Archive for August, 2008

Thoughts on Tuesday’s Scripture Readings

Monday, August 25th, 2008

 

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14-17).

The Apostle considers his preaching successful, by God’s grace, because He has made the Gospel known everywhere, even though some heard this Gospel to their own condemnation because they did not wish to receive it and live by it. "To the one we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life." But "who is sufficient for these things?" In other words this is not of us but of God (St. John Chrysostom). "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). The preaching of the Gospel is the proclamation of light and truth. Some people accept the light with joy, while others reject it, preferring to abide in darkness "because their works are evil." Our Lord also explains this at length in his early parables (Matthew Ch. 13). We should, then, struggle to obey the commands of the gospel, that we may receive the light unto salvation. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

St. John Chrysostom:

"Whether, saith he, one be saved or be lost, the Gospel continues to have its proper virtue: and as the light, although it blindeth the weakly, is still light, though causing blindness; and as honey, though it be bitter to those who are diseased, is in its nature sweet; so also is the Gospel of sweet savor, even though some should be lost who believe it not. For not It, but their own perverseness, worketh the perdition."

"For this sweet savor some so receive that they are saved, others so that they perish. So that should any one be lost, the fault is from himself: for both ointment is said to suffocate swine, and light (as I before observed,) to blind the weak. And such is the nature of good things; they not only correct what is akin to them, but also destroy the opposite: and in this way is their power most displayed. For so both fire, not only when it giveth light and when it purifieth gold, but even when it consumeth thorns, doth very greatly display its proper power, and so show itself to be fire: and Christ too herein also doth discover His own majesty when He "shall consume" Antichrist "with the breath of His mouth, and bring him to nought with the manifestation of His coming." (2 Thess. ii. 8.)" (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.v.v.html)

 

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10th Sun after Pentecost – The “Golden Chain” connecting faith and prayer and fasting.

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

This homily may be read, listened to or viewed.

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SYNOPSIS: The story of the healing of the demoniac boy illustrates two kinds of belief (faith) and two kinds of unbelief. If we want to have true and saving belief we must recognize the relationship between faith and prayer and fasting (and also understand that "fasting" involves much more than just abstaining from certain kinds of food).

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10th Sunday of Pentecost

The Healing of the Demoniac Boy

The "Golden Chain" connecting faith and prayer and fasting.

 

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.[1] Today, Brothers and Sisters, we see a golden chain linking: belief and action, faith and fasting, what we say we believe and what we do. We see two kinds of unbelief today, and two kinds of belief.

 

The man who had a lunatic son was rebuked by the Lord because of his unbelief:

 

"O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Matthew 17:17)

 

He was referring to the man, and also the people around him; they all had the first kind of unbelief. This kind of unbelief is when we do not do good.

 

There was some reason why this boy was possessed by a demon. Demons do not dwell in clean places; Demons live in dirty places. Unbelief is dirty; unbelief is sin. It could be because of the boy’s sins or the man’s sins. The Lord showed that in this case it was because of the man’s sins because He rebuked the man.

 

The Lord heals the boy and the Apostles wonder why they could not cast out the demon. What does the Lord say?

 

“Because of your unbelief.”

 

This is a different kind of unbelief. It is a lack of internal knowledge and certainty. This knowledge and certainty only comes about by living the Christian life.

 

Let’s look at the Apostles. Look at how they were in the beginning: arguments amongst themselves, fears, questions that seem a little silly in retrospect. Look at them after the resurrection and after Pentecost. They became fearless, wise, and humble. They had changed.

 

How? By the Lord helping them gain internal belief inside their hearts. This is something that cannot be taken away from us; it is living within us, but if one does not have that kind of belief, then there are things that you cannot do – such as cast out demons.

 

These are the two kinds of unbelief. There is the unbelief of sin and not doing the commandments, and also the unbelief that is present in all of us until we have lived the Christian life a goodly amount of time.

 

When I say “live the Christian life”, I do not mean just being a Christian for fifty years. I mean living according to the commandments, with your eyes always set towards Jerusalem. Then you start to have inside you that inner conviction that no one can take away from you. And with this belief, mountains can be moved (so the Lord says).

 

I have told you before that this mountain signifies our sins; they are large and heavy and they tend to stay where they are, don’t they? But if we have faith, we can say to the mountain of our sins “move” and it will move – we will change.

 

It takes a great amount of faith to do this. So what does the Lord do? He immediately links faith with prayer and fasting.

 

He tells us that:

 

“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:20-21)

 

He was referring not only to the demon in the boys, but also any of the things that make up our mountain. They don’t “come out” except by prayer and fasting. They don’t come out except by effort. They don’t come out except by applying the truth of the Gospel to our daily life.

 

I told you that there are two kinds of belief. Each can be though of as opposite to one of the kinds of unbelief.

 

There is belief in God manifested by following the commandments and struggling to be good.

 

If any one thinks that being a Christian is easy then they have not begun to be a Christian yet. There are things in you that don’t want to live in a Christian way. If you do not recognize these things, they lay in hiding, and direct you like a puppet on a string. But when you recognize those things in yourself – your lack of humility, your arrogance, the fact that you take offense easily, that you have thoughts you should not have, that you are lazy and a time waster, too ambitious, and so many other things that are contrary to the Gospel- then you will understand that it is not so easy to be a Christian.

 

The first step of course is to recognize that they are there, but then it takes great effort to eradicate them. The Lord says that “this kind” does not come out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21, paraphrased) This does not mean that you can fast three days and then everything is better; He is talking about a lifetime of prayer and fasting.

 

Fasting is not just abstaining from food. Fasting is abstaining from our appetites.

 

If you have an appetite for praise, fast from it. . 

 

If you have an appetite for rising up in business to the detriment of your other duties, fast from it.

 

If you have an appetite for unclean thoughts or things fast from them.

 

If you have an appetite for things that waste time fast from them.

 

Fasting is abstaining from all of our appetites. Of course, the church directs all of us to fast from food because everyone needs and likes food and therefore fasting from food is an offering to God that everyone can give. But the intent of fasting is not just that we should not eat certain kinds of food at certain times. The intent is that we will not sin. Fasting strengthens us so that we will not sin. If you do not understand this then you have not fasted enough. You will learn by experience that fasting helps us to not sin, but only if this fasting is with effort and purpose and not according to convenience.

 

Prayer must accompany fasting. Of course the Apostle says that we should pray without ceasing, we should ask God for everything in our lives and give him praise for everything He has given us. We must believe in His providence and see His hand in everything that happens to us. Everything should be done with prayer.

 

So one kind of belief is the following of the commandments, struggle, prayer, and fasting. But the purpose of our lives is not prayer and fasting. Our purpose is not even prayer. In the Gospel, the Lord tells us that there will come a time when we are not to pray.[2] This is when we are totally with God; when we are in such a state, we need not ask to be with God! Those who have reached perfection and are gazing at the face of God need not ask God to come, since He is already apprehended by the mind as fully present. We who have not reached perfection must continually ask God to come, and in His coming, He will prepare us. He is ready, but we are not, so we must be prepared to be before the face of God and gaze at Him continually.

 

The second kind of belief is when one can gaze at the face of God, without shame or fear, but with joy. And with that kind of belief, anything can be done. The Lord tells us that we can move mountains, and exorcize demoniacs; absolutely nothing shall be impossible for us.

 

We are somewhere in the continuum between the two kinds of belief and unbelief. Let it not be said that we have no belief! If that is the case, then we are far from God. Take note, it is possible for a person who considers himself to be a Christian to have no belief.

 

Let it be said that we believe, that we struggle to follow the commandments, and that we beg the Lord to help our unbelief. And we know that in struggling to follow the commandments God will help us. He will not abandon us. The good work which has been begun in us He will complete.[3] When it is completed, then we will have FULL BELIEF. God will be in our hearts, we will know He is in our hearts, we will feel Him. Nothing can take that away. Until that day, let us struggle with prayer and fasting. Amen.

 

 

This, and other Orthodox materials are available from:

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

?         Mailing Address      Box 37, McKinney TX 75070

?         Rectory Phone        972/529-2754

?         Email seraphim@orthodox.net

?         Web Page     http://www.orthodox.net

 

This sermon and many others may be found at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

Our blog “Redeeming the Time” contains many things like this sermon, posted often: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

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 or printed bulletin.

 

pentecost-sunday-10_2008-08-24.doc



[1] This homily was transcribed and edited from one given at St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, on the tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Aug 11/24 2008.

[2] "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.  (23)  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." (John 16:22-23)

[3]Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6) 



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Comfort in Afflictions (Epistle Reading for Thursday)

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

 

"Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation" (1 Cor 1:3-7).

God comforts us in our afflictions, and we in turn our able to comfort those who are afflicted, "by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." God is the source of all comfort. Our life is full of temptations and afflictions, but God comforts us in the midst of it all. Just as the Lord saved Peter in the midst of the waves of the stormy sea, he comforts us in the midst of the storms of our life. Indeed, God became man so that "in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

The Apostle rejoices that, being thus comforted by God, he is able to pass on this comfort to others. "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." This is our task as well. In another place, the same apostle urges us to "be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). Life is full of temptations. Let us find our comfort in God, and let us strive with all our powers to pass on that comfort to others.

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Transfiguration, 2008. Audio Homily. Human nature in the midst of the Divine.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

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There is a startling contrast between Moses and Elias and the Apostles during the Transfiguration. The Apostles show they were not yet ready to fully experience Divine nature because of their sleepiness, confusion and fear. Moses and Elias were perfectly at peace in the midst of the uncreated light. Humanity was created to be able to perceive the Divine uncreated light, but we must be prepared for it.

Matins Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31 Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

 


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New Martyr Fr. Nicholas Prozorov

Monday, August 18th, 2008
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With the Blessing of Patriarch Alexy, Prayers for Peace in the Caucasus

Monday, August 18th, 2008

 MOSCOW: August 17, 2008

With the Blessing of Patriarch Alexy, Prayers for Peace in the Caucasus Are to Be Added to Divine Services

 

Beginning today, in the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, in addition to the usual petitions during the divine services there will be offered up prayers especially composed for the deliverance of the peoples of the Caucasus from "enmity, disorder and civil strife."

 

His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, by his own decision has blessed that the following petitions be added to the daily cycle of divine services:

 

 

Petitions for Peace in the Caucasus

 

That Thou mayest bless the nations of the Caucasus with Thy goodness and quell among them enmity, disorders and civil strife; and grant them a peaceful life and length of days, we beseech Thee, O Lord: Hearken, and have mercy!

 

That Thou mayest deliver the peoples of the Caucusus from all tribulation, perils, wrath and need, and from all enemies, and mayest surround them with peace and the armies of Thine angels, we beseech Thee, O all-good Lord: Hearken, and have mercy!

 

 

In addition to these petitions, there is a specially-composed "Prayer for Peace in the Caucasus", the text of which follows:

 

Prayer for Peace in the Caucasus

 

O Master Who lovest mankind, King of the ages and Bestower of good things, Who hast destroyed enmity and givest peace to the human race: Grant peace even now unto all Thy servants who dwell in the lands of the Caucasus, and especially to the much-suffering people of South Ossetia. Establish among our nations love one for another; quell every uprising; and allay all dissent and temptations. Grant unto them, O Lord, health and oneness of mind, protect them from all tribulations, afflictions and sudden death; bring an end to all enmity and malice which ariseth through the activity of the devil. Plant peace, O Lord, through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos, of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-called, of the first hierarchs of Moscow, of the holy Nina, Equal-to-the-Apostles, and of the Great Martyr George the Victorious. For Thou art our peace, and we send up glory unto Thee—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate (Arranging and some headings by editor of this blog)

Source: http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2008/8enprayerkavkaz.html

Russian: http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/2008/8prayerkavkaz.html

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Questions about scripture read on the Transfiguration

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Source: http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration-scripture_1.html

Tonight: Aug 5/18 2008 Monday 6:30 PM – VIGIL for the Transfiguration

Tomorrow, Aug 6/19 Tuesday 9 AM – DIVINE LITURGY.

I will hear confession after vigil and before Liturgy.

 

QUESTION 1

“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.” (LUKE 9:28)What sayings?


 ANSWER 1

Jesus had just finished discoursing with the Apostles about His upcoming passion, and had finished with the enigmatic words:“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. “ (Matthew 17:28)Jesus’ Transfiguration was the fulfillment of this prophecy. “Some those standing here” would soon see Jesus as He really is, and will be, in His kingdom.


 QUESTION 2

” And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.” (Luke 9:28)Why did Jesus take these three of His disciples?


 ANSWER 2

“Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, “We are able to drink the cup; nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him.” (St John Chrysostom, Homily LVI on Matthew)


 QUESTION 3

“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.” (LUKE 9:28)What were the practical considerations and spiritual meaning of Jesus ascending a mountain to pray?


 ANSWER 3

Jesus wanted to be alone with his three chosen disciples, in a remote place, so that no other person would see His Transfiguration. The top of a mountain was a safe place to go.A mountain has symbolized the elevation of our thoughts to spiritual things. It is also a remote place, away from worldly cares. We must ascend in our prayers and our way of life.“He brings them unto a high mountain, showing that unless a man is raised on high, he does not become worthy of such divine visions.” (Blessed Theophylact, commentary on Matthew 17)


 QUESTION 4

” And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. “ (Luke 9:29)What made His raiment white and glistering? What occurrence in the OT proves it is possible for our “countenance to be altered”?


 ANSWER 4

Jesus Christ was illuminated by the “uncreated light”, or energies of God, which proceeded from Himself.Moses’ face was also bright after he saw the “back parts” of God. When he descended the mountain, no one among the Israelites could bear to look upon his face. He had encountered the uncreated light, and even as a mortal, was changed.“And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. {13} Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. {14} And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. {15} And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. {16} For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. {17} And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. {18} And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. {19} And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. {20} And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. {21} And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: {22} And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: {23} And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.{34:1} And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. {2} And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. {3} And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. {4} And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. {5} And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. {6} And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, {7} Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …{28} And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. {29} And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. {30} And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. {31} And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. {32} And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. {33} And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. “ (Exodus 33:12-23,34:1-7,28-33)


 QUESTION 5

“And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. “ (Luke 9:20-31)Moses and Elias conversation about events after their death proves and important truth about the dead, which a good part of those who profess to be Christians seem to not be aware of. What?


 ANSWER 5

God is the God of the living, not the dead. The dead in Christ are still aware and can pray to God, and know of things in the material world. We ask their intercessions precisely because they can hear us, and their intercessions on our behalf are bold.


 QUESTION 6

“And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. “ (Luke 9:20-31)Why did Moses and Elias appear? What does each represent?


 ANSWER 6

Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophets. Both the law and the prophets spoke of and pointed to Christ, and were in complete agreement with Him, as their conversation on Mount Tabor shows. Their presence, together with the apostles also underscored that God is the God of the “living and the dead”.”Transfigured on the high mountain, / the Savior, having with Him His Elias-eminent disciples,/ shone forth most wondrously, / showing them forth as illumined by the loftiness of the virtues / and as ones vouchsafed divine glory. / Moses and Elijah, who spake with Christ, / showed that He hath authority over the living and the dead, / and that He is the God Who of old spake through the law and the prophets. / Of Him was the voice of the Father heard saying from the cloud of light: / “Him do ye obey, / Who through the Cross made hell captive // and granteth life everlasting to the dead!” (Lord I have cried, Tone 4)“Moses the God-beholder and Elijah of the fiery chariot, / who traversed the heavens without being consumed,/ beholding Thee, O Christ, in the cloud at Thy Transfiguration, / bore witness to Thee / as the Creator and Fulfiller of the law and the prophets. / With them vouchsafe Thine enlightenment also unto us, O Master, // that we may hymn Thee forever.” (Sticheron for “Now and Ever”, Aposticha)The Vespral OT readings provide further mystical illumination concerning the presence of Moses and Elijah. The former asked to see God face to face, and the latter heard Him in the “still small voice”. Both intimately experienced the energies of God. Their experiences were a harbinger of things to come.


 QUESTION 7

“And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. “ (Luke 9:20-31)Why did Moses and Elias speak of Jesus’ upcoming passion? It would not be out of order to make an educated guess.


 ANSWER 7

The Apostles were pious Jews, and also weak men who needed to be told by Jesus over and over about His upcoming passion. It was very difficult for them to believe that such a terrible thing would happen. As pious Jews, they believed in the scriptures, and revered Moses and Elias and reliable witnesses of the truth. Their prophesying about Jesus’ upcoming passion must have had an effect on them, and helped prepare them for the eventual event. It also showed Jesus was in agreement with the law and the prophets.“… Since many were thinking that Jesus, in seeming to put aside the Sabbath and transgress the law, was opposed to God, the Lord on the mountain appears with the prophets, one of whom was the lawgiver, and the other a Zealot. Such prophets as these would not have conversed with one who seemed to abolish the law, if what He said did not please them” (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9


 QUESTION 8

How did Jesus’ Transfiguration prepare the apostles for His subsequent crucifixion?


 ANSWER 8

Much of the meaning of a particular event is revealed in the holy services, especially Vespers and Matins. This is why it is absolutely necessary for a Christian to zealously attend the Vigil service. The services, and the commentaries of the holy fathers, which have entered into the mind of the church, explain that the apostles were prepared for the crucifixion by witnessing the Transfiguration, and the “splendor of the resurrection” that it prefigured. They would soon be subjected to terrible temptations and fears, and our Savior wanted to put the knowledge of His divinity indelibly in their minds, to help them in the terrible days of his trial and death.Kontakion of the Feast, Tone 7On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, / and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it, O Christ God; / that when they would see Thee crucified, / they would comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary, / and proclaim to the world that Thou art of a truth // the Effulgence of the Father.Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, / the mountain emulated the heavens, / and the cloud spread itself out like a tabernacle / when Thou wast transfigured and borne witness to by the Father. / There were Peter, James and John, / for they were to be with Thee also at the time of Thy betrayal, / that, beholding Thy wonders, / they might not be afraid of Thy sufferings, / which do Thou vouchsafe that we may venerate in peace, // for the sake of Thy great mercy. ( First Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)Taking the disciples up upon the lofty mountain / before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, / Thou wast transfigured before them, / illumining them with effulgence of power, / desiring both in Thy love for mankind and in Thine authority / to show them the splendor of the resurrection, / which do thou vouchsafe unto us in peace, // in that Thou art merciful and lovest man-kind. (Third Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)


 QUESTION 9

“But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: “ (vs. 32)Why were they heavy with sleep?


 ANSWER 9

“Then to show that he was holden with great fear, both he and the rest, he saith, “They were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory;”25 meaning by deep sleep here, the deep stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed down the infirmity of their eyes.” (St John Chrysostom)


 QUESTION 10

“And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. “ (Luke 9:36)Why did the Apostles tell nobody about this startling event?


 ANSWER 10

Jesus ordered his three disciples to say nothing about His transfiguration:” And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)The Lord told them to be quiet so that people would not be scandalized when they saw him on the cross. He saved this knowledge only for His three favorites, because He knew it would help them.

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Questions and Answers about the Feast of the Transfiguration Aug 6/19

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

from http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration_1.html

QUESTION 1

Tell the story of the transfiguration, paying attention to the point in Jesus’ ministry that it occurred. Which gospels report the Transfiguration?


 

ANSWER 1

 

The gospels very laconically report the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a high mountain, which was Mount Tabor. It was late, and the disciples were overcome with sleep. They awoke to see Him transfigured before them.

He did not change in form, remaining a man in all respects, but his face and garments shone with a light brighter than the sun. This is the “uncreated light”, which a man can only see when God reveals Himself to him, and this is only given to the pure of heart, save for some special circumstances, such as the one we are concerned with here. With Christ were Moses and Elias, who spoke with him “things concerning His decease”. Peter, in confusion offered to build three tabernacles for the two Saints and the Lord. After this, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice was heard from heaven, which said “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him”. After this, the cloud disappeared, and Christ appeared as He usually was. He strictly charged them to tell of the vision to nobody else, until He was risen from the dead, and they descended the mountain.

The Transfiguration is reported in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-9 and Luke 9:28-36

 


 

QUESTION 2

What other event in our Lord’s life has obvious similarities to the Transfiguration? Explain


 

 

ANSWER 2

The church understands the Transfiguration to be a “theophany”, that is a revelation of the Holy Trinity, just as occurred also at the baptism of the Lord. The services are quite explicit about this.

“Dwelling bodily on earth, /
Christ, the Light from before the sun, /
Who before His crucifixion fulfilled all things of His awesome dispensation in godly manner, /
today
hath mystically shown forth on Mount Tabor the image of the Trinity; /
for, taking His three excellent disciples, Peter, James and John, /
He led them up to it together. /
And having hidden His guise of flesh for a little while,/
He was transfigured before them, /
revealing the majesty of His original beauty, though not completely. /
And while making it known to them, /
He also took pity upon them, lest they in anywise cease to live because of what they saw: /
yet were they able to grasp with their bodily eyes, holding fast. /
And Thou didst summon Moses and Elijah, the foremost of the prophets, /
who bore witness reliably concerning Thy divinity, /
and that it is the true effulgence of the essence of the Father, /
O Thou Who hast dominion over the living and the dead. /
Wherefore, the cloud enfolded them like a tabernacle,/
and the voice of the Father testified, /
speaking forth from the cloud like thunder, saying: /
“This is My beloved Son, /
Whom I begat incorruptibly from within Me before the morning star, /
and Whom I have sent to save /
those who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, /
and who confess with faith that the one dominion of the Godhead is indivisible! /
Hear ye Him!” /
And do Thou Thyself, O Christ God Who lovest mankind, /
illumine us with the light of Thine unapproachable glory, /
and show us forth as worthy heirs of Thy kingdom which is without end, //
in that Thou art all good.

(Litya for the Feast, Tone 2)

“The pillar of fire plainly showed to Moses Christ transfigured, and the cloud pointed clearly to the grace of the Spirit that overshadowed Mount Tabor” (matins, second canon, Ode 6, 3rd troparion)

 


QUESTION 3

How did Jesus’ transfiguration prepare the apostles for his subsequent crucifixion?


 

 

 

 

ANSWER 3

Much of the meaning of a particular event is revealed in the holy services, especially Vespers and Matins. This is why it is absolutely necessary for a Christian to zealously attend the Vigil service. The services, and the commentaries of the holy fathers, which have entered into the mind of the church, explain that the apostles were prepared for the crucifixion by witnessing the Transfiguration, and the “splendor of the resurrection” that it prefigured. They would soon be subjected to terrible temptations and fears, and our Savior wanted to put the knowledge of His divinity indelibly in their minds, to help them in the terrible days of his trial and death.

Kontakion of the Feast, Tone 7

On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, /
and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it, O Christ God; /
that when they would see Thee crucified, /
they would comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary, /
and proclaim to the world that Thou art of a truth //
the Effulgence of the Father.

Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, /
the mountain emulated the heavens, /
and the cloud spread itself out like a tabernacle /
when Thou wast transfigured and borne witness to by the Father. /
There were Peter, James and John, /
for they were to be with Thee also at the time of Thy betrayal, /
that, beholding Thy wonders, /
they might not be afraid of Thy sufferings, /
which do Thou vouchsafe that we may venerate in peace, //
for the sake of Thy great mercy.

( First sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

Taking the disciples up upon the lofty mountain /
before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, /
Thou wast transfigured before them, /
illumining them with effulgence of power, /
desiring both in Thy love for mankind and in Thine authority /
to show them the splendor of the resurrection, /
which do thou vouchsafe unto us in peace, //
in that Thou art merciful and lovest man-kind.

(Third sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

 


 

QUESTION 4

Our Lord’s transfiguration contains a tacit but extremely important promise, upon which the whole of Orthodox ascetic theology is built. Comment on this. This emphasis is peculiar to Orthodoxy and is missing from the religions of the West. Speculate why.


 

ANSWER 4

 

The light that shone from Christ is the “uncreated light”. It is, as the fathers teach, the “uncreated energies” of God, which all worthy ones will partake of in the last day. God is absolutely transcendent, and unknowable, except as He chooses to reveal Himself. Through the God-man, Jesus Christ, He has made himself knowable, built in his energies only, and not his essence. “God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”. St. Basil the Great expresses the mind of the church on this matter: “We know God through His energies, and we cannot presume to approach His essence. Because His energies reach us, but His essence remains inaccessible”. The one who was an “eye witness of His majesty” (2 Peter 1: 16) knew well the implications of the transfiguration of the HUMAN flesh of the God-man:

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: {4} Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. “ (2 Pet 1:3-4)

The knowledge of this “partaking” of divine nature is ever present in the theology of the Orthodox church. God became man precisely to make our flesh capable of apprehending the divinity. No one can become God, but we have been promised that we will be “partakers of His divine nature”. All of our life is appointed towards this end.

St. Gregory Palamas teaches about this important reality quite often:
“So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Spirit, through the mysterious visitations of perfecting illuminations – then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendor; just as the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For `the glory which the Father gave Him,’ He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, as the Gospel says, and `He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory..’” (St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads)

“David, the ancestor of God, foreseeing in the Spirit /
the coming of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh unto men, /
summoneth creation from afar to gladness, /
and crieth out prophetically: /
“Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name!” /
For, having ascended that mountain with Thy disciples, O Savior, /
Thou wast transfigured, /
and didst cause the darkened nature of Adam to shine again, /
imparting to it the glory and splendor of Thy divinity. /
Wherefore, we cry unto Thee: //
O Lord, Creator of all things, glory be to Thee!”

(Great Vespers for the feast, Aposticha, Tone 1)

In the West, the idea of the transfiguration of human nature was not emphasized. Relatively early, it fell captive to a legalistic view of salvation. What a man believes, and who he submits to in the organization of the church (ie, the Pope of Rome) became more important than anything else, and the ascetical practices of Christianity, such as fasting was lost to a great degree. Their understanding of salvation was almost like a contract, whereas in the East it was always understood that the incarnation of the Son of God, and His revelation of the uncreated light, while in the flesh, to men in the flesh, implies that man can become holy and share in the energies of God We are not just “saved”, In the sense of not being punished, but we are made able to be partakers of divine nature.

 



QUESTION 5

What virulent relatively early heresy does the Transfiguration emphatically contradict? How?


 

 

 

ANSWER 5

The heresy of “Arianism” states that Jesus Christ is a created being, greater in glory and honor than all other creatures, but created nonetheless, and therefore inferior to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The uncreated light that came forth from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the bright cloud, and voice of the Father in the cloud emphatically contradicts such blasphemous conjectures.

 


 

QUESTION 6

When is the Transfiguration celebrated? Where are the texts of the services found? What services are celebrated? Explain the differences in the services for the feast if it falls on a weekday vs. a Sunday


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 6

 The feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior is celebrated on Aug 6, and is the last feast of the Lord in the year, which begins on September 1st.

The service is found in the “Festal Menaion”. This book contains the service texts and rubrics (instructions) for 9 of the “twelve great feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos”. These commemorations all occur on the same date every year, and are not dependent on when Pascha occurs, which is always on a Sunday, but a different date, each year. The “movable” feasts of the Lord are, preeminently, Pascha, and also Palm Sunday, Ascension, and Pentecost. All these services are found in the Pentecostarion, with the exception of Palm Sunday, which is found in the Lenten Triodion.

The services in the Festal Menaion, in “chronological” (according to their celebration) order, are 1. The Nativity of the Theotokos (8 Sept)
2. The Universal Exaltation of Precious and Life-giving Cross (14 Sept)
3. The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary into the Temple (21 Nov)
4. The Nativity of Christ (25 Dec)
5. Holy Theophany (the baptism of the Lord) (6 Jan)
6. The Meeting of the Savior (2 Feb)
7. The Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (25 Mar)
8. The Transfiguration (6 Aug)
9. The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (15 Aug)

The Service for Transfiguration, like all great feasts of the Lord, totally supplants the normal Sunday or daily services, and is served the same way, regardless of what day it falls on.

The Eve of the feast, a vigil, consisting of Great Vespers, Litya, matins and the first hour, is served. In the morning, the Divine Liturgy is served, with special festal antiphons. After the liturgy, grapes are blessed, with a prayer given in the texts for the feast.

This feast should never be compressed into the “fast food” mentality inherent in the so-called “Vespral Divine liturgy” which is a recent innovation, along with so many other innovations which cater to convenience, and making things “easier”. The theology present in the holy services is so important that excluding the hymns of matins, or the greater part of vespers, in order to make the feast a 1 day celebration, so “more people can come” and people can “have communion” (without the preparation and teaching that is inherent in the Holy services that precede Divine Liturgy) since most cannot or will not come to church the morning on a weekday, is extremely misguided. There is no “Vespral Divine Liturgy” prescribed in any typicon for any of the great feasts, as this service is ALWAYS served as part of the “lead in” to a feast, and at that, only four times a year (The day before the Nativity of the Savior and Theophany, and Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday) .

 


 

QUESTION 7

What is the fasting typicon on the Transfiguration?


 

 


ANSWER 7


The Transfiguration of the Lord occurs during the fast for the Dormition of the Theotokos. On this day, fish may be eaten, as well as wine and olive oil, all of which are not eaten on strict fast days, but all meat, cheese and eggs (all animal products) are not eaten.

 


 

QUESTION 8

Why were Moses and Elijah present on Mount Tabor?


 

 

 

 


ANSWER 8

 

Moses represented the law, and Elijah the prophets. Both the law and the prophets spoke of and pointed to Christ, and were in complete agreement with Him, as their conversation on Mount Tabor shows. Their presence, together with the apostles also underscored that God is the God of the “living and the dead”.

“Transfigured on the high mountain, /
the Savior, having with Him His pre-eminent disciples,/
shone forth most wondrously, /
showing them forth as illumined by the loftiness of the virtues /
and as ones vouchsafed divine glory. /
Moses and Elijah, who spake with Christ, /
showed that He hath authority over the living and the dead, /
and that He is the God Who of old spake through the law and the prophets. /
Of Him was the voice of the Father heard saying from the cloud of light: /
“Him do ye obey, /
Who through the Cross made hell captive //
and granteth life everlasting to the dead!”

(Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

“Moses the God-beholder and Elijah of the fiery chariot, /
who traversed the heavens without being consumed,/
beholding Thee, O Christ, in the cloud at Thy transfiguration, /
bore witness to Thee /
as the Creator and Fulfiller of the law and the prophets. /
With them vouchsafe Thine enlightenment also unto us, O Master, //
that we may hymn Thee forever.”

(Sticheron for “Now and Ever”, Aposticha)

The Vespral OT readings provide further mystical illumination concerning the presence of Moses and Elijah. The former asked to see God face to face, and the latter heard Him in the “still small voice”. Both intimately experienced the energies of God. Their experiences were a harbinger of things to come.

 


 

QUESTION 9


Comment on how the dual nature of Christ was revealed on Mount Tabor, and the implications for our nature.


 

 

 

ANSWER 9

When Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, He remained a man. His human flesh shown with the uncreated light, and His divinity and humanity was readily apparent at the same time. This is a promise for those who love Him, and follow his commandments. Our flesh has been made capable of apprehending the divine energies.

Revealing the human form /
of Thy second and awesome coming with Thy glory, O Savior, /
Thou wast transfigured on Mount Tabor. /
Elijah and Moses conversed with Thee, /
and Thy three disciples were summoned to behold Thy glory, O Master, /
and marveled at Thy radiance. //
O Thou Who then shone forth Thy light upon them, illumine our souls!

( Matins, First sessional Hymn, Tone 4)

 


 

QUESTION 10

Comment on the implications of the Transfiguration, and the theology of St. Gregory Palamas.


 

 

 

ANSWER 10

St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), was an Athonite ascetic who became Archbishop of Thessalonica. The second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to him.

St. Gregory successfully fought against a prevailing heresy of his day which denied the possibility of ever experiencing or knowing God – in a way surpassing the knowledge of the mind. Adherents of this heresy claimed that in this life one could only know about God.

St. Gregory made a distinction between the divine essence of God, which remains inaccessible to men, and the divine energies, such as the light of transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, which are uncreated but accessible to human vision. [also manifested in the countenance of the Prophet Moses after descending the mountain, and by Saint Seraphim during his conversation with Motovilov, etc...] From his own mystical experience, St. Gregory defended the possibility of attaining true union with God, which is, in fact, the aim of all Christian endeavor: “The kingdom of God lies within” (Luke 17:21). This is the essence of the teaching called hesychasm which advocates the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer and quieting of both soul and body in order that the prayer might act to warm the heart with unceasing remembrance and burning love for God.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

In the very Name of Jesus a great and graceful power is present. Many holy and righteous people advise repeating the Jesus Prayer (also known as the Prayer of the Heart) as frequently as possible. The Hesychasts, who practiced the Jesus Prayer unceasingly, were defended by St. Gregory Palamas in two Councils that met in Constantinople in 1341 and 1347.

St. Gregory Palamas upheld a doctrine of man which allowed for the use of bodily exercises in prayer. He also argued, against the heretic Barlaam, that it was possible for man to experience God’s energies as Uncreated Light – identical with the Divine and Uncreated Light of Tabor which the three disciples saw surrounding Jesus at His Transfiguration.

St. Gregory said, “If in the age to come the body will share with the soul in unspeakable blessings, it is certain that it must share in them, so far as possible, even now.” Indeed, even in this present life some saints have experienced the first-fruits of this visible and bodily glorification. Saint Seraphim of Sarov is perhaps the best known, but by no means the only instance of this.

“When God is said to have made man according to His image, the word man means neither the soul by itself nor the body by itself, but the two together.” The fact that man has a body, Gregory said, makes him not lower but higher than the bodiless angels. The Orthodox belief is that the body is sanctified and transfigured together with the soul. This is the reason we have such an immense reverence for the relics of saints.

To overcome the passions which enslave us, we need to transform our hearts which are darkened by sin. The Church gives us what we need to perform this task. During the Great Fast we follow the Church’s lenten prescription. This prepares us to receive the spiritual instruction offered each week.

St. Gregory Palamas, shows us clearly by his whole life that the Christian life, Orthodox life, always begins in our heart, and only then expresses itself externally in feats of asceticism. St. Gregory helps us to understand the importance of prayer. Prayer is what we need more than anything – true, fervent, real prayer – heartfelt prayer.

The triumph of Orthodoxy always starts in a person’s heart, and only afterwards is it expressed externally. True, sometimes there are cases when the external attracts the heart, as if waking it up. But for this to happen, there must be something in the heart which makes such an awakening possible. God demands our heart. To serve God without heart, Orthodoxy without heart, this is the same as a man without heart.

Thanks to Fr Mark Gilstrap. All of the preceding is from a post written by him, to the Orthodox “Indiana” mailing list, on 16 Mar 1995. The text has been slightly rearranged.

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9th Sun after Pentecost 2008. Jesus walks on the water. Will we recognize Christ when He comes to us in the middle of the night?

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

LISTEN NOW

 

The Lord coming to the disciples in dark of night, after they had struggled for hours with dangerous wind and rain describes many times in our life. Although the disciples were without Christ in body during their struggle, they were not really alone, as He was praying and aware of their needs. So it is with us. When the Lord comes to us in the midst of our struggles, do we recognize him, or are we of “little faith”?


Other homilies for this day.

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-09_1998+walking-on-the-water.doc
9th Sunday after Pentecost (Word DOC format)
Walking On The Water
1998

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-09_2001.html

9th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)
2001

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-09_2004.mp3
9th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
2004
 

 


Matthew 14:22-34And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. 24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. 28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. 34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.



If the “LISTEN NOW” link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-09_2008-08-17.m3u

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“Just do it”, from a church father

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I have a bit of a hobby that I have indulged in all of my Orthodox life. I love to find things in secular culture that are actually true and sensible. I have lists of these things squirreled away in some GoogleDocs document, for later publishing on this BLOG. There are song lyrics, advertising slogans, and more than a few of my own sayings. Those who know me would expect to see a Neil Young lyric or two, and they would not be disappointed.

Here is one of those things – a secular saying that has an Orthodox application.

“JUST DO IT” is a slogan for Nike shoes. It is good advice, if one reads it in the right way.

I have modified it somewhat in my own life, when I am confused and/or lazy and/or overwhelmed and/or suffering from a day which is not very spiritual, and I cannot quite figure out how to get it that way. Has anybody had this sort of day?

My modification is: “Do something!” This idea has served me well, and I advise my flock to also “Do something!” because it is sound spiritual advice. We may not pray as well as we should, but at we should at least pray! We may not had a productive fast day, but we can at least fast! The key is to do something, and not do nothing. Something, in the spiritual life, is always better than nothing.

Here is this same idea, expressed by a church father:

…”A thought comes to me which troubles me and does not leave me free, but not being able to lead me to act, it simply stops me progressing in virtue; but a vigilant man would cut it off and get up to pray.” Abba Theodore of Scetis

Perhaps the perfection of the phrases “Just do it!” Or “Do something!” would be: “GET UP AND PRAY!” Good related advice would be “Even if you have already been up for a long time and have not prayed, GET U P AND PRAY!

I read the quote from an excellent resource: “A Word from the desert” I receive it in email, but prefer it in my RSS Reader (I use Google) I highly recommend that you get into the habit of reading these daily quotes. Subscribe to the RSS feed from this page: http://wordfromthedesert.squarespace.com/meditations/

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