Archive for October, 2009

Parable of the Sower Luke 8:5-15 Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

Friday, October 30th, 2009

This Sunday – Nov 1 2009 ns is the 21st Sunday after Pentecost.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today is the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost[1], and it is also the day that we remember the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This council established permanently what the church had always known concerning the holy icons.

 

Today, we read the parable of the Sower, which is a very familiar parable, known even to people that are not Christians. Many of these parables are really part and parcel of our culture. People even use biblical terminology and don’t even know that they are using it.

 

How do these parables affect us? There is an inner meaning and an outer meaning to these parables. Why did our Lord speak in parables? Why did He say things with a hidden meaning? The Fathers explain to us that when you look into something deeply and carefully, when it takes effort to look into it, then you develop more of an understanding. If something is handed to you and there is no effort involved in learning it, then you develop very little understanding.

 

We can see this principle even in secular life. Look at how young people can barely even read and write now, because of this television age that we are in. Information is given to them so freely it takes very little effort to find it out.

 

Also the parables are given because God does not those who are not worthy to be told things that they will be judged for. A man must do some investigation if he is to learn the deep meaning of these things, and God will judge us for what we know. God will also judge us for what we don’t know, if we CHOOSE to not know things. God will judge us the same if we know something and don’t do it or we choose to be ignorant in the ways of piety. If we are willfully ignorant, and this occurs whenever we do not try to seek out the knowledge of God’s commandments and exercise them in our life, God will then judge us in the Judgment, even if we try to say we do not know something.

 

 

What is the inner and outer meaning of this parable? There is a lot of explanation given for this parable, even in the very text of scripture itself. It is very rare in scripture where our Lord actually explains the deeper meaning of some dark saying of His. The Apostles came to Him, and they must have also come to Him many other times, and they said, we don’t understand this at all. He explained this to them, because it’s meaning is so important.

 

“A sower went out to sow his seed”.

 

Who is the sower? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Be careful when you read scripture — every word has meaning. The Sower went OUT to sow his seed”. He did not go “out” from the farmhouse and start to work — this “going out” is the incarnation of the Son of God. The seed is the word of God, those words that He spoke.

 

As he sowed, some seed fell by various places, the wayside, the rock, among the thorns and on good ground. It “fell”; it was not thrown. It fell everywhere equally, and these places, are the souls of men. The preexisting one, Jesus Christ, thought it not robbery to be equal to us, and became a man. And He sowed his teaching to the entire universe, equally and freely to all men. It is available to everyone.

 

There are four kinds of men described in this parable, and, three of those kinds perished. All of humanity fits into one of these categories, and the majority will perish. This is true in our age, and has been true in every age. The majority of people will not inherit the Kingdom of God, because they are not the good ground. And yet our Lord and Savior still sows His seed, and still gives the opportunity to a man to accept Him and to follow His commandments.

 

Remember the story of the talents and the man with the one talent — our Lord knew that he was not going to use this talent. Remember what a talent is? It is the grace of God, which enables us to do good works, to obey His commandments, and to learn more of Him.

 

The man with the one talent is like the ground by the wayside. The fowls of the air immediately snatch away the word from his heart, and he never really believes at all. We have all known people like that, who really have no belief whatsoever. The wayside is hard, and packed down. No seed can penetrate into it, and it is washed away, or it sits there, prey for the birds of the air.

 

The birds are the demons, which snatch away the word from a man’s heart, but only because a man leaves it out there, unprotected, and does not cherish it. The demons cannot take away the word from your heart if you hold it close to yourself, only if you care nothing for it.

 

So these men by the wayside, they have no part in salvation whatsoever, they never even bothered to believe.

 

Some of the seed fell upon the rock, and when it was spring up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. Have you every been to a glade? This is an area where there is a thin layer of soil over limestone bluffs, and only certain kinds of plants can grow. When there is a drought, everything dies, except for a few very hardy trees. There is a little bit of soil, a very small amount, but there is not enough soil to retain any moisture, which is the essence of Christ. There is just a small amount of knowledge, and not much struggle or desire, and at the merest, smallest trial, such a person falls away, and he perishes.

 

Some people are thorny ground. The thorns spring up with the good wheat, the word of God. These thorns choke out the following of the commandments. They choke out the knowledge of God, because we turn away from God, to our thorns, whatever they are, whether they are riches, cares of this world, sensual pleasures, our pride, our fear, ambition. There are hundreds of ways that a man can turn away from Christ, even though he appears to be a Christian.

 

Remember the parable about the wheat and the tares? These tares are the same as thorns. The tares are growing up right by the wheat, and except to a man who has extreme discretion and knowledge, and of course, the God-man, Jesus Christ, such people are sometimes indistinguishable to true Christians. They go to church, they have families, they may give alms, and they do everything externally just like everybody else, except they don’t have any life within them. Where their treasure is, so their heart is, and their treasure is not Christ, so Christ is not with them. Those people who are amidst the thorns have not Christ, even though they would call themselves Christians.

 

Some of the seed, a small amount of the seed, fell on good ground. And it sprang up and bear fruit. St. Luke says a hundred fold, and St. Matthew also recounts this story and shows that the Lord gave other information. Some sprang up thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold, because not all the Saints are the same. Not everyone follows the word of God to the same degree, or the same amount.

 

I guess that is good news to me, because I don’t at this moment think that I can become like the Saints. I shouldn’t think this way, because God can change a man, if he only gives himself to Him. However, if none of us lives with the LOFTY righteousness of the Saints, God has a place for us in His mansion, since there are many rooms, if we make an effort to live according to His commandments.

 

I have said this many times before; success is not as important as your effort. If you make an effort, then in the end, paradoxically, you will be successful, because God will receive your repentance, and reward you, for some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred. May it be that we all receive a hundred fold. May we all be like the man who had five talents, and labored and increased it to ten, and then our Lord gave him an infinite amount of grace.

 

Now, how is it that we can be good ground? Isn’t that really what we should try to learn from this parable? What is good ground? Good ground has been tilled carefully, and dug, and the clods of dirt have been broken up, and it has been finely sifted, and fertilizer has been added to it, and it has been watered, and hedged round about so that animals can not get in. It has been guarded, so no one can steal the fruits it will produce. There is effort involved in having good ground. It does not just “happen”.

 

Last year, I tilled a part of my property in order to plant. I did not take care of it this year, and did not plant, and you can not even TELL that it was good ground, and it was VERY good ground after I had finished with it, but I didn’t take care of it, and so, it reverted back.

 

The same thing will happen to us. If we do not take care of the seed that is planted within us, we will revert back to the type of man we previously were, and we will allow the tares to grow in us. They will choke us out. Even if there are not tares to begin with – the seeds of tares fly through the air, don’t they? So do the demons. The tares can come into good ground at any time, and they constantly must be plucked out and uprooted with great care.

 

It is very painful to tear out many tares by the way, especially thorns and thistles, because they are sharp and they cut, and make us bleed. Regardless, we must do this work, and tear out these thorns and thistles if we are to be good ground, if indeed, we have EVEN begun to be good ground!

 

Our Savior says about those on the good ground, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

 

There are those words, that we have trouble with (I have trouble with them sometimes); “Having heard the word, KEEP it and bring forth fruit with PATIENCE.” Patience is the most difficult word in our language. The Christian life is patience, endurance. He who endures to the end will be saved. We are just beginning you know. And if indeed there is some part of our soul that is good ground, let us make the rest of it good ground, by careful labor, by backbreaking labor. And, while we are cleaning out those parts of our souls, let us at the same time pay attention to the places we have cleared, so the tares do not come in, and choke us.

 

How are we to do this? This is a task beyond our abilities! The Apostle tells us, in a marvelous way. He says,

 

“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”[2]

 

Marvelous, magnificent words! May they be true in our lives. May we say that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. May we live by faith, since this is the only way to accomplish our task. And what is our task? It is to know Christ isn’t it? Isn’t that what it said in the other Gospel today?[3] Our Savior was praying to His Heavenly father, shortly before He was going to go to His great passion for our salvation, and He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”[4]

 

What is knowledge? Knowledge is intimacy. Knowledge is … love. To know God is to love Him, and give everything to Him.

 

We see evidence of this kind of love even in our own relationships. The love of a husband for a wife, or a child for his mother or father, and especially the love of an infant, such perfect love.

 

But just like a child who is not so intimate with his parents after he has done something wrong – he doesn’t show up in the same room for a while, he doesn’t want to talk to them, he hangs his head, he has broken communion with them because of guilt — so it is with us, if we do not follow the Lord’s commandments. Then, we will not be able to cry “Abba, Father”, because we will be hanging our head in shame. Or worse, I say most people don’t do that, because they cannot bear that kind of shame. Instead, they just leave God. They become choked with cares, or lusts or passions, with misplaced priorities, or they become even worse than that, and they wither away, and have no faith whatsoever. That’s what happens to most people.

 

I hope that in our church, if you forgive the expression, we beat the “odds”. I hope that all of us will be good ground, but I know that the only way that this can be possibly true is if we struggle — apart and together. We must pray for one-another, help one-another, and then, in our corner, in our closet, cry out to God each day, asking Him to help us with whatever passions we have, with whatever sins we commit. Even if we have poor attitudes, and we desire to change our attitudes.

 

Do you know that all sin, and even all action proceeds from thought? Everything we do proceeds from thought. We decide to do something, and then we do it, whether it is good or bad. So we must amend our thoughts. That is why the Apostle Paul says,

 

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”[5]

 

Train yourself! So now, if you want to be good ground, you must not add any trash to this ground. You must not add such things as impure thoughts, gossip, judging others. You can surely think of many other things that are within your heart that you do and that are affecting your ground. And if ground is left alone, and just walked over, and not cared for, it becomes the wayside. It becomes hard and the seed can no longer penetrate, and that which is in it dies, or never germinates. So we have a great labor to do, my brothers and sisters. We must continue to care for our ground carefully. And we must have patience.

 

There are two sides to patience. One is that we must be patient with our position in life, with our status, with the amount of money we make, with the difficulties we are encountering. We must not curse God or say that we should have this or we should have that. This is one kind of patience.

 

There is another kind – a very important kind of patience. Allow God to work! It takes time for Him to work. We do not know how much time we have, but the time we have is what God has allotted to us. He is going to use every moment of that time to perfect us. So, if we have trouble with our sins, if there is something that we fall into every day, then EVERY day repent of it, and be patient!

 

Be manly in spirit, and do not be like a child and run away from that sin, or rather, run away from the knowledge of that sin, since it will always be with you until you conquer it. Confront it! Confront it with sword and with shield, and with buckler, and with faith.[6] Eventually, God will deliver you. It will happen. It is guaranteed. If a man struggles to know to know God’s commandments, He will reveal them. This is absolutely certain, because in your struggling, you will be doing His commandments.

 

So, be patient, and cultivate your ground every day, every moment. However, be careful not to judge yourself. This is a hard lesson, that takes us a long time to learn – to not judge ourselves, and look at the sins we are doing and to say we can never do better. In some things we do better, and in some things, God help us and forgive us, we have done worse, but the demons cannot take away from us that we are children of the Most High.

 

We are able to cry “Abba Father”, only if we are struggling to live in Christ. God lives within us. He enlightens us, He helps us, even though we are sinners. So, if He has come to us and has offered us FREELY His grace and mercy, who are we, in our pride and arrogance to say “that is not enough mercy or enough grace. I can’t change”? Every man can change. Everyone can change magnificently if he only allows God to change him, but this takes time, a lot of time.

 

I am sure, you are like me, and are very tired of your sins. They weigh us down, they are like an anchor, and they cut and they hurt. And yet, in some weird and perverted way, they are dear to us. They must be dear to us in some way, but God understands, and will help us if we make an effort, and if we are patient.

 

None of us right now are the wayside because we are at least trying to be Christians. Some of us may be the rock, some may be thorns. God knows, and this will be all revealed in the end. Even if you have very little soil right now, and even if you are choked with thorns and cares, God will help you to become good soil. He will help any man to become good soil. He is no respecter of persons. Any man that desires will be given, freely, God’s mercy. So take God’s mercy and clasp it to your hearts. Hold in to it and cultivate it, and be good soil, and God will save you.

 

Amen.



Luke 8:5-15

 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. {6} And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. {7} And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. {8} And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. {9} And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? {10} And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. {11} Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. {12} Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. {13} They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. {14} And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. {15} But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

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This homily is at:

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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On Oct 14, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost,. and the day appointed for the commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[2] Galations 2:19-20

[3] John 17:1-13, read for the Sunday of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and other times during the year

[4] John 17:3

[5] Philippians 4:8

[6] Cf. Ephesians 6:13-17

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St Longinus the Centurion. St Sergius of Radonezh. Childrens School

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

St Longinus the Centurion Oct 16/29

St Sergius of Radonezh

Children’s School – ages 6-11.

Oct 15/28 2009 21st Wednesday after Pentecost

 

longinus-the-centurion-fresco.jpg Nea Moni http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/macedonian/greece2.html

 

Here is a slightly cleaned up and shortened version of notes my wife wrote to teach about St Longinus the Centurion in our church school. She made me promise to not publish it “as is”, because the notes were not meant for anyone else to see. I am keeping that promise, mostly by not including the short life of St Longinus she included. This is what you call following the “letter” of the law!

 

I saw the main teaching points and thought that this little lesson should have wider distribution.

 

I love this stuff because it is extremely moral. As my parish had better know by now! “ALL THEOLOGY IS ABOUT MORALITY”. It does not matter if we are reading Ephesians ( which we are currently studying in our adult class) or the lives of Saints or talking about Matins or the Symbol of faith – if we do not hear the moral message, we have not heard the message.

 

The compare and contrast stuff is just fantastic, and is especially useful for the children. May God preserve them.  

 

Other Saints that could have easily been included could have been St Peter (denied the Lord three times) and St Mary of Egypt. St Sergius is wonderful here since the children had just studied him near his recent day of commemoration.

 

Pedagogically this stuff is first rate. I hope it helps anyone who is teaching children.

 

 

1.Compare St. Sergius and St. Longinus

 

  S: holy from childhood, became a monk,  lived among monks.

 

  L: pierced Christ, repented, lived among those who didn’t know Christ; became a martyr

 

Both very holy, lived very different lives.

 

Regardless of what we become when we grow up, we can and should be holy!

 

2. Compare Judas and St. Longinus

 

J: delivered Christ to the Judges.

L: pierced Christ

 

J: realized what he did was wrong; killed himself; soul not saved.

L: realized what he did was wrong; repented; soul saved.

 

When we sin, even seriously, we can repent and still become holy.  Our sin can help us be compassionate with others who have sinned, and help us to be grateful for the forgiveness we have received!

 

 

This message was simple and aimed at children, but it applies to all of us. As a pastor, I find that often the most damaging aspect of sin is our reaction to it. Of course we must repent of or sin, and if we do not, then all is literally lost, but even if we are sorry, we need encouragement that we can repent and be successful.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-28_st-longinus-the-centurion+st-sergius-of-radonezh+childrens-school.html

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: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-28_st-longinus-the-centurion+st-sergius-of-radonezh+childrens-school.doc

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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The Law and Sin What is Sin? Romans 3:20

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Oct 14/27 2009 21st Tuesday after Pentecost

 

 

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Rom 3:20 KJV

 

It cannot be that perfectly doing the works of the law is of no benefit, since Christ “fulfilled the law [1]”, and in so doing did all the works of the law, not transgressing even once. This must mean that no man CAN do all the deeds of the law. The law, our “schoolmaster [2]” was not created to make us righteous, but rather, to show us how unrighteous we are. The law gives us “the knowledge of sin”.

 

So what is sin? This is the age old question, which is answered badly by Jews, Gentiles and Christians alike. Most answer this description by referring to deeds done or not done which violate God’s commands. This is true, but the Christian has (should have) a more perfect understanding of sin; it is what transpires because of our human condition, which can only be changed by faith in Christ.

 

People have a difficult relationship with the law. The law, which is still in effect, albeit in a different way than in OT times, tells us not to do many things. Some of these things may confuse us, especially in our immoral and lax days, when all manner of sexual conduct has been redefined to be “ok” in the eyes of God, and when we see lawbreakers apparently [3] living calm and happy lives. Breaking the law, that is, sin, leads to death [4], but this death is not readily seen.  

 

It is a tough sell to tell a young person (or an old one who has never learned self-control and gained wisdom in years) to refrain from pleasure, especially when it is not immediately apparent that anyone is being harmed. Murder, theft, adultery – we can understand why these things are sins – they directly harm another person. We have more trouble understanding why a consensual sexual relationship, or even our un-acted upon thoughts (such as lust, jealously, anger) or “private” sins (such as laziness or lack of prayer, are sinful. This is because we do not understand sin. If one does not understand sin, one does not understand the law.

 

In OT times, the law defined sin and righteousness, with little explanation. There were glimmers of explanation in various places, but for the most part, it defined “don’t do this, don’t do that”. The Jew had a poor conception of sin; for him it caused the wrath of God to fall upon him because of something He did or did not do, which was commanded in the law and animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood was necessary to remove this judgment from him.

 

For the NT man, the law has been further defined and elucidated by Jesus Christ, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. With the elucidation of the law, from the example and words of Jesus Christ, sin also has become more defined.

 

For the Christian, sin is imperfection, incompleteness, sickness, disease.

 

The law actually tells us the actions that come about as a result of this disease. Most diseases of the body are invisible or not readily apparent until substantial degradation of the body has already occurred (examples are cancer, diabetes, heart disease, which may be present for a long time before manifesting serious and even deadly symptoms). A sick man cannot know what makes him sick without an expert physician treating him and teaching him. We cannot know what makes us sick without the law schooling us.

 

The OT law tells us to not steal, commit murder, covet, commit adultery, etc. These sins cause us to be separate from God and unable to withstand His majesty, whether we know this connection or not. The OT law merely tells us things commanded to do or not to do, but does not explain the deeper meaning of these commandments. 

 

The NT explanation of the law further shows us a deeper meaning of these elementary prohibitions. For example, we are told in the OT law to not commit adultery, and our Lord explains the complete meaning of this prohibition by informing us that if we look upon a woman to lust after her, we have already committed adultery with her in our heart [5]. Our thoughts matter. They debilitate us as much as our actions.

 

St Paul explains that the law taught us the knowledge of sin. All the law does, whether in its OT form, of according to the refined teaching of the Savior, is inform us of the things which debilitate us and make us sick. Having this knowledge is a great advantage, to the Jew [6] or the Christian, but only the Christian can know how to fulfill the law, by understanding his nature, which leads to sin, and how Christ has renewed his nature, making new creature, able (with effort) to fulfill the law.

 

What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;  (Rom 3:9)

 

“under” = “hypo” = “subject to”, “under the power of”

 

Sin is not only something you do, it is something you are! It is weakness, a predilection to ungodly and useless things. It is slavery.

 

We need to get it out of our heads that sin is some-”thing” that is wrong – we are wrong, and we need to get right! This understanding of sin is mostly a NT one; as we have said, the Jews had a poor understanding of sin.

 

This is why it is very powerful to FORCE ourselves to do good.

 

Do you have trouble fasting? Good! Fast (even if you do it poorly – being “bad” at something holy is not an excuse to not do it at all!), and you will gain power over sin.

 

Do your eyes start to wander when you see something sexually tempting? Good! (but only if you struggle to avert your eyes).

 

Anytime we deny ourselves, even if imperfectly, we are living in the NT reality that Jesus Christ frees us from sin. We will be made “more than conquerors” if we struggle against sin. This is not a struggle to not do something that is against the law, but rather a struggle to become something, “free indeed” [7] and no longer subject to corruption and death (the wages of sin is death), that is righteous.

 

With the law we have the knowledge of sin, and Jesus Christ teaches us how to NOT sin, by becoming so strong in our will that we are capable of resisting all sin.

 

 

Do you understand that because of your weak human nature you are under the power of sin, and that this is the great tragedy of the human condition? And also, that the only way to overcome the power of sin is to struggle against it, making progress by God’s grace?

 

Test yourself.

 

The next time you confess, do not rattle off a bunch of stuff you did or did not do: “I broke the fast two times, I missed my morning prayers, I did not come to church because I was lazy, I become angry, I cursed”, etc.

 

You sin because you are still a weak person, under the power of sin. Lament the kind of person you are, and not just the things you do, because the person you are leads to the things you do or cannot do.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-27_the-law-and-sin+what-is-sin+romans3-20.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-27_the-law-and-sin+what-is-sin+romans3-20.doc

 

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[1] Mat 5:17  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

[2] Gal 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

[3] One of my favorite sayings is “Things are never as they seem”.  It would be good to remember this when we are tempted to be envious of a person who in some way seems to be better or more fortunate than us, as well as when we are tempted to judge someone as worse than us.

[4] Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[5] Mat 5:28  :But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.“

[6] Rom 3:1-2 KJV  “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  (2)  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”

[7]John 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

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Twelve Meanings of Candles Based on Their Properties

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Candles

Oct 13/26 2009 21st Monday after Pentecost. Holy Martyr Zlata.

 

A Meditation about candles [1], by Mitred Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff, rector of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA, with his introduction:

 

“I thought that I might share on this list a meditation that I wrote on the spiritual messages that the various properties of candles give. Children in our parochial school seem to really enjoy learning the twelve meanings of candles.”

 

Twelve Meanings of Candles Based on Their Properties

 

ussianorthodoxcandles.jpg1. Candles give light. They remind us of Christ Our Savior, Who said “I am the Light of the world.” (John 9:5)

 

They also remind us that we must also shine as lights, for Christ said that we, too, are the light of the world.

 

For He said: “You are the light of the world.”

And,

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).



2. Candles give warmth. They remind us that we must also give warmth to those around us, especially those who are cold and needy — to warm them with our love.

 

3. Candles burn with fire. They remind us of the eternal fires of hell, which await us if we do not repent and do not follow God’s commandments.

 

4. Candles are beautiful but dangerous. They shed a beautiful soft light in the Church makes the icons glow and that makes it so much easier to concentrate in prayer. However, if not monitored, they can also ignite the church furnishings and cause the church to burn down and all of the icons be destroyed. They teach us to be ever vigilant and careful, because lack of vigilance can bring terrible consequences.

 

5. Candles are not permanent. They remind us that our time of life here on earth is fleeting, and that every day our life grows shorter until it is extinguished. Candles call us, therefore, to repentance, for our time here on earth is not forever.

 

6. Candles are straight. They remind us that we must stand straight before the Eyes of the Lord, that our deeds must be straightforward and righteous. A candle that is not standing straight up will not burn properly. So we too must be straight in our ways, leaning neither to one side or the other.

 

7. Candles bend but do not break. A wax candle has the wonderful property of being able to be bent in a full circle without breaking, but can then be straightened out again. They remind us that we must be able to withstand challenges and sorrows that we face in our lives without breaking. Though these sorrows may bend our resolve, we, through contrition and repentance, can become straight once again.

 

8. Candles can be both hard and soft. They are hard when they are cold, but become soft when they are warmed. In the same way, our hearts are hard when cold, and we must warm them with love of God and of our fellow man in order for them to be soft again.

 

candle burning with "tears"9. Candles shed tears. When burning, the wax of a candle causes little drips to form and run down the candle that look like tears running down our face. They remind us that we must shed tears over our sins, and out of compassion for others.

 

10. Candles are gift of the animal world. Candles are made from wax, which is the product of the labor of thousands of honeybees working together. Candles remind us that we must also be industrious and not lazy and that we must love all of God’s creatures, big and small and be thankful to them when we use the fruit of their labors for our benefit.

 

11. Candles are useful but simple. Candles are not complex. They are simple in nature, but perform their task well. Especially in our age where we are surrounded by complex technology, candles remind us that the simple things are often the best.

Throughout the ages, candles have made it possible to perform services in the hours when it is dark outside. They make it possible for the priest to read the prayers in his service book, for readers and chanters to be able to assist in the services. Without candles, there would have been no All-Night Vigils, no Midnight Offices, no Paschal Midnight Matins and liturgies. Candles remind us that we too must do our jobs well, to live our lives well in accordance with God’s commandments, without complications.

 

12. Candles are useless without a spark. They remind us that we all are dead and useless unless we are lit with the spark of the Holy Spirit, which ignites the flame of life. Candles remind us of the Holy Spirit, Who appeared to the Disciples in the form of a flame. They remind us that we must ask the Holy Spirit to come and abide in us, and cleanse us of every impurity that our souls may be saved.

 

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-26_twelve-meanings-of-candles-based-on-their-properties.html

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[1] Used with permission

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widow of Nain. This is our life in microcosm. Luke 7:11-16 20th Sunday 2009

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

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Luke 7:11-16 11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.



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All homilies on this Sunday.

20th Sunday of Pentecost (HTML format)
Resurrection Of The Son Of The Widow Of Nain
Being In The Way Of Christ
Luke 7-11-16
1996
Also in Format: Word DOC

20th Sunday of Pentecost (RTF format)
2002

20th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
The Resurrection Of The Son Of The Widow Of Nain
2002

20th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
2004

20th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
The raising of the son of the widow of Nain.
We cannot understand this story unless we weep.
Luke 7:11-16
2008

20th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
Widow of Nain.
This is our life in microcosm.
Luke 7:11-16
2009
 

 



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20th Sunday. Widow of Nain. Being in the way of Christ. Luke 7:11-16

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Resurrection of the Son of the Widow of Nain

Being  in the way of Christ

Luke 7:11-16

Day of the Glorification of St Jonah of Manchuria, Sept 20, 1996

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. Welcome to our visitors today.  It is the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost today, and on this day we read the story  of the widow of Nain, or more correctly, that of her son, who was raised from the dead by our Lord Jesus Christ [1]

 

This also is a great day  in our church, because Bishop Jonah of Manchuria has been glorified as a Saint. [2] The main services for him are in San Francisco and Chicago, and we sang  his tropar today, and we number him among the saints. Of course, we knew he was already a Saint, because of the miracle that occurred on the day of his death.

 

We will talk more about this after liturgy, because we will have a Molieban beseeching St. Jonah  for help, and then I want to read his life. It might be a little long, but then, after all, we do not have very long in this life, so we  must spend the time we have fruitfully.  Reading about the saints, those who inspire us to do good and avoid evil,  is one the best ways to spend our time.

 

Our Lord tended to do things in a stepwise fashion. He revealed Himself by degrees. This is a principal in the Christian life. God reveals Himself slowly, as we can  bear Him.

 

“God is the Lord, and hath appeared unto us”, so it  says. This is what the Lord did in His ministry. He revealed Himself bit by bit.  In the beginning, He was  born as a babe, merely a babe in swaddling clothes, and there was nothing spectacular about Him at all, except for those who knew how He was conceived, and that was not well known at the time. Except for those  who saw the star, and only those who were worthy saw the star, and  we know the star was an angel, don’t we, from the Holy Fathers.  It was not a physical manifestation in the heavens, it was an angel who guided the wise men  from Persia, whom Daniel had  prepared and told to expect the Messiah.

 

Our Lord, just before the miracle we have before us today, had cured the centurion’s servant . You  remember the story. Our Lord is walking toward the centurion’s house, in order to heal his servant, who is almost dead. The centurion hears of this, and send some friends to Jesus with a message. This soldier, through his friends,  with humility pronounces himself unworthy to even have Christ “under his roof” [3].

 

The friends continue delivering a remarkable message: “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”[4]

 

And Our Lord said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” [5] , and healed the servant immediately, without even seeing him. Later, this man, Cornelius,  who was a man with a good heart, was enlightened by the Apostle Peter, and that story is given in the Acts. [6]

 

Our Lord healed his servant  right then and there. He did not heal him by walking to him, He just spoke the word, and the servant was healed. A time before this,  Our Lord healed the mother in law of the Apostle Peter, when He was in her presence. [7] She was in a fever, probably not altogether near death,  but  nevertheless, very sick and feverish.

 

Do you see how the miracles progress? And can you can see why our Lord raised the dead, healed the sick, stilled the waves? All these  miracles are meant to show us who He is, so that we can believe in Him.

 

Our Lord comes into the city of Nain, right after he had healed the centurion’s servant, before which  He had delivered His sweet discourse we know as the Sermon on the Mount. We mostly think of this when it is recounted in St. Matthew’s gospel, but the Apostle Luke also records it.

 

He is walking into the city, and He  is walking along the road, just going from one place to another. People are following Him, because they heard of his miracles, they have seen them, and they have heard His sweet words. They were attracted to these sweet words. At least, they continued to be attracted, most of them, until they  heard him say such things as “I am the bread of life” [8] , and “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”. [9]

 

Then they had trouble with Him, because He was saying things that their carnal minds could not understand. But this was, if  you want to call it so, the “honeymoon” period of his ministry. Thousands of people were thronging about, watching  our Lord’s every movement.

 

He comes into the city of Nain, and He sees a funeral procession of a man  who had been dead quite some time, because he was about to be buried. This procession passes  by Him. They coincide together. And so Our  Lord says to the woman “Weep not”, and touches the bier.

 

Who is this who says “weep not”? Who has  a right to tell a woman who has lost her only son, who is a widow, and has nothing more in this world for sustenance? Remember, in those days, to be a widow was to be truly poor. There was no financial safety net for such people. They were destitute if they had not a husband or a son. She was bereft of any help in the world. Not only had she lost her son, but she was also likely to endure a life of poverty in the future.

 

Our Lord says  “Weep not”. We don’t have the right to say “Weep not” to someone who has lost their son, but our Lord does.  Why can he say this? He  had compassion on her, and knew what she needed. He knew he would  provide what she needed.

 

He stopped the bier. He put His hand on the bier. The Fathers think this is very significant. By the way, I mention parenthetically here that when we talk about the scriptures, we who are appointed to teach , the priests, and preeminently, the bishops,  we do so with fear and trembling, and we consult the Holy Fathers. We don’t  just make things up, since scripture is not a matter for private interpretation. [10] We read from those Fathers who led lives of great sanctity, and we know some of their names. Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. John the Damascene, St. Theophylact of Bulgaria,  and many other Fathers, who  agree, even in minor points of theology. We read these  fathers before we start to talk so that we do not make a mistake, and say something that is heretical,  or say  something that is not edifying, and even then, may God preserve  us and you  when we make mistakes.

 

Theotokos "Sweet Kissing" theotokos-sweet-kissing.jpg Our Lord touches the bier. There is great significance to this action. We do not have a particular icon in the church, but one of these days, hopefully, we will have it – it is called “Sweet Kissing”. It shows the Mother of God,  with our Lord kissing her on the cheek. It is a very tender and evocative icon. It means  the same thing as what He meant when he touched the bier – His great love for humanity. After all, He became a man. He took on our flesh, not just  to show solidarity with us, not just to be an example to us, but to transform us, because He loves us. He is not an aloof God. He is right here and now, as He was right there, and He touched the bier to show us His great love and to show how  He would  transform us as He Himself had transformed His own flesh. He was made of the same stuff we are made of  you know, the same flesh, also being God, but the flesh He wore is the same flesh  as we have, or the same flesh, should I  say, as we will have in the eighth day, because He will transform us, if we live in the way. This is the way that He walked.

 

This man, this dead man, was fortunate to be in the way of Christ. After  our Lord touched the bier, He then said dogmatically, “Young man I say unto thee, arise” [11] .  He could have said something  else, perhaps a bit less dogmatic. He could have said, “Young man, be risen from the dead”, but He said “I say unto Thee, arise”. Why should He say such a thing? Because He is the Lord.  He is the One who said to Moses, “I am”. [12] He is the uncreated one. He is our Savior, and He shows us this by this miracle, and by His presence. Even those who hated Him knew that, He does speak as the scribes and the Pharisees. He speaks with authority. [13] And how did  He speak with authority? Because He was and is – authority. He is God.

 

We have a principle in the church. You cannot give what you do not have. This is very true.

 

Parents, if you want your children to grow up without passions, to be without anger, or to be obedient and God-fearing, if you are still filled with anger, or not obedient, or do not fear God, do not expect your children to learn these virtues from you. You wont be giving them what you don’t have. A priest cannot ordain. Only a Bishop can ordain. He has something a priest does not have. Christ can give us so much, because He has an abundance.

 

So He says to the young man, arise, and He gives the young man to his mother. He starts to talk, and the fathers  tell us that the reason he sat up and began to talk right away is so those around him would not think that our Lord was a sorcerer. He was not glassy eyed, he did not look like he was drunk, or on drugs. The man was completely risen from the dead, and was  ready to begin his life anew. Surely, indeed, he had much to ponder in the rest of his life. We are not told what happened to him from that point on.

 

The people who saw this miracle had a great  fear upon them. They said “ a great prophet has risen up among us, and God has visited His people” [14] . And they were correct, but they also did not know the  fullness of the truth concerning Christ.

 

Remember that God is revealing Himself to them, just as He does to us, according to what we can bear. Do you remember the story  of the talents that we spoke about recently? [15] The man who had five talents, later increased to ten, and then to eleven, and then, really, infinitely – that man had greater talents at the beginning because of his greater love for Christ. So Christ filled Him more.

 

The man started with a few talents, and went higher,. And we should start with some number and go higher, and never lose talents, and bury them ion the earth, and blame our Lord  because we do not use the grace that He has given us.

 

Remember that is what a talent  is – the grace that God gives us to follow His commandments.

 

What is  the point of the Christian life? It is to know God, isn’t it? It is to obtain our salvation.

 

And  how do we know God? By becoming like Him. We follow His commandments. It is impossible to be a Christian and not to follow  His ways, and do the things that He tells us. He says this over and over again. Every  page of scripture speaks of this. If you say you believe, act like it! Your faith is known by how you live, how  you think, how you act.

 

These people did not quite know Christ yet. They knew that He was very unique, and extraordinary, but they did not quite understand that He was the God-man, and that when He said “Young man, I say to unto thee, arise” [16], that He was the one, the Messiah. He had to show them many, many times, with many miracles, and many sweet words, and even  some did not understand until much later.

 

We have St. Paul speaking  of how he was one born “out  of season” [17], as he says. He was born out of season because he persecuted the Christians for a great length of time, and killed many hundreds of them, if not thousands, and with blood on his hands, on the way to Damascus, he was visited by the God-man, Jesus Christ, and his life was changed. [18] It took him quite some time, but we believe that he certainly made up for that time, by becoming a great apostle.

 

We can see several  things we should learn from this short passage. We can see many other miracles in the scriptures.  When we read them, do they make an effect on us, do they change us?

 

What do we see? First of  all, there is something earlier in this passage that we have not touched on, but need to, because it is very, very critical.  Our Lord touched the bier, and they that bear Him stood still. Stood still , because of obedience.

 

If we do not stand still in the Christian life, our Lord will not touch us, our Lord will not change us. We must stand still. And what  is it that we must do when we are standing still? Be obedient, and  listen to our Lord.

 

Why was this man raised from the dead?  Because he was in the way of Christ. What  is this way? It is the gospel, it is what our Lord teaches us. Preeminently, He has taught us to love, and He  has given us an apparatus as it were, to help us – the church. His body  is where we must be joined, or else we are not in the way, and God will not touch us, and will not redeem us, and will not change.

 

So all these things that we know about as Christians, such as following the fasts, because  they a prescribed for us, not by man, but by the Holy Spirit (the apostles  fasted after our Lord was gone, and taught the church to do so), the Holy services, partaking  of the Holy mysteries, reading the Holy Fathers, understanding all the doctrines and dogmas of our faith – all these things  comprise being in the way, but we surely know that they are all useless if we do not change because of them.

 

If we do not  change, it matters not what we believe, because the Devil believes. He knows. He knows  the truth of the matter, better than most of us do, and he will not change.

 

Our Lord gives us many opportunities to change. The Gospels are one continual  story after story of God showing Himself, manifesting Himself, showing His power, His wisdom. These people who did not know our  Lord yet, at least many of them would learn because they would  see other miracle, and our Lord would touch them in other ways, and they would come to an understanding. And then there are others, you know,  who, when they came to a greater understanding, rejected our  Lord. It is a mystery why one man  and another act differently with the knowledge of God.  This is something we do not know and cannot understand, only God knows – why some reject the truth even though they believe it. This is a hard  thing to understand, and a hard thing to know.

 

The bishop that we glorify today, Bishop  Jonah, lived a very extraordinary life in terms of the inner life in trify today, Bishop  Jonah, lived a very extraordinary life in terms of the inner life ihe church, but  very pedestrian in it’s outer aspect. He died very young, before he was forty. He died of typhus, just like anybody else, with a fever.  He had only begun his ministry in  Manchuria. He was there about three years, and yet, he left an indelible print upon the Russian people and upon the church because he invested in young  children, and those that had fallen away from the faith. Even to this day, surely you can find priests, and those who have lived pious lives or come back to the church because of his ministry. He only died in the late twenties.

 

His life did not look extraordinary to someone who would not be looking very carefully. This woman of Nain did not have an extraordinary life either, and yet extraordinary things happened to both of them.

 

The woman had her  son raised from the dead, merely because her way coincided with Christ. Bishop Jonah gave  his legs to a young boy who had lost the use of his, the night he died. He appeared in a dream to the boy and said, take my legs, I don’t need them anymore. This is one of the  signs by which we know that he is sanctified and that God has received his repentance, and numbers  him among those who please Him.

 

I want you to realize again , there was nothing extraordinary about his life externally. He just worked hard. He worked  in an orphanage. He took care of children. He preached. He taught. He labored. He administrated. In the midst  of all his work was Christ. He was a man with great love, and when you hear his testament and his life later on, you will agree that he is certainly numbered among the saints.

 

We can learn something from his life, so plain on the outside, or from the widow of Nain, that our life is just to follow Christ, simply and without pretense. God will indeed do miraculous things to  us, if we just live as He has told us.

 

This is very simple, a lot  simpler than we want it to be. We like to have things  complicated. We like to have things difficult. It is very simple. Christian, what  are you to do? You are to struggle to know Christ, and to know yourself. You are to struggle to  love those who hate you.  You are to struggle to learn God’s commandments, which are sweet, and to follow them.

 

You are not just  to say that you believe, because that just puts you in the same league with the devil, but you also must follow what you believe.  And you are to keep the fasts, you are to worship in the  services with fear and with trembling, and with awe, you are to  prepare yourself carefully for the mysteries. You are just to go on with your daily life, imbuing  it with Christ, Who lives within you.  If indeed, God ever gives you a mountain to climb, and some great work to do, then you will know it., And it will happen. Great works begin with very tiny beginnings.

 

When Bishop Jonah went to Manchuria, the people there were  very faithless. He would begin the divine liturgy, and nobody would show up until after the Cherubic  hymn, but he persevered. And his preaching was powerful. People saw something in this man that attracted them, and this something, of course, was Christ. So as he continued serving and preaching, in a very short while, the churches were filled to overflowing, and he was able to come  up with vast sums of money to create orphanages and schools.  At that time, the Russians in China that had been exiled were quite poor. There were children that had been sold into slavery, women being sold, dysentery, and disease … and typhus, from which our saint died. There were very  bad conditions. Bishop Jonah waded into those conditions and changed people. He made people  to see what it is they should do with their life, and follow Christ. He just did it by  being a Christian, by believing what he was doing. By laboring.

 

I don’t know why this  word “labor” is misunderstood so much among those that call themselves Christian today. Perhaps the greatest heresy of our day, and of all time is the divorcing  of … belief from action.

 

This is greater than the heresy  of Arianism, which if you are a student of heresies, and you should be, as a Christian, so you can know how to avoid them, leads to this great heresy,  since Arianism separates the flesh  from the spirit. We Christians don’t do that! The flesh and the spirit are joined. So as we believe, so we should act,  but so many believe and act differently, and have no qualms about this. This heresy has infiltrated all levels of life.

 

We cannot have this heresy  in our life! We must follow what God has taught us, or we cannot call ourselves Christians. And if we follow what God has taught us, most days it will not be spectacular. We will have struggles, we will be victorious in some, we will fall in others.  There may be some passion or sin that has a hold on us for a long period of time, and we fall again and again and again. 

 

How in the world can we say that we are making any progress when that happens? Oh, indeed, we are making progress! God wants us to be patient, to endure and to struggle. But we must struggle in truth, according to  what has been revealed in truth! If we struggle in something that  is not true, then it is of no benefit to us, except perhaps, that when we come to our senses, we will be ever grateful to God that He has delivered us from our previous life, before we were  Orthodox.

 

Let your way be in Christ’s way. This is the meaning of this scripture for today. Let  your way be in Christ’s way, follow what He teaches you. And when He touches you, stand still and listen. Listen to what He commands you to do. Don’t consider anything He says to you, through His church, to be a suggestion. The young man did not consider our Lord’s words to be a suggestion when He told him to arise. Nothing our Lord tells us is a suggestion. It is an order, from a king.

 

Check yourselves every moment, which way are you proceeding on? If you are proceeding on the way that  is Christ’s, then He will fill you.  He will change you, He will  enlighten you, He will raise you from the dead. If you deviate from that way, whether it be by incorrect belief, or pride,  or not trying to struggle against your sins, then you will not meet Him, because He will not be there. Stay on the way of Christ. Stay on the royal path. And then stand still, and listen, and God  will help you.

 

Amen.

Luke 7:11-16

 

And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called  Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.    7:12  Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a  dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and  much people of the city was with her.    7:13  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto  her, Weep not.    7:14  And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still.  And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.    7:15  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him  to his mother.    7:16  And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a  great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people

 

Priest Seraphim Holland      St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On  September 20th, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel appointed for this day is Luke 7:11-16. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[2] Bishop Jonah was officially glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia on September 20, 1996, according to the church calendar, which is also the day of his repose (1925)

[3] Luke 7:6

[4] Luke 7:7-8

[5] Luke 7:9

[6] Acts 10:1-48

[7] Matthew 8:14-15

[8] John 6:35

[9] John 6:51

[10] 2 Peter 1:20

[11] Luke 7:14

[12] Exodus 3:14

[13] Matthew 7:29

[14] Cf. Luke 7:16

[15] Matthew 25:14-30 (Read on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost)

[16] Luke 7:14

[17] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8

[18] Acts 9:1-8

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I count all things but loss. The knowledge of Christ Jesus. That I may win Christ. Philippians 3:8

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I count all things but loss

The knowledge of Christ Jesus

That I may win Christ

Philippians 3:8

Biblical Exegesis

It is always about You!

 Oct 10/23 2009 20th Friday after Pentecost

 

Today’s reading from Philippians is too good to miss. If one only had this passage and the Gospels it would be enough. Let’s do a little exegetical study of a small portion of the mellifluous words in this passage.

 

Remember what exegesis is – to glean what the writer intended the passage to mean.  These are not mere facts! This cannot be done without reading the text in an intensely personal way. One must consider these words to be written to him, and the moral admonitions to be fully binding, even if all specific circumstances do not apply to our particular lives.

 

The meaning of the text is only the beginning for us. We then must apply this meaning to our own lives. Perhaps there is something we should do, or be not doing, or perhaps in understanding the text, as if the scales fall from our eyes, we tremble because we are so far from perfection. Merely understanding what we should do or not do is not enough. We must also glean from the text encouragement and method, and allow our soul to be changed by mediation on the extreme beauty that is Jesus Christ. We must look carefully for instructions about how we should think, and what our attitudes and priorities should be, because as a man thinks, so he does.

 

Learn to read the scripture with the expectation and firm conviction that something is going to change in you for the better, right here, right now.

 

This passage is a deep well. Let’s put our toes in. It is important to understand the meaning of the scripture, but its application is as varied as the people who read it. Therefore, what “hits” me may not “hit” you, however, if you can read this passage without being touched to your very marrow [1], you will not have understood it in any meaningful way.

 

3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

 

There is a lot here. I am far from perfection. I know the Saints were those who embodied this attitude (and more than an attitude – it is a state of being – of being totally IN Christ). This is my goal – to count ALL things but loss except for the knowledge of Christ. Our Lord has also taught this:

 

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)

 

St Paul is merely rephrasing our Lord’s admonition. “Mother and Father” and “son and daughter” are “all things”. Taking St Paul’s assertion and combining it with our Lord’s words we have an equally true statement:

 

He that loveth ANYTHING more than me is not worthy of me.

 

What does the Apostle value above ALL THINGS? It is the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus. He is referring here to experiential knowledge – that which is gained by toil and fasting and prayer and repentance. He is describing THEOSIS, when a man becomes like Christ, by emulation and grace. It is impossible to have the “knowledge of Christ” without become like Christ. Our religion is one of emulation. We imitate the God-man Jesus Christ to the extent we are able, and His grace is sufficient for us if we truly count all things as loss except Him.

 

St Paul uses a powerful term: he states that he (has) suffered the loss of all things …

that I may win Christ.

 

This brings to mind the athlete (a favorite subject for the Apostle), who strives above all others to win the contest and is victorious. Our modern view of Christianity is very passive, but Christianity is aggressive! Nobody wins in sport by being passive. We must go about our life “with loins girded” because we are in a battle to the death. Can you see the Apostle’s urgency?  This begs the question: where is our urgency? If we are not as urgent, there must be an attitude/priority problem in our life – we must be valuing something above Christ! What is it?

 

“… the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mat 11:12)

 

 

Please read the rest of the passage, below.

 

     Philippians 3:8-19 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-23_i-count-all-things-but-loss+the-knowledge-of-christ-jesus+that-i-may-win-christ+philippians-3-8+biblical-exegesis+it-is-always-about-you.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-23_i-count-all-things-but-loss+the-knowledge-of-christ-jesus+that-i-may-win-christ+philippians-3-8+biblical-exegesis+it-is-always-about-you.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] Heb 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

 

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A house upon a rock. Words to build by. Luke 6:46-7:1 Children’s Liturgy

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

A house upon a rock

Words to build by.

Luke 6:46-7:1

Children’s Liturgy

 

Oct 8/21 2009 20th Wednesday after Pentecost

 house-upon-a-rock.jpg http://pathwaychildrensministry.blogspot.com/2009/03/house-upon-rock-good-choices.html

We just so happen to building a church just now (have you heard? J ) Today’s Gospel reading applies in a very direct way to our building project. This project is ongoing, and will continue after the last brick is in place, and the last icon is painted, because the building that our Lord is referring to is the “building” of the soul – the one and only purpose of human life – the perfection of the soul.

 

Building a temple is similar to building the soul in one’s personal life. Without effort and proper priorities, all will be for naught. Without belief in Christ, which purely an simply means following Christ by taking His yoke upon us in all things, all will be for naught.

 

In the secular world, a man builds after taking careful account of finances, and planning, including design, choice of location and materials. We have done all that, but the most important things, which this reading describes, have nothing to do with these things.

 

The rock that our Lord mentions is Himself. The scripture refers to Christ, that is, belief in Him, and following Him, as “rock”:

 

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  (17)   And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  (18)   And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat 16:16-18)

 

As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Rom 9:33)

 

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  (2)   And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  (3)   And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  (4)   And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1Co 10:1-4)

 

Our church edifice happens to look a bit like rock, and will be covered in rock, but these are external things.

 

As a parish, we build upon a rock when we corporately and individually dedicate our lives the Christ. I cannot do anything about how an individual builds, but as a pastor I can only help to provide the mortar and the bricks.

 

Among our most important materials is prayer. I serve a weekly Thursday liturgy, and have been doing so for almost two years. This is one of our most important ministries. Many times, I have served with only the reader and myself, with God among us, and with the Saints and angels [1]. In the world, one would say that this act of worship has little impact, since hardly anybody comes. If we were a Home Depot, we would have long ago closed our doors on this day and hour, because so few come, but we are a church, and we must pray, faithfully.

 

Our weekday liturgy has been the most important reason why our building project has been succeeding.

 

I will continue serving, no matter how many lean days there are, because in this service, we pray for everyone in the parish by name in the Great Ectenia. There is no way for our feeble minds to understand the grace that this brings to our community, but is does come!

 

Children singing in the choir during Childrens Liturgy at St Nicholas, McKinney. 2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-choir-6.jpg Taken by Mira (Juliana) Parker I have seen very consoling signs that this liturgy is important personally to our flock, because of the steady attendance in our two monthly “children’s liturgies”. There is no value that can be attached to the grace that our children (and us) receive by worshipping together, and teaching them to sing.

 

Homily during Children's liturgy at St Nicholas, McKinney TX 2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-homily-1.jpg. Taken by Mira (Juliana) Parker

 

 


2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-homily-3.jpgMy custom of sitting down and giving a simple homily after the Gospel, with the children gathered around, and excitedly (and often quite correctly, but sometimes with an … interesting perspective!) interjecting their answers and feelings is the best part of my week. This may not be considered to be pristine liturgics, but it is good theology.

 

 

How can any parishioner, whatever his station in life, help to build his parish upon a rock? Personally we must struggle, with fasting and prayer and a continual reassessment and adjustment of our thoughts and priorities. Corporately, we must consider ourselves to be a part of the body, therefore critical to its functioning. Participation in prayer, giving alms, praying for each other, baking prosphora, cleaning the church, church classes and activities, and anything and everything else that affects our parish life together is the way we contribute to building our parish upon the rock.

 


46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. 1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. Luke 6:46-7:1

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-21_a-house-upon-a-rock-+words-to-build-by+luke6-46-7-1+childrens-liturgy.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-21_a-house-upon-a-rock-+words-to-build-by+luke6-46-7-1+childrens-liturgy.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mat 18:20). These are very good words to remember when in a sparsely attended service.

 

 

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APSE-solutely Wonderful!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Construction Photos

Building of the Apse

Oct 7/20 2009 20th Tuesday after Pentecost

 
Apse construction from Viewd towards the West<br />
2009-10-20_construction+aps-west-view.jpg

 

Apse construction viewed looking West

 

Apse construction viewed looking East.<br />
2009-10-20_construction+apse-east-view.jpg

Apse construction viewed looking East

 

Look good (and will look better when we get some pictures with the deaconesses in front)! We should have the roof on inside of two weeks if the weather holds.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-20_construction-photos-building-of-the-apse.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-20_construction-photos-building-of-the-apse.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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Christian Life Skills – The Four Bows. Give the first fruits of your day to the Lord

Monday, October 19th, 2009

October 6/19 20th Holy Apostle Thomas, 20th Monday after Pentecost

  A long time ago( probably 1980), Matushka Marina and Priest Seraphim in college. This picture is in his bible which he carried around everywhere at that time. Our custom to this day is to have a heart shaped cake on Valentine's day like this. i-love-you-with-the-love-of-my-lord.jpg

I did not know much about life skills back then, but I got one right at least!

At college, about 1980, on Valentine’s Day. This picture is still in my bible from back then.

 

Lets us be perfectly honest with one-another; we do not pray enough. There are many reasons for this, with of course the primary reason being that we do not love God enough and our passions interfere with everything holy.

 

Okay, we know the problem, what is the solution?

 

Another life skill which I will eventually write about can be summed up: “Do what you can do, so that eventually you will be able to do what you cannot do”. When applied to prayer, this means we must pray now, as much as we can, even though we do not pray very well, or consistently.

 

Let’s start with what we CAN DO. We can be more consistent. It takes some planning and effort, but it is “doable” to be more consistent in prayer.

 

This is where the “four bows” come in. I have taught these to just about everybody for years now (the originals article that has been one the web for years is here (http://www.orthodox.net/articles/fourbows.html) ) and they have had a profound effect on those who have listened. They are a “little thing”, but like so many “little things” they lead to big things.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we should lament our inattention to God, our weak and inconstant prayer, our false priorities, and the time we waste on things that are not effectual for our salvation. We are weak creatures, driven by habit, and many of these habits are sinful and destructive. So many of our activities are thieves – they steal time from prayer.

 

There is a superb article, from an old "Nicodemus" publication (which later became "Orthodox America") which provided the seed for this instruction. In the article, a bishop was instructing a group of children. I will try to reproduce the gist of his words here.

 

Our hearts are like coal, which is cold, but may be lit with persistent effort. Coal lights very slowly, and much care must be taken to tend it, even when it is burning. Our prayer is like blowing on the coal, which gradually becomes warmer, and eventually a hot fire, but only after much persistence on our part. The key is persistence, and not to lose heart. Even a small effort is rewarded by God, if we are persistent.

 

The bishop then went on to instruct the children to do three bows in the morning, IMMEDIATELY after they got out of bed. I added one more bow to the list, and have told almost everyone in confession or another time about this rule.

 

This rule follows, and I beg all of you to follow it with all your strength.

 

The Four Bows

 

Upon arising in the morning, before anything else, direct your heart and mind towards God, and face your icons, or face east and with compunction, and without haste, make four bows [1], or better, four prostrations [2].

 

Do this with hope in God, and the sure belief that He will receive your prayer, as He received the widow’s two mites, and protect you during the day, even if you fall into inattention and these prayers are the last you will say for the entire day.

 

Making the sign of the cross, with a bow of prostration during each prayer say:

 

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


2.Most Holy Theotokos, save us.


3.Holy Saint ______ (your patron saint), pray to God for me.


4.Holy Angel of God, my guardian, pray to God for me.

 

After these prayers, it is best to continue with your morning prayers, and then turn your attentions to the cares of the day. Even if the weakness of the flesh compels us to abandon our prayer and rush into our day, perhaps not to return to our morning prayer, at least we have begun the by giving our "first fruits" to God.

 

Let us do these "few things": four short prayers that take under a minute, so that in time, our heart will become aflame with the love of God, and our Lord will say to us:

 

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Mat 25:21)

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-19-christian-life-skills-the-four-bows-give-the-first-fruits-of-your-day-to-the-lord.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-19-christian-life-skills-the-four-bows-give-the-first-fruits-of-your-day-to-the-lord.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] A Bow, also known as a “reverence” or “Poklon” is when the sign of the cross is made, while simultaneously bowing the head by bending at the waist. Some bow deeply and touch the ground with their right hand, and other make very shallow bows. It really does not matter as long as the movement is done with attention.  (taken from the Prayer of St Ephrem, ( http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/o-lord-and-master-of-my-life-prayer-of-st-ephrem-01.html)

 

[2] A Prostration is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially “fall” forward to the ground  with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class “burpee”.(from the same source as note 1)

 

Something NOT TO DO: No “waving at the air”. Some do prostrations and bows quickly or carelessly, and the sign of the cross they make looks like they are shooing away a fly. “Let all things be done in good order”.

 

 

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