Archive for August, 2008

It’s Never Too Late (St. Theophan)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
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9th Week After Pentecost – Tuesday – How many times should I forgive? The difference between the commandment to forgive all times and the priest’s responsibility and right to bind and loose.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008








Matthew 18:18-22; 19:1-2, 13-15 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

 

The following are notes about a portion of this Gospel.


The Lord had just finished telling all his disciples, that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven, referring to the awful responsibility of the priestly ministry, when Peter, apparently not completely understanding, asked how often he should forgive when he himself was personally wronged.

 Here are two different things, and priest, mark well the difference!

 In the one, the priest has a power and responsibility before God to hear confessions and mandate that God’s forgiveness be given, or in the terrible case of the unrepentant, that such forgiveness not be given. This is referring to a person’s personal sins against God only, for every sin, whatever it is and to whomever it is directed, is always against God.

 Regarding sins against himself, such as when one person wrongs him in some way, the priest has NO AUTHORITY, but only a commandment: to forgive “seventy times seven”, that is, to ALWAYS forgive. We all share in this commandment.

 

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  (15)  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat 6:14-15) 

 

What a terrible responsibility the priest has! He must disassociate himself from his personal views and feelings. To those that wrong him, he shares with all men the responsibility to forgive all times. Only in the case of when he is acting as God’s priest, and in his judgment he feels a person is not repentant concerning his sins, may he withhold forgiveness.

 

 

 

 Regarding the strange number “seventy times seven”, Blessed Augustine has an interesting comment:

“Yet not without reason did the Lord say, “Seventy times seven;” for the Law is set forth in ten precepts; and the Law is signified by the number ten, sin by eleven, because it is passing the denary line. Seven is used to be put for a whole, because time goes round in seven days. Take eleven seven times, and you have seventy. He would therefore have all trespasses forgiven, for this is what He signifies by the number seventy-seven.”

(Catena Aurea – Gospel of Matthew, Chap 18 – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/catena1.ii.xviii.html)

 So the number “77″ indicates not only that we must forgive always, but that we must forgive ALL SINS ALWAYS.

 Some of the Fathers interpret the number as 70 * 7 = 490. The actual number is not important, but its meaning is – it is an arbitrarily large number.


“What then saith Christ, the good God, who is loving towards man? “I say not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven,” not setting a number here, but what is infinite and perpetual and forever. For even as ten thousand times signifies 358 often, so here too. For by saying, ‘The barren hath borne seven,’ So that He hath not limited the forgiveness by a number, but hath declared that it is to be perpetual and forever.” (St John Chrysostom,  Homily LXI., Matt. XVIII. 2, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.iii.LVIII.html – the scripture quotation is from 1 Sam. ii. 5.)

 

There are other instances in the scriptures when an arbitrary number is used to indicate a limitless number:  

“If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”(Gen 4:24 )

 Of course, my parish should be aware of another famous large number (if you listen to my homilies):  

“Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.” (John 21:11) 

 

  

 

This, and other Orthodox materials are available from:

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

?         Mailing Address      Box 37, McKinney TX 75070

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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.

 

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Schedule for August at St Nicholas.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Schedule for August, 2008 (PDF). Also in Word DOC & RTF formats. This schedule overrides our regular service schedule.

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VIDEO:8th Sunday after Pentecost 2008, The Feeding of the Five Thousand:What are we to do in our “desert place”?

Monday, August 11th, 2008
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8th Sunday after Pentecost 2008, The Feeding of the Five Thousand:What are we to do in our “desert place”?

Monday, August 11th, 2008

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Matthew 14:14-22And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. 15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. 16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. 17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. 18 He said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. 22 And 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.



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8th Week after Pentecost – Thursday, 2008 – “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Matthew 16:24-28: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 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.


ALWAYS *ANSWER* the questions posed in scripture. They are addressed to you!

How is it that it is so plainly stated that we will be rewarded according to our works, and yet so many supposed Christians do not believe this?

Is it not because man is naturally inclined to follow his own appetites (to “gain the whole world”) and lose his soul)?

Is it not because we make excuse with excuses in sins regarding our bad behavior?

To believe that an emasculated faith, stripped of the action and purpose that faith has, and only containing the intellectual assent of belief, is plainly, wishful thinking, borne out of the selfish desire to appease ourselves.


What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?


There are two answers: Everything, and Nothing.

We must give everything for our soul. That much is clear from no less a proof text than our Lord’s recitation of the “Greatest Commandment”:  

“ Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:36-40 )


And yet, there is nothing that we can give to earn our salvation. This “exchange for his soul” is referring to salvation. We cannot be saved by doing good, but we will not be saved unless we do good! The “exchange” we must make is too accept God’s grace and become good, and do good. The Apostle,. And those he taught, we in the true church understand this:

“ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. “(Eph 2:8-10)

 

Note how IMMEDIATELY after stating emphatically that, we are saved only by grace and not by works (we can give “nothing”in exchange for our soul), the Apostle tells us what we were created for – good works. He who through faith does good works IS good, and He who is good knows the only one that is good, God.

 

We are not saved because of our works, but we will not be saved without good works. The one who does not attempt to do good is not a Christian, and God does not know him.

  

“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.”

 

This is a reference to the upcoming Transfiguration. We will celebrate it very soon.


This and other sermons 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.


 

 

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Man’ task, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Monday, August 4th, 2008

It was fully appropriate that today, as we are mourning the death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I read his famed “Harvard Address”. I do not wish to endorse or criticize any of newly reposed servant of God Alexander’s politics. I am not intelligent or well read enough to comment intelligently, but I can recognize Christian sentiments when I read them. I wish to share you something Alexander said in  his Harvard address that buttresses well and fully complements the words I spoke yesterday, on Sunday.

 

“If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.”

 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Harvard Address”, delivered 8 June 1978 on the occasion of Class Day Afternoon Exercises at HarvardUniversity, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/alexandersolzhenitsynharvard.htm

 

 

Inspired words! Christian words!

 

 

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7th Sunday after Pentecost 2008, “According to your faith, be it unto you”

Monday, August 4th, 2008

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SYNOPSIS:The faith of the two blind man Jesus healed and of the men who brought the mute demoniac for healing demonstrate two aspects of faith. The demoniac’s muteness shows lack of faith; we cannot proclaim that which we do not know and experience, and the Holy Spirit will not reside where Evil is. We are a composite of all of these examples. How do we gain faith, so that the Lord will say to us "According to your faith, be it unto you"? The answer is contained in the Epistle for today: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

Romans 15:1-7 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Matthew 9:27-35 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. 28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. 31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. 32 As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. 33 And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. 34 But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. 35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

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Jul 19/ Aug 1 – THE UNCOVERING OF THE RELICS OF ST SERAPHIM OF SAROV

Friday, August 1st, 2008
St seraphim praying on a rock

St seraphim praying on a rock

THE UNCOVERING OF THE RELICS OF ST SERAPHIM OF SAROV

This is the “summer feast” for St Seraphim of Sarov. Here are some of his sayings.

Acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.

“…the Lord has frequently demonstrated before many witnesses how the grace of the Holy Spirit acts on people whom He has sanctified and illumined by His great inspirations. Remember Moses after his talk with God on Mount Sinai. He so shone with an extraordinary light that people were unable to look at him. He was even forced to wear a veil when he appeared in public. Remember the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. A great light encircled Him, ‘and His raiment became shining, exceedingly white like snow’ (Mk.. 9:3), and His disciples fell on their faces from fear. But when Moses and Elias appeared to Him in that light, a cloud overshadowed them in order to hide the radiance of the light of the divine grace which blinded the eyes of the disciples. Thus the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God appears in an ineffable light to all to whom God reveals its action.” St. Seraphim of Sarov, Little Russian Philokalia V, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhoodpg 98

Let us go forward with the heart completely attentive and the soul fully conscious. For if attentiveness and prayer are daily joined together, they become like Elias’ fire-bearing chariot, raising us to heaven. What do I mean? A spiritual heaven, with sun, moon and stars, is formed in the blessed heart of one who has reach a state of watchfulness, or who strives to attain it.

Thus should we weep for the forgiveness of our sins. The words of the bearer of the purple should convince us of this: ‘Going they went and wept, casting their seed; but coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves (Ps. 125:6);’ as well as the words of St. Isaac the Syrian: ‘Moisten your cheeks with the tears of your eyes, that the Holy Spirit may abide in you, and cleanse the filth of your malice. Move your lord with your tears, that He may help you’ (homily 68).
One should always endure any trial for the sake of God with gratitude. Our life is a single minute in comparison with eternity; and therefore, according to the Apostle, `the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be comparted with the glory which shall be revealed in us’ (Rom. 8:18). Spiritual Instruction of St. Seraphim of Sarov

From solitude and silence are born tender contrition, and meekness; the activity of this latter in the human heart may be compared to that quiet water of Siloe, which flows without noise or sound, as the Prophet Isaiah speaks of it: ‘the waters of Siloe that go softly’ (Is. 8:6). St. Seraphim of Sarov, Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 1

Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostle, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: ‘our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.’ St. Seraphim of Sarov, Letters, Little Russian Philokalia, V.3

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

The body is a slave, the soul a sovereign, and therefore it is due to Divine mercy when the body is worn out by illness: for thereby the passions are weakened, and a man comes to himself; indeed, bodily illness itself is sometimes caused by the passions. St. Seraphim of Sarov, Spiritual Instructions

He who would be saved should ever have his heart disposed to repentance and broken, according to the Psalmist: “Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit: a broken and humbled heart God will not despise” (Ps. 50:17). St Seraphim of Sarov – Spiritual Instructions

One should nourish the soul with the word of God: for the word of God, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, is angelic bread, by which are nourished souls who hunger for God. Most of all, one should occupy oneself with reading the New Testament and the Psalter, which one should do standing up. From this there occurs an enlightenment in the mind, which is in the mind, which is changed by a Divine change. St Seraphim of Sarov – Spiritual Instructions

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