Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Christ is Risen!!!
At every Great Vespers service in the Holy Orthodox Church, following the Great Litany there is a reading from the Book of Psalms. In such services, typically this manifests as singing phrases from Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.
BLESSED (Hebrew 'esher'): It is a statement that the one who is being spoken of will find happiness in following the path outlined.
WALKS (Hebrew 'halak'): Carries the meaning of going along with, a definition of behavior.
COUNSEL (Hebrew 'esa'): Following the advice of one.
WICKED (Hebrew 'rasha'): Ungodly, morally wrong or corrupt, one who is condemned.
A very short phrase, but filled with wisdom as a rule to which the Lord's faithful should at all costs attempt to follow.
This is one fraction (about one third) of the full verse of Psalm 1:1. It is filled with such depth of teaching that it dare not be ignored. And yet, we the "faithful" attend Divine Services and all too often let such richness pass us by. We hear it with our ears, but don't allow it to register in our hearts. We sing it with our lips, but do not profess it from the depths of our spirits. I say this to you as a priest, who all too often does not allow these (and so many other) words to register that I confess this shortcoming regularly!
If we allow a phrase as important as this one to be overlooked, how much additional depth of wisdom are we (I) missing as we come for Divine Services?
Psalm 111:10 teaches, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
FEAR (Hebrew 'yira'): Moral reverence.
BEGINNING (Hebrew 'reshit'): First in place, time, order of rank - the 'principal thing'.
WISDOM (Hebrew 'hokma'): Skilled or skillful.
It would seem prudent for us, if we are to attempt to follow the precepts of our faith, to observe 'rules to live by', we should put in first place the perspective of being morally reverent and applying all of the skill that God has gifted to us to walk where He (our Lord) has already led - walking the path of not just the godly, but of God Himself!
Indeed, He is Risen!!!
Monday, April 25, 2022
Friday, March 18, 2022
We’re not unfamiliar with the word. We know what it means. But like precious gems, wisdom is not a common thing found among people. People may have tremendous knowledge. But without wisdom, knowledge is useless. How so?
Having knowledge means that one possesses the information required to do something. Wisdom relates to the experience to know how to implement the knowledge. In fact, wisdom can provide its own knowledge.
Take a simple example. Buy a box of pierogies at the grocery (you’re probably neck deep in them by now at this point in the fast!). The ingredients are listed carefully on the box. From this “knowledge”, make your best pierogi. Then compare it with the one that came from the box, or better yet, from a baba who has been pinching pierogies most of her adult life. You’ll begin to understand wisdom.
This past Monday saw a passage from the Book of Proverbs. In part, it gave us this gem:
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father's son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: "Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.
Seems like the King Solomon valued wisdom!
It’s a good lesson for all of us at this point in the Fast. The Church has been gifting to us the instruction of a father over the past weeks. She has given us good doctrine in the teachings of Zacchaeus, of the Publican, of the Prodigal, and in the view provided by the Holy Fathers of the 7th Council related to Holy Icons. Have we heeded the instruction? Is our daily life somehow different because we have attempted to implement those lessons into how we live? Or have the words fallen on ears that are not hearing well? If the ears are not hearing, then our hearts will not retain the Church’s words.
There is life in the commandments we share with one another by the teaching of our Lord. They are commandments that can preserve us in times of worldly trouble, which seems to grow greater with each passing day! Wisdom is the gem we should be mining to prepare us for all that the world will throw at us.
And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you." Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble.
Wisdom brings us to repentance, to forgiving others with ease, to recognition that the fast is a tool to enable us to take a closer walk to that led by the Saints. It shows us the way to joyous almsgiving, It elevates in our lives all the virtues, faith, hope, honesty, humility, obedience, patience, self-control, kindness, gratitude, and the rest.
May our Lord bless us all to increase in HIS wisdom, making each of us individually and all of us collectively better servants!
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
We find ourselves in Forgiveness Week. As we contemplate the fullness of how to forgive others, we find our thoughts mingling with the issue of prayer. If we seek to forgive someone, we should pray for them. Can I with all sincerity pray for the one I seek to forgive? Yes? Then we've made a good start! But for what do I pray in such a prayer? How do I pray for him/her? Words have meaning. What words do I offer?
Do I ask the Lord to “guide them”? If so, I am judging them to have strayed from the path, and I’m seeking that God change THEM. In praying for one whom I seek to truly forgive, it is better to ask the Lord to change ME, to bless me with the ability to divest myself of pride and judgmentalism, to forgive my anger that I held BEFORE I chose to truly forgive!
Do I ask the Lord to forgive them? If so, my words show that I’ve not myself truly forgiven them. For how can one contemplate a person (me) having granted true forgiveness, but God not having done so? How could I possibly have a virtue not ascribed to God? How can I have forgiven, but God has not? Indeed, I have usurped the spiritual authority our Lord gave to His Apostles, for I am binding on earth while insincerely praying for God to unbind in heaven. Let me first unbind my own heart from judgmentalism and from pride, then ask God for mercy on both me and the one I have truly and fully forgiven.
My enemy will forever be my enemy until I love him! And as the Holy Fathers teach, my having true love for one who was my enemy does not assure that he or she will in turn love me. Can one love someone who does not love in return? If we truly forgive and can honestly answer yes, we begin to see things as God does! For how many of us (ALL of us!!!) have sinned against God, but know full well that He never stops loving us!
Saint Theophan the Recluse says it this way. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Mat 6:14-15) What a simple and handy means of salvation! Your trespasses are forgiven under the condition that you forgive your neighbor's trespasses against you. This means that you are in your own hands. Force yourself to pass from agitated feelings toward your brother to truly peaceful feelings - and that is all. The day of forgiveness - what a great, heavenly day of God this is! If all of us used it as we ought, this day would make Christian societies into heavenly societies, and the earth would merge with heaven.
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Monday, February 7, 2022
[Ed: From a sermon by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom on Zacchaeus - FrB]
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In these weeks of preparation for Lent, we were faced last Sunday with the story of Barthimaeus to attract our attention on our own blindness; our spiritual blindness of which we are not aware while physical blindness is so clearly perceived; but also on the fact that if we want to recover our sight, our spiritual vision, our understanding of self, of God, of our neighbour, of life, there is only one person to whom we can turn - it is God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Bartimaeus have tried all means to recover his sight, but it is only when he turned to Christ that he did recover it.
Whether we have taken advantage of the past week to reflect deeply on our own blindness, and in the darkness to begin to see some light, I do not know; each of us will have to answer for his eagerness or his laziness.
But this Sunday we are confronted with a new parable, or rather, a new story of the life of Christ: the story of Zacchaeus. This story speaks to us again directly and the question which is been asked from us is this: What matters to me more? The good opinion of people around me, that people should not jeer at you, laugh at you because you are seeking to see God, to meet Him, or the necessity, the inner call to discover everything provided you can see Christ face to face? Is vanity stronger in us or the hunger for God? And Saint John of the Ladder says clearly that vanity is contempt of God and cowardice before men. What is our attitude: are we prepared to discard everything, provided we can meet God - or not? And in our circumstances it is not so much people who will prevent us, people will not jeer at us, they will not laugh at us: they will be totally indifferent; but this does not mean that we like beggars not turn to them, hoping for their approval, and in order to receive this approval, turn away from our search, from the only thing that can heal us and give us new life.
Also, we will find within ourselves conflicting voices, saying, Don't! Don't make yourself ridiculous! Don't single yourself out by a search which is not necessary; you have got everything... Zacchaeus was rich, Zacchaeus was known as an honorable citizen - so are we! We possess so much, we are respected - are we going to start on a road that will make us into what Paul calls 'the scum of the earth’, debase us? This is the question which today's story of Zacchaeus says to us: is vanity, that is the search of things which are vain, empty, and the fear of other people's opinion that will prevail, or the hunger each of us has, at times, acute for a meeting with the living God? Amen.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
The Feast that we continue today to celebrate is called in Holy Orthodoxy Theophany. In the west, it is referred to as Epiphany. Neither word is one used often in the English language, although epiphany is perhaps used more broadly.
We say Theophany because—well, words have meaning. The word Theophany comes from the Greek theophania, which means “the appearance of God.”
We all know that our Lord didn’t begin His ministry until He was roughly 30 years old. And we know that He was ‘revealed’ at His birth in Bethlehem. The wise men knew of Him. The shepherds were taught by the angels of Him. Herod had His birth proclaimed to him. So why the focus on “appearing” and “revealing”?
At our Lord’s Nativity, the Son of God was revealed to the world. And His presence in the world was not heralded broadly. We’ve already discussed those who knew of His coming. And we know nothing more about His being revealed for the next 30 years, except for His presence in the Temple when He was 12, as He spoke with the Pharisees (Lk 2:40-52).
It is not until today’s Gospel (the Sunday After Theophany, Matthew 4:12-17) that we learn more. In the verses that precede today’s Gospel we find Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. Beginning with today’s Gospel, we find our Lord hearing that John the Forerunner had been imprisoned. Note that God the Son obeys His own appointing of His Forerunner, whose “job” was not finished until he was removed from the world. From prison, John will ‘minister’ only to Herod, convicting him of adultery, and ultimately giving his life for the Truth!
St. Matthew then proceeds to teach from the Prophet Isaiah. In today's reference (Isa 9:1-2) he sheds this light upon the Savior:
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
When our Lord came to John in the Jordan, it was not Christ Who was revealed, it was God in Trinity Who was revealed for the first time in all of scripture. We capture this revelation in the Troparion for the Feast:
When You, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to You, and called You His beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a Dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ, our God, Who has revealed Yourself, and had enlightened the world, glory to You!
The final Who has revealed Yourself points not to the Son, but rather to Christ as One of the Holy Trinity!
St. Matthew records from this point: From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’
These are the very same words that St. Matthew records for the Forerunner:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ (Mat 3:1-2)
Let us heed the words of the Forerunner, and obey the command of our Savior, and repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is here!
Monday, January 3, 2022
[The following is a homily written by St. Proclus, a disciple of St. John Chrysostom. It is offered in this week of our Lord's Theophany for the edification of all. FrB]
Christ appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it luster and joy. He bore the world’s sins and crushed the world’s enemy. He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles.
For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Savior, and the whole world is filled with joy.
Today’s feast of the Theophany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.
On the feast of the Savior’s birth, the earth rejoiced because it bore the Lord in a manger; but on today’s feast of the Theophany it is the sea that is glad and leaps for joy; the sea is glad because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan.
At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness.
In today’s feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father.
At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Theophany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river.
Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man.
Today every creature shouts in resounding song:
Blessed is he who comes in every age, for this is not his first coming. And who is he? Tell us more clearly, I beg you, blessed David:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Lord is God and has shone upon us. (Ps 118:27)
David is not alone in prophesying this; the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying:
The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men, and instructing us. (Titus 2:11)
Not for some men, but for all. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all.
Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of Baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who baptized.
In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove reveals the Lord of mercy.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!