Archive for December, 2007

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Monday, December 31st, 2007


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WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF PARISH MINISTRY?

Saturday, December 29th, 2007
Many of our readers know that we are attempting to build a new temple in Dallas, and we are very small, with limited reserves and income.
The proper approach that all of us must us use in such a difficult situation is to reach OUT, and not IN. By this I mean, that if we are to be a light on the candlestand, and a proper, healthy parish, we must think of others as well as ourselves. It is not right to say we are poor, and cannot give, or that we are undermanned, and cannot help. The more we think of others, the more healthy we we become.
That is why I consider an important part of our PARISH ministry to be the prison visits I do twice a month (others are planning to become involved), and pastoral visits to places in need, such as Ft Hood. These things are not my ministry; they are our ministry, because the support I receive in many different ways enables me to help others. In the same way, any of our efforts to minister to others from within our parish, such as visiting the sick, those in prison, the “fatherless” (as we just read this week in St James!), parish or privately organized alms giving, etc, ALL contribute to the welfare of our parish.
If anybody has any ideas that they think I can help them with, please contact me.
Parish ministry can be with the priest, guided by the priest, helped by the priest, but it must never be ONLY by the priest!
I am very proud of our little parish. We are gaining momentum, and many are becoming involved in many ways. May God bless us to live the life in Christ together.
Your fellow co-minister,
Priest Seraphim
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Two Sundays before Nativity – The Holy Forefathers

Friday, December 28th, 2007
The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers
The Great Supper


(This year, the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers falls on Dec 17/30 2007)

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen
1

Today is the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, which is always celebrated two Sundays before the Nativity. Next Sunday is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, and Nativity follows shortly thereafter on Tuesday. This is part of our preparation for the great feast of our Lord’s incarnation. We have already been preparing by fasting. Now the pace is quickening. You can feel it.

Let us ask ourselves why is it that we have this particular reading, about the Great supper, two Sundays before the Nativity? What is it that the church is trying to teach us, and why do we remember the Holy Forefathers today? It is hard to explore all the aspects of this reading. We cannot but scratch the surface of what this parable means in the Christian life, but it is here primarily because one cannot celebrate a feast without being morally prepared. This parable tells us sins to avoid, attitudes to avoid. It tells us to wake up! It tells us to be ready. We commemorate the Holy Forefathers today, because they indeed were part of the preparation for Christ. Without them, there would have been no God-man, Jesus Christ, because He was born of a woman, who was of their lineage, and, if this is not exactly so in a physical sense
2, their prophesies and piety prepared the way for the coming of Christ. That was part of God’s plan. We Orthodox Christians never forget from whence we are come from. We not only remember that we are from the dust of the earth, but we also remember those who have preceded us, and indeed, are joined to us, in piety, and in faith, and in struggle. We never feel disassociated from our history.

I tell you, if you do not take this time today, and in the remaining days to prepare yourself for Nativity, you will MISS it. You may come to church, but you will miss the incarnation. It will not touch you. A man must be prepared for anything that is of value. You must prepare, so that you can inculcate virtue into your hearts, and know what it is that the Lord wants you to know. Now, we prepare not as the world prepares, right? The world prepares with frivolity, and partying. Now, they are already forgetting. I saw a sign on the way to church yesterday, “classes start January seventh”. On the Nativity of our Lord, most are going back to their merchandise, and their business.


There is some background preceding this parable which we must know. The Lord was at a gathering, and discussing theology with Pharisees and such. This parable is in reaction to what a Pharisees has just said. Let’s look hear the verses immediately preceding Jesus’ response.

“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”3

This Pharisee made a correct statement, but with an incorrect understanding. He was thinking, blessed is the Jew that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, and our Lord gave this parable partially to say to him, and all the Jews, “No, Pharisee, it is not just the Jews that will eat bread with me, it is all that will worship me as God. It is all that live according to who I am. Your inheritance is not in your bloodline, but it is in how you live, and how you act, and how you believe.” After all, in another time, just before they were going to crucify Him, what did He say: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”4 And you know what? I am a stone, you are a stone. The Gentiles are the stones that He would raise up as children to Abraham. Now, in the church, those that have no Abrahamic blood in them outnumber those that are Jews by race.

This parable is much more than an indictment of the misunderstanding of the Pharisee. It is very important to understand this, but even more important, here we see God’s economy,
5 His great love for mankind. It is truly awesome, and difficult to speak of, how God loves us so, and how He is so assiduous in His care for us, that we would know Him. Listen carefully, as we go through the short verses of this parable. Listen to the care God is taking in preparing us for the revelation of Himself in us. Then, contrast that with the heedlessness of these people He spoke with, and tremble and learn. See if there is anything in your heart that is like any of these people, and amend yourself. You don’t have much time, I tell you. Your life is but a vapor.6 You have very little time to repent, very little time to inculcate virtue in your heart. Whether you live a hundred more years, or whether you die today, you still have very little time, and this is the period, right now, to especially think on these things, and prepare yourself, so that when God reveals Himself, as He surely will, you will know Him. You won’t miss Him.

“THE LORD SAID THIS PARABLE: A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. “
7

Such theology, in one sentence! Such symbolism, such truth, such love. What is this great supper? It is the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and all the implications of that great event. And it is great, because we cannot fathom it. It is the mystery of our salvation, which we cannot understand, but we can be warmed by it, and enlightened by it, and saved by it, even though we don’t completely, and never will completely understand God. It is a supper, not a dinner. I did not understand this distinction until I came to the South. In the North, we considered supper and dinner to be the same meal, but actually, supper indicated the evening meal. The evening meal is Christ coming in the latter times. At a particular time he made the supper, and at supper time He said to His servant, go to them that were bidden.

And Who is this who is that is making the supper? It is God, our Father, who loves us, and desired good things for us. He spreads a table laden with delicacies, and the fatted calf, His own son, for us. Who is this servant? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who refers to Himself as a servant, because He was willing to be made in the form of a servant.
8 He, being God, despised not becoming man, and becoming a servant, obedient to His father in all things, Who He was completely equal to, as God.

Who are them, that were bidden? In the beginning, these were the Jews. Later, it would be everyone, every man. Did you see that is a double calling? “To say to them that were bidden” – they were already bidden, and He is going out again to call them, and say “Come, all things are made ready”. This call is resounding to us now. It resounds to every man.

We are called in two ways. First of all, every man has the internal law written on his heart. Doesn’t the apostle say this in his epistle to the Romans? It’s written in our hearts9 – every man knows something of God, because God has created Him. And every man reaches our to God because it is natural for the created to reach out to the creator. There is an inner reason that will surely lead a man towards God, if he does not let his sin interfere. It’s built into us.

Now, with this inner condition that predisposes a man towards searching for God, and desiring Him, a man is made ready to hear the Gospel, to hear the preaching and the teaching of the holy church, to see the life of the church, and to be enlightened by every aspect of our life, and to have life in Christ. There are these two callings, and both of them are operating simultaneously in us at all times. The first calling prepares for the second.

“And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come”10

“They all with one consent” – do you know who that was? He was indicting the Jews, and especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who with one consent would eventually have him crucified.

And they all made excuses for themselves. These excuses are, in microcosm, the sins that keep a man away from God.

One bought a piece of ground. He was a lover of possessions, He was looking down. He was a lover of earthly things. He was a lover of wealth. Another one had bought five yoke of oxen. The fathers speak of these as indicating the five senses, and a yoke shows they apply equally to everyone, to both sexes, because a yoke holds two oxen.

The senses are a great gift, given to us by God. Our church understands this, because our faith is truly a sensual faith. We feel our faith. We see our faith, in our icons, in the incense, in our liturgics, in our preaching and teaching. We use all of our senses. We taste and see that the Lord is good, literally, as well as in a spiritual way. The senses are given to us for our enlightenment, and to bring God into our hearts. The senses are not evil – far from it – it depends on how one uses the senses. We must be always having this prayer on our lips from the communion prayers, communion prayers: “Purify my soul, sanctify my mind, enlighten the simplicity of my five senses.”11 The senses are good and holy, but when they are used only for pleasure, and the living of our life, then they contribute to our damnation, because they blind us to the one who created the senses.

Another one married a wife, and this is a metaphor for lust, and illicit pleasures in life. Of course, we understand that lawful marriage is a great blessing. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
12 So it says. Marriage is good, but to be caught up in pleasures is evil. As an aside, I tell you, those that are married, and those that may someday be married, we fast from the flesh sometimes, during the fasts, according to our strength, we fast from martial relations. This is not because in any way that marital relations are sinful, because the bed is undefiled, but in order so that we do not allow any gift that God has given us to control us, and as the Apostle says, to devote ourselves to prayer.13

Pope Gregory the Dialogist has said some marvelous things about this parable in his marvelous sermon, and I must share this with you.

There are two kinds of hunger in the world. There is carnal hunger, a natural hunger. Everyone has it. These sins are all carnal type things, wanting money or wealth, indulging in the pleasures of life, or even in illicit things. Eventually, the indulging in carnal pleasures leads to satiety, and even revulsion. A man who gorges himself with food will eventually pull away from the table, and will not want food for a long time. It is the same , really, with any other kind of pleasure. We get tired of it. We have enough of it.

Spiritual hunger is much different than this. It takes a longer time to develop a palate for spiritual things. The sweetness of the Lord is so sweet, that He is too sweet for us, until we have lived the Christian life for a period of time, and struggles, and then He becomes so sweet that all we want to do is taste of Him. In the beginning, this food appears bland, or even unpalatable to us. We must learn to continually strive to taste of the Lord, to taste of spiritual things, even though they might not appear to us to be so pleasurable compared to the inticements of the world, the flesh pots of Egypt14, shall we say. If we do this, surely the Lord will enlighten us, and He will become sweet to us, and we will want nothing else beside the Lord.

Men barter carnal things over and over for their salvation. An honest man realizes that he does this too, even if only on a small scale. So I tell you again, the clarion bell has sounded, the final preparation for the Nativity. We must make ready. We must consider within ourselves – do we have a field, or a yoke of oxen, or a wife that we are paying more attention to than the Lord? I speak in spiritual terms of course. If we are, is it endangering us, to turn down His invitation? I tell you, these people, who said they did not want to come to the supper did not even know what they were turning down. They were too taken with what they were doing at the moment. They did not know that they were rejecting our Lord permanently.

“So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.”15

Here is something great, and something terrible. It is impossible to understand – how much our Lord loves us. He sees that the Jews have rejected Him, and indeed, He sees that many other men have rejected Him, and He is angry, but He is full of love. And He says “go out QUICKLY, with haste in to the streets, the lanes of the city. Go find people that are lost. Go struggle to bring them to me”. And those that are poor, maimed, halt and blind are ourselves, brothers and sisters. We are those things of which the Lord has spoken: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”16 First the Jews, later the Gentiles – behold the great patience of our God, and His care for us.

Now what about these streets, and the lanes? Streets and lanes crisscross and wind, and are hilly, and sometimes are overgrown and rutted. Sometimes they are very hard to negotiate. It is very easy to get lost, and it takes great labor to find your way along them. This is what our Lord did. Didn’t He labor more than all? Didn’t He go onto lanes to find the Samaritan woman? Didn’t He proceed with great effort across a tempestuous sea to free the Gadarene demoniac? Didn’t He free the ten lepers (and yet only one was truly freed)? Didn’t He cure the affliction of the Canaanite woman’s daughter? He sought out and found those that had need, and He gave them all that they needed.

“And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. “17

What is this? Our Lord still cares. Do you see how complete His care is for us? “Go out into the highways” – and where are highways? They are far away from the city. They lead a man FAR AWAY from God, like the prodigal son, far, far away. What of these hedges? Thieves hide in hedges, and wild beasts and snakes, and they are dangerous to a man. Our Lord goes even into the highways and the hedges. He searches every corner of the earth for a man that will believe in Him.

What is this word, “compel”? What an amazing thing our Lord says! “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled!” After all, in another place, He said that in my Fathers house there are many mansions
18. There is room for all, if only all will believe.

But what is this “compelling”? We have free will, and God does not force any man to believe, but love compels a man to act. This compelling is from God caring for us so much that we finally begin to notice. It is from Him becoming incarnate for our sake, living and being born in humble circumstances, having no roof under which to lay His head
19, being hated and despised, and finally crucified, and being maligned and slandered and blasphemed by so many. And it is the actions of the Apostles, and the incredible feats of bravery of the martyrs and the saints that COMPEL us to live the Christian life.

When one looks upon these things, one is so filled with awe, if you truly understand it, you MUST live the Christian life! How can you do anything else? It is like a spring that is flowing out of your belly. Didn’t the Lord say that: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”?
20 Can you stop the river from flowing down the mountain side? Can you stop the waterfall from falling? It not possible! The water is COMPELLED to fall, and so are we, by God’s incredible love for us. You see the incredible beauty, the profound love of our Savior for us. His love gives us no other option, but to follow Him. But indeed, there are some that don’t follow Him. A tragedy.

For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
21

He speaks of the men that are bidden that did not obey the call, and yet, He tried to compel them by showing them goodness, and grace, and mercy. And they did not listen, because they were concerned about their grounds, or their lusts, their pleasures, their pride. They were concerned about everything, save holiness, and sanctity, and blessedness.

These are marvelous words, and they are terrible words! They give us hope that indeed, God will save us, because we see how much He cares. We see how much He pursues us. They also show that we will have no excuse if we do not obey His call, in the end.

Who are those who are called? All mankind is called, every man. Who are the chosen? Those are chosen who obey the call. We can decide if we are of the chosen, or are of the goats on the left hand side. It is our decision, and although the Lord desires top compel us, He will not force us. But, if we live the Christian life with care, we WILL be compelled. It will not be possible for us to do anything but love our Savior and be pleasing to Him.

You must, as Christians, struggle to feel in all ways compelled to love your Savior. In every way. Now, we have a few days left. Let us continue our preparation. Let us hope, that despite our sins, in light of our Savior’s great love for us, that He will enlighten us, that He will make us able to see Him, that He will help us with whatever sins beset us – because I tell you, our sins are trivial compared His mercy. We only need to understand that, we only need to struggle against our sins, and God will help us. Amen.

Bibliography
Old Believer Sermon (unpublished).
The One Thing Needful, Archbishop Andrei
Parables of the Gospel, St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome
Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria
Drops From the Living Water, Bishop Augustinos N. Kantiotes

This particular text may be found at:
http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-01_2003+sunday-of-the-holy-forefathers+the-great-supper.doc

All rights reserved. Please use this material in any way that is edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any electronic mailing list.

1 This homily was transcribed from one given On December 16th, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, which is always celebrated 2 Sundays before Nativity
There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.
It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.
2 The actual progenitors of Christ are commemorated the following Sunday. This is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, which is always the Sunday immediately preceding Nativity. The Gospel reading for this day is from the very beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
3 Luke 14:12-15
4 Matthew 3:9
5 Economy is a complex term that indicates God’s action in the world, and His revelation of Himself to mankind. It is also used (and many times misused) to indicate the action of the pastors of the church in applying the canons and all of the Christian law to an individual. For example, “by economy” a bishop may allow a divorce, or second marriage, or lessen the usual epitemia (a period of time, during which a Christian is required to abstain from Communion, and possibly do other things, as part of their therapeutic treatment from their confessor) for a certain sin, such as adultery. It is also used, and grossly misunderstood in may places to allow certain people to enter the church by means of chrismation, rather than baptism and chrismation, because of certain very specialized circumstance that are described in the Holy Canons.
6 Cf. James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
7 Luke 14:16-17
8 Cf. Philippians 2:5-8 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
9 Cf. Romans 1:14-15 “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”
10 Luke 14:18-20
11 Prayer of St. Symeon the Translator, from the Prayers after Holy Communion,
12 Hebrews 13:4
13 Cf. 1 Cor 7:5, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
14 The church has always understood Exodus 16:3, “And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”, to indicate the turning away from God that all mankind does when they pursue their own will and pleasures.
15 Luke 14:21
16 ! Corinthians 1:27
17 Luke 14:22-24
18 Cf. John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
19 Cf. Matthew 8:20 “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
20 John 7:38
21 Luke 14:24

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Do you have the will? Then you will find the way!

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

“So come, let us rise up, as many of us as wish to escape this slavery of the passions, and run to Christ, the true Master, so that we may acquire the title of His servants. Let us also strive to become such men as our discourse has just enumerated. Let us not, therefore, hold our salvation in contempt, nor fool ourselves and make excuses for our sins by saying, ‘It is impossible for a man of the present generation ever to become such a person.’ Neither let us philosophize against our own salvation, nor argue against our very souls. Because it is indeed possible, if we will it so, and so much so that free will alone can carry us up to that height. For where, as St. Basil says, there is a ready will, there is nothing to hinder.”

St. Symeon the New Theologian. (From “Spiritual Words”, posted daily by Mark Sadek)

Which one among you makes excuses for your sins and fools yourself by saying “‘It is impossible for a man of the present generation ever to become such a person?” Raise your hands, and I will count (as soon as I get my hand out of the way!). I see! All of you have raised your hands!

The tendency to despondency and from that weakened state to making excuses for sins is part of the human condition, but this is not the Christian way. Let us listen to St Symeon and St Basil, and if that is not enough, to the sublime Paul: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” “(Heb 12:1-2)

I have told you many times in sermons that all the God requires is that we DESIRE and that we TRY. If we supply the effort, God will supply the RESULTS. Do you believe this? It is a hard thing to believe, because ofttimes, we allow ourselves to believe what we see, and forget about that which we do not see. The grace of God works invisibly in every man, and produces fruit in a man if he has the will. Cultivate in yourselves that will. If you desire, and because of that desire, make an effort, then you will change. This is the message that St Symeon is telling us today.

p Seraphim

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Menaion:December 13/26 – The Holy Martyr LUCY

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

On December 13/26, we celebrate the memory of the Holy Martyr LUCY.

MANY YEARS TO Lucy (Lulu, Ludy Goose) Park!

The name “Lucy” means “light”, with the same root as “lucid” which means “clear, radiant, understandable.”

With her mother, Lucy visited the grave of St. Agatha in Catania, where St. Agatha appeared to her. Her mother, who had dropsy, was then miraculously healed in the church. Lucy distributed all her goods to the poor, and this embittered her betrothed, who accused her of being a Christian before Paschasius the judge. The wicked judge ordered that she be taken to a brothel in order to defile her. However, by the power of God she remained immovable, as if rooted to the earth, and not even a multitude of people was able to move her from that spot. Then an enraged pagan pierced her throat with a sword and she gave up her soul to God and took up her habitation in the Kingdom of Eternity. Lucy suffered in the year 304.

(from the Prologue: http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/my.html?day=13&month=December)

From the Service for St Lucy:

Ikos: Waiting for the divine Word to come for her, like the wise virgins Lucy filled the lamp of her soul with oil most rich; for having sold all her property, she bestowed all her substance upon the poor and destitute. Wherefore, feeding the hungry and giving drink to those athirst, clothing the naked and providing shelter for the indigent, she laid up for herself great store of the oil of mercy, wherewith to delight her Master. For this cause, let us sinners entreat her with boldness, that she pour forth of her oil and wine upon our manifold wounds, treating the afflictions of our bodies and curing the passions of our souls, that, restored to full health by her, we also may abide eternally with the heavenly Bridegroom.

Life:
http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/my.html?day=13&month=December

http://www.orthodox.net/menaion-december/13-holy-martyr-lucy-the-virgin.html
Same text as the Prologue, above.

Service:
http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk/servlucy.htm

Icons:
http://allmercifulsavior.net/icons/Icons-Lucy.htm


If you like the icon in this blog post, contact Mother Justina, Greek Old Calendarist convent of St. Elizabeth, Etna, California. (http://users.sisqtel.net/cse/icons/index.html)

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Menaion:December 13/26 – The "Five Companions"

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

On December 13, (Dec 26 on the civil calendar) we celebrate the memory of the “Five Companions”, MARTYRS EUSTRATIOS, AUXENTIOS, EUGENE, MARDARIUS AND ORESTES (+ C. 284-305).

Their story is included below, as well as some useful links.

Our prayers in the church come from many sources, all of which, of course, feed from the same ultimate source – The Holy Spirit. Today, let us consider the Prayer at the end of the First Hour. It was said by St Mardarius just before he died, and was recorded by an eye witness, and made its way into our daily prayers.

O Master God, the Father Almighty,
O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ,

and O Holy Spirit, one Godhead, one Power:
Have mercy on me a sinner,
and by the judgments which Thou knowest,
save me, Thine unworthy servant;
for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having this prayer “in context” should make it infinitely more meaningful for us. Here is a prayer of complete submission to, and hope in God: the last words of a man! The entire angelic host must have been awed at the spectacle! Here was a man, bloodied and about to breathe his last, ending his heroic struggle, and yet his prayer was one filled with humility and hope in in the Triune God!

We believe that the martyrs are especially beloved by God, and pass from this life to the next without fear or travail, and yet, Mardarius, filled with the power of God, and certainly, also the confidence that God gives to his humble strugglers, chose to make his last words on earth those of a simple, humble man, aware of his own great sins, and God’s perfect beneficence.

We should wonder, what would our words be in such a case? Would we remain calm, humble, assured of God’s perfect plan for us, or would we be in terrible fear and pain, or even worse, feel some sense of entitlement because of our struggles?

The holy Martyr Mardarius offers us a perfect way to pray, and to live, and to die.

Please consider adding this prayer to your daily rule.

All of us are dying; let us die like the great Mardarius, ever with the knowledge of our own sinfulness, with complete submisison to God’s perfect love for us.

Holy Mardarius! We have endured none of thy struggles, and yet we possess none of thy humility, we the great sinners, who do not remember our sinfulness. Thou didst offer thy blood to God; we offer nothing except our heedlessness. Teach us to pray as thou didst pray, so that we may die as thou didst die, with humilty and greatness of soul.


The Holy Martyrs Eustratios, Auxentius, Eugene (Eugenios), Mardarias and Orestes suffered for Christ under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) at Sebasteia, in Armenia. Among those first Christians then undergoing torture then was the presbyter of the Arabian Church, the Martyr Auxentios, locked up in prison. Looking on at the steadfastness of the Christians was the nobleborn military-commander Saint Eustratios, city-governor of the city of Sataleon. He was secretly a Christian, and he decided on an open confession of faith, for which he was subjected to torture: they beat him, put iron sandals on his feet, and burnt at him with fire. And after these cruel torments they burned him, and beheaded the Martyr Auxentios. Witnessing their death by martyrdom, one of the common people, Saint Mardarias, likewise confessed his faith and was suspended upside down. Before death he uttered the prayer: “O Master Lord God, Father Almighty…”, which is read at the end of the 3rd Hour and at the All-Night Vigil. For the Martyr Eugene (Eugenios) they cut out his tongue, they cut off his hands and feet and then they cut off his head with a sword. The young soldier Saint Orestes confessed himself a Christian and for this stood trial. He was sentenced to burning upon a red-hot iron bed, whither he went encouraged by the prayer of Saint Eustratios (“Greatly I do exalt Thee, O Lord…”) which is read at the Saturday All-Night Vigil. The Martyr Eustratios died on 13 December.

From the “Menologion” program.


Links:

Hours and Typika
http://www.orthodox.net/services/horologion_hours-and-typika_first-hour_third-hour_sixth-hour_ninth-hour_typika.rtf

http://www.orthodox.net/services/horologion_hours-and-typika_first-hour_third-hour_sixth-hour_ninth-hour_typika.pdf

The Five Companions:
http://www.atheavensgate.com/ocwa/26-Eustratius.html
A very long account of the struggle of the saints

http://www.orthodox.net/menaion-december/13-holy-martyrs-eustratius-auxentius-eugene-mardarius-and-orestes.html
A shorter account

http://www.oca.org/FSlives.asp?SID=4&M=12&D=13
You may get an icon of the saints here.

Music
http://www.rocm.org/scores/tk/1213-1-423.pdf
Troparion (In Slavonic)

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Great Martyr James the Persian – Nov 27/ Dec 10

Monday, December 10th, 2007

One of my favorites today: Great Martyr James the Persian.

The Menaion contains stories that only the faithful who are full of faith believe! The story of the martyrdom of the great James the Persian reminds of that of St Mary of Egypt. Her story seemed so impossible to many even in a more pious time when it was first written down, that St Sophronios was forced to insert the parenthetical remark: “If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people.” (Life of St Mary of Egypt by St Sophronios) Such A comment must also apply to the life of the heroic martyr James the Persian, whose exploit is before us and heaven today.

The life of St James and a wonderful meditation on him, from the Prologue by Blessed Nicholai Velomirovich, is below.
The important features are this: James was a married Christian, living in the pagan kingdom of Persia, and was well liked by the king. This itself gives no dishonor to the Saint, as The Holy Moses and Joseph were active in the court of Pharaoh, and other saints served in secular positions serving pagan kings, however, poor James fell prey to the enticements of wealth, and vanity, and sacrificed to the idols during a pagan festival. Some stories say he did so out of fear, and some just because of vanity and a lack of attention to himself; this does not matter.
This type of situation has occurred thousands of times in the annals of Christianity, and only a precious few extricated themselves from their apostasy. The reason is clear – to recant the false faith they had accepted, and in so doing make null and void their apostasy from the Christian faith, a man would inevitably be forced to endure great physical tortures.
Perhaps James would have become one of the many nameless ones who were never able to muster enough desire and courage to become a Christian again, except that his wife and mother wrote him a letter which brought him to his senses.
O Lord! May we also have an angel in the flesh to bring us back to ourselves if we stumble! Gives us ears to hear if a mother or brother or friend or wife or husband or pastor rebukes us with words that are bitter, because they expose our sinfulness. Help us to be like the great James, who took to heart the rebuke of his wife and mother and saved himself!
Herein is the key to the redemption of the great James! His loved ones truly LOVED him, so much in fact, that they shepherded him to his contest, without which he could not have been saved.
We should not pass over this part of the story too quickly. After James apostatized, his was like the prodigal son away on a far country. He was in a weak state spiritually – it is preposterous to think that after his horrible sin, he maintained a pious Orthodox life, with prayer and fasting and peace in his heart. When a Christian denies His Lord, he cannot be at peace, and he will fall prey to a multitude of sins. So it must have been with James. We do not know when the letter reached James after his apostasy, but even if it was within a few days, it found our martyr wounded by the side of the road, and more than half dead. A lesser man would have sorrowed over his state, but not had the courage to change it. Judas was also sorry, but he did not change. This was not so with our great James. He immediately entered into the arena, to battle to reclaim his soul.
Let us not over-spiritualize this moment. Was James afraid? He was a man was he not? Of course he was afraid!. And yet he entered the arena, and gave up his earthly life in order to have a heavenly one. Certainly the prayers of his pious wife and mother protected him from his human weakness.
The entire angelic host stood in awe of the contest of the Great Martyr. He suffered in the flesh as if he was not of flesh – only by the help of His Christ could a mere man endure such tortures! After James breathed his last, the angelic host escorted his soul to the bosom of his Lord, shouting exultantly. What did they say? Some would think that they would extol his courage and steadfastness as each limb was severed by the knife, and his holy blood flowed. But this was not the case. They simply exclaimed to the Lord as they ascended: “O sweetest Jesus, here is one of thy sheep. He was lost, but now he is found!”

O Lord, through the prayers of the Holy Great Marty James, help us to believe that we can change, no matter what we have done!
p Seraphim
——-
The Holy Martyr James the Persian

James was born of Christian parents in the Persian city of Elapa (or Vilat), brought up in the Christian Faith and married to a Christian woman. The Persian King Yezdegeherd took a liking to James for his talents and skillfulness, and made him a noble at his court. Flattered by the king, James was deluded and began offering sacrifices to the idols that the king worshiped. His mother and wife learned of this, and wrote him a letter of reproach in which they grieved over him as an apostate and one who was spiritually dead. Yet, at the end of the letter, they begged him to repent and return to Christ. Moved by this letter, James repented bitterly, and courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord to the king. Angered, the king condemned him to death by a special torture: his entire body was to be cut up, piece by piece, until he breathed his last. The executioners fulfilled this command of the wicked king to the letter, and cut off James’s fingers, then his toes, his legs and arms, his shoulders, and finally his head. During every cutting, the repentant martyr gave thanks to God. A sweet-smelling fragrance, as of a cypress, emanated from the wounds. Thus, this wonderful man repented of his sin and presented his soul to Christ his God in the Kingdom of Heaven. James suffered in about the year 400. His head is to be found in Rome and a part of his relics in Portugal, where he is commemorated on May 22.
REFLECTION

When the executioners severed the thumb of St. James’s right hand, he said: “Even a vine is pruned in this manner, so that in time a young branch may grow.”

At the severing of his second finger, he said: “Receive also, O Lord,
the second branch of Thy sowing.”

At the severing of his third finger, he said: “I bless the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit.”

At the severing of his fourth finger, he said: “O Thou who acceptest
the praise of the four beasts [symbols of the four evangelists], accept the suffering of the fourth finger.”

At the severing of the fifth finger, he said: “May my rejoicing be
fulfilled as that of the five wise virgins at the wedding feast.”

During the severing of the sixth finger, he said: “Thanks be to Thee,
O Lord, Who at the sixth hour stretched out Thy most pure arms on the Cross,
that Thou hast made me worthy to offer Thee my sixth finger.”

At the severing of the seventh finger, he said: “Like David who
praised Thee seven times daily, I praise Thee through the seventh finger severed for Thy sake.”

At the severing of the eighth finger, he said: “On the eighth day
Thou Thyself, O Lord, wast circumcised.”

At the severing of the ninth finger, he said: “At the ninth hour,
Thou didst commend Thy spirit into the hands of Thy Father, O my Christ, and I offer Thee thanks during the suffering of my ninth finger.”

At the severing of the tenth finger, he said: “On a ten-stringed harp
I sing to Thee, O God, and thank Thee that Thou hast made me worthy to endure the severing of the ten fingers of my two hands, for the Ten Commandments written on two tablets.”

Oh, what wonderful faith and love! Oh, the noble soul of this knight of Christ!

Life and reflection from http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/my.html?month=November&day=27

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Today we commemorate St Mercurius who conquered Julian the Apostate

Friday, December 7th, 2007
Today is Fri, Nov 24/Dec 7 On this day we remember the Holy Martyr and soldier Mercurios.
His life is below (taken from the Menologion program, which I recommend to everyone who reads spiritual things in English), but I want to call your attention to a marvelous episode in his life. Since God is the God of the living, and the Saints are not "dead', we can refer to his intercession from heaven as an episode in his life. Here is a small quote from the full life:
 
 Even after his death the warrior of Christ, united unto the Heavenly Church, served a soldier's service for the good of the earthly Church. Through the prayer of Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January) in front of an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God for deliverance of Christians under persecution of the Christian faith by the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), the Mediatrix for Christians dispatched the holy Warrior Mercurius in assist from the Church Triumphant unto the Church Militant. The image of the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius, depicted on the icon alongside the image of the MostHoly Mother of God, became invisible. It reappeared again later with a bloodied spear.
 
At this very moment Julian the Apostate on his Persian campaign was pierced by the spear of an unknown assailant, who disappeared immediately. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out: "Thou hast conquered, Galileian!"  
 
I hope you are edified by this amazing story.
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The Menologion is available at: http://www.orthodox.cn/software/menologion3_en.htm
 

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The full story of greatmartyr Mercurios from the Menologion program: 
 

The Holy GreatMartyr Mercurius (Mercury),

a Skyth by descent, served as a soldier in the Roman army. The impious emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259) issued a law, ordering all Roman citizens to worship the pagan gods and condemning Christians to death.

During these times barbarians attacked the Roman empire, and the emperor Decius went on campaign with a large army. In one of the battles an Angel of the Lord appeared to Mercurius and presented him a sword with the words: "Fear not. Go forth bravely against the enemy. And when thou art victorious, forget not the Lord thy God". With this sword the holy warrior broke through the ranks of the barbarian horde; he destroyed an hoste of the enemy and killed the leader of the barbarians, winning victory for the Romans. The grateful emperor rewarded Saint Mercurius for his bravery, and made him a military commander.

The Angel of the Lord appeared again to the holy warrior, who had received great honours and riches, and reminded him by Whom the victory had been given, and bidding him to serve the Lord. Saint Mercurius recalled that his father Gordian had also confessed the Christian faith; — he himself had been baptised and with all his soul he yearned for Christ. He refused to participate in the solemn offering of sacrifice to the pagan gods and was summoned before the dread emperor. Openly declaring himself a Christian, Mercurius threw down at the feet of the emperor his soldier's belt and mantle and he repudiated all the honours. The Angel of the Lord again appeared to Saint Mercurius in the prison, encouraging him and inspiring him to bravely endure all the suffering for Christ.

They stretched the holy martyr over fire; they cut at him with knives, and lashed at him so much, that the blood from his wounds extinguished the fire. But each time, when they threw him back into the prison nearly dying from his wounds, Saint Mercurius received complete healing from the Lord, manifesting before the impious the great power of faith in Christ. Condemned to a sentence of death, the saint was deemed worthy of a vision of the Lord Himself, promising him a quick release from his sufferings. The GreatMartyr Mercurius was beheaded at Caesarea Cappadocia. His holy body exuded fragrant myrh and incense, bestowing healing on many of the sick.

Even after his death the warrior of Christ, united unto the Heavenly Church, served a soldier's service for the good of the earthly Church. Through the prayer of Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January) in front of an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God for deliverance of Christians under persecution of the Christian faith by the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), the Mediatrix for Christians dispatched the holy Warrior Mercurius in assist from the Church Triumphant unto the Church Militant. The image of the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius, depicted on the icon alongside the image of the MostHoly Mother of God, became invisible. It reappeared again later with a bloodied spear.

At this very moment Julian the Apostate on his Persian campaign was pierced by the spear of an unknown assailant, who disappeared immediately. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out: "Thou hast conquered, Galileian!"

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Priest Seraphim Holland 972 529-2754 CELL:972 658-5433

ST NICHOLAS ORTHODOX CHURCH:http://www.orthodox.net
PARISH EMAIL:http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church
BLOG:http://stnicholasdallas.blogspot.com/
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Thoughts on the Holy Scripture – 28th Week After Pentecost – Thursday

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

When we read the Holy Scriptures, if we are to benefit, we must consider them to be words directed to us, with our eyes fixed on our Lord’s eyes as we sit at His feet. As we look into those eyes, how do we feel? Are we comforted, encouraged, ashamed? Are we aware of our incompleteness, our brokenness, as we are taught about things that we barely do? What is our Lord saying to us, as his eyes shine with wisdom and love, and yet also with such perfection and brightness that we feel the sharp sting of self condemnation and shiver in the cold of our own darkness?

He tells us of a stone, and we know He is speaking of Himself. The corner stone is a heavy and perfectly formed stone, and upon it the whole edifice rises. It is the foundation of all other stones, and for the edifice to be strong, all these stones must also be perfectly formed, and fitted to the corner stone. We know that we are to be these stones, as He has told us "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Mat 3:9). We are "these stones" – common, rough stones, which in being raised up to be children of Abraham (that is, sons of God), will become smooth and perfected. In our Lord’s words we are comforted, as we see in His eyes His promise.

Even though we are poor and sinful, we are called to be the elect, to be fitted to the corner stone, as the Apostle proclaims: "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:" (Eph 2:20-21) And the Apostle Peter agrees: "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. {7} Unto you therefore which believe he is precious" (1 Pet 2:6-8)

However, what is this that we then hear? "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." We see in His eyes that He is beckoning us to make a choice, because this stone will do two things, depending on our response to it. We can be broken, or ground to powder. Neither of these sounds “precious” to our ears.

When the Jews were stoned, a large stone was thrown on them from a great heighti. O, the agony! To be ground to powder and blown away to the winds, forgotten and blotted out of the book of life!

We are faced with another choice – to fall upon the stone of our own volition. An yet, to fall upon this stone means we will be broken – it will hurt! But is this not a contradiction? If we are the stones to be raised up to be sons of Abraham, and to be fitted to the corner stone, how can we be of use to the building if our stone is broken? As we look into His eyes, it is clear that He understands our perplexity, and His expression tells us that there are no other choices. We, and all of mankind are faced with only two ways, each of which we may freely take. We can reject the corner stone, or embrace it. Either we will be ground to powder, or broken; the choice is ours.

What does this mean – to be broken? In our soul, we hear, a still small voice: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psa 50:17). We remember when the Good Samaritan dressed the wounds of the man by the road. Sometimes a wound must be lanced – broken, in order for the pus to be drained, so that a healing balm may be added. So now we understand! We must be broken in order for us to heal.

However, just as the body dreads being hurt, so does our pride resist being broken. O Lord, help us to throw ourselves upon Thee, and be broken, that we would become whole! Our pride restrains us, so with trembling we beg Thee, as Thou didst do to those out in the highways and lanes, COMPEL us to fall upon Thee! We are too weak to always make this choice, but we desire to! With St John the Damascene we cry: "But whether I will it or not, save me!" (Evening prayers, Prayer of St John Damascene which is to be said while pointing to the bed).

28th Week After Pentecost – Thursday

Titus 1:5-2:1 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

Luke 20:9-18 Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

i "On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. That is, in the original, will reduce him to dust, so that it may be scattered by the winds. There is an allusion here, doubtless, to the custom of stoning as a punishment among the Jews. A scaffold was erected, twice the height of the man to be stoned. Standing on its edge, he was violently struck off by one of the witnesses; if he died by the blow and the fall, nothing farther was done; if not, a heavy stone was thrown down on him, which at once killed him." http://www.ccel.org/ccel/barnes/ntnotes.ii.xxi.xliv.html

Daily readings and reflections, available at http://www/orthodox.net/scripture 3 of 1


Priest Seraphim Holland
St Nicholas Orthodox Church http://www.orthodox.net
PH:972 529-2754 CELL:972 658-5433
HOME:2102 Summit, McKinney, TX 75071

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Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Redeeming the Time

St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas TX

Rector: Priest Seraphim Holland 972-529-2754 cell:972 658-5433 seraphim@orthodox.net

St Nicholas Web Site: http://www.orthodox.net

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephes.5:16)

December 2007

A Word from the rector

Brothers and sisters, we are in the midst of the Nativity fast. I have sent the fasting guidelines to the parish mailing list, and repeat them briefly here. On all days, we do not eat any meat, eggs or dairy products. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the strictest fast days, when we also should not eat oil or wine. On Tuesday and Thursday the fast is a little relaxed, and we can have oil and wine. On Saturday and Sunday, the fast is the most relaxed and we may have oil, wine and fish. Please check your calendar for variations to these general guidelines.

If there are any questions about fasting, and especially if you have difficulty keeping this rule, please contact me as soon as you can. Although the Lord tells us to fast in secret, we never should fast “alone”. Fasting is something you and your confessor should struggle together with. If you struggle with fasting, please do not do it “alone”. Talk with me, and let’s together work something out that is spiritually profitable for you.

The rules of fasting are beneficial to us only if we also struggle to follow them along with increasing our prayer, reading of scripture, and overall “effort” in the Christian life. May God help us in this.

PLEASE NOTE: We have Vespers and a teaching about the Church’s prayers every Tuesday at 6:30 PM. This would be an excellent commitment to make on your part during the Nativity Fast.

I am no longer working, and plan to concentrate exclusively on pastoral work for at least the next six months. I am therefore more available during most parts of the day, and want to be seeing more of you all (and not only in church!) We hope to have our new facility built within 6 months, and I will be working on that, in conjunction with many others of you who are giving your talents and effort to our community. I also will be writing and teaching a lot more, and you can expect to see more things in your email. Please call or email me at any time for any reason.

I am currently updating my records. Please, everyone who can, send me all your contact information (address, phone, email). I have most of your email addresses, but am missing a few. I am also missing many home addresses and some phone numbers.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR EACH OTHER EVERY DAY. I assure you of my unworthy, yet expectant prayers. We will grow as a parish family by caring for each other. Prayer for each other is the most important manifestation of this care. If you need lists of parishioners names, please contact me.

unworthy Priest Seraphim, who prays for you daily and asks for your daily prayers.

News and Announcements

  • By God’s mercy, we are preparing to build a hall and chapel on our land in McKinney, but we still need money to finance the building process! Please consider making an extraordinary donation to the building fund as you are able.
  • We are instituting a group bible reading program. Fr. Seraphim asks thay everyone would try to read each week’s readings, according to the church calendar. We will discuss these on occasion, provide commentaries when possible, and provide a list of these readings each week. In addition, you can find the readings each day at these web sites:

Name Days this month

  • Dec 19th: Nicholas Quillen, Nicholas Quillen Jr., Nikolai Slavine THIS IS OUR PATRONAL FEAST!
  • Dec 26th: Lucy Park

Principles of the Orthodox Faith

by Bishop Alexander (continued from November Edition)

(??-????????? ? ??-??????)

We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father’s Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ’s teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.

We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.

We believe that in the sacrament of Baptism the believer is forgiven all sins. The believer becomes a member of the Church. Access to the other sacraments of salvation becomes available to him at this time. In the sacrament of Chrismation the believer receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Confession or Repentance, sins are forgiven. In Holy Communion, offered at the Divine Liturgy, the believer receives the very Body and Blood of Christ. In the sacrament of Matrimony, an inseparable union is created between a man and a woman. In the sacrament of Ordination Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are ordained to serve the Church. In Holy Unction, the healing of physical and spiritual illness is offered.

We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.

With the one word “Amen” we witness to the fact that we accept and acknowledge with our whole heart this Creed which we confess to be true.

The Creed is read by a Catechumen (one about to receive Baptism) during the sacrament of Baptism. During the Baptism of an infant, the Creed is read by the Sponsor. The Creed is sung at the Liturgy and should be read daily at Morning Prayers. An attentive reading of the Creed greatly strengthens our faith. This happens because the Creed is not just a formal statement of belief but a prayer. When we say “I believe” in a spirit of prayer, along with the other words of the Creed, we enliven and strengthen our Faith in God and in all those truths which are contained in the Creed. This is why it is so important for the Orthodox Christian to recite the Creed daily or at least regularly.

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?? ????? ? ??, ??? ??????? ???? ??????, ??????, ???????? ? ????????????. ??? ????? ??????, ??? ??? ???????????? ?????????, ???? ? ??????????? ? ?????? ???????????? ????????? ???????, ?? ?????????? ???? ????? ?????? ? ???????? ? ???????????? ?? ????, ???????? ?????? ???????? ?? ???????? ???? ? ?????????. ??????? ????? ??????, ??? ?????? ???? ?? ?????????? ?????? ??????, ???????? ? ?????????? ??????????. ??????? ????????? ???????? ??????, ??? ????????????? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ? ???? ???????????????; ??????? ????????? ???????????? ??????, ??? ??? ?????? ???????????? ?????? ? ???????????? ?????????????? ???????????????, ??????? ? ???????????? ?????? ?????????? ?? ?????? ??????? ?????????? ?? ???????? ? ???????? ? ???????? ?????????????. ???????, ?? ???????? ??????? ?????????, ???????? ?????????? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ????????????? ????.

?? ????? ? ??, ??? ? ???????? ???????? ????????? ????????? ??? ????? ? ??? ????? ??? ???????? ???????? ?????????? ?????? ??????. ????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ? ? ?????? ???????????? ?? ?????????. ???, ? ???????? ????????????? ?????? ????????? ????????? ??????? ????; ? ???????? ???????? ??? ???????? ????????? ?????, ????????? ? ?????? ???????? ????? ????????; ? ???????? ??????????, ??????????? ?? ????? ????????, ???????? ??????????? ????????? ???? ? ????? ?????????; ? ???????? ?????????????? ??????????????? ????????????? ???? ????? ????? ? ?????; ? ???????? ?????????? ?????????????? ????????? ??????: ???????, ?????????? ? ????????; ? ? ???????? ??????????? ???????? ????????? ?? ???????? ? ?????????? ????????.

?? ????? ? ??, ??? ????? ?????? ???? ????? ???????, ?????????????? ????????, ????? ?????? ?? ????? ? ?????. ????? ???, ?? ??? ?????, ?????????? ?? ???????, ?? ???? ?????????? ????, ? ??????? ???? ??????? ????? ???????? ? ?? ????, ??????? ??? ????? ?? ??????, ? ??? ??????? ??????. ??? ???????? ???????????, ???? ???????????, ??? ??????????, ??? ? ?????, ????????? ? ?????? ??????????????? ?? ?????? ??????????? ???? ????????. ????? ???????????, ??? ???? ?????????? ?? ??? ?????, ????? ??????? ???????? ?????????????? ????, ??? ?? ?????, ????? ??? ? ????? ????, ?????? ??? ?????. ????? ???? ?????? ?????????????? ???????? ? ???? ??????, ? ?????????? — ? ????? ??????. ??? ???????? ??????? ????????, ???????? ?? ????? ?????.

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?????? ???? ???????? ?????????, ??????????? ???????? (“??????????”) ?? ????? ?????????? ???????? ????????. ??? ???????? ???????? ?????? ???????? ??????????????. ????? ????, ?????? ???? ?????? ? ?????? ?? ????????? ? ??????? ?????? ??? ????????? ?? ????? ???????? ??????. ???????????? ?????? ??????? ????? ??????? ??????? ?? ???? ????. ??? ?????????? ??????, ??? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ?????? ?????????????? ???????, ?? ???? ???????. ?????? ? ??????????? ??????????? ????? “?????” ? ?????? ????? ???????, ?? ???????? ? ????????? ???? ???? ? ???? ? ?? ??? ?? ??????, ??????? ?????????? ? ???????. ??? ?????? ??? ????? ???????????? ?????????? ?????????, ??? ?? ?????? ???? ?????????, ?????? ?????? ????.

The Home as a Little Church:

The Vision of St. John Chrysostom

by Dr. David C. Ford

(continued from November edition)


. . . . One of the most important dimensions of St. John Chrysostom’s exalted vision of the Christian life is his emphasis on Christ-filled marriage and family life. May I ask, how many of you are aware of his emphasis on marriage, and his very high view of Christian marriage? He believed that it is the calling of every Christian married couple to make their home a little church, and he preached with all his heart to inspire the married people in his flock, to fill them with this vision, this ideal, this goal, and to instruct them in how to bring this vision to pass in their own homes.

Let’s look now at some of the most important characteristics of the home as a little church that can be found in St. John Chrysostom’s preaching and writing. I believe six such characteristics stand out: First, we see a great emphasis on the need, indeed the requirement, that husbands love their wives with Christ-like, self-sacrificial love. . . .The second characteristic of the home as a little church is a pattern of order and discipline in the family, with the husband as the servant-head of the family, and his wife as second-in-command, and their children in obedience under them. . . .

    Thirdly, such a godly home is characterized by careful, attentive, heartfelt

instruction and training of the children by the parents. Chrysostom strongly exhorts parents to train their children carefully and diligently in the ways of the Lord. Not to teach them virtue, not to call them to account for their actions, is, as he says, “to trample upon the noble nature of the soul” (Homily III on Philemon; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 557; my emphasis). Concerning those who may become leaders in the Church, he asks, “For he who does not instruct his own children, how should he be the teacher of others?” (Homily II on Titus; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 524-525).

For Chrysostom, the Christian training of a child begins with the very name he or she is given by the parents:

    Let none of us hasten to call his child after his forebears – his father or mother or grandfather or great-grandfather, but rather after the righteous – martyrs, bishops, apostles. Let this be an incentive to the children. Let one be called Peter, another John; and let another bear the name of one of the other saints.

As we know, this is a strong Orthodox tradition to this day – to give the new child the name of a Saint, and thus to make sure he or she has a patron Saint. Chrysostom believes that this will bring great benefit not only to the children, but also to the parents. As he goes on to say:

    So let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James. For, if the name be given with forethought . . ., and we emphasize our kinship with the righteous rather than [or, at least, more than] with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children (An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, in M. L. W. Laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1951], pp. 107-109; modified translation; my emphasis).

In this same remarkable essay, St. John tells parents, “thou art raising a philosopher, an athlete, a citizen of Heaven” (p. 102), and he speaks of parents shaping their children into “wondrous statues for God”:

    To each of you fathers and mothers I say, just as we see artists fashioning their paintings and statues with great precision, so we must care for these wondrous statues of ours. Painters, when they have set the canvas on the easel, paint on it day by day to accomplish their purpose. Sculptors, too, working in marble, proceed in a similar manner; they remove what is superfluous and add what is lacking. Even so you must proceed. Like the creators of statues, give all your leisure to fashioning these wondrous statues for God (On Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children; Laistner, p. 96; my emphasis).

Chrysostom goes on in this essay to compare the soul of a child to a city, indwelt by good and bad citizens (i.e., good and bad thoughts, dispositions, and habits). He exhorts parents, “Regard yourself as a king ruling over a city which is the soul of your son [or daughter].” And referring to the necessity for the parents to set firm boundaries and guidelines for their children concerning what kind of behavior is proper and what is unacceptable, he says,

    Draw up laws for this city and its citizens, laws that inspire fear and are strong, and uphold them if they are being transgressed; for it is useless to draw up laws, if their enforcement does not follow. Draw up laws, and pay close attention, for our legislation is for the world, and today we are founding a city” (Ibid., pp. 97-98; modified translation).

Then he addresses in quite some detail the five gates of this city which is the child’s soul – the tongue, hearing, sight, the sense of smell, and the sense of touch – all of which must be carefully guarded lest unwelcome intruders make their way into the child’s mind and heart. If in his day Chrysostom had to strongly warn parents to carefully supervise what things their children were seeing and hearing in the world around them, how much more is this necessary in our own age of radio, TV, movies, MTV, and the Internet?!

If children are given such diligent care and attention in child-raising, St. John is quite confident that they will turn out well:

    For it is not possible, indeed it is not, that one should turn out badly who is brought up with so much care, and has received great attention. Sins are not so prevalent, so deeply rooted, by nature as to overcome so much previous care (Homily II on Titus; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 524-525).

A fourth characteristic of the home as a little church is regular Scripture study, spiritual discussions, and prayer. Concerning the reading of the Holy Scriptures, in one notable passage Chrysostom suggests that families need this more than monastics do:

    The solitaries do not need the consolation and the help of the Holy Scriptures as much as do those who are in the midst of the whirl of a distracting existence . . . [By the way, is this a pretty good description of how most of us live? – “in the midst of the whirl of a distracting existence”?] The hermits sit far from the struggle; therefore they are not often wounded. But you [speaking to his urban-dwelling parishioners] stand always in the front rank of battle (Homily III on Lazarus; PG 48.992C; Women and Men, p. 88; my emphasis).

So he advises:

    Hearken, I entreat you, all who are involved with the things of this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. . . . get at least from the New Testament the Acts and the Gospels to be your constant teachers (Homily IX on Colossians, PG 62.361D; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 300-301; Women and Men, p. 88, n. 46; my emphasis).

We may notice here how this passage implies that copies of at least these portions of the New Testament must have been quite readily available to the average parishioners of Chrysostom’s day, at least in the big cities.

Specifically concerning instructing children, he exhorts, “Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures” (Homily XXI on Ephesians; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 154; Women and Men, p. 88, n. 46; my emphasis). He urges fathers to teach their children the Psalms, including memorizing certain ones, and then to lead them to study the Hymns of the Church:

    Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of the love of wisdom . . . When in these you have led him on from childhood, little by little you will lead him forward even to higher things. The Psalms contain all things, but the Hymns have nothing human. When he has been instructed out of the Psalms, he will then understand that the Hymns are even more divine (Homily IX on Colossians; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 301; modified translation).

The Scripture text for this homily is Colossians 3:16-17, which includes the words “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Don’t these striking words about the Hymns make you wonder which Hymns he was referring to? Perhaps mostly they were the hymns from his own Divine Liturgy, such as the Cherubic Hymn.

St. John goes on in this homily to give a whole list of things to be learned from particular verses from the Psalms. And in his An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, he takes five pages to explain in detail how parents should relate Bible stories to their children, and how to reinforce them so that the children get them virtually memorized. As examples, he uses the story of Cain and Abel, and also the story of Jacob and Esau; and he even gives the specific paraphrasing that the parents should use! (Laistner, pp. 102-107).

We can easily see St. John Chrysostom’s fervent love for the Holy Scriptures shining through all his preaching. On one occasion he cries out:

    If we order our lives in this way and diligently study the Scriptures, we will find the lessons to guide us in everything we need! (Homily 20 on Ephesians; Roth, p. 64; my emphasis).

Concerning fostering spiritual discussions in the home, Chrysostom recommends that the father at the family dinner table repeat, and promote discussion about, the instruction given at the Church:

    When you go home from here, lay out with your meal a spiritual meal as well. The father of the family might repeat something of what was said here; his wife could then hear it, the children too could learn something, and even the servants might be instructed. In short, the household might become a church, so that the devil is driven off and that evil spirit, the enemy of our salvation, takes to flight; the grace of the Holy Spirit would rest there instead, and all peace and harmony would surround the inhabitants (Homily 2 on Genesis.13; Fathers of the Church, vol. 74, Robert C. Hill, trans., p. 37; my emphasis).

(Notice how this passage implies that the father is attending church by himself. We know that Chrysostom often preached every day, such as during Great Lent, either in the morning before people went to work, or in the evenings on their way home from work.)

Chrysostom also says on this point:

    Let us guide the conversation to the kingdom of heaven and to those men of old, pagan or Christian, who were illustrious for their self-restraint (On Vainglory; Laistner, p. 118; my emphasis).

Notice how he freely recognizes (in the spirit of Philippians 4:8) that pagan men (or women) of old can be good examples for Christians too, if they lived virtuously.

Concerning prayer in the Christian home, Chrysostom exclaims,

    Here indeed my discourse is for both men and women. Bend your knees, send forth groans, beseech your Master to be merciful. He is more moved by prayers in the night, when you make the time for rest a time for grieving [for your sins]. . . . Do this, you men, and not the women only. Let the house be a Church, consisting of men and women. For do not think that because you are the only man, or because your wife is the only woman there, that this is any hindrance. ‘For where two,’ He says, ‘are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18:20). Where Christ is in the midst, there is a great multitude. Where Christ is, Angels also must be there, and Archangels and the other heavenly Powers. So then you are not alone, seeing you have Him Who is Lord of all. Hear again the prophet also saying, ‘Better is one who does the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors’ (cf. Ecclus. 16:3). . . . Nothing is stronger than one man who lives according to the law of God.

    If you have children, wake them up also, and let your house altogether become a Church through the night.

If I may ask at this point, does this sound quite extreme? St. John’s ideal was that the home would really become like a monastery. Once he even said he wished the whole city would become like a monastery (Homily XXVI on Romans; PG 60.644A; NPNF 1, XI, p. 533; Women and Men, pp. 44-45). But now, to continue with this quotation, we’ll see his pastor’s heart come in, and his compassionate understanding of the practical realities of life:

    But if they are young, and cannot endure the watching, let them stay for the first or second prayer, and then send them to rest. Only stir up yourself; establish yourself in the habit. Nothing is better than the storehouse which receives such prayers as these. . . . Believe me, there is no fire as effectual to burn off rust as night prayer to remove the rust of our sins. . . . [Pray] in your closet, or in your bedroom; bend your knees, and entreat the Lord (Homily XXVI on Acts; NPNF 1, XI, pp. 172-173; modified translation; my emphasis).

While in this passage he has in mind, ideally, midnight vigils, in a later sermon in this same series (on the Acts of the Apostles), he says, with pastoral moderation and compassion,

    I have both before discoursed to you on this, and now repeat it: let us arouse ourselves during the night. And if you do not say many prayers, say one with real attentiveness, and it is enough – I ask no more; and if not at midnight, at any rate at the first light of dawn (Homily XXXVI on Acts; NPNF 1, XI, p. 227; modified translation).

In a similar vein he says elsewhere,

    Thus I would have you always [to be in prayer]; and if not always, at least very often; and if not very often, at least now and then, at least in the morning, at least in the evening prayers (Homily XXII on Hebrews; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 468).

And concerning the power of prayer, he assures his people:

    Let every man and woman among us, whether meeting together at church, or remaining at home, call upon God with much earnestness, and He will doubtless accede to these petitions (Homily III on the Statues; NPNF 1, IX, p. 356; my emphasis).

Not only should the children be included in daily family prayers, but they should also be taught to pray regularly on their own:

    Let the boy be trained to pray with much contrition and to keep vigils as much as he is able, and let the stamp of a saintly man be impressed on the boy in every way (On Vainglory; Laistner, p. 119).

And wives also, if they are able to stay at home during the day – which St. John would certainly strongly favor in our day and age, if this is at all possible – can, in his opinion, use the quiet of the home to foster much spiritual growth for themselves and their families:

    But the woman who sits in her house as in some school of true wisdom, and collects her thoughts within herself, will be enabled to devote herself to prayers, and readings, and other heavenly wisdom (Homily LXI on St. John; PG 59.340C; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 225; Women and Men, p. 187; my emphasis).

Do you ladies think this is possible? Is it at least more possible than your husband making his workplace a “school of true wisdom”?


(to be concluded in the January edition)

Regular Service Schedule

  • Tuesday 6:30 PM – Vespers followed by a discussion about the spiritual/dogmatic content of various prayers in the church services.
  • Saturday 4:00 pm – Confession
  • Saturday 5:00 pm – Vigil
  • Sunday 10:00 am – Divine Liturgy, Trapeza and Church School

Regular Announcements

  • Please use our bookstore. We have books, icons, CD’s, Pascha and Nativity cards, souveniers and other items. To make a purchase, please put the following into the donation box, together with the payment: the item name and the dollar ($) amount of the payment. There are pads for your use for this purpose in the bookstore.
  • We also have a library of books and CDs for your use. When you borrow from the library, please write the name of the book or CD on the clipboard, and return the items within four weeks. If you have materials to donate to the library, please speak to Natalia Hawthorne or email to stnatalia (at) hotmail (dot) com
  • The sisterhood is always open to new members! To join, please speak to Raisa Dudar.
  • We welcome new choir members! To join, please speak to Genevieve (Jenny) Park or email her at parknj (at) basicisp (dot) net
  • Please remember to support the parish financially.
  • Our building fund is our means of financing our land and building efforts. This fund currently contains $70,000, and is growing slowly. To make a contribution, make out a check to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, and write in the memo line, “Building Fund.”

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