Archive for January, 2009

“I am building a temple!”

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The following is taken from the excellent BLOG by Fr Milovan. He sometimes gleans things from other sources, and I often glean things from him!

I am building a temple!

January 29, 2009

H/T: ????????, Archbishop Ignaty’s blog

Three builders were carrying the same exact work.

-What do you do? -each of them was asked.

-I carry stones, said the first one.

-I’m earning a living, responded the second one.

But the third one replied: “I am building a temple”.

http://frmilovan.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/i-am-building-a-temple/

 

My comments.

A Christian should live his life with this sentiment. This “parable” is an excellent mnemonic device which will help us to remember how we should consider EVERYTHING we do (unless it is a sin of course, in that case, we are breaking down a temple!)

When my children were small, in a simpler time, as we sat downstairs on our rug made of bear hair, we would read aloud things from the scriptures, or the Prologue, and talk about what we read. These were very sweet times. There are many days when I ache to go back to them. I believe we were building a temple, or as we sometimes put it, adding gems to our crown, or bricks to our wall.

We told our children that every time they did something good, they were putting another precious stone in their “crown”, or, another brick in the wall of their “mansion” that they would have in heaven. Do you know the scriptures we referred to many times? They are true, and are about the only thing that matters and lasts in this life.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

 

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  (20)  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  (21)  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Mat 6:19-21)

This is no children’s tale calculated to make them behave. It is the pure, unvarnished truth!  How many times, our children would do something good, and we would tell them that they have another diamond in their crown, and they would beam with joy!

What my children did not know when we were sitting on that bear rug was that I was describing for them a summary of my philosophy of life.

Nothing is mundane! Everything we do must be for Christ! Only the things we do for Christ will last.

I confess that much in my life feels mundane; Much of life feels like vast amounts of "space" between short significant moments. This is an illusion, and a very powerful one, because I find myself feeling mundane at various moments through the day. Why is this? It is all because of my attitude. It is because I do not have the wisdom to see things as they really are, because of blindness and stupidity caused by my sinfulness.

Why do I write this self indictment? Because one of the great graces given to a priest in his ordination is to understand human nature and feel his own weakness deeply, and recognize the tragedy of the human condition in himself and those he loves, his flock. We are mundane because we live in a mundane way. So many things we do could be supernatural, if we would think in the right way!

What is mundane in your life?  Perhaps it is doing the dishes that you cannot remember dirtying, taking care of the kids, working at the office, prayers that are said with little feeling and much distraction.

This is an illusion. This parable reminds us about the illusion. In time, with God’s help, we will not need such mnemonic devices to be good – we will be changed and see the truth in every moment, bit in the meantime, as we get better, perhaps you will use this parable to remind yourself that nothing in  your life is mundane – in EVERYTHING, you are building a temple.

Priest Seraphim

 

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Fasting cannibals

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I just came across the term "fasting cannibals" and it is so descriptive that I could not resist mentioning it, although it is still more than a month before Great Lent begins. The context is not really that important – just some arguing about prospective candidates for Patriarch in Russia. For some, this is a full contact sport. Of those who are "fasting cannibals" is was said that that "although they themselves lead ascetic lives, they
show unrestrained pitilessness toward those under them". In other words, they may be ascetic, but they do not act like Christians,

This reminds me of a saying I heard attributed to Archbishop John (of Chicago, OCA) years ago. In referring to the imminent start of Great Lent, He said "This is the time when we stop eating meat, and start eating each other".

Brethren, we should not be "fasting cannibals". Fasting starts with the heart. May God preserve us from outward acts of piety and inward acts of hatred, malice, judgment and other depravities.

 

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Justification, faith and works. 33rd Mon after Pentecost.

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

Today’s reading from St James is one of my favorites. It is also one of the least understood parts of the NT, because of a misunderstanding about what “justification” is. Some Orthodox Christians may not see what the “big deal” is here, but this is a “big deal”, and a huge stumbling block for many Western believers.

 

To be “justified” is to become righteous. This is not imputed unto us by fiat from God, but comes about because of our struggle to be righteous, and the grace of God helping us. Before the incarnation, no struggle for righteousness could be wholly successful. God became man, and changed fundamental human nature, making it capable of total righteousness – total “justification”.

 

The great chasm in understanding comes from considering “justification” to be a legal process, where Jesus Christ offered a perfect sacrifice to His Father by proxy. Orthodox understand justification to be the gradual change of the inner man to holiness. All this is made possible because of the incarnation. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

 

In all things in life, we learn by doing. Justification is no different. The Christian must “hear” the Gospel (whether by mouth, written word, and always by the inner groanings[1] of the Holy Spirit) and act upon it to know God. Knowledge in the scriptural sense always involves action. One could also say: faith always involves works.

 

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:25)

 

If we do not emulate Christ in our works, we cannot know Him – we cannot be justified. The works are part of “knowing” God. Without them, we do not change.

 

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

 

There is a righteous recent Greek nun, who recommended that the Christian would read St James EVERY DAY. This is how important it is that we understand faith and works.

 

 

 

James 2:14-26 14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

 

Mark 10:46-52 46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. 49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. 52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

 

Bibliography

The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Mark, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

Priest Seraphim Jan 13/26 2009                                                                                            St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ pentecost-monday-33_2009_james2;14-26+mark10;46-52.html

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ pentecost-monday-33_2009_james2;14-26+mark10;46-52.rtf

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ pentecost-monday-33_2009_james2;14-26+mark10;46-52.pdf

 

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[1] Rom 8:26  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered

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Sunday after Theophany 2009: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Matthew 4:12-17 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.



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Homily on the Day of Theophany: LISTEN NOW


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Forgiveness and faith

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

 

Todays’ reading is about faith and forgiveness. The two are connected in a marvelous, and unexpected way by our Lord.

 

He was answering the apostles, who were marvelling that a fig tree He had cursed had withered away. As is always the case, His answer was deeper than the question. He first adresses their faith, and tells them that they can have whatever they pray for if they have faith. This is important news, but what if a man does not have this kind of faith? Jesus answers this unasked question: a man must forgive others or he will not have faith.

Forgiveness of others is the conduit by which the grace of God passes to us. By our Lords own words, we see that without forgiveness, there is no faith. Do we make this connection? I think not, since we often find it so difficult to forgive.

 

 

Mark 11:23-26 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

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“… and injustice hath lied to itself.”

Friday, January 16th, 2009









Deliver me not over unto the souls of them that afflict me, for unjust witnesses are risen up against me, and injustice hath lied to itself.(Psalm 26, Sept)

 

We read this Psalm during the Royal Hours for Theophany, which I just finished. In this Psalm, David  is crying out for help for deliverance from his enemies, all the while expressing confidence that he will be delivered.

 

The Psalm asks for protection against outer enemies, but whenever I hear such things as this verse, I think of my greatest enemy: myself. “Injustice” should be thought of as all kinds of unrighteousness. The biblical meaning of justice is to be good in all things, as God is, and not a narrow understanding of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.

 

In another place in the psalms (which, by the way, it is my fervent hope that each of you says every week (why? – please answer in the comments) it says that “All men are liars”. This latter verse means, as one holy father I read recently teaches, that when expounding about the Godhead and all Christian mysteries, we cannot say the exact truth because we are too small to know it. However, I tie these two verses together and lament that I am a liar, and I tell most of my lies to myself. A just man tells the truth, because he lives according to the truth.

 

I know a little something about human nature too, and boldly proclaim that all of you are liars too, and you lie to yourself. This is because of our pride, which we allow to blind us to the truth about ourselves. How wonderful it is to even admit that we are liars, at least we can be truthful in this and therefore begin to be truth tellers about ourselves and therefore learn about He who is true.

 

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Great is the Feast that is past…

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Brothers and Sisters,

I had one of those "moments of clarity" at Wednesday night’s Vespers for St. Seraphim, and I thought I should share it. This was the first day of the forefeast of Theophany, and in one of the stichera we sang (quoting from memory), "Great is the feast that is past (Nativity), but greater still is the feast which is to come (Theophany)." This doesn’t seem to reflect our usual attitude toward these two great feasts, does it? On Nativity, the church is usually full, while on Theophany it is often nearly empty. This "greater" feast is often little more than an afterthought, important only for the acquisition of holy water… After all, we’ve all gone back to work. Earthly cares oppress us, who has time left for church…

Why is Theophany, in the words of the church, "greater still" than Nativity? Because on Nativity God appears as a babe in the flesh, but on Theophany a mortal man lays his hand on the Lord of all, baptising him in the waters of the Jordan and sanctifying all of creation. Because on Nativity God was born, but on Theophany he appeared openly to all, revealing the life of the Holy Trinity and beginning his saving ministry on our behalf. Let us worship him!

Nicholas

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The Best Namesday I have ever had.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

St Seraphim of Sarov

 

Today is the remembrabce of St Seraphim of Sarov, my patron, and more important to me (and I think he would agree), the first “Children’s liturgy” of our parish.

 

We are undergoing many positive changes in our parish life, which should be no less than living the life in Christ. Since I have been close to a full time priest (translation, I have mostly only one pursuit – pastoral work, rather than juggling full time work and full time pastoral work), we have been instituting many changes. The most important change is that we always have a weekday liturgy, during which we pray by name for all the members of the parish. With the onset of these liturgies, things have started happening. These are not the sort of things that would be profiled on the evening news, but they are powerful and important.

 

All that matters is that we live in such a way that we would know God. The only important role of the Christian, the pastor, the pastor, the husband, and the wife in another person’s life is to help, equip, teach and support a person to know God.

 

Our children’s liturgies are par excellence, an example of our parish’s collective effort to train our children (and ourselves). The first one was way above my expectations. Let me describe it to you.

 

When I was finishing Proskomédia, I heard Jenny’s children come in, and they were excited! Anna was whispering conspiratorially to the pothers “wait until he gets out of the altar!” When I left to cense, they all said to me “many years!”, and their smiles cannot be valued with anything on this earth. Even Lulu (1 ½ ) tried to greet me. It sounded to me like the single word: “gear”.

 

The liturgy went great, short and snappy, as I wanted it to keep the natives from being restless.

 

After liturgy, we had breakfast, with tons of food, brought by no less than five families. After the prayer over the food, the children sang “many years” to me. This is the first time I have ever allowed anybody to sing many years to me in my own parish – you have found my weakness!

 

Near the end of the meal, I talked to the children about making the sign of the cross, and what the three fingers together and the two together mean, as well as a “secret” that none of them knew – why the two fingers are placed in the palm (it signifies the incarnation – God came “down” to earth). We all made the sign of the cross and asked them to show me how to do a poklon (bow), which we all did in front of the icon of St Seraphim . I was pleased to see such enthusiasm. I also talked about what we do when we come in church (venerate the main icons). Everything I talked about I demonstrated and involved the children in doing.

 

St Seraphim's BeatitudesAfter the meal, we had a “story time” with a wonderful book about St Seraphim (“St. Seraphim’s Beatitudes“, available from St Innocent Press – BUY IT!) with beautiful extremely kid friendly color drawings and an icon showing his life. We talked about “Misha” the bear and his ecstasy during Holy Thursday liturgy when he was a deacon, and a few other things. The kids were very enthusiastic and attentive.

My fervent desire is to continue these liturgies and expand the participation of the children, and the education we offer them. I am certain that some of them will be able in due time to sing most of the simple responses of the liturgy by themselves. As our group grows in size and ages, we will probably have split groups of kids for education. If God allows, our parish could become an important resource for homeschooling parents, and perhaps Thursday “Children’s liturgies” will morph to include a sort of homecoming cooperative. All things in due time.

 

 

At this time, we are going to have two “Children’s liturgies” a month – on the first and third Thursdays. They are presently scheduled for 9AM. We will have liturgy, a meal, and then some sort of kid friendly teaching. Let’s see where this goes.


Please, if you have any suggestions, experioences, resources. advice – tell us about it! 

 

 

 

 

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Jan 1/14 Circumcision of Christ. Commentary on OT readings.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The Readings for the Circumcision and St Basil include 3 OT readings in Vespers, a Matins Gospel and the usual Epistle and Gospel in liturgy. The readings follow the commentart, because they are so long.

 

The Vespers readings cover three different subjects, and taken in total, describe a substantial part of the moral content of Christianity.

 

First Vespers Reading.

 

The first reading describes the institution of Circumcision as a covenant between God and His people. Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin. It is a “type” of baptism, meaning that it “points” to the later Christian covenant of baptism.

 

There are many parallels between Circumcision and baptism.

 

Of necessity, Circumcision can only be done once, and we believe in only one baptism. It is not repeated.

 

Circumcision was required of all male members of the Jewish household:

And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” (Gen 17:14)

Likewise, baptism is required of all Christians:

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16 KJV)

 

Circumcision was only done for males, and baptism, which confers much greater grace upon a person, is for all Christians, male and female. The “type” of a Christian mystery always has limitations, since it points to something greater.

 

Circumcision was performed on an infant, but adult converts to Judaism were also circumcised. The Christian church also baptizes infants, and also adult converts.

 

Circumcision produced permanent physical change in a person, and baptism produces permanent spiritual change. Whether there are verifiable changes in a person after baptism depends on the person. We believe in one baptism, and the enabling of a person through baptism is permanent, but whether the fruits of baptism occur is dependent on our moral struggle in this life.

 

The changes of circumcision were physically verifiable; baptism produces no permanent verifiable physical changes, and spiritual changes occur over time, according to our zeal.

The Lord told us that we shall know a tree by its fruits.

 

The Jews did not understand the full moral implications of circumcision; in their limited understanding it was a physical sign of their privileged relationship with God. Christian baptism is also a covenant between man and God, but its implications are moral in nature. An echo of this moral change is seen in the name change of Abram to Abraham.

 

With circumcision comes the shedding of blood. For the Christian, the blood shed is from Christ.

 

Second Vespers Reading.

 

The second reading describes Jesus Christ. In poetic language, it is firmly asserted that

 

“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.”

 

This is a pillar of our theology: that Jesus Christ always was and is fully God.  The language here may be confusing, precisely because it is poetry, and in the OT, the true nature of Christ was not exactly revealed. 

 

 

Third Vespers Reading.

 

This reading ties together the first two readings. It basic message is this. With baptism, we become a “new creature”, able to become perfected. This is only possible because of Jesus Christ, Who, becoming man, fundamentally changed our nature so that death could not have dominion over us. The only way to begin this change is through baptism and our subsequent moral struggles. Whereas for the Jews religion was more about a physical covenant between man and God, for the Christian, it is about moral change.   

 


He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbor:

but a man of understanding holdeth his peace” (Proverbs 11:12)

 

I personally find striking the way in which in English we can say that we hold our tongue – to “hold our peace”. This phenomenon may not occur in other languages, and that is okay – the emotional impact of this verse upon me, a speaker of English, may not be that same if read in another language. Our emotional response to scripture can be very helpful, if it guides us to the truth. The way this verse resonates in my souls is: I cannot gain peace unless I learn to “hold my peace”.

 

This simple truth has manifested itself many times in my life; and has spawned a little saying of mine: “the best things I have ever said are the things I have not said”. It takes great inner peace in order to not be compelled to speak out about every little thing, as if my opinions and preferences are so important. The man who holds his peace is at peace.

 

 

VESPERS

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 9-12, 14  1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

 

Proverbs 8:22-30 22 The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. 24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: 26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. 27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: 28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: 30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

 

Proverbs 10:31-11:12  31 The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness. 1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. 2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. 3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. 4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. 5 The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. 7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. 8 The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead. 9 An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. 10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. 11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. 12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

 

 

MATINS

 

John 10:1-9 1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

 

 

LITURGY

 

Colossians 2:8-12  8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

 

Luke 2:20-21, 40-52  20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

 

 

Bibliography

The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St John, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

 

Priest Seraphim Jan 1/14 2009.                                                                                              St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ feasts-of-the-savior-circumcision.html

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ feasts-of-the-savior-circumcision.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/ feasts-of-the-savior-circumcision.pdf

 

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Moments of clarity.

Monday, January 12th, 2009








The mindless man and the witless shall perish together, and they shall leave their riches to others. And their graves shall be their houses unto eternity, their dwelling places unto generation and generation, thought they have called their lands after their own names. (Psalm48:10-11 Boston)

 

It is wonderful to read the Psalter daily. Just about every time I read it, there is something that “jumps out” – a truth that I already knew, but feel with special power at a particular moment. It is times like these that the poetry illuminates the soul and we apprehend, and believe, and desire with great desire – absolute truth. It is a pity that these moments subside rapidly.

 

How many such moments do we need to be saved? Is it ten, a hundred, a hundred thousand? If I truly believed with all of my being what I read, I would not have discrete moments of clarity and zeal, but my entire life would be a moment in the Spirit.

 

It is an occupational hazard of a pastor that everything he reads makes him think of his beloved flock. Since I am merely a sinner tasked by God to help others not to sin, and share the same human condition, when moments of clarity come, it is always my fervent desire that my flock have such moments also. 

 

During many such moments, there is a peculiar phenomenon in which I think of many things at the same time, each with great clarity, and none of the thoughts interfering with each other. 

 

One of these thoughts is usually a sense of melancholy that I must hear holy things so many times, and yet I still do not live completely in accordance with them. With this melancholy comes a practical idea – I must read as often as I can, pray more regularly, really listen at the services. I do not know how much more time I have, and the days remaining for each in my flock are unknown to me.

 


To my beloved flock, I ask, how much do you need to pray to be saved? How many services should you attend? How many times will you need to hear about love to truly love? I do not know the answers to these things. 

 

Time is short, and precious. Resolve today to apply yourself more sincerely to the living of the Christian life. Although the Psalter tells us that “all men are liars”, let us attempt to make our lies to be truth! Let us pursue holy moments of clarity when we “make our vows”, and let the shear volume of our promises compel us to change! 

 

These “moments of clarity” occur in times of prayer, the reading of the scriptures, and during long vigils, and other times, since the Spirit “bloweth where it listeth”. (John 3:8) That is why I continually stress such things over and over. We cannot have enough of them, we will never have too many of them, until we die, and then comes the judgment. 

 

This particular verse struck me today, and as I thought of its profound meaning, I thought also of my flock and desired to share my thoughts. 

 

How foolish we are! We do temporal things as if they were eternal things. The foolish man names lands after himself, and then he perishes. The very dirt on the land he has named will someday pass away, and his name will not even be a memory long before that. Everything goes away, except what we become. How many “lands” do we pursue in order to name? Why do we not live like we really believe this?

 

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