Redeeming the Time – February 2008

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)

February 2008

A Word from the rector

Brothers and sisters:

I am pleased with the response to our Wednesday liturgies and Tuesday evening Vespers and catechetical talks. Let me share with you some more thoughts about our prayer services, because they are at the core of who we are and what we will become.

Christianity is all about “becoming”. Salvation is the untouchable being touched, the invisible being seen, the incomprehensible being comprehended, the impossible being accomplished. But we are straw, and will burn when we touch the fire, and our eyes are too weak to see God, our minds too dull to understand him, and we are so full of infirmities that we can barely do one good thing an hour and yet we are called to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

What to do? Pray! Pray in our closets, pray together, support one another in public and private prayer, talk about prayer, aid one another in our daily lives so we are more able to pray. Without prayer, we as a parish will accomplish nothing, and no person can advance in the spiritual life without fervent prayer.

Our problem, our shared human condition, is that we, individually and collectively are weak, ineffectual and inconsistent at prayer. The very thing we need the most we barely know how to do!

Here is where our faith must drive us. Let us be like Nathanael , and “come and see” what the fruits of prayer will be for our community, and ourselves.

We have many needs as a community. Our income is low (and increasing a little since our last journal, by the grace of God and your attention), we have a thousand obstacles to building our new temple, we do not yet have the “critical mass’ necessary for our community to have a continuing legacy for ourselves and or children’s children. We all have our own personal struggles, and we get tired.

I see only one solution to my personal struggles, and yours, and those of our community. It is prayer and the more effectual living of the spiritual life. I cannot figure out almost any of this on my own, and neither can you. We are all too weak apart from one-another, but together, we gather strength.

Do you believe this? I do, and that is why I have instituted Wednesday liturgies.

We cannot fathom the grace that God gives to those who beseech His mercy as one. At the Wednesday liturgies, I mention by name all those in the parish three times. Twice all names are mentioned aloud in the Fervent Ectenia right after the Gospel is read, and I read all names before the altar immediately after the Epiclesis.

I count it a great privilege to pray for all of you before the altar, and in my daily private prayers also. I believe with all my heart that at those moments when I pray for others, I am closest to God, and my soul is warmed and strengthened for the struggle. It is the same with all of you. Don’t you agree that when we pray for another person we are acting without the self-interest that so plagues us in our daily lives in almost every other act during the day? Our prayers for one another help those we pray for and ourselves in invisible, mystical ways.

I beg each one of you to increase your participation in our parish life in any way you can. Some ideas:

  • Select 1 Wednesday liturgy a month to attend faithfully, and pray with us.

  • Attend the Tuesday Vespers and catechetical talks.

  • Confess more often, and receive communion more often.

  • Come to the Saturday Vigil more often, or start coming if you are not in the habit.

  • Print off our parish diptychs, which I previously sent. Pray for portion of the names daily, simple saying “Lord have mercy on ____”

  • ESPECIALLY! Come to church on time. It is disruptive to have people filter in, even after the Gospel has been read. I will be perfectly honest with you – it discourages greatly me to see our church less than half full as Divine Liturgy begins, with the other half arriving sometime before the end of liturgy. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

Lent is soon approaching. Please see the schedule; there are lots of services. I will be sending some things about fasting and the Lenten services on the BLOG and mailing list soon.

PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND THE FORGIVENESS VESPERS. This service marks our entry into Great Lent. As a community, we must ask forgiveness of one another and stand in solidarity in prayer before the great fast begins. Forgiveness Sunday is Feb 25/Mar 09. After liturgy, we will enjoy blini, then gather for Vespers at 1 PM.

We will have a moleben and erect a cross on the Land on the Sunday of the Precious Cross (third Sunday in Great Lent). We will go to the land after Trapeza.

May God bless you and help you in all things.

Priest Seraphim, who prays for you and needs your prayers.

Name Days this month

We are not aware of any name days this month. If we have missed you, let us know!

Repentance

Already three weeks before Great Lent begins, a call to repentance sounds, both in the Sunday Gospel readings and in the texts of the Divine Services. We encounter the examples of Zacchaeus and the publican, men who came to recognize the utter baseness of their lives. We hear of the father who joyously forgives and receives the prodigal son, returned from a distant land to his father’s home. During these days, in the church we hear the prayer which begins with the words “Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life…” What are these doors? Why, in the sermon which begins with the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…” (Matthew 4:17), does Christ specifically choose to begin with a call to repentance?

The Greek word metanoia, rendered in Church Slavonic and Russian as pokayanie and in English as “repentance,” literally means “change of mind.” Its sense lies in the fact that our mind and our will move along a faithless, ruinous path toward a false goal, and that we should change their direction and move along the correct, saving path.

No less profound are the Russian words pokayanie or raskayanie. Like the word okayanstvo [being cursed], these concepts are linked to the name of the murderer Cain, of whom we read near the beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. Not only did he, like his parents Adam and Eve, disobey the will of God and violate His injunction, but he fell even farther, defiling both his conscience and the earth itself by shedding the blood of his brother Abel. Thus, repentance, pokayanie, means one’s personal rejection of the example of Cain, one’s removal of the mark of Cain from one’s heart.

Repentance begins with a clear recognition of the chasm which we, of our own will, have established between our conscience and the perfect radiant truth of God. Until we have come to that recognition, it is possible to utterly fail to recognize our sinfulness, and to be completely imprisoned by it. In this state, man’s soul is as if wrapped in a deep sleep, like unto death; if the soul does not awaken from this bondage, it becomes actual spiritual death. In his pagan blindness, and not wanting to recognize sin in himself, man hates even the very idea of sin and, when he hears the term, is filled with irritation. There is no escape, however, from the evil and untruth which lie within us. We can force ourselves to forget them for a time, but sooner or later our conscience reminds us of them, and the unhealed wound of the spirit leads to new, ever-heavier forms of spiritual illness.

Healing begins when within our darkened soul there begins to burn a light, a light through which man both simultaneously sees himself before the judgment of God’s truth and feels the mercy of God directed to all of us. God sees us through our conscience and bears witness to Himself through the voice of our conscience. The Apostle Paul states that this enormous gift, this capacity to hear the voice of the conscience, is given to each person, not only to the Christian, but also to the pagans. When man ceases to be complacent, that complacency is replaced with shame, embarrassment, and even fear at what has been revealed to him about himself. All experienced teachers of spiritual life talk about this first step as a dangerous one, the hour before the dawn. In it a person may encounter feelings of deep despair, loss of faith in man’s capacity to correct himself and become different from what he had been. Awareness of one’s own sin, without acting upon that awareness, is not yet repentance. In His call to repentance, Christ also indicates the goal to which we are called, and because of which we have been called to move forward, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In the Gospel according to Mark, we find this same call, expressed in different terms: “Repent and believe on the Gospel.”

Man can truly repent, change, and receive liberation from the burden of sin, if he hears the Word of God, and sees before him the image of incarnate truth and perfect love which was revealed to us in Christ. One cannot help but love that image. It proclaims to the soul of men that will to rebirth which is the true repentance, liberation from the mark of Cain. That is the emanation of the glorious energy of the soul for which no obstacle is insurmountable. Archpriest Victor Potapov. February, 2000.

Gleanings for the Fathers on Repentance

Someone asked Abba Poemen to explain what repentance means exactly? “Not to commit the same sin again in the future,” the Elder replied. Sayings of the Desert Fathers

It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again’ (Prov. 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. ‘For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient,’says St. Paul, ‘…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us’ (Tit. 3:3,5). St. Peter of Damaskos.

…it is impossible for a man to be freed from the habit of sin before he hates it, just as it is impossible to receive forgiveness before confessing his trespasses… Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 28, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 199)

Repentance signifies regret, change of mind. The distinguishing marks of repentance are contrition, tears, aversion towards sin, and love of the good. “Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina”, Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts., 1981., pp. 154-187

One must condescend to the soul in its infirmities and imperfections, and bear its defects as we bear those of others; one must not, however, become lazy, but should spur oneself to do better. Perhaps one has eaten too much, or done something similar to this which is natural to human weakness – do not be disturbed at this, and do not add injury to injury; but bestir yourself to correction and at the same time strive to preserve peace of soul, according to the word of the Apostle: ‘Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth’ (Rom. 14:22). St. Seraphim of Sarov, Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 1

Regular Announcements

  • Fr. Seraphim asks that 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. Keep an eye on the BLOG, because many of these readings are discussed there. In addition, you can find the readings each day at these web sites:

  • 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 $95,790. This is insufficient to pay for our land and building, but our goals are in reach if we put our trust in the Lord and give generously. 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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