Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
Monday, June 20, 2022
The Lord says this in Mat 6:31. Then how is one to live? We have to eat, drink, and wear clothes. But the Savior does not say, 'Do nothing,' but rather, 'Take no thought.' Do not weary yourself with cares that consume you both day and night and give you not a moment of peace. Such care is a sinful disease. It shows that one is relying upon self and has forgotten God, that such a one has lost hope in God's Providence, that such a one wants to arrange everything for themself by their own efforts and to procure all that is necessary and preserve what they have procured by their own means. Such a person has become chained in their heart to their property, and they think to rest upon it as though it were a solid foundation. Love of possessions has bound such a person, who thinks of only how to get more into their hands. This mammon has replaced God for such a one. By all means, work - but do not weary yourself with evil cares. Expect every success from God and commit your lot into His hands. Accept all that you obtain as a gift from the Lord's hand, and wait with the firm hope that He will continue His generous giving. Know that if God so desires, a rich man can lose all he has in one minute. All is decay and dust. Is it worthwhile wearying yourself for this? So, take no thought!
Thoughts for Each Day of the Year
vocation—n, 1) a regular occupation for which a person is suited or qualified; 2) an inclination or aptness for a certain kind of work; 3) a calling of an individual by God
We have all been given our own vocations by the Lord. And He has distributed talents to each sufficient to permit us, through our own efforts and labor, to accomplish the things He commissions us to do. It requires commitment. It requires diligence. It often requires sacrifice. But it always points to that vocation to which He calls all of us by our own individual and separate paths, even while He joins us collectively into His one Body—the Church.
This vocation to which we are called is sainthood.
We could offer many definitions for saint. From the Latin sanctus it points to one who is holy. But then we need to define holy.
Instead, let us view saintliness as being set apart to serve the Lord. Saintliness requires the person who seeks such heights to cooperate with the teachings and commandments of the Lord. But even more importantly, it requires submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit. It points to one who lives in and for God’s grace.
Who are these people, and how would we recognize them as saints?
St. Paul teaches in today’s Epistle (Heb 11:33-12:2) that these people were/are those who worked miracles (they subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, became valiant in battle, raised the dead to life…), who were reviled and persecuted (they had trials of mockings and scourgings, chained, imprisoned, stoned, slain by the sword…), who gave up this world in favor of life in the world to come (wandered about in skins, destitute, afflicted, tormented…).
But do not all of these descriptions suggest that such people are not OF this world? They are certainly IN it, but not OF it! St. Paul ends his description of these blessed ones by saying, “of whom the world was not worthy.”
Picture what St. Paul is explaining to us. The world sees these saints as the lowest form of life. No one wants a life as he describes these saints lived. They had NOTHING to which the world would assign any value.
Now, let me look at MY life. I seek “things”. I covet “things”. I want more than I already have, even while recognizing that I have more than I need.
I eat more food than I need. I do so to such an extent that it harms my physical well-being.
I judge neighbor and brother. I keep for myself all He has provided in plenty without concern about the needs of the destitute who literally surround me.
And yet, He calls even me to the vocation of becoming a saint!
The tools and talents He provided may have been squandered until now, but as with the Prodigal, through repentance He gives me a path to return. By prayer and fasting He gives a path to saintliness. By showing true love for those who have no one to love them He provides a means of fulfilling the vocation He laid out for me from the time before He blessed me to be conceived.
If only I act now to call on Him to help me to labor to be worthy of His love...
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Monday, June 13, 2022
Comforting His disciples, the Lord said that it would be better for them if He ascended to Heaven for, having ascended, in place of Himself He would send the Comforter - the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has descended and abides in the Church, accomplishing in each believer the work of Christ. Each Christian is a communicant of the Spirit. This is something so necessary, that in fact whoever does not have the Spirit is not of Christ. Look closely at yourself - is the Spirit of Grace within you? For He does not remain in everyone; He can depart. Here are the signs of His presence: first, He finds a spirit of repentance and teaches a Christian to turn to God and correct his life; the spirit of repentance, accomplishing its work, passes the Christian on to a spirit of holiness and purity. This is succeeded at last by a spirit of sonship. The characteristic of the first is work-loving zeal; the characteristic of the second is warmth and a sweet burning of the heart; the characteristic of the third is the feeling of sonship whereby the heart sighs to God, 'Abba, Father!' (Mark 14:36) Examine which of these levels you are on. If you are not on any of them, take care for yourself.
[For Monday after Pentecost, "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year," St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Herman of Alaska Press]
Thursday, June 9, 2022
For many of us (like this author), the sin of pride is one that is always before us. It is a fault that we struggle with throughout our lifetime.
St. Maximos the Confessor says, "Self-esteem is eradicated by the hidden practice of the virtues, pride, by ascribing our achievements to God."
It helps us to give serious and prayerful thought to those times we've succumbed to prideful thoughts.
When we experience prideful thoughts, we need to prayerfully labor for a 'change in perspective.' We must work, confessing, fasting, praying that this effort will translate to a change in heart.
The goal, not in 'any' work, but in EVERY work is to labor seeking God's will, so that our efforts bring glory to Him. In the limit of the example, our participation in the effort could and should go unnoticed!
The hammer can take no pride in having driven a nail. The hammer is a suitable tool for the job. The craftsman would never choose a saw to drive the nail. The craftsman knows the task to be accomplished and employs the proper tool to do the work. When a God-given task comes our way, we call on Him to bless what we are about to do. Then we do our best to bring honor to the effort He has appointed for us. When it's done, we thank Him, regardless of how it turns out. For it goes well, we've participated in sending Him the glory. But if the result is less than good, we ask to be blessed by Him to learn what He has appointed for us to learn. In neither situation is there any room for "self". All that matters is the Lord's divine will, and our sincere effort to be a worthy servant.
St. John Climacus taught this: "An angel fell from heaven without any other passion except pride, and so we may ask whether it is possible to ascend to Heaven by humility alone, without any other of the virtues."
When we are tempted by the sin of pride, let our thoughts turn to those times when our words, deeds, thoughts were less than pure and honorable. In this, prideful thoughts dissipate at the recognition of what we are still capable of IF we allow ourselves to fall into those same prideful ways in the future.
St. Anthony wrote, "Having fallen from his heavenly rank through pride, the devil constantly strives to bring down also all those who wholeheartedly wish to approach the Lord; and he uses the same means which caused his own downfall, that is pride and love of vainglory. These and similar things are the means by which the demons fight us and hope to separate us from God."
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Christ is Ascended! In glory!!!
On this glorious Feast, we're tempted to think only upon the one aspect of the day - our Lord's leaving this world, leaving His beloved Apostles, to ascend "to where He was before" in the hymnology of the day, but in reality to where He always is, was, and will be - with the Father and the Spirit!
St. Nikolai Velimirovich teaches that we can't view the Lord's work on behalf of our salvation if we ignore ANY of His deeds (meaning a focus on the major Feasts of the Church). So let's look at His Ascension through the lens of other elements of His condescension to us and for us.
It begins with the fall. Adam and Eve were part of the perfection God had created. Everything was "very good" until we, being tempted by two elements, chose to turn our love from God toward self. The first temptation was the food. It looked really good! The second temptation was thinking that we could achieve equality with God through the eating of that food. We ate. We fell. We sinned. We were no longer "very good", because we had chosen imperfection for ourselves, and there is no room for imperfection in the presence of perfection. And so we were expelled from the presence of God. We condemned ourselves to death.
But God, being a loving God, would not leave us to our own chosen demise. He promised salvation, He promised a Savior.
And so we move to the Annunciation. God chooses to put on this flesh we had corrupted. He condescends to become one of us. He shows us clearly that life begins at conception.
He is born in poverty and humility. He is hunted by those who hate Him without knowing Him from the time He takes His first breath out of the womb. Still, the Shepherd comes and joins with His sheep.
He matures. He encounters everything that we as His people encounter - temptation, suffering, heat, cold, hunger, thirst, pain, rejection by those who should know Him and love Him. And in all of these He leads us, His sheep, by setting the example.
Love. Love the poor. Love the hurting. Love the sinner. Love your enemy.
How does He teach us to love? By being humble. By repenting, which is His first commandment to us. He (the Shepherd) leads us to a repentance He Himself does not need as He submits to baptism, showing us our need to be born again of water and the Spirit.
He shows compassion on all who are in need. He heals. He forgives. The Shepherd shows us how we must do all these things as His sheep to those we also encounter in the world. In all things, the Shepherd leads and feeds His sheep, setting the example for them.
Ultimately the Shepherd is taken by wolves who seek to destroy Him. He submits to their attacks. He voluntarily goes to His death. As He does so, He teaches His sheep the ultimate lesson in humility, praying for those who are murdering Him!
And so He leads His sheep in the path we all must walk, to death, to the tomb.
But the Shepherd does a marvelous thing. He gathers His sheep who have been given over to death, and leads them out of hades! And upon those in the tombs, He bestows life! Not life back into this fallen world, but life in the everlasting Kingdom. His Resurrection shows to His sheep the path from eternal separation from God to becoming eternally joined with Him.
But the Shepherd is not yet done.
He spends 40 days teaching His beloved Apostles what they will need to know to bring His bride, the Church, into Her own fullness of life. He reveals to them all those things they saw in their three years of walking with Him so that they finally understand the content of the scriptures, and how His life and ministry fulfilled all things. Previously, they had confessed Him as the Son of the Living God. Now, their eyes are opened to see the fullness of their previous confession of faith.
But the Shepherd is still not finished.
After 40 days, He leads them to the mountain, from which He ascends to His place with the Father. The Shepherd shows to them (and through them, to us) that there is one more place to which He calls us to follow, to endure to our own ends, and to seek that place with Him to where He has gone on this glorious day!
So we see, without the Annunciation, there is no conception. Without conception, there is no Nativity. Without the Nativity, there is no Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no baptism before John, no call to repentance, no healings, no forgivings, no Lazarus being raised, no Beatitudes, no Lord's Prayer. Without Christ, there is no Crucifixion. Without the Crucifixion, there is no descent to Hades, no harrowing of hades, no destruction of Satan's domain. Without the destruction of hades, there is no Resurrection. Without the Resurrection there is no Ascension. Without the Ascension, there is no descent of the Holy Spirit, and no path for man to heaven, no salvation!
St. Theophan says this:
St. Paul expresses the power of the Lord's Ascension in this manner: 'When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.' (Eph 4:8) Having satisfied God's righteousness, the Lord opened for us all the treasures of God's goodness. This is indeed a capturing or taking of spoils after victory. The beginning of the distribution of these spoils to people is the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Who, having descended, always abides in the Church and gives everyone what he needs, receiving all from that captive captivity. Let everyone come and take. But prepare for yourself a repository for that treasure, which is a pure heart; have hands with which to take it, which is unreflecting faith. Then step forth, searching hopefully and praying relentlessly.
Let us remain ever-vigilant, ever-hopeful, ever-prayerful!
It's a Glorious Feast! Christ is Ascended! In glory!!!