Archive for April, 2008

5th Sunday of Great Lent – Saint Mary Of Egypt – Who Loves The Most

Monday, April 14th, 2008

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5th Sunday of Great Lent – Saint Mary Of Egypt

Who Loves The Most

2008

Luke 7:36-50And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.


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Fifth Sunday of Great Lent – St Mary of Egypt – "This kind"

Sunday, April 13th, 2008


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


This kind cannot come forth by anything but by prayer and fasting.1 So we read last week. What is this kind that cannot come forth? The demoniac boy was made by the demons to fall into fire and water, the fire being impurity – the lusts of the flesh, all manner of anger, meanness, murder and strife, envy, and all other such things. And the water means a distraction with worldly things – avarice, desire for things, distraction. Fire and water: this kind comes out not but by prayer and fasting.


But today we see indeed, that this kind will come out – if prayer and fasting and labor are applied. We see this because we have the example, the spectacle, before us of holy mother Mary of Egypt – a woman that knew whom Zosimas was from afar, who knew God’s will for Zosimas to fulfill one last wish of hers that she would have the Mysteries the following year; a woman who, when she prayed, stood in the air. We can’t even lift up ours eyes to heaven, and she was standing in the heavens when she prayed. She walked upon water as if on dry land. And she called herself a miserable sinner.


She struggled for many, many, many years. If you read her life, you will learn she spent 17 years in great, terrible struggles after she had repented. She was about 30. She had lived a life of total, complete debauchery and depravity. Her modesty precluded her from completely fulfilling the command of Zosimas and she couldn’t tell him everything that she did, but suffice it to say that she was a most wretched and sinful one. Everything that is possible to do to defile one’s self she did. But when she repented, she understood something that we would do well to understand. Labor.


Labor! This is the key to the Christian life. Laboring in Christ. And the church understands this. The church makes the connection between St. Mary and the sinful woman who was also a prostitute, a repentant prostitute of whom our Savior would later say, “The harlots and the tax-collectors are coming into heaven before you”2, when speaking to the Pharisee.


He is in the home of the Pharisee and a prostitute comes in, and she begins to anoint his feet with her tears, and with ointment. Why? Because of love. Because previously she had been forgiven. She knew this in her soul. It changed her. She lived with this reality. And she was thankful in the depths of her being. That’s what made her anoint His feet. Love. But this anointing, this coming to the house — is labor! Without labor you can’t be saved. Without demeaning yourself and remembering what God has done for you, you won’t be saved.


St Mary of Egypt realized what God had done, and what the Mother of God had done, by praying to her Son, and helping her. She spent 48 some years in the desert alone, coldness, nakedness, hunger, longing, desire, that could not be fulfilled. She said she would even go and bite the ground and lay on the ground until these feelings would go away from her. Oh, yes, she still had impure feelings, for many, many years. But she had great love, and labored because of this love. Like this woman who anointed our Lord’s feet.


This is the key to the Christian life. This is why the Church presents this woman, great among women, and St. Mary of Egypt, great among the saints, as examples for us. And we’ve been given everything they’ve been given. Read what our Savior says about “he who has little forgiven, loveth little, but he who has much forgiven loveth much”3. Then He refers to the sinful woman.


We can take this two ways. If you have very little forgiven, then you don’t have much to be thankful for. We have little forgiven if we do not repent and strive to learn the commandments, and live the Christian life. But when you realize what’s been done for you, then you realize that you have had much forgiven. For really everyone, everyone — has had much forgiven them. And so he should love much. He should turn to His Savior. But a man who doesn’t turn to our Savior is not a Christian whether he calls himself a Christian or not. I don’t care about all the “trappings” – I don’t care how many songs you know – I don’t care about any of that. It’s all part and parcel of the life of the church. It’s critical for our salvation – but the knowledge of things doesn’t save. Action based on knowledge – that’s what saves.


So when a man knows what Christ has done for him, he loves much. When a man doesn’t care, when he’s all filled up with pride, or filled up with the life that he’s living, or filled up with lust or avarice or whatever else, then how can he love? He has no room in his heart to love. He’s already chosen the object of his love. And he will have his reward, right here, such as it is4. And even the richest man is a pauper, compared to the lowest in the kingdom of heaven.


This woman and St. Mary sealed their repentance by action, by activity. We just read a couple nights ago the great canon5, and St. Andrew compares Leah and Rachel to activity and contemplation.6 He said without these two you cannot be saved. This woman who anointed our Lord’s feet, she contemplated what our lord had done for her; He had forgiven her. Perhaps she was the one who had been caught in adultery and was about to be stoned7. Perhaps she was just another nameless, faceless prostitute that saw Divinity and cleaved to it and changed. And when she contemplated what He had done her heart was filled, and this is what caused the activity, action, desire, longing to be with her Savior, to caress him, to kiss his feet, to be close to Him, to be in His presence.


Do we have this longing? If we don’t then we should fear greatly for our souls. The church presents us extravagance here, extravagant repentance, and without it we can’t be saved. Without it we cannot be saved. Not partial repentance. If you have something that ails you, then you must lament it, you must pound your breast about it. You must prostrate with tears over it. You must do whatever you have to do, labor in order to eradicate it, and in the process of doing that, at the same time, you must renew yourself with Who God is.


St. Mary of Egypt knew. This was a woman who could neither read nor write. This was a woman who, the only time she had darkened the door of the church was at her baptism, save two other times, the day she saw the holy cross, and received the holy mysteries at the monastery of the Forerunner before she went into the desert. And in the end of her days, she knew the entire scripture by heart, and she lived the entire scripture by heart. The church speaks of her as an angel. She had so transcended the flesh that she previously had lived with in such a base way. None of us probably can claim to have been as sinful as she was. That’s the truth. But none of us can claim to have one tiny grain or repentance compared to her.


The Christian life is simple. If you know that which you’ve been forgiven of, you should love much, but the only way to know is to open your eyes and to pray with your heart. God will fill you. He will show you. You will be overwhelmed by it. You won’t want anything but … Christ. The key to the Christian life. Contemplating what God has done for you, and acting upon it.


These women are the examples we have before us today. But what does the world tell us? It tells us all manner of garbage. Probably all of us have had this secular saying said to us, when one or the other of our parents or an uncle or aunt, said, “I don’t care what the other kids do. You don’t do it that way.” The world tells you so many things, and the church says, “I don’t care what the world tells you. God your Savior tells you to do something else.” In fact, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said this to His apostles, didn’t he, when they had been jousting about who would be greatest?8 They had forgotten Who He was. He tells them a very important saying: “He who will be greatest must be the servant.” But before then what did He say? He described the way the world is, how the greatest, the chiefest among people are the ones who grind people in the mud, and lord things over people, and the boastful pride of life in the extravagance of power and authority. And then He said that it “shall not be so among you.”9 Instead, the church gives us the example of the sinful woman, formerly sinful woman – two formally sinful women, the unnamed woman who is great among the saints, and Mary, who is great among the saints. Don’t listen to the world. Listen to what the church says. Be renewed.




1 Mark 9:29

2 Mat 21:31 – “Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

3 Cf. Luke 7:77

4 See Matthew 5:46 and onwards.

5 The complete Great Canon, and the Life of St Mary of Egypt, is always read in the matins service for 5th Thursday of Great Lent. This service is usually served Wednesday evening.

6 St Andrew makes a reference to Gen 29:16-30,31-40: “Because of his crying need the Patriarch endured the scorching heat of the day, and he bore the frost of the night, daily making gains, shepherding, struggling, slaving, in order to win two wives By the two wives understand action and direct knowledge in contemplation: Leah as action, for she had many children, and Rachel as knowledge, which is obtained by much labor. For without labors, my soul, neither action nor contemplation will achieve success. Clean Monday or the 5th Thursday of Great Lent: The Great Canon, Ode 4 Troparia 7,8

7 John 8:4-11

8 Mark 9:33 and onwards

9 (Mat 20:25-27) But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. {26} But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; {27} And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

The Gospel for St Mary of Egypt

Luke 7:36-50


And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. {49} And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? {50} And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.




I Believe in One God

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

In a recent blog entry at Glory to God for All Things, Father Stephen Freeman writes powerfully that “first off, everyday, before I have done anything else, I must believe in God. It is not something to be taken for granted, but something to be exercised.” We have recently been reading in Genesis about the Patriarch Abraham, whose greatest virtue was faith and trust in God. As St. Paul says in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Father Stephen explains a simple fact that is also quite apparent from the life of Abraham: this faith is not simply a verbal statement or an intellectual assent; rather, it is a faith that is so deeply a part of our being that it informs our every thought and action. As St. James points out in his epistle, Abraham’s faith was manifested not in his words, but in his actions. At God’s command, he left his homeland for a land of strangers. At God’s command, he was prepared to sacrifice his own son, in whom he had been promised as many descendants as the stars in the sky. This faith, Fr. Stephen points out, is both a gift of God which we cannot attain for ourselves and an ascetic effort which we must carefully retain and cultivate.

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent 2008 – Realistic Hope

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

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Homily Given The Fourth Sunday Of Great Lent, 2008, At St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Dallas/McKinney Texas.

Mark 9:17-31And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. 19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. 20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. 21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. 22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. 28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. 30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.



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"My Hope is the Father", BY SOPHIE!

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Sophie and Emmy are 2/12 year old twin girls, and among my five granddaughters. They are VERY POSSESIVE about “their” prayer which they say each night in evening prayers.

“Sophie’s prayer” is: “My Hope is the father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit; O Lord glory be to Thee.”

The Link below is a short clip of her saying the prayer for us just before we began a catechetical talk at church. She really does know it by heart, although some of the words may seem to be in code!

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Prayers of the Church:Prayer of St Ephrem – catechetical talk

Friday, April 4th, 2008

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O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, idle talking give me not.

But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow up me Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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Once when He descended and confounded the tongues…

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Today we read in Genesis the story of the tower of Babel. In this story, we learn how the human race was scattered over the face of the earth because, in our pride, we wished to build a tall tower reaching unto heaven. Thus, the confusion of our language was a great mercy of God, as it kept us from banding together for evil, so that, scattered abroad, we could learn humility and return to God.

On Wednesday, Father Seraphim mentioned how a Christian cannot think of the expulsion from paradise without thinking of the remedy – the holy Cross. Likewise, we should not think of the confusion of tongues without thinking of the remedy – the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. While the division caused by the confusion of tongues was for our benefit, it was not in line with God’s plan for us. Made in His image, we are made to be united to Him and to one another, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one within the Godhead.

And thus, the Holy Spirit comes down on the day of Pentecost to unite us to Christ and to one another in the Church. Moreover, we each received this very same gift on the day of our baptism, being united to Christ’s Body in the Church, and we renew this union each time we partake of the Holy Mysteries.

Father Tom Soroka, speaking of this in his daily scriptural commentary (http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/thepath), quotes in particular the following hymn from the Pentecost service: “Of old the tongues were confounded / because of the audacity in the building of the tower, / but now the tongues are made wise / because of the glory of Divine knowledge. / There God condemned the impious because of their offense, / and here Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. / At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, / but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated // for the salvation of our souls” (Aposticha for Pentecost).

Let us give thanks to God for His great mercies! And let us strive to come together, through prayer and repentance uniting ourselves to the Holy Church, and thereby to each other, that we may see fulfilled Christ’s last with for us: “that they may be one, as we [the Holy Trinity] are” (John 17).

Great Lent, the Fourth Week, Tuesday – Three kinds of wood – Matins Canon, Ode 8

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Let us sing the praises of the Cross, made from three kinds of wood as a figure of the Trinity; and, venerating it with fear, let us raise our cry, as we bless, praise and exalt Christ above forever.

Great Lent, the Fourth Week, Tuesday Matins Canon Ode 8



If a Christian looks carefully, the entire world shows echoes of the Great Artificer who made it, the Holy Trinity. And this is right, since the lover is always thinking of His beloved, and everything around him invokes a remembrance of Him.


The Holy Scripture is especially suffused with direct and indirect, forcefully blunt and poetically elegant, allusions to the Holy Trinity.


Today’s’ matins canon references such an elegant allusion to the Holy Trinity. The sixtieth chapter is Isaiah is a joyful prophesy of the effects of the incarnation of the Son of God. Within this wonderful prophesy, Jerusalem is promised:


And the glory of Libanus shall come to thee, with the cypress, and pine, and cedar together, to glorify my holy place.”

(Isaiah 60:13 Sept.)



Libanus” is Lebanon, a place renowned for its beautiful trees. This prophesy described a future historical event; the “glory of Lebanon” (its magnificent trees) would be used to beautiful the temple of Jerusalem, called here “my holy place”.


For a Christian, reading the OT with the light of the new, this means so much more. The three trees are an allusion to the Trinity and to the Cross, and the “holy place” is none other than the “footstool” of the cross:


Exalt ye the Lord our God: and worship at the footstool of His feet, for He is Holy. (Psalm 98:5)




Here is a portion of the Sixtieth chapter of Isaiah. The prose is deliciously complex. Some things are prophesies for the Jews, and some for All Christians. Some allusions are direct, and others require a “dramatic rendering”. Christian, this is your future!



Isaiah 60:1 Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. [60:2] Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and [there shall be] gross darkness on the nations: but the Lords shall appear upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. [60:3] And kings shall walk in thy light, and nations in thy brightness. [60:4] Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold thy children gathered: all thy sons have come from far, and thy daughters shall be borne on [men’s] shoulders. [60:5] Then shalt thou see, and fear, and be amazed in thine heart; for the wealth of the sea shall come round to thee, and of nations and peoples; and herds of camels shall come to thee, [60:6] and the camels of Madiam and Gaepha shall cover thee: all from Saba shall come bearing gold, and shall bring frankincense, and they shall publish the salvation of the Lord. [60:7] And all the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered, and the rams of Nabaeoth shall come; and acceptable sacrifices shall be offered on my altar, and my house of prayer shall be glorified. [60:8] Who are these [that] fly as clouds, and as doves with young ones to me? [60:9] The isles have waited for me, and the ships of Tharsis among the first, to bring thy children from afar, and their silver and their gold with them, and [that] for the sake of the holy name of the Lord, and because the Holy One of Israel is glorified. [60:10] And strangers shall build thy walls, and their kings shall wait upon thee: for by reason of my wrath I smote thee, and by reason of mercy I loved thee. [60:11] And thy gates shall be opened continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; to bring in to thee the power of the Gentiles, and their kings as captives. [60:12] For the nations and the kings which will not serve thee shall perish; and those nations shall be made utterly desolate. [60:13] And the glory of Libanus shall come to thee, with the cypress, and pine, and cedar together, to glorify my holy place. [60:14] And the sons of them that afflicted thee, and of them that provoked thee, shall come to thee in fear; and thou shalt be called Sion, the city of the Holy One of Israel. [60:15] Because thou has become desolate and hated, and there was no helper, therefore I will make thee a perpetual gladness, a joy of many generations. [60:16] And thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt eat the wealth of kings: and shalt know that I am the Lord that saves thee and delivers thee, the Holy One of Israel. (Sept, Brenton)


Prayers of the Church:Typology of the Cross in prayer – catechetical talk

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

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A Discussion of the rich typology about the cross in Scripture, using prayers from the services for the Cross as examples.


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Prayers of the Church:Before Thy Cross – catechetical talk

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

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Before Thy cross, we bow down and worship, and Thy holy resurrection, we glorify.



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