Archive for March, 2008

1st Sunday of Great Lent – Triumph Of Orthodoxy -Can Anything Good Come Out Of Nazareth – Hebrews 11:24-26,32-12:2, John 1:43-51

Monday, March 17th, 2008

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John 1:43-51 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.


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Great Lent, the 2nd week, Monday – Why are things hard? – Proverbs 3:34 – 4:26

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

The Lord resists the proud; but he gives grace to the humble.

Monday in the Second Week – At Vespers, Prov 3:34 – 4:26

With grace, everything is easy. The man fully in the Spirit, fully in the grace of God, does not consider the yoke of righteousness to be burdensome, but easily, and freely, chooses the way of life. One can be sure that if it seems hard to do the “right thing”, that is, there is a war within ourselves regarding our choice, it is because of our pride.


If we hear a harsh word and want to return it in kind, but resist, we have gained a crown, but our task was difficult because of our pride. If we pray when we do not feel like praying, and perhaps, as we struggle along, the prayer becomes lighter and easier, we can be sure that we are being visited by God’s grace, but we must remember that it was difficult in the beginning because of our pride.


Everything that is hard in the way of life, ie., the following of the commandments, is hard because of our pride.


We must go through life with sadness, and grief. Our Lord lived this way, it is the way of the cross, and we must follow Him. Our Lord felt the difficulties of life, since He is fully human, and many things are hard for the human race. He never, however, felt a war within himself as to which way to choose. He had the grace of God fully within Him, because He fully humbled Himself.


The only resistance a humble man experiences is from without. From within, he is given grace so that his choosing is free and easy for him. This is the spiritual meaning of our Lord’s promise, given only to the humble: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)


There is a story from the desert fathers, where two monks were walking down a road. They met a woman of ill repute walking towards them. The younger monk covered his face in his cowl, while his spiritual father smiled, and greeted the woman as she passed. The younger monk was troubled about this, and the elder, knowing this asked him: “What is troubling you my son?” The younger monk answered: “Father, surely you know what sort of woman just passed by”. The pure elder answered: “My son, I cannot tell you whether is was a man or woman who just passed by.”


This story shows us the beginning and the end of godly struggle. The younger monk was correct to cover his face, so as not to invite the demon of lust to entice him, since this demon is so active with our sight. In time, with great effort, the younger would reach the stature of the elder, who was able without effort, freely, to encounter the woman, and have no pangs of lust trouble his soul. The Lord resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

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The Sunday Of Orthodoxy, Come and see! – John 1:43-51

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. (John 1:46)

In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today, brothers and sisters, is the first Sunday of the Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Church wants to tell us some things. Indeed we should come to Church always with the expectation that God will teach us something, whether it be something we learn with our mind and consciously understand, or something that penetrates the soul, and helps us in an unseen way.

A most important statement for a Christian to understand, even after He has lived the Christian life for some quite some time in this particular gospel reading is, “Come and see”. This is what the Church is telling us.

Is not Great Lent always a period of time when, with all the fasting and the longer services and the time of the year being more intense, there more temptations? Don’t we sometimes have doubts? Don’t we have difficulty? I don’t know a person who does not have them, and as a priest I can say this with sincerity, because I know so many of you so well … we all have doubts, we all have difficulties, we all have temptations.

The Lord says “Come and See”. The Church says “Come and see”. What is She telling us to come and see?

The question which preceded this instruction (and more than this – also a promise, a pledge, a rallying cry) by Nathaniel to Philip was, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

Now this can be understood in a historical sense in that Nazareth was city of no account and unimportant; a backwater. Could anything good come out of Nazareth?

But the spiritual meaning of the text, is that Nathaniel asks, “Can anything good come out of my Nazareth? Out of my Heart? Can I be changed? Can I be made whole?” This is the question that He asks for us, because we ask it of ourselves.

Now I am talking only to Christians here, to those who have at least begun to believe, begun to lead the Christian life, or desire to follow the Christian life. Those who do not desire to follow it, to whom the Christian morality, the Christian Commandments, the Incarnation of Christ are unimportant things — I am not speaking to those people. Such a person must be converted first, have something of a small spark of repentance in their heart. I am speaking to the Christian, the one who desires to know Christ, and has difficulties in life and doubts because of those difficulties.

Now a perfect time to speak of it because it is after the first week of Lent, which is often, in my experience as a pastor, very difficult for people, and a time when many temptations occur. The devil knows that if we do not make a good beginning, we will not make a good end. This is true in anything we do. We must struggle to make a strong start so that when we lag at the end so that as St. John Chrysostom says, “you will have momentum built up to carry you through those difficult times.”

The Church is saying come and see. Come and see. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can I be changed? Can I really stop doing these things that I despise about myself? Can I really believe fully, in every way with every ounce of my being? Can I really become purified?

Yes indeed, you can. And why can we, and how can we? The Church tells us this, too. By faith we can have good come out of Nazareth.

Now this faith is explained to us. Examples have been given to us, very strident examples. Examples that make us feel enflamed with enthusiasm. We heard of the Saints of old (and this was even before the Promise, which we Christians enjoy!) stopping the mouth of lions, being sawn asunder, and wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute and afflicted. These were great heroes the Apostle Paul talks about, who conquered by faith.

The world did not think that they conquered. It thought they were defeated. But we understand what victory is. Victory is in the heart. Victory is when a man overcomes his own self with the help of God and becomes purified and becomes fire. But also, besides those examples of ways of living and thinking, when St Paul speaks to us when He writes to the Hebrews, the Lord also is showing us something about faith in His Gospel that we must not forget.

There is nothing accidental in this story of Nathaniel meeting Christ. First He was under the fig tree; Phillip comes to him and says to him that we have found the Messiah. Nathaniel says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” How can this be?

Remember the spiritual meaning … can anything good come out of me? Can I really be changed? Can I really appropriate Christ? I have so many weaknesses, every day I fall. I cannot seem to defeat this enemy. I seem to have circumstances that consistently cause me to fall. I continue to have difficulties, to have doubts, to be frightened. All these things are my Nazareth.

So Nathaniel comes with Phillip because Phillip says, “Come and see”. Then He meets the Lord. And the Lord says: “Whence thou knowest me?” Nathaniel says to the Lord. “Verily when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee.”

There is deep meaning here in these words, brothers and sisters. The Lord knows us. He understands us. He knows our deepest inner desires, He knows our motivations, and He knows our weaknesses. He knows how to help us. He knows our desires before we know them.

This is quite important for a Christian to remember. Moment by moment, truly we feel so often that we are alone. I only discovered after I was an adult that every teenager had the same doubts about themselves as I had. That I wasn’t good looking enough, my hair looked weird, being nervous with girls, all those things that every teenager goes through. The reason I mention this is because as priest I know that all of us go through doubts, go through uneasiness in our faith, even if our uncertainty is only about ourselves. The hours and the evening prayer of St. John speak about it … deliver me from faintheartedness.

We have great faintheartedness. All of us suffer from this malady, this affliction of not being able to believe fully in the Resurrection. And we somehow believe that we are alone in our struggle. I previously thought this until I became a priest and saw that I am not alone. We tend to believe that our weaknesses are not applicable to the promise in some way. We say: yes if we had enough faith, yes if we did better in this or that, we believe that God can change us … But we don’t believe that we will be changed, because we feel alone.

I am convinced of this and that is why I speak on this kind of subject so often. I am convinced that our lack of faith is what holds us back from truly appropriating the love that God wants to shower upon us, wants us to feel – and actually He has already greatly blessed us – He wants us to feel it. He wants us to feel the warmth, to feel the embrace, but we are not capable until we are able to believe fully.

Now of course, if we are to believe, we must act. The Christian life is acting according to the Commandments as well as believing them and we must take them all seriously and lament if we do not follow them in their exactitude. We must also believe not such that we have to think it but so that it is part of our being.

We must believe that Jesus Christ knows all of our circumstances, all of our

struggles, all of our deepest desires, even those we can not express or are afraid to say out loud. He knows them all because He saw Nathaniel under the fig tree and He sees all of us. He sees our Nazareth. He knows how to defeat it. He knows that good will come out of it because He has placed his image in us and He desires to burnish that image, to polish it, to remove all the dross and mud from it so that it gleams and shines. And He will do this if only we allow Him to, if only we believe that He can do it.

Not for someone else, such as, for instance, the Saints or even those Christians we know and admire, but for ourselves we must believe this. Certainly we believe in the Resurrection, we believe in miracles, we believe that all these things that the Saints have done are true and holy and righteous, but we can’t see ourselves doing them.

If it’s for humility sake that we say that we are not worthy of such things, that is good. None are worthy, but all can be made capable. I am convinced that it is not humility that makes us believe that we cannot do righteous things; that we cannot change. It is weakness of faith.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord says to us today, “Come and see.”

This is why you should struggle through the Great Lent, even if you are wondering, “Why am I fasting?” The purpose of fasting is to open the heart to God so that God will enlighten us and help us with things. Perhaps your thoughts also say “I am in a worse mood now than I was before! I am snapping more at my children, or at my wife, or at my coworkers. I am having more difficulty with thoughts than I had before. Or I still have trouble with this sin or that sin. What use is it to deprive myself of eating? What use is it to struggle till the end? I’ll just be tired on Pascha and I won’t feel the Lord. Not as much as I want to.”

These are our doubts. Some of you express openly doubts about yourself. Others of you have not been able to express it openly, but I am convinced that we all have these kinds of doubts to a greater or lesser degree. That is why the Church is telling us today, as we have embarked now upon the first week of the Great Fast, “Come and see.”

Come and see that good things can come out of Nazareth. We can be completely changed. Everything that applies to the Saints applies to us, absolutely and positively. Jesus Christ came for us, for every man, He wants everyone to have fullness, completeness, regardless of how weak we are, regardless of what happens to us, He wants us to be completely changed. And we can be.

Indeed, as Christians, we must believe this, if we are to truly call ourselves Christians, we must truly believe that we can be changed.

Now the only way to be changed is through great effort. It takes great effort, make no mistake about it. The way to perdition is very wide, and very easy, and it is downhill. And the way to paradise is truly a narrow road and a difficult road. But it is not difficult because of our Lord; His burden is easy and His yoke is light. It’s difficult because of our own faithlessness and our weakness and because of our own predilection toward sin that beguiles us. And we play mind games with ourselves and find ourselves in snare after snare after snare.

Truly you must struggle if you are to be a Christian. Great Lent is a struggle; other fasting periods are a struggle. They are only an example of the Christian life. They are not in totality the struggle of the Christian life. If fasting is your greatest struggle, then indeed you have not struggled enough. Fasting should be an aide to you in the real struggle that God wants you to have. Perhaps for some that is a frightening thought, because fasting is so difficult. Even attending church services may be difficult. But indeed God wants to bring you beyond this struggle of fasting and services and prayer, and fill you with himself completely.

He wants to make you all fire.

And it will indeed happen, regardless of what kind of man or woman you are, if you have faith that you can be changed. And if you must struggle with that faith, and not give up even though you fall, and continue to struggle to live righteously, even if, for the moment, you are not righteous.

In our age what has happened is that sins have been re-codified, they have been renamed, reassigned. Things we understand to be sin, the world calls virtue, and these are. Many things, not just sexual sins that are obviously happening in the world today and being called virtuous, but all manner of other things. Why does the world, and even us, since the Psalmist has us beseeching the Lord each Vespers that we not “make excuse with excuses in sins”, speak about sin so?

Because people struggle against these sins and they can’t make it, they can’t hack it. Instead of accepting this reality that they are weak and they need a Savior and they can be changed if only they believe the words “Come and see“, and acknowledging (and more than this: embracing!) the struggle that comes with it, the sweat and the tears and the blood that comes with it, they redefine what a sin is.

We see these examples in secular life, but also we have these examples in our own life when we excuse ourselves from our sins. For the Christian excuses himself mostly because he cannot bear that he calls himself a Christian, but does not act as one. I say, Christian, admit boldly to the Lord, that I am a Christian but I don’t act as one. Or I desire to act as one. Be willing to say it, be willing to say it out loud. Be willing to admit that you fall short continually but have great hope that He can, and not just can but will, change you if you live by faith.

Look at the examples of many of the saints. They had many falls in their lives. And yet, they are righteous. How can this be? Because they were willing to come and see. They were willing to take the trip.

Now Nathaniel only walked a few paces to see Jesus. But this trip is indicative of our life.

The Lord says I will show you greater things than these. Not just that I know you are under a fig tree; not just that I know all your thoughts. I knew you yet while you were in the womb. Not just those things; Greater things than these will I show you. I will show you that you can be completely changed, completely made whole. Have no fear, have no sadness, have no doubts, have no sins, have no shame. Have no pain. I will show you greater things than just that I know you. I will show you that I will change you, this is what the Lord says to Nathaniel. And this is what the Lord is saying to us.

We appropriate this change by believing the words of the Lord. By understanding their meaning. He knows us and He will change us. Good will come out of Nazareth, come out of the heart because of our faith. Brothers and sisters — beg the Lord for faith, beg Him for faith, because this is the key. Faith is just not belief. Faith envelops the whole man and makes him fire, and makes him able to change. This is what faith is. Faith permeates our life. We must appropriate the Lord’s promise with all the struggles and difficulties that the Christian life entails. Because of the promise the Church asks us:

“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)

He has begun our journey with our baptism. He was with us then, He’s with us now, and He will finish the course for us. You must have faith that He who began a good work in you will complete it in Christ Jesus. Certainly a good thing will come out of Nazareth.

May God grant you faith. Amen.

This particular text may be found at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-01_2002+triumph-orthodoxy-come-and-see.html

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Great Lent, the first week, Clean Friday – The Spoil of the Poor – Is 3:1-14

Friday, March 14th, 2008

14. The Lord himself shall enter into judgment with the elders of the people, and with their rulers: but why have ye set my vineyard on fire, and why is the spoil of the poor in your houses?
Friday in the First Week – At the Sixth Hour – Is 3:1-14

Why is the spoil of the poor in your houses?
The Lord asks a question of the Jews through the prophet. Does this question apply to us?

The answer is quite simply, “Of course!” All that is written in the scripture applies to us – we are to answer the questions, test ourselves in relation to the examples, and take to heart all the admonitions.

It is too easy for us poor conceited ones to pass over such a stinging admonition as the prophet gives to the Jews of his time, with nary a shudder, nary a compunctionate thought. So much of what the prophet says is so extreme, and we confidently feel that his rebukes are about someone else.

May it be so that the prophet’s rebukes do not apply to us! In order to be certain that we are exempt from his rebuke, we must read the scripture spiritually. We are not people of the prophet’s time, and much of the historical context does not apply to us, but “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16)

If we do not give alms, the spoil of the poor is in our houses!

If we spend more on our own comfort than that of others, the spoil of the poor is in our houses!

The poor are not only those lacking the means for the physical life, but also those who are ignorant, or lost, or staggering under any burden. If we have any strength, and do not reach out in compassion, the the spoil of the poor is in our houses!
If we are well, and do not visit the sick, then the spoil of the poor is in our houses!

If we have been blessed, and do not bless, then the spoil of the poor is in our houses!
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The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

This week’s readings from the first two chapters of the book of Isaiah marvelously describe both the realities of our fallen condition and God’s mercies. The prophet seems to alternate between speaking of Israel’s (and our) unfaithfulness to God, and God’s promise of salvation. This verse, “the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,” illustrates an essential condition of that salvation: we must not seek our own glory, but God’s. In everything we do, we should proclaim and sing the glory of God. This is the essence of our church services – unceasing reflection on God, continual praise of Him, of His love and of His plan for our salvation. St. Paul enjoins us to come together with “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.” This should be our attitude toward the divine services. Through the voice of the readers and singers, we can together send up praise and thanksgiving to God, to whom be glory, now and forever.

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Great Lent, the first week, Clean Thursday – In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her – Prov 3:5-6

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Trust in God with all thine heart; and be not exalted in thine own wisdom. 6. In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her, that she may rightly direct thy paths.”

Prov 3:5-6, Thursday in the First Week At Vespers, Proverbs Prov 3:1-18

Man’s wisdom is nothing; it is foolishness before God. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, that is, of fulfilling the injunction: “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with (wisdom).”

The Lord Jesus Christ is here called “wisdom”, it is one of His many titles. This is why we are told: “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her.” Wisdom is not an attribute, but a person; one becomes acquainted with a person.

It is not coincidental that we are told in one breath to “trust in God with all thine heart”, and then with the next, to “be not exalted in thine own wisdom”. Man’s wisdom does not trust the Lord with all its heart, it is “wise in its own conceit”. To trust someone is not just intellectually believing they are reliable; it is also willful submission to the person as a reliable guide and a strong protector. The flesh wants to go its own way; the proverb calls this “being exalted in (its) own wisdom.”

The way of life is not only belief; it is the forcing of oneself to trust in God. The adversary of trust in God is ourselves. We lie to ourselves if we say we trust God while also trusting ourselves.

How are we to trust in the Lord? It is from His revelation to us. No wisdom can come from ourselves, but knowledge grows in us as we cultivate a relationship with wisdom. This is the only way. Trusting God takes effort and involves everything in our life! “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her, that she may rightly direct thy paths. ”

———-

1Co 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

1Co 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Psa 25:14 The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Pro 18:11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.

Pro 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Pro 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Pro 26:16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Pro 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

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Great Lent, the first week, Clean Wednesday – Thou knowest our frame

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
Thou knowest our frame, thou knowest our weakness, O Lover of mankind; we have sinned, but have not turned away from Thee, O God, nor have we stretched out our hands to a strange god. Spare us in Thy goodness, O Compassionate One.
Wednesday in the First Week, Sixth Hour: Troparion of the Prophecy, 4th Tone


In the course of life, a Christian may feel joy and sadness, grief and exultation, compunction and fervent desire, but he should never feel alone. How can we be alone, when the Lord has already walked the difficult path of human life and fulfilled all righteousness for us?

“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (17) Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (18) For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Heb 2:16-18 KJVA)
A fundamental aspect of human nature is that is is difficult to do something onerous alone, but easier when one feels the support of his brethren, whether materially, or by a word of encouragement and advice. The Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, provides us both. Whatever our flesh is going through, He has already successfully negotiated. Even human feelings He has already felt, and yet even in the midst of these difficult emotions, He did not sin.

Christian! You are not alone!For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16 KJVA )

Do we ever feel alone? Let us call this feeling what it really is, and be couragious and and honest with ourselves. This is because of lack of faith. “Lord increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
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The Great Canon – a short explanation

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
The Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete is the longest canon in all of our services, and is associated with Great Lent, since the only times it is appointed to be read in church are the first four nights of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, at Great Compline, when it is serialized) and at matins for Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent, when it is read in its entirety.
There is no other sacred hymn which compares with this monumental work, which St Andrew, Bishop of Crete, wrote for his personal meditations. Nothing else has its extensive typology and mystical explanations of the scripture, from both the Old and New Testaments. . One can almost consider this hymn to be a “survey of the Old and New Testament”. It’s other distinguishing features are a spirit of mournful humility, hope in God, and complex and beautiful Trinitarian Doxologies and hymns to the Theotokos in each Ode.
The canon is a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one’s life. St Andrew always mentions his own sinfulness placed in juxtaposition to God’s mercy, and uses literally hundreds of references to good and bad examples from the OT and NT to “convince himself” to repent.
The entire great canon services and the life of St Mary of Egypt, which is read when the entire canon is read, are available at our Great Lent resources page: http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent.
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Great Lent, the first week, Clean Tuesday – Strangers

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
For we are strangers on the earth, as were all our fathers; keep our short life without sin, O our Savior, and have mercy on us, as the lover of mankind.

The Troparion of the Prophecy, 1st Tone, Clean Tuesday, At the Sixth Hour.


For we are strangers on the earth. This world is not our home. Sion is our home. We are strangers, pilgrims on this earth, just as Moses was a “stranger in a strange land” We must not act too familiar with the things of the world, because they are not of God.
How pathetic we are! We can spend hours in trivial and even wicked pursuits and we can barely spend 5 minutes in prayer! Truly the psalmists was correct: “All men are liars”, because although my lips say that “I am a stranger on this earth”, the way I live shows I consider this to be my home. O Lord, help us to be like Moses, and pass through this life, the strange land, as strangers to it, and find Sion.
Keep our short life without sin. Our life is short. It is good to remember this every day. We will not live in this strange land forever. In this short time, we are to become ready for the promised land – but will we waste our time and actually be strangers there?
O our Savior, and have mercy on us, as the lover of mankind. This “mercy” we ask for is not only the forgiveness of sins. That is not enough! If we do not change our disposition and become strangers to sin, we will always remain strangers to God. The mercy we seek is to change our way of thinking, our priorities, our very inner being so that we would not be inclined towards sin.


The Entire Lenten lectionary, in two file formats, is online at http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

Exo 2:22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Psa 116:11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.

Comments are welcomed. Please use the link below.

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The Great Canon, Monday of Clean Week: All the demon chiefs of the passions

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

All the demon chiefs of the passions have plowed on my back, and long has their tyranny over me lasted
(Great Canon, Ode 2, Troparion 12, Clean Monday)



We read this troparion tonight, in the first of four nights of serving the Great Canon service. Unfortunately, in our church, few heard it.

This is one of many poetic and powerfully brutal representations of sin which St Andrew uses, and it has always particularly moved me.
I suppose it is because we are not able to easily protect our back, and it is on our “blind side”. How many sins do I commit and not see them? How easily the demons punch through my weak defenses – often without me even knowing they are there!
I also always think of the “good ground” from the parable of the Sower when I hear this troparion. We should be “good ground” and yet we grow so many tares from our passions in this ground, which is our soul. St. Andrew likens his soul here to “ground” on his back, over which the demons sow their tyranny over us.
Can you feel how tired he is here? We should be this tired! “LONG HAS THEIR TYRANNY OVER ME LASTED”. This is the plaintive cry of a man who has had enough. He, like the Apostle Paul, is saying “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12, read on the Sunday of Forgiveness, 1 day before this troparion, from the Great Canon of St Andrew, is sung on Clean Monday)

Oh! if only our soul felt the full weight of our sins, and was truly tired and disgusted with our condition! We would change immediately, I am sure, if only we could join our weak voice to St Andrew’s with complete sincerity and resolve.
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