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:

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas - Mark 2:1-12

As we look at today’s Gospel reading, we can be on the lazy side and ask, “What does the account of the paralytic have to do with the Fast?”  But if we’re on the more inquisitive side, and we wish to understand how the Church, in her love for us, her children, attempts to move us and motivate us, we’ll come to embrace today’s message with the fullness it deserves.

We talk so very often about “living our faith,” but I wonder if we nearly as often stop to ponder what that expression should mean in our daily lives.  We speak often about the saying of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Save yourself, and a thousand around you will be saved.”  We’ve mentioned the teaching of St. Nikolai Velimirovich which says, “The salvation of the soul is the only meaning of labor of man on earth.”  And we’ve spoken of the teaching of St. Theophan the Recluse which says, “Look to heaven, and measure every step of your life so that it is a step toward it.”  Three Holy Fathers, all offering advice to us that, if we are to be selfish about anything, we should indeed be selfish in attaining a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.  We need to do this for ourselves first.  And the advice is not inconsistent with what we as humans advise others to do.  Instructions given on an aircraft teach us that, if oxygen masks descend from the airplane’s ceiling, and if we are traveling with children, we should put our own masks on first.  Only then can we be of help to our children, who certainly need to depend on us, but won’t be able to do so if we ourselves are “lost”.

So we are called to live a life that is exemplary.  We don’t need to walk up to strangers on the street and ask, “Are you saved?  Can I tell you about Jesus?”  It’s far more important for that same stranger to see us offer a donation to a beggar, or to leave our own grocery cart to offer help to a senior who is having trouble loading her car, or to let a person go before us into a crowded shopping line.  In short, our actions speak volumes about who Christ is in our lives, and it speaks not on Sunday morning when we are inside the Church walls where these people will not see Christ in us, but it needs to speak on Tuesday afternoon, and Friday evening.

“OK, Father.  I’m still puzzled about the paralytic,” I hear you thinking. 

The instruction for us, especially as we consider our own walk thru the Great Fast, is to be found in the men who bring the paralytic.  St. Mark details plainly that there were four of them.  And these four had faith.  They knew that if they could place their friend before the Lord, Jesus could heal him.  They had no doubt in this.  Their dilemma was one of logistics – the crowd was so large that they couldn’t get their friend anywhere near to where they knew that the Lord was.  If they couldn’t get him in, they’d miss their opportunity.  What could they do?  “If we can’t get in from any side, let’s go from above!”

By faith they “ascended”, they lifted the rigid body of their friend to the rooftop.  And as perilous as it had to be to “open” the roof while they stood upon it, this is what they did, so that they could then lower the unfortunate friend to the presence of our Lord.

So now, what is the gem we’re attempting to mine from St. Mark?  He records, “Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, ‘Son, you sins are forgiven.’”  HERE is the gem – Jesus SAW the faith of the four.  It was by THEIR faith that their friend received healing. 

But the faith of the four did not need to be expressed in words.  Their faith was VISIBLE.  Yes, our Lord saw it, but their faith was shown to every person who had been blocking their path to reach the Lord.  Every one there came to understand the faith of these four men, and it was known without speaking a single word!  We too, then, need to find it in our ability to modify our behavior so that Christ can speak through our actions.  We need to allow Him to be seen in what we DO – as well as what we say, and HOW we say it.

But there are more gems for us to mine in our walk toward our Lord’s Passion.  For the antithesis of the visible faith of the four men is present in the same house in the persons of the Scribes who began to judge the Lord for His proclaiming that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven.  The Just Judge perceived in the body language of these men their lack of faith, and let us opine that this was as evident in the Scribes as was faith evident in the four.

Let us consider the varied miracles described by St. Mark in this one event.  First there is our Lord’s demonstrating that He sees into the hearts of men, discerning faith when it is present in some, but also guile in others.  Next there is the forgiving of sins, healing of the soul which in turn permits the body to be freed from the disease which is binding it.  And we dare not forget the fact that our Lord heals by His word alone.

Another element we should grasp in our walk toward Holy Week is that we must come and stand in the presence of the Lord for us to attain the salvation we are seeking.  The Great Fast is a time during which we are seeking this connection to our Lord, hoping to place ourselves in His presence.  But we must approach this with patience and care.  In His mercy and love for us, the Lord always hears our prayer, but we may not “feel” His presence at times when we might have hoped to. 

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in Beginning to Pray speaks to this issue.  He teaches, “A meeting face to face with God is always a moment of judgment for us…. Thanks be to Him that He does not always present Himself to us when we wish to meet Him, because we might not be able to endure such a meeting.” 

The paralytic was able to greet the Lord, to be in His presence, and the Lord’s response was first forgiveness.  This indicates that the paralytic’s perspective was already one repentance.  This is the perspective we need to adopt for ourselves when we attempt to come into His presence.  We need to be humble, quiet, repentant, emptied of self so that there is room for Him within our hearts.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich says it this way.  “It is a farmer’s duty to plant and water, but it depends on God’s power, wisdom and mercy whether or not the seeds will bring forth fruit.  It is a scientist’s duty to examine and seek, but it depends on God’s power, wisdom and mercy whether or not knowledge is revealed.  It is a parent’s duty to raise and educate a child in the fear of God, but it depends on God’s power, wisdom and mercy how long the child will live.  It is a priest’s duty to teach, inform, reprimand and guide the faithful, but it depends on God’s power, wisdom and mercy whether or not his flock will bear fruit.  It is the duty of each of us to endeavor to be made worthy to stand in the presence of God the Son, but it depends on God’s power, wisdom and mercy whether or not we will be permitted near to the Lord.”

As we walk the path of the Great Fast, we eat less so that we’ll pray more so that our hearts will be moved to compassion for our fellow man and repentance for our own well being.  If the Fast is having the desired effect, our faith will become visible by our actions, and we will be living lives desiring to put ourselves in the very presence of our Lord.

Our being here today is evidence of that desire, for He is here today.  And if we have completed the walk to repentance, we have the God-given grace to approach Him such that He becomes part of us through the Holy Eucharist.

If I have a prayer this day for all of us as Orthodox Christians, it is that we together will find ourselves “as one” and returned to approach the Holy Chalice before our Lord’s Resurrection!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Proverbs 8:36

Sometimes within the readings for the day, a verse just leaps off the page at you, to the extent that you need to stop what you're doing and ponder what it means to your own spiritual walk.

Such is the case within today's readings, and in the title of this piece.  What is the verse?  The first part of the verse is deep enough, saying:

"But he who sins against Me wrongs his own soul;"   

God is righteous.  Anything we do that is counter to the will of God is sin.  And for many recognizing this conjures up images of an angry and vengeful God Who wants to execute judgment upon every sinner who strays.

But if that were true, then the words of the Psalmist would ring true:  "If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?" (Ps 130:3)  Indeed, there would be no point in attempting repentance, for such a god would show himself as one who is only ready to judge.

Thankfully, that's not at all what Scripture, but most especially the teachings of our Lord, says to us.  David's next words from the same Psalm ring with God's unbounded love for us: "But there is forgiveness with You!"  (V4) I have hope!  We ALL have hope!!!

Within the words at the start of this piece, we find that our sins, while certainly "against" God, are more pointedly acts which attack our own spiritual essence.  We serve a forgiving God, a loving God, Who "desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his ways and live." (Eze 18:23)  Indeed, God rejoices in us when we return to Him, as our Lord Himself bears witness: "I say to you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) Heaven would be a joyless place indeed if it needed to wait to welcome even one of us who needed no repentance!

The second portion of the phrase from Proverbs is equally compelling.  It says, "All those who hate Me love death."  What an indictment of the world around us is contained in these words?  For the world has gone mad over rejecting faith in general, and God in particular.  The world has no need for God.  Mankind trusts in itself.  The buzz-phrase of the day is, "Follow the science!"

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a famous and highly visible (present on many science broadcasts) physicist who unabashedly attacks faith and God.  In one of his quotes he says this:  "If you don't understand something and the community of physicists don't understand it, that means God did it?  Is that how you want to play this game?  If that's how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on."  The arrogance of his words uses an argument tool that implies that because one can explain somthing it means that he or she is the "master" of the topic or issue.  It's a clever method used when attempting to disarm an opponent.  However, the tool is dispelled like a wisp of smoke when one applies even a modicum of thought to the issue.  The fact that a "scientist" can explain an observed behavior of creation is offered as a defense that they themselves have equaled the level of the Creator.  It is akin to saying, "You believe in God because He said, 'Let there be light, and there was light.'  But I can make light, too.  Here's my flashlight, and I understand everything there is to know about the light bulb, the battery, and the switch.  I have equaled your 'god'."

Dear scientist/physicist/intellectual:  Go into the quiet of your laboratory and using no portion of the Creation that surrounds you that is already His, create from nothingness the photon that constitutes the light.  I'm not asking to recreate the cosmos, nor even to fashion something alive.  Just one photon, please.  That flashlight?  It produces about four billion billions of photons (that's a quintillion) - every second.  Please, show me just ONE that is created by your "wisdom".

You see, those who deny God's presence, His very existence, don't need to say that they "hate" Him.  The message is clear within their words - and their attitudes.  

Denying God is the spiritual equivalent of denying eternal life.  This means eternal death.  And in the denial of God, that is the "hope" that such perspectives are embracing.  The world's hope is hopelessness.  "Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world?  ... But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks, foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the poewr of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1Cor 1:20-25)

As we walk the path toward our Lord's Passion, as we ponder our own fallenness, our need for repentance, and His unlimited love for us through His forgiveness of all we confess, let us be moved to greater prayer for a world that seems to be rushing away from Him, rushing toward nothingness, like the swine released from poor Legion (Mark 5:1-13).  Let us change what He has given us the grace to be able to change - ourselves.  And in that change, perhaps the world around us will be able to find His image in what we, in our imperfection, can manage to reflect of Him.  And perhaps those who deny Him may come to accept and desire Him by what they find in us!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Annunciation

On this day, the Creator becomes the Created.  God forms for Himself a body made from the substance of our lowliness, and in so doing He creates for us the path to seek Him and become elevated to heaven.

In how many ways, and over how many times, does our God need to demonstrate His unfailing love for us - even in our fallenness and sinfulness?  We have the Resurrection as the Supreme example.  We have His condescending to accept baptism to show us the path we must follow.   We have the Virgin birth.

But without minimizing any of these, we have His Conception, without which none of the aforementioned could have occurred.

In Exodus 33, Moses is on the mountain in the presence of God, and he petitions God, "Show me Your glory."  In short, I want to SEE You.  God's response to this may at first blush seem cryptic.  His words are, "No one may see Me and live."  St. Gregory of Nyssa teaches that this does not mean that if a human were to look upon the face of God, he or she would die.  Rather, he teaches that the meaning is that flesh cannot perceive that which is spirit - it's just not possible.  These are words we sing in the hymnology of an Orthodox funeral service.  "It is not possible for man to see God, upon Whom the ranks of angels dare not gaze."

And so God, as in so many other instances, makes possible what is impossible.  For "Nothing is impossible with God."  (Luke 1:37)

And this last fragment of Scripture bring us to the purpose of THIS message, for it comes from the lips of the Archangel, who comes to announce to Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anna, that she will bear a Son Who is beyond nature.  How does God effect this miracle of miracles?

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you."  These are words that are prayed by the Deacon at every Divine Liturgy immediately after the Great Entrance, as the Priest says to him, "Remember me, my brother and fellow minister."  The reply is, "May the Lord God remember your Priesthood in His heavenly Kingdom."  At this, the priest requests, "Pray for me, my fellow minister," and the Deacon responds with the above words from the Feast of the Annunciation.  It is present in the Liturgy because there we also need God's miraculous intervention to accomplish what normal people cannot - accepting the human offering of bread and wine, and changing it miraculously into the very Body and Blood of Christ.  Can you find the connection to the conception where the human flesh of the Virgin is changed into the divine Body of God?

The Archangel tells the Virgin, "So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God."  

The Feast of Annunciation fills our hymnology with gems of theological wisdom.  Vespers for the Feast begins with this hymn:

Revealing to you the pre-eternal Council, Gabriel came and stood before you, O Maid.  Greeting you, he said, "Hail!  You are the earth which has not been sown.  Hail, burning bush that remains unconsumed.  Hail, unsearchable depth.  Hail, bridge that leads to Heaven, and ladder that Jacob saw.  Hail, divine jar of manna.  Hail, deliverance from the curse, and restoration of Adam.  The Lord is with you!

The word translated here as "Hail!" is equally correctly translated as "Rejoice!"  It is from words such as these that another major service of the Church evolved its own hymnology, the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, whose refain is, Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!  

The Troparion of the Feast tells the fullness of the importance of the Feast.

Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery!  The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of grace.  Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos: 'Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!'

This is truly a Glorious Feast!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

The Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is one of the treasures of the Orthodox Faith.  It is the longest canon that exists, and is appointed to be prayed in Orthodox churches on the first four nights of the Great Fast, where it is divided into segments for this purpose.  It is also appointed to be prayed in its entirety on the fifth Thursday of the Great Fast, during which service the entire life of Saint Mary of Egypt is also read.

Saint Andrew's feast is celebrated on 04July.

Born in Damascus of Christian parents, the saint was mute from birth until he reached the age of seven.  At that time his parents brought him to church where he received the Eucharist, and he began to speak.  At the age of fifteen he entered the Monastery of Saint Sabas the Sanctified, where his ascetic efforts soon brought him to a place of surpassing many of his elders' efforts.  The Patriarch took Andrew as his personal secretary.  When the Monothelite heresy came to the fore (a teaching that Christ did not possess a human, but only a divine will), St. Andrew defended the faith at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 681AD, at which time he had been ordained to the rank of Archdeacon.  He worked miracles by his prayers.  He drove the Saracens from the Island of Crete, wrote many books of instruction, and many hymns as well as the Great Canon.

The Great Canon is in essence a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul, with the theme being an urging of the soul to conform to the will of God.  It is also a survey of the entirety of Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.  In the Canon he compares the sins of those in Scripture with his own, lamenting how his sins exceed those from Scripture.  Conversely, he highlights those from Scripture who were shown to be God-pleasing, and again compares himself with them, asking God's help in conforming his sinful life to theirs.  In his words lay a study for us on repentance, and how we should approach our own spirits to fully confess to God.

Canons in the Orthodox Church are liturgical hymns having a tightly prescribed form.  They contain a variable number of parts called odes.  Most canons have eight such odes, numbered from 1 to 9, with Ode 2 typically being omitted due to its penitential nature (and so it is used only on Tuesdays during the Great Fast).  And Irmos begins each Ode, which is typically sung.  The Irmos is followed by a variable number of Troparia which usually refer back to the theme of the Irmos.  These are typically chanted, and followed by a refrain, which may be chanted or sung.  At the end of Odes may be prescribed a Katavasia, which may be the sames as the Irmos or differ from it in form, but not in theme.  The Katavasia may be sung in a more ornate fashion as well.

The Great Canon is chanted by the Priest from the center of the church, with the faithful (or a choir) singing the Irmoi, refrains ("Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!"), and Katavasia.  There are varying traditions related to bowing and prostrations, which follow each Irmos and each troparion.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Forgive Me!

"Forgive me."  Two words.  So easy to pass the lips.  But for many, too difficult to form the prayerful thought which allows the words to be formed and delivered.

"I forgive."  Two more words.  Just as easily do they pass the lips.  But with even greater difficulty do they formulate, especially when the intellect is allowed to dominate the spirit.

"God forgives!"  Two final words.  We recognize these, and they are offered quite freely through the lips.  And yet as they are so offered, we don't often associate them with the true meaning, the true depth of spiritual lesson, contained in them.

Yesterday, on the Sunday of Forgiveness (also known as "Cheesefare Sunday" because the Great Fast begins with the Vespers of this Sunday), most Orthodox churches throughout the world celebrated the Divine Liturgy where from the day's Gospel we heard our Lord instruct us, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."  (Mat 6:14)  And so we learn of the "conditions" applied by God for us to receive forgiveness from Him - we must freely and fully forgive others!  After Liturgy, we celebrate the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday, and each member of the congregation, beginning with the priest, stands and one-by-one faces each member as they file by, until each one of us has face-to-face asked forgiveness of the other, and granted forgiveness to the other.  We do so by saying, "Forgive me," from the first, and the other then responding, "I forgive.  God forgives all!"

And so let us take this short message, and use it to express in all humility and sincerity our own seeking of forgiveness from each of you.  If we have in any way offended or wounded you, we beg your forgiveness.  Know that I freely forgive all.  And in our mutual forgiveness of one another, by our Lord's own words, we can be assured that God indeed forgives!

In Bulgarian there is an expression:  "Prosteno!  Prosti!"  Translated, it says, "Forgiveness!  Easy!"  When our intellects are brought into submission to our spirits, this should be the way of forgiveness - indeed, easy!

Having forgiven one another, we can move forward "easily" into searching out our own faults, seeking to make as full a repentance as possible before we come to the end of the Fast, when we will encounter our Lord at the Cross and the Tomb.

Wishing all a spiritually profitable Great Fast,

Father Basil



Thursday, March 11, 2021

On the Sunday of the Last Judgment

Our Lord gifts to us today a prophetic view of what will happen to each of us, believer or non-believer, on that last day, when He returns “in glory” to judge all of humanity, from Adam to the very last person born before His feet touch this earth again.  For the record, that constitutes a group of about 107 billion people, if you’re counting.  And the Lord IS counting!

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich wrote, “The salvation of the soul is the only meaning of labor of man on earth.”  God gives to us the breath of life, and then sets us loose here so that we might seek Him “will all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.” (Mat 22:37) Jesus uses words carefully, and in these words He shows us that the expectation is that we will live a life expressing love for God with our spiritual sense (the soul), with our physical being (the heart), and with our intellect (the mind), joined in unity to seek Him.  We are to seek Him not as some avocation, for again His words have meaning.  We are to use ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind in the quest to “work out our own salvation,” as St. Paul puts it (Phil 2:12).

What are these weighty words attempting to explain clearly to us?

First, from today’s Gospel reading we need to see that at the Last Judgment, there are no “shades of grey.”  There are no categories of “very good,” “mostly good,” “partly bad,” “mostly bad,” and “evil.”  There are only two – sheep (those who will spend eternity in the presence of God) and goats (those who will spend eternity separated from God and His love).

Within these two groups, the Lord expresses only ONE discriminating behavior between them.  Did you help those in need, or did you help only yourself?

And these discriminating factors are not of themselves so onerous!  Jesus doesn’t say, “I was hungry and you gave Me a filled pantry.”  It’s less demanding than this.  “I was hungry and you gave Me food.”  It could be a morsel of bread, if that’s what we have, and He would honor the act.  He does not say, “I was thirsty and you dug Me a well.”  It’s less demanding than this.  “I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”  It could be a ladle of water, if that’s what we have, and again He would honor the act.  He does not say, “I was a stranger and you bought me a house.”  He would honor giving shelter in any place we might find space for one in need.  He does not say, “I was naked and you bought me a three-piece suit.”  If you have a sweat-suit to give, do it and He will honor the act!  He did not say, “I was sick and you healed me.”  All He seeks is for us to VISIT one who is ill, to bring comfort with the resource of the LOVE that is His within us.  He does not say, “I was in prison and you paid my bail.”  Again His instruction is to visit, to show love and compassion.

Do these simple things, and He will declare you to be a sheep!

Our Adult Study group has been reading from a book titled “The Spiritual Life” by St. Theophan the Recluse.  It is comprised of a series of letters exchanged between him and one of his spiritual children, apparently a priest’s wife.  And he also has a very simple means of explaining what our Lord expects of us.  He teaches this, “Is someone seeking help?  Help him!  Has someone offended you?  Forgive him!  Have you offended someone?  Rush to ask forgiveness and make peace.  Did someone praise you?  Don’t be proud.  Did someone scold you?  Do not be angry.  Is it time to pray?  Pray!  Work, etc., etc… Do this, and all of the problems of your life will be solved completely and satisfactorily.

Elsewhere he teaches this, “Everything that you do here, no matter what it is, will be a work, and if you do it with the consciousness that such a work is according to the commandments that God wants such a thing, then the work will be pleasing to God.”

When we look at the words of our Lord today, we come to understand His teaching us that the Judgment will not be by way of a vengeful God seeking to condemn His creatures.  Rather, it will be by way of us, the myriad of people, seeing what we’ve done, what we’ve failed to do, and recognizing for ourselves whether we should step to His right or His left.  Jesus says, “I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father Who sent Me.” (John 5:30).   We know that this is true by His words from today’s Gospel, wherein Jesus says to those at His left, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  The Greek word for “cursed” is kat-ar-ah’-om-ahee, which carries the meaning “doomed”.  One translation uses the word “execrate” which means to have a great loathing for.  In response to this condemnation, what is the response from the goats?  Is it, “You’re wrong, Lord.  Let me think about how many innocents I helped during my life.”  But such things cannot be truthfully said by them.  The “books are opened,” and “the hidden things are disclosed.”  All truth is laid bare for every human ever born to see!  And so the only answer they have to offer to the sentence is, “When did we see YOU, Lord, hungry or thirsty or homeless or naked or sick or in prison and not minister to You?”  This is NOT a defense against the judgment.  Worse, it is not even a plea for mercy.  It is an attempt to continue, at the very judgment seat of Christ, to continue living in a manner that serves only self.

And so, their fate is sealed.

But what of the sheep?  See how their words to their Savior differ.  They ask the same question, using the same words, but the ending differs.  Instead of asking, “when did we NOT minister to You,” they instead ask, “when DID we minister to You?”  We don’t recall seeing you as we walked our daily path in the world.  How is it that You deign to bless us with favor?

And we know the answer.  It lay in the expression, “the least of these, My brethren.”  Again, the Greek word for “least” is el-akh’-is-tos, which carries the meaning “the very smallest.”  Jesus is saying to them that their efforts to give a cup of water, a morsel of bread, a place to sleep for a night, or a kind visiting word to one in need, these efforts are the ones that found as their target the Master.  In His loving words, Jesus establishes the fullness of “the brotherhood of mankind” with His expression, “the least of My brethren.”  Here, brethren is translated as ad-el-fos’, which being translated means to be connected “from the womb.”

St. Theophan says this about our efforts to follow the instruction of St. Nikolai that we opened with, our “labor for the salvation of the soul.”  His instruction is, “Just look around yourself each day and each hour; on whatever you see the seal of the commandment, carry it out immediately, in the belief that God Himself this very hour requires this work of you, and nothing else.” 

He further says, “(Worldly people) have in mind all mankind or at least all of its people lumped together.  The fact is, however, that ‘mankind’ or ‘the people’ does not exist as a person for whom you could do something right now.  It consists of individual persons: By doing something for one person, we are doing it within the general mass of humanity.”

Finally, we’ll close with this instruction.  “All troubles come from a mental outlook that is too broad.  It is better to humbly cast your eyes down toward your feet, and to figure out which step to take where.  This is the truest path.”

Being a sheep requires humility, putting oneself after others, and it requires that we focus on the needs of the one, not the many.  Thousands were present at the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus could have “said the word” and all would have been healed.  We have no such record of the Lord performing a “mass healing.”  Besides the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), we find the Lord healing one-on-one, and most often with words such as, “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well,” God the Son ascribing the miracle to the faith of the person, and not taking credit for it Himself.  Here is the definition of humility!

The Holy Church has now prepared us for what comes next week.  We’ve been led to developing the desire to move toward Christ from the account of Zacchaeus.  We’ve been taught that we must judge ourselves and not others from the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.  We’ve been shown that we must find true repentance and carry it to the loving Father, Who waits for us to turn from our sin and return to Him.  Now we’ve been shown the end of our lives and how our dispensing mercy to those in need here will impact where we will be for all eternity.  These lessons have been provided to us – again – to prepare us for what comes next Sunday, the day when our desire to please God through our self-judgment brings our repentant heart before our brother and sister to seek their forgiveness, and in return to respond in mercy forgiving them.

The time grows short, my brothers and sister in Christ.  Let us not waste a day, an hour, a second in seeking to be a sheep!

Glory to Jesus Christ!