Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio

This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!

The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.

We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!

Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM

We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible! We are open, and we welcome inside the Church all visitors. See our Parish web page:

Thursday, August 5, 2021

6th Sunday After Pentecost


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

31July Craft Show Reflections

 

Today, our parish held our first "Craft Show."  

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
Giving thanks to the Lord for these blessings, we also give thanks to our people.  We had the blessing of seeing your interaction with others, and how you all showed the Love of Christ to them by your helpfulness, your kindness, your responding to their needs throughout the day.

Finally, your spiritual father gives thanks to be blessed to be called to serve such a group of faithful!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Thought for the Day

 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

Warning - First to Russia, But Now to America

 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

"DEpendence Day"

Sermon for 2nd Sunday After Pentecost
All Saints of North America
Mat 4:18-23
04Jul2021

Today we remember those who the Church recognizes as “holy”, as we discussed last week meaning they are “saints”, who came to reside and evangelize and to serve the Lord on this continent.  We describe the day as the Sunday of All Regional Saints.

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!

Prayer

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

Endurance

 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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

St. Theophan on Mat 7:21-23

 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

Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles

 


Friday, June 25, 2021

Sunday of All Saints - The Origin of Saints

 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

Nativity of the Forerunner

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

Pentecost - II

 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

Pentecost

 From "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year," St. Theophan the Recluse, Sunday of Holy Pentecost.

The economy of our salvation has been accomplished!  The operations of all the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity have henceforth come into effect to accomplish it.  That which God the Father willed, the Son of God has fulfilled in Himself, and the Holy Spirit has now descended in order to impart it to the faithful.  For our salvation is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ (1Pet 1:2).  For this reason we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, obliged to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded us (Mat 28:19-20).  Those who do not confess the Most Holy Trinity cannot participate in the saving action of Its Persons and thus receive salvation.  Glory to the Father adn to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided, Who grants us to confess It!  O Father Almighty and Word and Spirit, one Nature united in three Persons, transcendent and most Divine!  Into You have we been baptized, and You shall we bless throughout all ages!

Prayer

 


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Wednesday Before Pentecost

 From the book, 'Thoughts for Each Day of the Year,' St. Theophan the Recluse, Wednesday of the week before Pentecost.

The Lord said to the Holy Apostles before His sufferings: A little while, and you shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and you shall see Me. (John 16:16)  

The Lord's sufferings and death so struck the Holy Apostles that the eyes of their minds became dim, and they no longer saw the Lord as the Lord.  The light was hidden, and they sat in a bitter and wearisome darkness.  The light of Christ's Resurrection dispersed this darkness, and they again saw the Lord.

The Lord Himself explained His words thus: You shall weep, He said, and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

It is said that every soul experiences a similar defeat on the way to perfection.  Universal darkness covers it, and it does not know where to go; but the Lord comes, and changes its sorrow into joy.  This is truly as necessary as it is for a woman to suffer before a child is born of her into the world.  Can we not conclude from this that he who has not experienced this has not yet given birth to a real Christian within himself?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Ascension

 Our Lord’s Ascension is an absolutely essential component of His total dispensation in working our salvation.  The Incarnation (His Nativity), even His Resurrection are not “complete” without and until our Lord returns “to the place where He was before.” (hymnology of the Feast from Vespers)

The Holy Fathers write about this day and relate exactly these ideas as they teach that the angelic powers were amazed at the Lord’s Nativity in seeing God become man, but on this day those same powers are again amazed at seeing a Man return to heaven as God.

Within that hymnology we hear amazing words.  “The Father receives into His bosom He Who is eternally with Him.”  It continues with concepts difficult for us to comprehend.  “O Lord, Who humbled Yourself for the sake of mankind, and ascended to the place from which You could not be parted, send down the Most Holy Spirit to illumine our souls!”  Finally these words:  “It is not possible to separate You from the bosom of the Father, O Lord, yet You walked with us as a man.  Today You ascended in glory from the Mount of Olives, and in Your compassion raised fallen mankind, seating it with the Father.  The bodiless hosts were overcome with awe.  Trembling, they glorified Your love for mankind.  With them we on earth glorify Your condescension to us, and Your ascension from us.”

In the Old Testament readings for the Feast is the Prophecy of Zechariah, which also needs to be studied and embraced by us:

“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst.  And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.  And the Mount of Olives will be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.  And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur.  And the Lord shall be King over all the earth….”

This is a prophecy of the Lord’s return.  We heard of this, too, in the Epistle for the day, which taught us from the mouths of the angels present at His Ascension:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven. In short, the Lord’s return will be to that same spot from which He left on this Feast!

An interesting side note for those who say that Scripture cannot be taken as truth nor as historically accurate.

Years ago (in 1964), the Sheraton Hotel Corporation was researching a potential site for a hotel near the Mount of Olives.  They needed to do an environmental impact study to enable construction to begin.  When the study was done, they found a major fault running through the Mount of Olives, and had to stop their plans for a hotel at the site.

 Christ is Ascended!  In Glory!!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Before Abraham Was, I AM

John 8:51-59, Monday of Blindman Week

Christ is Risen!

There are several times in the Gospel of St. John (eight in total) where our Lord uses the expression, "I am..."  These include:

1) I am the bread of life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)

2) I am the light of the world (John 8:12)

3) I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7, 9)

4) I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)

5) I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)

6) I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)

7) I am the true vine (John 15:1, 5)

The expressions are our Lord's gift to us to show us His importance in our lives.  From the top down, He sustains our lives, a function we ascribe to food, but He extends this beyond just food to include our spiritual lives (1).  He illumines those lost in darkness, He is their guide to safe haven (2).  As a shepherd guards a flock of sheep, He protects us, members of His Bride, the Church, from evil - to the extent that we seek His protection! (3, 5)  He promises us that death in this world is not the end, but the beginning, for we will be gifted resurrection and life eternal if we are faithful servants (4).  He defines that which is good and that which is evil (truth), leading us to the knowledge of God (the Source of all life) (6).  When we choose to 'graft' ourselves to the Vine that He defines here, we become wedded to the life of the Vine, we are gifted its properties (7).  

But we said that there are eight in total.  We've left one off the above list because the eighth instance is more powerful and unique than any of the first seven.

8) Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58)

Why is this one so different and so powerful?  Inside of the first seven instances, the expression that our Lord uses for I am is ἐγώ εἰμί, a combination of pronoun and verb.  In the expression of John 8:58, the Greek still text still presents these same words, but it is clear from the emphasis placed on the words by St. John the Evangelist that our Lord's use refers back in Scripture to Exodus 3:14, where Moses is speaking with God, who is sending him to free the Jews from the Egyptians.  There Moses says to God, "When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' they will say to me, 'What is His name?'  What shall I say to them?", to which God replies, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel - 'I AM has sent me to you." (Ex 3:13-14)  Our Lord's use of "I AM" in John 8:58 focuses His adversaries on His invoking the Name God gave to Moses for Himself!

St. John records that this so angered the Jews that "they took up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by." (John 8:59)

This verse of scripture details a judgment on the children of Israel.  How so?  In their rejection (and indeed judgmentalism and anger), God the Son "leaves the temple."  Any grace that God had allowed to be present to bless the activities within the temple prior to that moment were removed.  The eternal I AM is rejected by God's "chosen people," who abdicate their chosenness to those who do and will (for all eternity) choose to graft themselves to the True Vine Who is Christ!  St. Theophan the Recluse says this about this portion of Scripture:

The Jews became angry with the Lord because of His accusation, and picked up stones 'to cast at Him'.  But the Lord went 'through the midst of them, and so passed by'.  They did nothing to the Lord, but they destroyed themselves, for the consequence of their unbelief was the terrible sentence of the Lord: 'Behold, your house is left unto you desolate' (Mat 23:38), and also, 'Let us go hence' (John 14:31).  And the Lord passed to another place and chose other peoples for His habitation, instead of the beloved Israel.

Indeed, this concept is amplified when one considers the implications of the "veil of the temple" being rent in two from top to bottom when our Lord died on the Cross (Mark 15:38).  The significance of the rending of the veil is that the place which had been "the Holy of Holies," a place so rich in sanctity that only the high priest was allowed to enter it, and then only once each year, was destroyed, removed.  Access to the holiest place on earth was open to all.  

Prior to this day's leaving the temple, one of the final measures of grace alloted to this Holy Place was that which occurred at the Presentation of the Theotokos, when St. Zacharias, inspired by the Holy Spirit, takes the three-year-old child Mary into the Holy of Holies.  Tradition (small "t") holds that the Theotokos is the one who wove the temple veil during her time in the temple, before her betrothal to Joseph.

The temple existed for another roughly 30 years after the above encounter between the Lord and the Pharisees, before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.  For nearly 2000 years now there has been no temple worship in Jerusalem.

St. Theophan ends his above teaching with these words.  Even now, insignificant people, in the self-delusion of a proud mind which does not contain the truth of Christ, take up stones of opposition to the Lord and cast them at Him.  They do not harm Him, because He is the Lord, and His truth is the immutable truth; they only destroy themselves.  The Lord goes by, leaving such people in their own vain wisdom, which spins them around the way a whirlwind spins loose specks of dust.  But when an entire nation is carried away with false wisdom, then the entire nation is left to its fate, as was the case with the Jews.  Understand, O ye nations, and submit yourselves to the Lord!

We live in a nation that has moved toward rejection of faith, rejection of belief in the Lord.  If we are to avoid the judgment seen in Israel, we need to heed St. Theophan's warning, submitting ourselves to the Lord.  So let us not be complacent in our faith, for such is the means by which the Pharisees lost their own faith, supplanted by trust in self over trust in God!  Our Lord promised, "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (My Church)." (Mat 16:18)  In order for this prophecy to be fulfilled, our Lord requires faith from us who call ourselves by His Name.  Let us keep before us remembrance of our Lord's warning: "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)  This is a wakeup call to today's Church, my brothers and sisters in Christ!  "If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." (Rev 3:3)

Indeed He is Risen!

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

(John 4:5-42) 

It’s human nature to believe in ourselves, our capabilities, our ability to control situations, and even (often to our peril) the merits of our thoughts and opinions (see our parish blog site for 21May’s offering on this topic).  In short, we’re confident people in general, sometimes too much so for our own good. 

Our Lord’s words to the Samaritan woman today ring out with this concept.  “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that says to you….” (John 4:10)

“If only you knew….”  How many times in our lives would that set of words ring true such that it would change the outcome of events in our lives?

We’ve all see politicians in our world saying things caught on video and audio that they would not have wanted to become public, but they didn’t know that the microphone was “live”.  If they only knew….

We’ve had situations in our own lives that are similar.  I can remember making a snap decision to buy a used car—because the family NEEDED one, only to find out that the car had significant maintenance issues that were hidden when we test drove it.  Had I only known….

St. Photini (she IS the Samaritan woman) only recognized a Jewish Teacher standing at the well.  Her eyes told her this, and this alone.  Her knowledge of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans told her to get her water and to be on her way, to not even acknowledge the Man before her.

If she only knew that He would be the one to speak first.

“Give Me a drink.”  As we’ve discussed over the past several weeks, our Lord is at the appointed places at the right times.  He knows St. Photini will be here at high noon—a time inconsistent with other women who come to draw water, for she is “different” from the other women in Sychar by virtue of her ‘profession.’  She comes when others won’t be there.

Isn’t it fascinating that our Lord chooses to be there, at this very moment, when He could speak with her without ears of locals judging her, or even His Apostles (who were off getting food) from either judging or interrupting His moving this woman from sin to virtue, from fallenness to evangelist, from sinner to saint.

What does it take for our Lord, the Healer of both soul and body, to heal THIS soul?  One simple request—”Go call your husband and come here.”  When He makes the request, He knows where it will lead.  It takes St. Photini to that place of true and full repentance by virtue of His knowing her sin, but not accusing and rather forgiving her!

It is THIS act that leads her to go and find whom?  Not the women of the community.  They still shun her.  Rather, she goes to the men, those whom she has come to know, and she speaks boldly and evangelically.  “Could this be the Christ?”  The men believed her.  The women would have ignored, shunned, and ridiculed her.  The men heard her testimony and based on it went to hear the Lord for themselves.

What did St. Photini expect would be in her day as she arose?  If she only knew…

What will it be like to live eternally with the Lord?  If we only knew….

Christ is Risen!