Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Scripture contains many references to the issue of "cleanliness." Interestingly, the expression, "Cleanliness is next to godliness" is NOT to be found in Scripture. The issue of being "clean" in Scripture carries varied meanings. Certainly bodily cleanliness is at issue at times. But there are other meanings.
In Acts Chapter 10, Peter is confronted with the issue (in a dream) of the cleanliness and uncleanliness of food. The Lord sends to Peter a message in a dream by showing him a "great sheet, bound at the four corners," and it was filled with animals which the Jews would declare to be ritually unclean. Peter was told to eat, and he refused. In response, he heard a voice saying, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." (Acts 10:9-16)
In today's Gospel reading (Luke 11:34-41) we find the following:
Hear what our Lord is explaining to the "teachers" of Israel - as well as to us! It is not that bodily cleanliness is unimportant. It is rather that "cleanliness" has a higher (a spiritual) meaning! In the Gospel of St. Matthew (15:11), Jesus says, "Hear and understand. Not
ἐλεημοσύνη, which means beneficence, being a benefactor to another. Our personal "spiritual hygene" is effected by our benevolence to others! He has blessed us to "make clean" that which we've soiled by our sinfulness if only we are faithful to care for others to the extent that He has given us resources and abilities to do so.
"Coming clean" is not so much a matter of soap and water as it is a matter of serving the least of His brethren!
Monday, October 25, 2021
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. (Eph 2:19-3:7)
See how the Apostle already groups his target readers (those in Ephesus) by tieing them firmly to the "saints and members of the household of God." This is no accident. St. Paul is preaching salvation already at work, and that those who choose to be followers of Christ are already living in the Kingdom while awaiting their translation from this life to the next. In short, heaven is all around us, and it is ours for the taking if we are faithful to follow His commandments and live lives as He instructed us to do.
The imagery related to the temple is not limited to this passage from Ephesians. He gives the same imagery to those in Corinth when he teaches:
You are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. (1Cor 3:10)
But the Saint seals his teaching with the words that end this same portion of scripture:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1Cor 3:16-17)
We are temples made of flesh. And He of Whom we partake in the Holy Eucharist "builds" within that flesh that which is His. If we partake in faith, the temple grows and is beautified. If we partake in vain, the temple is weakened and incurs loss.
So we dare not lose sight of St. Paul's words, that "the temple of God is holy", and that WE are that temple. The 'behavior' we would have within a church, which we all see as "God's House" must be how we conduct ourselves when we recognize that His Temple, His "house" never departs from where we are.
His 'house' IS heaven. And if we live as described, then truly heaven IS all around us!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Monday, October 4, 2021
[The following is from Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. We pray that you find it spiritually edifying. The emphasis is from this page's publisher. - FrB]
When we read the words of the Savior which speak of the simple and carefree way in which we could live, not considering about food and drink, not bothering about how to clothe our bodies — we are filled with two conflicting feelings. On the one hand we think: yes, how simple that would be, and why not live like that? Why not cast off responsibility, why not cast off worry which constantly torment us? On the other hand, the opposite view: but that is impossible! Then we are faced with the question: can something that Christ says really be impossible? Surely His commandments are a way of life?
It seems to me that we can reconcile the opposing reactions in our souls by taking account of the stringent conditions that this freedom imposes. If we want to live as Christ says, seeking only the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness in the hope that everything else will be added thereto, we must radically change our whole attitude to life, and stop living in the way we do. The righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven consists in loving God with our whole heart, with all our mind, with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. That means that nothing, absolutely nothing, must remain in our lives that cannot be called love of God and love of our neighbor. It means that all our thoughts, all our powers, our whole heart must be devoted not to ourselves but to another — to God and to our neighbor. It means that everything that we possess, which gives us comfort and joy, belongs to God and our neighbor; it means that whatever we make use of over and above strict necessity, we are taking away from God and our neighbor.
Nothing that we have belongs to us; whatever we make use of, beyond bare necessity, we have stolen from someone else; whatever we do not part with of our free will, lovingly, we are seizing away from the miracle of God’s kingdom of love. If this were to become our attitude, it would be easy to live by faith in God and the mercifulness of one’s neighbor, for it would mean living in spiritual poverty and physically in such uncovetousness as we cannot conceive of.
Here we see what lies behind the easy words of Christ: forget everything, the Father will look after you. They mean: have only the cares which are God’s, the crucified care of the living God on Golgotha, and then you will enter that Kingdom, where you need nothing, and God will indeed provide everything.
Friday, October 1, 2021
Diligence: n, 'constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken.'
It's a character trait that we value in people. And it is one that is easily recognized, because they are always active, pursuing a goal. They don't waste time in idle pursuits.
We look for these traits in people within the physical realm. Those who are diligent manage to acquire, achieve, attain things which are tangible.
But do we ever look for this trait in the spiritual realm? Do we see it in others? And what would "seeing it" look like, since it is NOT tangible? More to the point, do we pursue spiritual diligence in ourselves?
St. Peter of Damascus writes this:
Without attentiveness and watchfulness of the intellect we cannot be saved and rescued from the devil, who walks about ‘like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8). For this reason the Lord often said to His disciples, ‘Watch and pray; for you do not know at what hour your Lord is coming’ (Matt. 26:41, 24:42). Through them He was giving a warning to us all about the remembrance of death, so that we should be prepared to offer a defense, grounded in works and attentiveness, that will be acceptable to God. For the demons, as St Hilarion has said, are immaterial and sleepless, concerned only to fight against us and to destroy our souls through word, act and thought. We lack a similar persistence, and concern ourselves now with our comfort and with ephemeral opinion, now with worldly matters, now with a thousand and one other things. We are not in the least interested in examining our life, so that our intellect may develop the habit of so doing and may give attention to itself unremittingly.
St. Peter instructs us to see that we must develop the habit of seeking spiritual gain. It won't happen by osmosis. We are in fact "miners" of salvation, digging, seeking that vein of ore that brings spiritual reward. Miners don't go to work unarmed. They carry picks, shovels, gloves. They don't expect to have the ore jump out and offer itself to them. They know that they must exert themselves with the greatest of effort, expending their strength to make gains.
Spiritual gains are no different. They come with great effort. They come as we arm ourselves with the requisite tools - prayer, fasting, prostrations. They require training by reading scripture and the Fathers.
It requires diligence.
St. Theophan the Recluse teaches this:
While you will not achieve anything just by your own labor, God will not give you anything if you do not labor with all your might.
The path to salvation leads through one's spending oneself in the search for the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is NOT of this world!
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness... (Mat 6:33)
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Our Lord "sees" our faith with spiritual eyes.
We need to seek spiritual sight, and then to ask for the blessing to allow us to apply it to OURSELVES, searching out our faults, confessing them, then striving to minimize their presence in our lives.
And we need to apply the same spiritual sight to brother and sister, not to judge their actions or words, but to seek the same good for them as we seek for ourselves!
Saturday, July 31, 2021
Whether the vendors found a tremendous amount of business,
whether a lot of passers-by took notice of the church which they'd never noticed before by virtue of the three-barred crosses in front,
whether all of our own parishioners could manage to find the time to come out and help at the event or not,
regardless of all of these elements, we give thanks to our Lord for
- the weeks of preparation to get to this day
- the brotherhood and sisterhood fostered in the community because of those efforts
- the blessing to call attention, not to ourselves, but to the presence of a Church of Christ here in this community
- the blessing to be able to show Christ by our words and actions to a large number of people who prior to this day never knew about St. Herman's or its faithful
Friday, July 16, 2021
Let us humble ourselves, and the Lord will grant us to know
the power of the Jesus Prayer!
Learn how to have Christ-like humility, and the Lord will
grant you to taste the sweetness of prayer.
And if you want to achieve pure prayer, become humble,
exercise temperance, confess sincerely,
and the prayer will love to swell in you.
Become obedient, submit yourself with a sincere conscience
to all authorities, and be content with all things;
then your mind will be cleansed from vain thoughts.
Remember that the Lord sees you, and be careful,
lest you sadden your brother with something - do not condemn him,
and do not sadden him even with a single glance.
Then the Holy Spirit will love you,
and He will help you in all things.
St. Silouan the Athonite
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
From "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year," St. Theophan the Recluse, Wedensday of the 3rd Week After Pentecost.
The Lord showed many signs in Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, yet the number of those who believed did not correspond to the power of the signs. That is why He severly denounced those cities and sentenced them: in the Day of Judgment it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, then for these cities.
We need to judge ourselves according to such a model. How many signs has the Lord shown to Russia (let us ask, 'to America'), saving it from the most powerful enemies and subduing peoples under it! How many treasures has He granted it, pouring out unceasing signs - in holy relics and miracle-working icons scattered throughout the land! And yet in our days our countrymen are starting to turn aside from the Faith: one group is falling into total unbelief, another group is falling away into Protestantism, a third group is secretly weaving their own beliefs, thinking to combine Spiritism and theological ravings with Divine revelation.
Evil is growing; evil beliefs and unbelief are raising their head, while faith and Orthodoxy are weakening. Will we not come to our senses? We will end up like many others....
But if that happens, how do you think it will be for us on the Day of Judgment, after God has shown so many mercies to us?
O Lord! Have mercy and save Orthodox Russia (let us pray 'America') from Your righteous threatening which stands before us!
Friday, July 9, 2021
But the day is also important to us on our nation’s level, being the day on which we commemorate this country declaring its independence, its political severing of ties with the King of England. We’re not going to make this homily into an explanation of the Declaration itself, but if you haven’t read it in a while (or perhaps at all), it’s worth the time and effort to read exactly why our nation’s forefathers chose to take this bold step.
Independence. It carries meanings that include self-governing, self-rule, self-determination, self-reliance, self-sufficiency. Do you note the dominant theme of “self” in all of these? In short, it indicates that we are choosing to establish a means of governing based on the needs and choices and desires of “self”. It’s a very important distinction between the American way of thinking about life as compared with the thinking of others around the world about their own governance and their ways of life.
I’ve had the blessing of traveling to the Far East, and it has revealed to me the stark realization that this emphasis on self, while not uniquely American in today’s world, it is not found in many places throughout the world. I’ll give two examples.
When in China, while speaking with an associate who lives near Shanghai, I asked, “What do you have to do if you want to have a large family here?” I asked because I knew that the Chinese government had imposed limits, and instituted policies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization for those who would have more than one child in a household. The person’s reaction was, “Well, it’s the rule. We are told that we must, and so this is what we do.” In short, there was little to no evidence of “self” in the response. I do what I’m told – everyone does!
The second example happened in Japan, where again, an associate who lived in Tokyo traveled to another city to be with me to work in a car factory. We worked one full week, Monday thru Saturday before he returned to Tokyo for the weekend. Each day we got into a rental car and drove about 10 miles from the hotel to the factory, and so I became familiar with the way to get there. For his part, my associate at the start of each day programmed the car’s GPS to direct us from hotel to factory. When he returned the following Monday, we got into a different rental car and repeated the trip. As we neared the factory, we sped past the lane we had turned down six times before. I asked my associate why he didn’t take the road we had used so many times before. In the most serious response possible, he said, “Well, this is a different car.” The GPS in the different model told him that he must take a different road, and he simply obeyed without question. There was little to no evidence of “self” in this example!
In today’s Gospel, we find two encounters in which our Lord calls disciples. In both cases He calls men who are brothers. He is establishing His core group of followers to have ties with family. But the more important aspect to both accounts is the call itself. To Peter and Andrew the Evangelist records our Lord’s words – “Follow Me!” In the case of James and John, we only hear that “He called them.” But in both instances the same word is used to describe the response of the brothers. The Gospel of St. Luke records that James and John were “partners” with Simon and Andrew. St. Luke further records this calling to be associated with the miraculous catch of fish, which causes Peter to fall at our Lord’s knees and say, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” St. Matthew records that both sets of brothers answered our Lord’s call “immediately.” The Greek word is eu-the’-os, and it carries the meaning that they stopped what they were doing and at once conformed with the call! They set self aside, and obeyed the voice of the Master.
It is just before the beginning of today’s Gospel that St. Matthew records our Lord beginning His ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Study Bible states that these four had already heard the preaching of St. John the Forerunner, and so their acceptance of our Lord’s call with immediacy is conditioned by their already recognizing in Christ something beyond this world, something Messianic.
Still, we must come to grips with the fact that these four men, when our Lord called them, and before they were witnesses to myriads of healings, miraculous displays of authority over nature, and even raising of the dead, before any of these components were in their observed understanding of Jesus, they walked away from their livelihoods. Those boats, those nets were their connection to the world, to provide a living. They just left them. There was no asking for time to sell their goods. Jesus called. They went!
Why this focus on being called and the response? Because today is “Independence Day.” And earlier we suggested a reading of the Declaration so that we can better understand the rationale behind the beginning of this great country.
But in thinking about those issues, my own mind began to wrap around the concept of a need for a “Declaration of DEpendence,” a statement that we, as followers of our Lord, need to find ourselves giving up individualism and placing self at the fore in favor of being the servant He calls us to be.
There was a sermon given by a guy named Jonathan Edwards on 8Jul1731 that spoke to the issue of being dependent on the Lord. He focused on 1Cor 1:27-31, which reads, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” In short, the concept of self puts me above others, and applies the concept of glory to me. This is counter to what St. Paul is teaching the people in Corinth!
In his sermon, Edwards says that the people of Corinth (to whom the Epistle was written) lived in a part of the world where there was praise for human wisdom. St. Paul says in V22 of this same Epistle, “Greeks seek after wisdom.” Corinth, not being far from Athens, was a world renowned seat of philosophy and learning. St. Paul’s words were intended to impress upon the pridefulness of those elevating human wisdom that the Lord, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, has destroyed the world’s wisdom. By all their wisdom, the Greeks did not come to a knowledge of God, nor could they find the truth in divine things. God reveals Himself through the Gospel, and those who attempt to understand only by human ‘wisdom’ account God’s revelation as foolishness.
Edwards repeats the theme that God’s gift to us is HIS wisdom, HIS righteousness, HIS sanctification, and HIS redemption (1Cor 1:30) In short, to achieve eternal life, we are dependent on His mercy, through our repentance, to receive these gifts freely given by Him to us so that we might come to eternal life in Christ.
When one ponders St. Paul’s words, one comes to recognize that all who seek to embrace His gift of salvation, the gift of redemption, depend on Him and only Him for this gift. There is no other source. There is no other entity whom we must approach to secure the gift. All of mankind therefore is dependent upon each person of the Holy Trinity for all that we seek which is good. We depend on God the Son, for He is our Source of wisdom, of righteousness, of sanctification, and of redemption. We depend on the Father, for He has given us His Son as our Savior and Redeemer, so that He might be for us all of these things. And we depend on the Holy Spirit, for it is of Him that we are members of Christ. It is by the Spirit that we have faith in the Savior, that we know Him, it is through the Spirit that we receive Him and become one with Him.
So to a very great extent, 1Cor 1 is a Christian Declaration of Dependence!
It is not a stretch to say that mankind’s dependence on God is greater now than it was before the fall, for then there was no dependence on God to redeem, nor to accept the repentant soul. Then mankind’s dependence on God was limited to perfect obedience. Now, we depend on Him to grant us His grace, we depend on Him to fulfill the promise of eternal life and deliverance from hell and eternal punishment. As we seek to achieve the goal of holiness, to become one among the saints, we must recognize our dependence on His blessing us to progress on that path to holiness. Before the fall, He had created us (as He did all of creation) to be “holy”. After the fall, we must seek Him and His mercy to return to a state of holiness. “Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again” is only achievable by God and His grace!
There are many known to us as saints, even among those whose lives have touched this country and this continent. There are many more – God knows how many! – who are known only to God as saints, and “holy ones”. Mankind achieves the state of holiness as a free gift from God to those who seek to do His holy will with pure and repentant hearts.
St. Theophan says this about this day and this subject. “Such is the law that we have in our soul, that once it has tasted and known what is better, it is repulsed by what is worse and abandons it. Here is accomplished the same thing that the Lord described in His parables about the treasure hid in a field, and about the pearl of great price. The treasure and the pearl are faith in the Lord and communion with Him, according to the strength of one’s faith. We have already been named possessors of this in Baptism. Why do we value this treasure so little and thus exchange it for barren ground? Because we are not brought up to cultivate a taste for this treasure, and it becomes foreign to our heart. Our heart does not know this better thing. It only knows that there is the bad, the very bad, and the not so bad, and bases its outlook upon this assessment. Here is the entire reason why the Lord calls some and they come, while others, who could be chosen ones, run from Him.”
As Americans, we embrace our independence from the oppression originally imposed on us by a tyrannical earthly king. As Americans, we must remain vigilant and never lose sight of the world’s desire to return us to a different and new tyranny imposed by contemporary world powers.
But as Orthodox Christians, we must embrace our DEPENDENCE upon a loving God, Who has worked salvation for us in the midst of a fallen world, and given this great gift to us “for the asking” to those who seek His will in faith, in love, and in repentance. Let us never seek our own wills, let us never look to “self” as an element of our faith. The branch does not give life to the vine. The branch is known by the vine, and the branch bears the vine’s fruit because of the life it receives from the vine. As the branch is dependent on the vine, and is known by the vine, let us depend for all good things on our Loving Lord!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Of all approaches to God, prayer is the best and in the final analysis the only means. In the act of prayer, the human mind finds its noblest expression. The mental state of the scientist engaged in research, of the artist creating a work of art, of the thinker wrapped up in philosophy - even of professional theologians propounding their doctrines - cannot be compared to that of the man of prayer brought face to Face with the living God. Each and every kind of mental activity presents less of a strain than prayer. We may be capable of working for ten or twelve hours on end, but a few moments of prayer and we are exhausted.
Archimandrite Sophrony, 'His Life is Mine,' Ch 6, Pgs 55-56, SVS Press
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
From "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year," St. Theophan the Recluse, 2nd Wednesday after Pentecost
He that endures to the end shall be saved. (Mat 10:22)
Do we have anything to endure? In this no one is lacking. Everyone's arena of endurance is vast, and therefore our salvation is at hand. Endure everything to the end and you will be saved.
However, you must endure skillfully - otherwise, you may not gain anything by your endurance.
First of all, keep the Holy Faith and lead an irreproachable life according to the Faith. Immediately cleanse with repentance every sin that occurs.
Second, accept everything that you must endure as from the hands of God, remembering firmly that nothing happens without God's will.
Third, give sincere thanks to God for everything, believing that everything which proceeds from the Lord is sent by Him for the good of our souls. Thank Him for sorrows and for consolations.
Fourth, love sorrow for the sake of its great salvific power and cultivate within yourself a thirst for it as for a drink which, although bitter, is healing.
Fifth, keep in your thoughts that when misfortune comes, you cannot throw it off like a tight-fitting garment; you must bear it. Whether in a Christian way or in a non-Christian way, you cannot avoid bearing it; so it is better to bear it in a Christian way. Complaining will not deliver you from misfortune, but only make it heavier; whereas humble submission to God's Providence and a good attitude relieve the burden of misfortunes.
Sixth, realize that you deserve even greater misfortune. Recognize that if the Lord wanted to deal with you as you rightly deserve, would He have sent you such a small misfortune?
Seventh, above all, pray, and the merciful Lord will give you strength of spirit. With such strength, when others marvel at your misfortunes, they will seem like nothing to you.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Not everyone that says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.
You will not be saved through prayer alone; you must unite prayer to the fulfillment of the will of God - all that each person is responsible for according to his calling and way of life. And prayer should have as its primary object the petition that God not let us depart from His holy will in any way. Conversely, he who is zealous to fulfill God's will in all things has boldness in prayer before God and greater access to His throne. Moreover, prayer that is not accompanied by walking in God's will is often not true, sober, and heartfelt prayer, but only outward reading, during which one's moral dysfunction is concealed by a multitude of words like a fog, while the thoughts are actually disorderly and wandering. Both prayer and the fulfillment of God's will must be made orderly through piety, and then there will be fruit.
St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, Wednesday After All Saints
Friday, June 25, 2021
When one looks back into Holy Scripture, one finds the first reference to “saints” in the Book of Deuteronomy (33:2). Here, Moses is about to go to his death. But before he does, he leaves God’s people with a blessing. “And he said, ‘The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand went a fiery law for them.’” The Orthodox Study Bible says this about this particular passage:
The Lord Who appeared to Israel was the Son of God. He revealed Himself many times to the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Angels sometimes appeared with Him…
The OSB says “angels”, but the scriptural text says “saints”. And indeed, who (except for God) can say which of the heavenly beings might have accompanied the Lord in His interventions in the Old Testament!
The word used for saints in the OT is qodesh, a Jewish word that means holy, sanctified, dedicated, hallowed, consecrated.
Saints are mentioned many more times in Scripture. My small (not “exhaustive”) concordance lists at least nineteen times just in the Book of Psalms, and thirteen times in the Book of Revelation. But interestingly, the word is found only once in the Gospels, and that in Mat 27:52-53, after our Lord’s death and resurrection: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many.” The word used in the NT here is hagios, Greek meaning holy, sacred, pure, and again consecrated.
Why do saints play such a prominent role in Holy Scripture?
It is precisely because this is the state to which all of humanity is called! Saint Philaret of Moscow teaches, “Every Christian should find for himself the imperative and incentive to become holy. If you live without struggle and without hope of becoming holy, you are Christian in name only and not in essence. Without holiness, no one shall see the Lord, that is to say they will not attain eternal blessedness. It is a trustworthy saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1Tim 1:15). But we deceive ourselves if we think that we are saved while remaining sinners. Christ saves sinners by giving them the means to become saints.”
In commemorating All Saints on this day, our remembrance of these men, women and children favored by God is for two purposes. The first is to obviously give praise to those who have completed this life in triumph and found favor before the Lord. But equally important in our remembering these people is the idea that their lives are an example to us—they can and should be emulated to the extent that God gives us grace to do so. The hymnology of the day focuses on martyrdom, but that is not the only path to finding favor with God. St. Philaret’s admonishment to struggle means to wrestle with our sinful natures, to attempt to cleanse ourselves through prayer and fasting and repentance so that we might approach that state of holiness to which our Lord has called not only those who are part of the Church Triumphant and have achieved sainthood and received their crowns, but us as well!
May our Lord give us strength and wisdom to struggle against the things in this life which tear at us attempting to separate us from that Divine calling to seek a place near the Lord for all eternity, where we will one day be with those now recognized as saints as we pray for all our departed loved ones, “With the saints give rest….”
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Luke 1-25, 57-68, 76, 80
It often seems impossible to review the content of Divine Services for a day like today as a stand-alone kind of event. It seems that nothing in Holy Orthodoxy can be viewed without its relationship with something else of import.
So it is today. In the Prophecy of Isaiah that was just read, we heard, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The prophecy points not to today’s event of the Nativity of the Forerunner, but to his Divine mission. At Jordan, where John will establish a center for his preparing the way for the Lord, there when Christ comes to initiate His mission, there the glory of the Lord will be revealed. And what is that glory except that which we together witnessed this past Sunday at the Descent of the Holy Spirit? What is that glory except that which constitutes the unity of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At Jordan, on that day, “all flesh”, all of humanity for all time have seen this unity of the God-head together. And “the voice of the Father bore witness”, fulfilling Isaiah’s words that the Lord has indeed spoken.
St. John stands alone in the history of humanity as one ‘special’ person. He carries three titles: Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, and he indeed fulfilled all three of these roles in preparing the way for the coming of Jesus, speaking of our Lord’s imminent coming and prophesizing while still in Elizabeth’s womb as he leapt for joy when the Mother of God arrived, preparing the people by calling them to repentance, and baptizing not only those repentant people, but even our Lord Himself.
Prior to his appearance, Israel had been without a prophet since the time of Malachi, about four centuries earlier. Israel’s prophetic voice had gone silent. At the time, King Herod was not really Jewish, and he ruled at the pleasure of the pagan Romans. Zacharias the priest, John’s father, has lost HIS voice as judgment for not believing the message of the angel that Elizabeth in her old age would conceive. And so the three offices fulfilled by Jesus, that of prophet, of priest, and of king, were all vacant, silent, or illegitimate. God had appointed exactly this time for one as bold as John to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord!
And John was bold! His preaching was fearless, calling all, from the most influential leaders of the temple to the most common of the population, and even King Herod himself to repentance.
In his capacity as Forerunner, every aspect of his life was ordered to put Christ first. Even St. Elizabeth hid herself for the first five months of her pregnancy until our Lord was conceived. When she was visited by the Mother of God, Elizabeth shared in the prophetic mission of the child she was carrying, prophesying “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
For his part, Zacharias had his speech restored after verifying that the child was to be named John. He would die a martyr’s death when Herod’s troops killed him as they failed to find the child John (when all the innocents were slaughtered). It was his mother, Elizabeth, who miraculously hid herself and her infant son John in a cave, shielding them from being found by the murders. Tradition holds that she died forth days later, and that the infant John grew up in the wilderness, fed by angels, protected by God.
And so as we began, noting that John was ‘special’ in so very many ways, his life calls us to emulate those attributes. His voice still calls to us, who still live in a wilderness, to conform ourselves not to this world, but to the Word of God and His instructions for life. We come to see that when God can use an elderly woman to bear a child such as John, when He can cause a virgin to conceive a child, we must hold no preconceived notions of limits our feeble minds choose to impose on God, lest our voices be silenced like that of Zacharias for our unbelief. Note that in his (John’s) ministry he promises no life of ease to any of us, nothing pointing toward comfort, and certainly nothing to describe as ‘conventional’. St. John shows us that our God, Who worked such inconceivable things in the time of St. John, calls us to find Him in our lives, in our church, in all aspects of the world around us. His call to us goes further to speak to our hearts so that we, too, call others to repentance, to faith in Christ, for He is coming again, and we are left as those whom God has given grace to prepare the way for His return.
This won’t happen by our living “normal lives”, conforming to the expectations of those who surround us. “Normal” for us is that which conforms us to the Word of God, to living Christ-like in an anti-Christ world. St. John said some things that offended and shocked the people around him. He leaves us that example – not to purposely offend, but rather to speak to the truth, and to encourage through the truth all (especially me first) to repentance, to becoming “perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect.”
Through the prayers and intercessions of St. John the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, may our Lord have mercy on us and save us!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
A message from His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph on the occassion of the Feast of Pentecost, 2021.
Dearest Beloved Fathers and Brethren in the Most Holy Trinity,
On Sunday June 20 and on Monday June 21, 2021, we are keeping the Feasts of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Holy Spirit. What do we know about the Holy Spirit? We heard wonderful words of prayer about Him on Trinity Sunday, but let us think of Him, of the name He is given in the Gospel, which is translated “The Comforter” in English, in other translations “The Advocate”. He is the One, Who is the Comforter indeed, the One Who consoles us from our separation from Christ our God and Savior, Who promised us to continue His work on earth and He continues to come to us to this very day!
· In the beginning, He hovered over the face of the waters;
· He descended as a cloud and filled the temple of Solomon, thus consecrating it;
· He descended upon a young maiden of Nazareth and she became the Mother of God;
· He descended in the form of a dove and hovered over the head of the Lord at His Baptism, revealing the Triune Godhead;
· He once again appeared as a cloud in the Transfiguration of our Lord upon Mount Tabor;
· He was breathed forth from the Lord Jesus on the night of the Resurrection and He ordained the Apostles;
· He descended as a mighty, rushing wind and appeared as tongues of fire upon the heads of the disciples and apostles on the Pentecost;
· He descended and filled St. John the Forerunner, the righteous Elizabeth and Zachariah, the apostle Peter, the Archdeacon and Proto-martyr Stephen and the other six deacons.
The Holy Spirit continually abides in the Holy Orthodox Church. His presence is renewed in us repeatedly and we experience His descent in so many concrete ways in the various liturgical rites of the Church. The most notable one, of course, is the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the precious Body and Blood of our Savior.
After a catechumen is newly baptized, the soul and body of that new warrior of Christ is infused with the Holy Spirit, Who descends into him.
An imperfect and sinful man kneels before a bishop of the Church, who calls down the Holy Spirit upon him, and a new priest or deacon is formed for the Church.
Three bishops call down the Holy Spirit upon one who is about to join their rank.
A Patriarch beseeches the Holy Spirit to descent upon the fragrant mixture of olives and rose oil, herbs and spices and it becomes Sacred Chrism.
A bishop uses the same Chrism, and the Holy Spirit changes a printed piece of cloth into an Altar of God, the Holy Antimins.
A bishop appeals to the Holy Spirit of God to come down upon a building constructed by men and makes it a House of God, just as He descended in the days of Solomon and at your Church if it is consecrated.
A priest invokes the descent of Holy Spirit upon the Theophany water and it transformed into healing water that has power.
Ecumenical councils of the Holy Church, Sobors and all meetings were and are led by the Holy Spirit.
Just as the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not merely a historic fact but more importantly, an eternal reality, so also is the Descent of the Holy Spirit not merely a historic fact, but an ongoing, continues reality at works in His Church. He is constantly guiding and governing the Church. He is invoked at the beginning of every Divine Service outside of Pascha. Without the Holy Spirit, neither the Faith nor the Church would exist.
The Holy Apostle Paul goes further telling us that “no once can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit”(1 Cor. 12:3). Thus it is, without Him, we would flounder on the sea of life, struggling to make sense of God, the Holy Scriptures, and the Faith itself.
In this time of COVID-19 I would like to ask you to beseech the Holy Spirit to infuse all of us with His power from on high and to renew our faith and our baptismal vows.
In all humility, let us declare our dependence upon Him and our devotion on Him. He is not a forgotten Person. His role is vital to the Church of Christ and especially to all our Diocesan churches, missions and monasteries, because He, the Giver of Life, vitalizes them.
My prayers in these blessed Feasts for each of you are that you may experience His presence once again in your own personal life and faith.
Also, I invoke the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth to descend upon your heart, soul, and body, and even though you will not see a tongue of fire above your head, may you be set on fire to preach, through word and deed, the Faith of Christ that is so sorely needed by a desperate world. Amen.
With love in the Most Holy Trinity, + Metropolitan JOSEPH