracing the truth of God working miraculously in the world.  He did so at the time of creation.  He did so in the time of the Israelites.  He did so at his Incarnation through to His Ascension.  He did so through the times of the Apostles and through the ages of the Church.  He does so even today.

But today, we embrace His miraculous Incarnation, a love for mankind so great that He deigns to leave Heaven, and to come here, among His fallen creation, to reclaim it – in His love for mankind.

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 39

 Thirty-ninth Day of the Advent Fast:

"When did men begin to desert the worshipping of idols, save since God, the true Word of God, has come among men? Or when have the oracles among the Greeks, and everywhere, ceased and become empty, save when the Savior has manifested Himself upon earth? Or when did those who are called gods and heroes in the poets begin to be convicted of being merely mortal men, save since the Lord erected His conquest of death, and preserved incorruptible the body he had taken, raising it from the dead? Or when did the deceitfulness and madness of demons fall into contempt, save when the power of God, the Word, the Master of all these as well, condescending because of man's weakness, appeared on earth?" ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, Section 46:1-3)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 38

 Thirty-eighth Day of the Advent Fast:

"Now, if they ask, Why then did He not appear by means of other and nobler parts of creation, and use some nobler instrument, as the sun, or moon, or stars, or fire, or air, instead of man merely? Let them know that the Lord came not to make a display, but to heal and teach those who were suffering. For the way for one aiming at display would be, just to appear, and to dazzle the beholders; but for one seeking to heal and teach the way is, not simply to sojourn here, but to give himself to the aid of those in want, and to appear as they who need him can bear it; that he may not, by exceeding the requirements of the sufferers, trouble the very persons that need him, rendering God's appearance useless to them." ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, The Manner of His Coming, Section 43:1-2)

Monday, December 21, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 37

 Thirty-seventh Day of the Advent Fast:

"For you shall see, it says, your Life hanging before your eyes; and who shall declare his generation? For one can ascertain the genealogy of all the saints, and declare it from the beginning, and of whom each was born; but the generation of Him that is the Life the Scriptures refer to as not to be declared. Who then is he of whom the Divine Scriptures say this? Or who is so great that even the prophets predict of him such great things? None else, now, is found in the Scriptures but the common Savior of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. For He it is that proceeded from a virgin and appeared as man on the earth, and whose generation after the flesh cannot be declared. For there is none that can tell His father after the flesh, His body not being of a man, but of a virgin alone; so that no one can declare the corporal generation of the Savior from a man, in the same way as one can draw up a genealogy of David and of Moses and of all the patriarchs." ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, The Majesty of His Birth and Death, Section 37:2-4)

Friday, December 18, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 34

 Thirty-fourth Day of the Advent Fast:

"But if any of our own people also inquire, not from love of debate, but from love of learning, why He suffered death in none other way save on the Cross, let him also be told that no other way than this was good for us, and that it was well that the Lord suffered this for our sakes. For if He came Himself to bear the curse laid upon us, how else could He have become a curse, unless He received the death set for a curse? And that is the Cross. For this is exactly what is written: Cursed is he that hangs on a tree. Again, if the Lord's death is the ransom of all, and by His death the middle wall of partition is broken down, and the calling of the nations is brought about, how would He have called us to Him, had He not been crucified? For it is only on the cross that a man dies with his hands spread out. Whence it was fitting for the Lord to bear this also and to spread out His hands, that with the one He might draw the ancient people, and with the other those from the Gentiles, and unite both in Himself. For this is what He Himself has said, signifying by what manner of death He was to ransom all: I, when I am lifted up, He says, shall draw all men unto Me." ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, Why The Cross?, Section 25:1-4)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 33

 Thirty-third Day of the Advent Fast:

"So something surprising and startling has happened; for the death, which they thought to inflict as a disgrace, was actually a monument of victory against death itself. Whence neither did He suffer the death of John, his head being severed, nor, as Esaias, was He sawn in sunder; in order that even in death He might still keep His body undivided and in perfect soundness, and no pretext be afforded to those that would divide the Church." ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, Further Objections, Section 24:4)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 32

 Thirty-second Day of the Advent Fast:

"For if, even as it was, when His death and Resurrection had taken place in the sight of all, the Pharisees of that day would not believe, but compelled even those who had seen the Resurrection to deny it, why, surely, if these things had happened in secret, how many pretexts for disbelief would they have devised? Or how could the end of death, and the victory over it be proved, unless challenging it before the eyes of all He had shown it to be dead, annulled for the future by the incorruption of His body?" ("On the Incarnation," St. Athanasius, Necessity of a Public Death, Section 23:3-4)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 31

Thirty-first Day of the Advent Fast:

"For like the seeds which are cast into the earth, we do not perish by dissolution, but sown in the earth, shall rise again, death having been brought to naught by the grace of the Savior. Hence it is that blessed Paul, who was made a surety of the Resurrection to all, says: This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality; but when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?" (St. Athanasius, "On the Incarnation," 21, Death Brought to Naught by Christ, 2) 

Monday, December 14, 2020

On the Feast of Our Patron Saint Herman, 13Dec2020

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

It is a glorious Feast!  And it is always so when we remember our beloved Patron, who in this instance has intervened on our behalf to permit fair weather for his Feast Day!

Many of us will remember, some of us vividly, the process that we have gone through for what will in one more month be sixteen years of laboring together to establish a place for Orthodox worship in this area.  We’ve researched, recommended, planned, visited, built, and maintained within at least four locations in that time frame.  And through the prayers of St. Herman, we’ve been blessed to worship in a place as wonderful as this – a piece of heaven on earth, God’s house in Hudson.

Not so many of us will remember the process we underwent sixteen years ago when His Eminence gave us instructions to recommend to him possible selections for a Patron for our new community, while we were still under the Patronage of St. Thomas the Twin.  There’s still a notebook on my bookshelf at home that contains the myriad of pages of lives of saints that the group present in 2004 read, studied, and met about, ultimately selecting three as instructed by His Eminence whom we recommended to him – St. Herman, St. Catherine the Great Martyr, and St. John the Theologian.  It is the reason that to this very day, we honor all three of these saints in our closing benedictions from the ambo, for they were all selected as intercessors before the Lord on our behalf.

Having sent our list of three saints to Metropolitan Joseph, I think all of us who were members of the community at that time had a particular soft spot in our hearts, hoping that His Eminence would tell us that his selection was Saint Herman.  It seemed from the very beginning that he was our favorite choice, and his inclusion in our petition list was unanimous.  As it turns out, His Eminence tells us after the fact that he too had a hope that St. Herman would be the choice.  His process?  He put the names into a hat!  St. Herman was selected, and we ALL “won” that lottery!

As we read from the Old Testament readings prescribed for tonight, one can’t help but imaging King Solomon visualizing Saint Herman as he wrote.  “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God.” “In the time of their visitation they will shine forth.”  “The righteous live forever, and their reward is with the Lord.”  

But the one which most catches my eye is, “For honorable age is not that which stands in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years.  But wisdom is the gray hair unto men.”

Attaining an ‘honorable age’ is a goal that each of us seeks.  Perhaps we might at first misunderstand that goal.  But the attaining of an ‘honorable age’ is not the accumulation of years, just as the verse states.  There are many who have attained great numbers of years, and yet remain without honor.  Similarly, there are those who are comparatively young, and those who serve our country in its armed services come to mind here, who are honorable beyond their years.

We seek honor through wisdom.  Proverbs Chapter 2 states this beautifully.  “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.”

Saint Herman is this to us.  He is the model of the wisdom of God for us.  He is the light that shines in the darkness of our world, showing us the way toward our Lord, if only we seek him as our intercessor.

Saint Herman lived a life that was in accordance with the Lord’s will and the Lord’s commandments.  Archbishop Leo of Finland wrote this concerning Saint Herman: (He) manifested (Christ) in his words and deeds: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control… And isn’t it true that in his saintly way of life he crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. He lived in the Spirit and also walked in the Spirit. He was poor and therefore his is the kingdom of God. He hungered and was filled. He wept, and he shall laugh. Truly, his reward is great in Heaven. In the middle of the feast of St. Herman we have an opportunity to contemplate how we could become like him and finally like Christ.

On this day of remembering our Patron, let’s focus on his unending devotion to serving the needs of others.  As you saw in today’s bulletin, St. Herman’s life after leaving Russia to make a new home on this continent was not exactly filled with the greatest human joys.  But the one event we’ll call to attention here is his dealing with the epidemic that struck his spiritual children in 1819 – 200 years ago.  Let’s ponder that event as we ask St. Herman’s intercession for our needs through the current pandemic that plagues our own homeland.

In 1819, a vessel coming from the US mainland brought with it a contagious disease.  Theories suggest that it was most likely a form of the flu, but that whatever its form, it most often proved fatal to those who contracted it.  The ship docked in Sitka, which at the time was called Novoarchangelski, “New Archangel” in English.  From Sitka, the disease spread to Kodiak Island, about 650 miles away across the Gulf of Alaska.  We can only imagine “how” the disease spread.  Suffice it to say, it did.

For those who contracted the disease, it began with a fever, a heavy cold, and difficulty in breathing.  Sound familiar?  Ultimately, it ended with the person going into convulsions, and death occurred typically within 3 days.

On Kodiak Island, there was no doctor.  There was no medicine.  When one person contracted the disease, it spread through the whole village, and from there to neighboring areas.  Unlike Covid, it affected everyone the same way, from infant to elderly.  Many of the Aleut families were totally wiped out – entire families dead from the disease.  Bodies of the dead remained in houses for many days because there were no able bodies available to bury as many as were perishing.  The following is a testimony from one who was an eyewitness to the events:

I cannot imagine anything more tragic and horrible than the sight which struck me when I visited an Aleutian ‘Kazhim’ or village.  This was a large building, or barracks, with dividing sections, in which the Aleuts lived with their families; it contained about 100 people.  Here, some had died.  Their cold bodies lay near the living; others were dying; there were groans and weeping which tore at one’s soul.  I saw mothers over whose bodies cold in death crawled a hungry child, crying and searching in vain for its food. [...] My heart was bursting with compassion! It seemed that if anyone could paint with a worthy brush the full horror of this tragic scene, he would have successfully aroused fear of death in the most embittered heart. 

And who was there to provide help and consolation under such circumstances?  There was Father Herman.  His spiritual son, Simeon Yanovsky, wrote this about what he witnessed in this time:

Here, some have already died and become cold.  They lay beside the living.  We and they saw others dying before our eyes.  Their moans and cries were tearing the soul!  Only the monk Herman tirelessly visited the sick, persuaded them to endure, to pray, to offer their repentance. Thus, he prepared the dying for death.  The surviving Kodiak Aleuts became even more fond of their Father Herman, who, risking himself, proved his love during the disaster that befell them.  

Unlike the times we are in now, this particular epidemic took so very many that it “burned itself out” within a month, gradually disappearing at the end.  Throughout that time, Saint Herman’s efforts never waned.  He visited the sick.  He admonished them in their fear.  He prayed with them.  He brought them to repentance.  He prepared them for death.  He never had concern for his own health or well-being.  It is said that St. Herman was the only Russian to visit the natives, the only one to care for them, the only source of consolation as they were dying.

All of this St. Herman did without concern for the perceived great personal risk he was placing himself into.  As in all things in his life, he trusted in the Lord, Who blessed his efforts and sustained him as he brought peace and salvation to the many.

We have a calling here in Hudson that is not so very different from the one that our beloved Patron fulfilled so valiantly and faithfully in Alaska.  We, like Saint Herman, are surrounded by a people who are thirsting to find the Lord.  We, like Saint Herman, have been placed here by God to serve His divine will and His divine plan.  In our own time, there are so very many who are living in fear of death at the prospect of contracting a disease that has been marketed to our society as the contemporary plague.  Yes, it is true that in our country we’re approaching 300,000 dead from the disease.  But it has not wiped out entire villages or cities.  It is not responsible for decimating entire families.  It is not fatal to people over the full spectrum of ages.  By comparison, Covid is nothing in comparison to the epidemic of Kodiak 200 years ago.

Note carefully how our beloved Patron did not allow all of the horrors of the disease to prevent him from doing what our Lord had placed him there to do – to serve the Lord’s people.  To do this requires only a few things: 1) faith in God’s providence to care for those who love Him; 2) faith sufficient to carry us into places too difficult for many to tolerate, but going there with the recognition that His will is to be done; 3) love of God sufficient to seek His will before my own.

And so, from this day forth, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all and fulfill His holy will.

Saint Herman, pray to God for us!

Advent 2020 - Day 30

 Thirtieth Day of the Advent Fast:

"The body, then, as sharing the same nature with all, for it was a human body, though by an unparalleled miracle it was formed of a virgin only, yet being mortal, was to die also, conformably to its peers. But by virtue of the union of the Word with it, it was no longer subject to corruption according to its own nature, but by reason of the Word that had come to dwell in it it was placed out of the reach of corruption. And so it was that two marvels came to pass at once, that the death of all was accomplished in the Lord's body, and that death and corruption were wholly done away by reason of the Word that was united with it. For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid. Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, Bring to naught Him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (St. Athanasius, "On the Incarnation," 20, No Other Could Bestow Incorruption, 4-6)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 27

 Twenty-seventh Day of the Advent Fast:

"Who, seeing the substance of water changed and transformed into wine, fails to perceive that He Who did this is Lord and Creator of the substance of all waters? For to this end He went upon the sea also as its Master, and walked as on dry land, to afford evidence to them that saw it of His lordship over all things. And in feeding so vast a multitude on little, and of His own self yielding abundance where none was, so that from five loaves five thousand had enough, and left so much again over, did He show Himself to be any other than the very Lord Whose Providence is over all things?" (St. Athanasius, "On the Incarnation", 18, How the Word Works in Human Actions, 6)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 26

 Twenty-sixth Day of the Advent Fast:

"Thus, even while present in a human body and Himself quickening it, He was, without inconsistency, quickening the universe as well, and was in every process of nature, and was outside the whole, and while known from the body by His works, He was none the less manifest from the working of the universe as well." (St. Athanasius, 17, Incarnation Did Not Limit HIm, 2)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Advent - Day 25

 Twenty-fifth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For men's mind having finally fallen to things of sense, the Word disguised Himself by appearing in a body, that He might, as Man, transfer men to Himself, and center their senses on Himself, and, men seeing Him thenceforth as Man, persuade them by the works He did that He is not Man only, but also God, and the Word and Wisdom of the true God." (St. Athanasius, 16, To Know HIm as God, 1)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 24

 Twenty-fourth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For as a kind teacher who cares for His disciples, if some of them cannot profit by higher subjects, comes down to their level, and teaches them at any rate by simpler courses; so also did the Word of God. As Paul also says: For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the word preached to save them that believe. For seeing that men, having rejected the contemplation of God, and with their eyes downward, as though sunk in the deep, were seeking about for God in nature and in the world of sense, feigning gods for themselves of mortal men and demons; to this end the loving and general Savior of all, the Word of God, takes to Himself a body, and as Man walks among men and meets the senses of all men half-way , to the end, I say, that they who think that God is corporeal may from what the Lord effects by His body perceive the truth, and through Him recognize the Father." (St. Athanasius, 15, The Word Condescended Taking a Body, 1-2)

Monday, December 7, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 23

 Twenty-third Day of the Advent Fast:

"For as, when the likeness painted on a panel has been effaced by stains from without, he whose likeness it is must needs come once more to enable the portrait to be renewed on the same wood: for, for the sake of his picture, even the mere wood on which it is painted is not thrown away, but the outline is renewed upon it; in the same way also the most holy Son of the Father, being the Image of the Father, came to our region to renew man once made in His likeness, and find him, as one lost, by the remission of sins; as He says Himself in the Gospels: I came to find and to save the lost. Whence He said to the Jews also: Except a man be born again, not meaning, as they thought, birth from woman, but speaking of the soul born and created anew in the likeness of God's image." (St. Athanasius, 14, A Portrait Effaced Must Be Restored From the Original, 1-2)

Friday, December 4, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 20

 Twentieth Day of the Advent Fast:

"What then was God to do? Or what was to be done save the renewing of that which was in God's image, so that by it men might once more be able to know Him? But how could this have come to pass save by the presence of the very Image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ? For by men's means it was impossible, since they are but made after an image; nor by angels either, for not even they are (God's) images. Whence the Word of God came in His own person, that, as He was the Image of the Father, He might be able to create afresh the man after the image." (St. Athanasius, 13, Was God to Keep Silence?, 7)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 19

 Nineteenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For whereas the grace of the Divine Image was in itself sufficient to make known God the Word, and through Him the Father; still God, knowing the weakness of men, made provision even for their carelessness: so that if they cared not to know God of themselves, they might be enabled through the works of creation to avoid ignorance of the Maker. But since men's carelessness, little by little, descends to lower things, God made provision, once more, even for this weakness of theirs, by sending a law, and prophets, men such as they knew, so that even if they were not ready to look up to heaven and know their Creator, they might have their instruction from those near at hand. For men are able to learn from men more directly about higher things. So it was open to them, by looking into the height of heaven, and perceiving the harmony of creation, to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father, Who, by His own providence over all things makes known the Father to all, and to this end moves all things, that through Him all may know God." (St. Athanasius, 12, Man Was Created in Grace, 1-3)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 18

 Eighteenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For what profit to the creatures if they knew not their Maker? Or how could they be rational without knowing the Word (and Reason) of theFather, in Whom they received their very being? For there would be nothing to distinguish them even from brute creatures if they had knowledge of nothing but earthly things. Nay, why did God make them at all, as He did not wish to be known by them? Whence, lest this should be so, being good, He gives them a share in His own Image, our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes them after His own Image and after His likeness: so that by such grace perceiving the Image, that is, the Word of the Father, they may be able through Him to get an idea of the Father, and knowing their Maker, live the happy and truly blessed life." (St. Athanasius, 11, Second Reason for the Incarnation, 2-3)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 17

 Seventeenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For no longer now do we die as subject to condemnation; but as men who rise from the dead we await the general resurrection of all, which 1 Timothy 6:15 in its own times He shall show, even God, Who has also wrought it, and bestowed it upon us. 6. This then is the first cause of the Savior’s being made man." (St. Athanasius, 10. The Work of Redemption, 5)

Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 16

 Sixteenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"It was in order to the sacrifice for bodies such as His own that the Word Himself also assumed a body, to this, also, they refer in these words : Forasmuch then as the children are the sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might bring to naught Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For by the sacrifice of His own body, He both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which He has given us. For since from man it was that death prevailed over men, for this cause conversely, by the Word of God being made man has come about the destruction of death and the resurrection of life; as the man which bore Christ says: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." (St. Athanasius, 10. The Work of Redemption, 4-5)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 13

 Thirteenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"Now in truth this great work was peculiarly suited to God's goodness. 1. For if a king, having founded a house or city, if it be beset by bandits from the carelessness of its inmates, does not by any means neglect it, but avenges and reclaims it as his own work, having regard not to the carelessness of the inhabitants, but to what beseems himself; much more did God the Word of the all-good Father not neglect the race of men, His work, going to corruption: but, while He blotted out the death which had ensued by the offering of His own body, He corrected their neglect by His own teaching, restoring all that was man's by His own power." (St. Athanasius, 10. The Work or Redemption, 1)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 12

 Twelfth Day of the Advent Fast:

"And like as when a great king has entered into some large city and taken up his abode in one of the houses there, such city is at all events held worthy of high honor, nor does any enemy or bandit any longer descend upon it and subject it; but, on the contrary, it is thought entitled to all care, because of the king's having taken up his residence in a single house there: so, too, has it been with the Monarch of all. 4. For now that He has come to our realm, and taken up his abode in one body among His peers, henceforth the whole conspiracy of the enemy against mankind is checked, and the corruption of death which before was prevailing against them is done away. For the race of men had gone to ruin, had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to meet the end of death." (St. Athanasius, 9. The Word Took a Mortal Body, 3-4)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 11

Eleventh Day of the Advent Fast:

"Whence, by offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from any stain, straightway He put away death from all His peers by the offering of an equivalent. 2. For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death. And thus He, the incorruptible Son of God, being conjoined with all by a like nature, naturally clothed all with incorruption, by the promise of the resurrection. For the actual corruption in death has no longer holding-ground against men, by reason of the Word, which by His one body has come to dwell among them." (St. Athanasius, 9. The Word Took a Mortal Body, 1-2)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 10

 Tenth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For the Word, perceiving that no otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition, while it was impossible for the Word to suffer death, being immortal, and Son of the Father; to this end He takes to Himself a body capable of death, that it, by partaking of the Word Who is above all, might be worthy to die in the stead of all, and might, because of the Word which had come to dwell in it, remain incorruptible, and that thenceforth corruption might be stayed from all by the Grace of the Resurrection." (St. Athanasius, 9. The Word Took a Mortal Body, 1)

Monday, November 23, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 9

 Ninth Day of the Advent Fast:

"And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father— doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire." (St. Athanasius, 8. The Word Visited the Earth, 4)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

On the Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple

Today, the Mother of our Lord, the Mother of God, comes into 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. 

We know the story.  We know of Joachim and Anna, of their barrenness, of God’s gift in answering their prayer for a child, of their promise to dedicate that child, be it male or female, to the service of God, and of their honoring that promise on this day by taking the Theotokos to the House of God.  At the tender age of three, they set the child on the ground, and she runs to the temple, not regarding the leaving of her parents as a loss, but even at the age of three seeing living in the presence of God as a gain.  If only more of us had the wisdom of this three year old!

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. 

As we ponder all these words, we come to see that the Mother of God is a focal point for all time.  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, when 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, and this is His means of providing for our salvation.

God provides on this day a 3 year old child.  He will keep her for three times three, nine 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 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 to pronounce the beginning of our salvation by her taking God within her pure and virginal flesh, she will not be frightened by the angel's coming, by his pronouncement of the miracle, or by the prospects of what might come as a result.  His arrival will seem a normal, 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 be 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.  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 desirable to thieves, but not to God.  The metal remains common until it is sanctified, 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 sanctified, set apart from that which is common for an uncommon purpose.

He has already accomplished this with the Theotokos.  But 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 ourselves to 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 for Him through her.  If our communion is truly His Body and precious Blood, then they are truly present within her from conception. 

That which is Holy, when it contacts something common, makes the common itself Holy.  We are here today to become yet more uncommon ourselves, 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 have less in common with 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, to 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 also share in her desire to be in His presence – forever!

It’s a glorious Feast!

Advent 2020 - Day 7

"And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what had come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how little by little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery— lest the creature should perish, and His Father's handiwork in men be spent for naught— He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours."  (St. Athanasius, 8. The Word Visited the Earth, 2)

Friday, November 20, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 6

 Sixth Day of the Advent Fast:

"For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us (Acts 17:27) before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. " (St. Athanasius, 8. The Word Visited the Earth, 1)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 5

 Fifth Day of the Advent Fast:

"But just as this consequence must needs hold, so, too, on the other side the just claims of God lie against it: that God should appear true to the law He had laid down concerning death. For it were monstrous for God, the Father of truth, to appear a liar for our profit and preservation. So here, once more, what possible course was God to take? To demand repentance of men for their transgression? For this one might pronounce worthy of God; as though, just as from transgression men have become set towards corruption, so from repentance they may once more be set in the way of incorruption. But repentance would, firstly, fail to guard the just claim of God. For He would still be none the more true, if men did not remain in the grasp of death; nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature— it merely stays them from acts of sin. ... Or what was required for such grace and such recall, but the Word of God, which had also at the beginning made everything out of naught? For His it was once more both to bring the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father." (St. Athanasius, 7. The Consistency of God's Nature, 1-3, 5)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 4

 Fourth Day of the Advent Fast:

"So, as the rational creatures were wasting and such works in course of ruin, what was God in His goodness to do? Suffer corruption to prevail against them and death to hold them fast? And where were the profit of their having been made, to begin with? For better were they not made, than once made, left to neglect and ruin. For neglect reveals weakness, and not goodness on God's part— if, that is, He allows His own work to be ruined when once He had made it— more so than if He had never made man at all. For if He had not made them, none could impute weakness; but once He had made them, and created them out of nothing, it were most monstrous for the work to be ruined, and that before the eyes of the Maker. It was, then, out of the question to leave men to the current of corruption; because this would be unseemly, and unworthy of God's goodness." ("On the Incarnation of the Word," St. Athanasius, 6. The Human Race Was Wasting, 7-10)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 3

 Third Day of the Advent Fast:

"You are wondering, perhaps, for what possible reason, having proposed to speak of the Incarnation of the Word, we are at present treating of the origin of mankind. But this, too, properly belongs to the aim of our treatise. 2. For in speaking of the appearance of the Savior among us, we must needs speak also of the origin of men, that you may know that the reason of His coming down was because of us, and that our transgression called forth the loving-kindness of the Word, that the Lord should both make haste to help us and appear among men." ("On the Incarnation of the Word," St. Athanasius, 4. Our Creation and God's Incarnation, 1-2)

Monday, November 16, 2020

Advent 2020 - Day 1

 First Day of the Advent Fast, 2020:

We hope to post each weekday a message from the Holy Fathers related to the Incarnation of our Lord, for in this season of preparation for His Nativity, it is beneficial for us to consider the meaning of His Incarnation!

"It is proper for us to begin the treatment of this subject by speaking of the creation of the universe, and of God as its Creator, that so it may be duly perceived that the renewal of creation has been the work of the self-same Word Who made it at the beginning. For it will appear not inconsonant for the Father to have wrought its salvation in Him by Whose means He made it." ("On the Incarnation of the Word," St. Athanasius, 1.Introductory, 4)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Advent

 Orthodoxy, if it is nothing else, is a faith whose foundation rests upon fasting.  The number of days of fasting in any given year varies based on the changing duration of the Apostles’ Fast, which extends over a variable number of days beginning with the Feast of All Saints (after Pentecost) and ending with the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29th).  Within this current calendar year of 2020, if we follow the Church’s calendar totally, we will have fasted for 185 days, or just OVER one half of the year.

As Orthodox we know in general WHY we fast.  We know that our Lord Himself told us to fast.  “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Mat 6:16-18)

All of this covers the issue of fasting in general.  But what of the season that we enter today?  Why is it important that we as Orthodox Christians fast when the rest of the whole world is celebrating?  After all, this is the season of Holiday Parties.  There’s lots of food—and drink.  Why do we have to say “No!” to such events?  How does this benefit our salvation?

But one would assume that after posing the question, you would already know the answer!

Fasting is a discipline we impose on ourselves. The Church doesn’t impose it—we must do so!  We fast to give us the impetus to focus on others rather than on self.  We should spend our time not thinking about what, how much, or with whom we’ll feast and eat, but rather on the needs of others, and on our own spiritual needs, on prayer, on avoiding sin, on resisting temptation, on squelching anger and jealousy and covetousness, on taking control of a world that has been allowed to control us.

Speaking personally, every year when we come to this day, my own ponderings begin to focus on the Mother of God.  Today, she is over 7 months into her carrying the Christ-child.  She feels Him within her—feels God inside her womb.  She is caring for herself to assure that He is cared for.  Her love for Him as a Person has blossomed.  It is a love that will extend beyond the Cross, the tomb, the Ascension, and her Dormition to have that same love for His Church, for the Church is His bride.

She is preparing as any mother to this day would prepare.  But her preparations will be interrupted by a world not pleased with her Son’s coming.  She’ll have to divert, to carry her Child in a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where she will bear Him.  Not long thereafter, her home will be torn from her as angels guide her, her Son, and St.  Joseph the betrothed to a distant land, to Egypt, where they will live until Herod’s death.

The Mother of God’s focus is on her Son.  And as in so many cases, we can learn from her a great lesson on where our own focus must rest, on how we are to live in this also strange land.

The Theotokos showed her faith well before the Annunciation.  She shows it at the Lord’s conception, at His Nativity, throughout His life and His ministry, and throughout the entire life of His Church.

Let us look to her for our example, on how we must embrace the Lord’s commandments and His example to us of how we are to live.  Let us see in the Mother of God our example of living a silent life serving Him!  Let us use this Advent fast to draw ourselves closer to her example.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

6th Luke 2020 (Luke 8:26-39) Legion, and Coming to Our Senses

 In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit.  Glory to Jesus Christ.

We don't like to hear stories about demons in the world in which we live. I was reading a sermon by Father Ted Bobach - he's of my favorite sources for online reading. It said that if you search all of Scripture, there are very few instances where the word demon or demonic can be found in the Old Testament. I think he said, if I remember correctly, maybe four or six instances.  Regardless, it's a handful. There are also very few instances of the use of the word in the epistles. But the gospels are repleat with references or uses of the words demon or demonic.

Clearly the Lord is telling us something. Clearly there's something about this idea of demonic activity in the world that is important to our salvation. And if we look at today's Gospel account, we come to see a little bit of what that might mean to us in the world in which we live, in the people who surround us, and even inside of ourselves.

The first thing that we encounter is is the man who identifies himself as Legion.

And we find in his words two opposing perspectives on his encounter with Jesus. The first one is one of obstinence and contempt. "What do you want from me, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God?"  Is this not exactly the perspective that we find in the world around us when we encounter people, when we try to talk with them about our faith?  The world's perspective is that faith is meaningless. The world would ask, "Why would you believe such such nonsense, such stories? None of it can be proven."  Remind me to come back to the issue of "proven" before we reach the end. 

The second thing that the the demon possessed man says shows his recognition of his place as being subservient to and in fact one of worship towards Jesus.  "I beg You, don't torment me."  His clear meaning is a plea that Jesus would take from him the things that are causing him pain and suffering.  Poor Legion doesn't say it in those words, but we can hear it in his voice.

And in fact, we know with some certainty that this is Legion's perspective, because when the Lord casts the demons out, what is the formerly demon possessed man's request? "I wish to be one of Your disciples. I want to follow You wherever You go."  It is the demons that speak through his mouth before the Lord's miraculous healing. It is the right-minded and healed man who speaks the request to become a disciple!

The next thing that we find associated with the demonic activity that that leads us to an open discussion of why demons are present in the Gospels for our edification and education lies with the people of Gadara.  First of all, they are not Jews.  They are Gentiles.  This is known clearly because they raise pigs for their own use. The pig was a ritually unclean animal to the Jews.

The people of Gadara are witnesses to a miraculous healing of one who had been a thorn in their side.  Saint Luke records that they had tried to subdue this man. They chained him.  They set guards around him.  They did everything they could to try and keep him from harming them, so fierce was his demonic possession. Now when the harm is taken from them by Christ, their perspective changes totally.  "We can't tolerate this kind of thing, this 'healing' in our presence. Leave us. God, please leave us!"  Can you imagine saying that? Can you imagine having a heart that would feel this way?

Saint John Chrisostom defines the people of Gadara as being more possessed than Legion, exactly because of this perspective. "We don't want to lose our possessions. You've stolen our possessions from us by curing this man. Yes, you cured him, but at the cost of our our livelihood - our pigs are gone!  We've lost money. We've lost things. And those are more important to us than Legion.  Yes, he was a problem to us but he didn't harm our livelihood."

This idea of wanting to serve God that Legion shows is something that I think we all too often skim over when we read this Gospel account. We recognize our need to be servants of God. We recognize that He has given us talents, and with these skills and abilities there are things that we should do, ways in which we should put God's given gifts to use - to His glory, efforts that are consistent with His will for us in our lives.  But how often do we honestly consider what it means to truly serve Him? 

These these candles that are here in front of me. What is their purpose? They give light, and in so doing they give glory to God. And they completely consume themselves in the one thing that they were created to do.  They have one talent. To throw light. And they do it without complaint and until all of their capacity to give that light is gone. 

The censer behind me has a piece of charcoal in it. What is the coal's purpose? It's purpose is to ignite and throw out heat so that it can cause the incense to burn and provide smoke that gives blessings.  It has one purpose, to bring about the possibility of giving blessings. And it serves its purpose to God, it consumes itself entirely until it's gone, serving that purpose.

So, what of us? What did God create us to do, create us to be? He has given us more than one talent, more than one capability. Are we using the talents He has bestowed on us, or are we using them to serve only ourselves? Do we work to His glory, or are we satisfying ourselves?

The world around us would attempt to convince us that self-serving is the only logical choice, for there is no God. They would hope to convince us that our faith is in vain. They would tell us that we worship fantasies. 

You'll say, "But Father, there are people out there who might espouse some of those things, but they also do good things."  I would reply, "Yes, they do."  But the Holy Fathers teach us that works are not indicative of faith.  Faith manifests itself in works, but works don't bring about faith. A person can do a good thing without recognizing that God is among us.  In short, they can do a good work without seeking to bring glory to God in the process.

I asked you near the beginning of today's homily to remember the issue of proof. There's an expression. For those who do not believe, no proof is adequate. For those who do believe, no proof is required.

Let us not require God to prove Himself to us.  Let us serve the purposes for which He has given us talents. Let us serve, and in serving let us consume ourselves in doing His will, all things to His glory, trying to live a life that is consistent with His divine will, and not ours.

Glory to Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

5th Luke 2020 (Luke 16:19-31) Begging

 When we encounter parables like the one in this Gospel, I think we too often enter a state of “intellectual gridlock” as we let our minds interpret the words we hear.  When we hear the parable, we are led to think, “Rich man bad—poor man good,” and we go no further.  In so doing, we ascribe the concept of “evil” to the one, and “angelic” to the other, not allowing ourselves to probe more deeply.

If we take the time to ponder the parable further we may begin to question whether the rich man was without virtue, or whether Lazarus was without fault.  But this is the beauty of teaching via parable—the conditions are of a “story” that uplifts the virtue and exposes the failings.

Think of Lazarus as being you or me, driven to the point of desperation such that we lay with open wounds at the gate of one who has the means to give us some degree of comfort, even if only “crumbs”.  What thoughts would go thru our minds?

It doesn’t take long to conclude that we would fall into sin, giving into the temptations associated with our condition.  We would curse the dogs who come to feed upon our sores.  We would lay in judgment of the rich man who refuses to look upon us as he enters his gates.

But these are not conditions we find inside the Lord’s description of poor Lazarus.  He lay in hope of mercy—only!  He takes nothing for granted, he sees the opulence within the gates, but does not covet what lay there, desiring it for his own.  He knows himself to be a beggar.  And as such, he will receive with thanksgiving anything that might come to him from a benefactor.  And we might expect that if nothing comes his way, he would be content

What does this say to us as a people?  Can we not see that we too are beggars?  We may not live with open sores all over our bodies.  We may not have to beat off the animals who desire to consume our flesh once we succumb to ills that are consuming us.  But every good thing we have in this life is given us by our Benefactor.  The talents to work at a profession—those are God-given.  The holding of a job that provides an income, so that we might have a roof over our heads, enough to buy food and clothes, and to provide for our basic needs, those too are God-given.

And what of the excess?  What of the things God still gives beyond what we “need”?  Do we keep those things behind our own locked gates, never to be shared with another who may also be in need?  St. John Chrysostom writes, “The ship of the rich man was laden with merchandise, and sailed with a fair wind.”  In short, God had sent him many earthly blessings, too many to be required to serve his own needs.  “But do not marvel, for it was borne on to shipwreck, since he was not willing to bestow its burden wisely.” 

St. John goes on to reference Amos 6:3, “Woe to those who are approaching the evil day, who draw near and hold false sabbaths.”  The reference is pointed toward making offerings to ourselves, and not to God.  With respect to the same passage, St. Basil writes, “It is shameful to spend our time running about searching for anything not demanded by real necessity, but calculated to provide a wretched delight and ruinous vainglory.”

This is the legacy of the rich man, a man described in less than 200 words in only this one place in all of Holy Scripture.  From these few words we reconstruct a life spent in self-serving, giving no thought to the ability to serve the need of another, even just one other!

Earlier we put on the mantle of Lazarus.  Now, do so as the rich man.  For we have all of his earthly blessings.

Will we find our path to conforming our hearts to God’s will before He calls us to take that last breath?  Or will we find ourselves in that eternal torment? Sooner or later, we are all beggars.  Better sooner!