Archive for October, 2009

The Golden rule is not the law of attraction, but because we are children of the highest. 19th Sunday. Audio Homily.

Monday, October 19th, 2009

The "Golden Rule" is explained, including a mention of how the world twists this rule into a sort of magical "law of attraction". The REASON for the golden rule and everything we do is because we are "children of the highest".

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Luke 6:31-36 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.


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What is a Christian? What is a Saint?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The Orthodox Dogma of sanctity, by St Justin Popovich

Oct 3/16 2009 19th Friday after Pentecost

orthodox-faith-and-life-in-christ-justin-popovich-book-cover.jpg  “What are Christians? Christians are Christ-bearers, and by virtue of this bearers and possessors of eternal life, and this according to the measure of faith and according to the measure of holiness which is from faith.

 

The Saints are the most perfect Christians, for they have been sanctified to the highest degree with the podvigs [1] of holy faith in the risen and eternally-living Lord Christ and no death has power over them. Their life is entirely from the Lord Christ, and for this reason is entirely Christ’s life; and their thought is entirely Christ’s thought; and their perception is Christ’s perception. All that they have is first Christ’s and then theirs. If the soul, it is first Christ’s and then theirs. In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ.

 

Therefore the Lives of the Saints are nothing else but the life of the Lord Christ, repeated in this or that form.” (St Justin Popovich, “Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, in the Chapter “Introduction to the Lives of the Saints”, pp 34,35)

Saint Justin Popovich - photograph<br />
justin-popovich-photo.jpg

 

How far away is our life from Fr Justin’s description of what we should be! How far away is the conception of the typical Christian of this reality!

 

I hope to serialize other portions of this “desert island” book by St Justin in the future.

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

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[1] The very rich Russian word is difficult to translate. It basically means an intense spiritual struggle. One cannot have a podvig without struggling AS a Christian, in other words, all intense struggles are not necessarily podvigs.

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Parable of the ten Virgins. The Oil is the Holy Spirit. The proper dogma regarding works. St. Seraphim of Sarov’s Conversation With Nicholas Motovilov

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

A Wonderful Revelation to the World

Oct 2/15 2009 St Anna of Kashin

 

Anna of Kashin anna-of-kashin-oct-02.jpg

 

Today we commemorate St Anna of Kushin, who happens to be the patroness of one of my granddaughters. Many years Ann-banan! The Gospel reading for her service is the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

 

This parable is one of the most important in all of Scripture, and a proper understanding of it is crucial. The interpreter par-excellence of this Gospel is my Patron, St Seraphim of Sarov. His “Conversation with Motovilov” (also here) contains pearls regarding this parable.

 

This is worth spending some time on. If you are skimming, at least read St Seraphim’s comments, which follow the Gospel selection.

 

Parable of the Ten Virgins parable-ten-virgins-matthew25-1-13.jpg Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  (2)   And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  (3)   They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:  (4)   But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  (5)  While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.  (6)   And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (7)   Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.  (8)   And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.  (9)  But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.  (10)   And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.  (11)   Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.  (12)   But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.  (13)   Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Mat 25:1-13)

 

 

 

St Seraphim of Sarov on a rock. seraphim-of-sarov03.jpgPrayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ said: He who gathers not with Me scatters (Luke 11:23). Not that a good deed can be called anything but gathering, since even though it is not done for Christ's sake, yet it is good. Scripture says: In every nation he who fears God and works righteousness is acceptable to Him.[1]

 

 

"In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the foolish ones lacked oil, it was said: 'Go and buy in the market.' But when they had bought, the door of the bride-chamber was already shut and they could not get in. Some say that the lack of oil in the lamps of the foolish virgins means a lack of good deeds in their lifetime. Such an interpretation is not quite correct. Why should they be lacking in good deeds if they are called virgins, even though foolish ones? Virginity is the supreme virtue, an angelic state, and it could take the place of all other good works.

"I think that what they were lacking was the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins practiced the virtues, but in their spiritual ignorance they supposed that the Christian life consisted merely in doing good works. By doing a good deed they thought they were doing the work of God, but they little cared whether they acquired thereby the grace of God's Spirit. Such ways of life based merely on doing good without carefully testing whether they bring the grace of the Spirit of God, are mentioned in the Patristic books: 'There is another way which is deemed good at the beginning, but it ends at the bottom of hell.'

"Antony the Great in his letters to Monks says of such virgins: 'Many Monks and virgins have no idea of the different kinds of will which act in man, and they do not know that we are influenced by three wills: the first is God's all-perfect and all-saving will: the second is our own human will which, if not destructive, yet neither is it saving; and the third is the devil's will—wholly destructive.'

 

And this third will of the enemy teaches man either not to do any good deeds, or to do them out of vanity, or to do them merely for virtue's sake and not for Christ's sake. The second, our own will, teaches us to do everything to flatter our passions, or else it teaches us like the enemy to do good for the sake of good and not care for the grace which is acquired by it. But the first, God's all-saving will, consists in doing good solely to acquire the Holy Spirit, as an eternal, inexhaustible treasure which cannot be rightly valued. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is, so to say, the oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They were called foolish just because they had forgotten the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one is or can be saved, for: 'Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit and exalted by purity and mystically illumined by the Trinal Unity.' [2]

 

"This is the oil in the lamps of the wise virgins which could burn long and brightly, and these virgins with their burning lamps were able to meet the Bridegroom, Who came at midnight, and could enter the bridechamber of joy with Him. But the foolish ones, though they went to market to buy some oil when they saw their lamps going out, were unable to return in time, for the door was already shut.

The market is our life;

the door of the bridechamber which was shut and which barred the way to the Bridegroom is human death;

the wise and foolish virgins are Christian souls;

the oil is not good deeds but the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God which is obtained through them and which changes souls from one state to another—that is, from corruption to incorruption, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the stable of our being (where the passions are tied up like dumb animals and wild beasts) into a Temple of the Divinity, into the shining bridechamber of eternal joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Creator and Redeemer and eternal Bridegroom of our souls.

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-15_parable-of-the-ten-virgins-the-oil-is-the-holy-spirit-the-proper-dogma-regarding-works-st-seraphim-of-sarov-conversation-with-motovilov.html

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[1] Act 10:35  “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.“

 

[2] From the Antiphons of Matins, Tone 4, Sunday.

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Christian Life Skills – Being on time

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Oct 1/Oct 14 2009 19th Wednesday after Pentecost.

Protection of the Theotokos


I am starting a series of articles on “Life Skills”. This term is used regarding simple and necessary skills needed to succeed in modern life, raise a baby, etc. For instance, young mothers may be taught to not put their baby to bed with a bottle (since this will almost surely cause serious ear infections and is a choking danger). Most of these skills are simple building blocks for an effective life. Another example is teaching a person to balance a checkbook, or about how to use (or not use) credit wisely.

 

There are many Christian “Life Skills”, and these are also simple building blocks – towards eternal life.

 

We all should have a humble view of ourselves, and consider ourselves simple and in need of improvement. Even the simple stuff has a place in the most experienced Christian’s life. St Paul even mentions this; when I get the time I will add in the scripture reference.

 

Big Ben http://www.freefoto.com/images/31/07/31_07_23---Ten-O-clock--Big-Ben--The-Houses-of-Parliament--London_web.jpg The first life skill is: being on time to church.

 

Like many things in life, this is a habit. Habits must be formed by long repetition. It is impossible to get into the really important good habits, such as consistent daily prayer, and the controlling of our thoughts and actions in a Christian way, if we do not do the smaller things.

 

It is very important for many personal and corporate reasons for a Christian to be a little early to church services.

 

When I was a layman, I always arrived early, because I could not come right off the street and concentrate. I still come early, even as a priest, because I do not want to be rushed (the preparation for liturgy takes about an hour, so I arrive at least a half hour before that).

Imagine running up the stairs to a business meeting. You are not ready to do your best at the meeting; your heart is beating fast, you are nervous from worry about being late, and you have trouble marshalling your thoughts. It is the same way with prayer. Arrive a little early, venerate the icons, and get yourself ready to pray. We need this time, because we are not always in a prayerful state.  

 

This is especially important when you have young children. They need time to calm down, and who is going to teach them if it is not their parents?

If you do this all the time, you will find the liturgy and all services to be much more meaningful and you will improve as a human being.

 

That is the point, isn’t it?

 

We should go to the liturgy and every service, but especially the liturgy, in order to gain something. We come to be changed. We should always go away richer than we were before. It takes concentration and effort to achieve this change. If you arrive after the liturgy starts, you rob yourself of the preparation period so necessary for the soul.

Being on time to anything is an indication that we value it. We would rush to be in our seats before the kickoff or before a movie starts, because we do not wish to miss anything. We would not think to be late to an office meeting with our boss. By establishing the habit of being on time or better, early to services we are stating, as much to ourselves as everyone else that we value the holy services and do not want to miss anything.

 

My earnest pastoral advice to everyone is that they come on time and even a little early to the liturgy especially and all the services. As in all Christian asceticism (yes, this IS asceticism!) is that it takes time to see results. Be on time and be patient with the passage of time, and you will see that this habit is very salvific for you.

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-14_life-skills+being-on-time.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-14_life-skills+being-on-time.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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Christian Love is not the same as the World’s love.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Love without knowledge and judgment is not love.

The Dogma of Love

Philippians 1:8-14


Sep 30/Oct 13 2009 19th Tuesday after Pentecost.

 

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  (10)  That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;  (11)  Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

 

The way a Christian loves is not the way the world loves. This is a primary reason why the world hates Christianity. Christian love may be thought of as a fundamental DOGMA, since God is love. How can we know God, if we do not learn to love as He loves?

 

St Paul, here, as is customary for him, expresses to his beloved flock that he has a deep desire to pray for them, and then delineates the things that he prays for them. These things are always spiritual, since the Apostle, as a minister of God, wants nothing less than permanent change for his flock, and anything in the world that is not spiritual, whether good or bad, is temporary.

 

Here he teaches about the dogma of love. He does so not really by design, as in “now I am going to teach the Philippians what love is”, but rather as a natural outgrowth of his love for the Philippians and his desire therefore that they “abound yet more and more” in love. He is, as we say “thinking out loud” here, and it is natural for him to mention the most important aspects of love.

 

When we read the scriptures, we must be careful to discern the context of words, and the words that are in proximity to a word or idea will always illuminate that word or concept. This principle is beautifully illustrated in this selection.

 

The Apostle prays that the love for the Philippians may “abound yet more and more”, and without the further clarification he gives to show what he means by love, his prayer is exactly that same as a Christian or a heretic or a TV preacher with a sharp suit who prays with his eyes wide open towards a camera, or any movie star or politician who expresses a desire that we “love”.

 

It is the Apostle’s clarifications that teach us the dogma of love. These words are absolutely necessary in our day, because the word “love” has been polluted with many false meanings, and each false teaching or action is based on faulty knowledge or judgments.

 

His desire for the Philippians shows us the two virtues that are indispensably part of love: knowledge and judgment. Without these two, nothing that is called love is love.

 

Knowledge is the virtue that allowed us to know and proclaim the truth of things. This means that love must be able to discern what is true, and right, or wrong and false.  

 

Judgment in Christian theology always is associated with righteousness, that is, works of righteousness. For our purposes, let us say that it is knowing AND doing what is right.

 

True love must know what is good and holy and do it.

 

These attributes of love mean that the one who loves does not haphazardly accept any behavior or idea.

Our society is running pell mell, like the Gadarene swine, to embrace sinful lifestyles in the name of love. Many, including Orthodox Christians, are living moment to moment, tossed about by every wind of secular doctrine. We, by and large, are a people without eternals goals.

 

The end of St Paul’s prayer shows the end result of love according to knowledge and judgment – with sincerity to “approve things that are excellent … till the day of Christ”, that is, until the second coming of the Lord. If St Paul’s prayer is totally fulfilled in us, we will be “filled with the fruits of righteousness”, that is become completely holy and united to God.

 

None if this is possible without us following the dogma of love. It will not be found in the pronouncements of the world and worldly, but is proclaimed by the scriptures and holy fathers, and only understood by the heart that loves as God loves.  

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-13_christian-love-is-not-the-worlds-love+knowledge-judgment+philippians1-8-14.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-13_christian-love-is-not-the-worlds-love+knowledge-judgment+philippians1-8-14.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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Iconostasis Design Meeting, with pictures and altar/iconostasis design sketch

Monday, October 12th, 2009

This post looks better at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-12_iconostasis-design-meeting.html. It is hard to get some graphics right on the blog.

Michael Daum, the point man on our parish for the building of the temple 2009-10-12_construction+iconostasis-design-meeting-michael-daum.jpg

Sep 29/ Oct 12 2009

 

Today, Michael Daum (right) our resident point man for the building project, Reader Nicholas Park, and yours truly (Priest Seraphim, the head delegator) met with Fr Michael Storozuk, rector of St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church Denison TX, met at the building site for a design meeting regarding the iconostasis and altar.

 

Rev Michael Storozuk, rector, St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church, Denison, TX 2009-10-12_construction+iconostasis-design-meeting+fr-michael-1.jpg

Fr Michael is an excellent carpenter, and has built the iconostasis for many churches in the area, including his own, St Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas and many more.

 

2009-10-12_construction+iconostasis-design-meeting+fr-michael-michael-daum-nicholas-park.jpg

The meeting was extremely productive. We worked off a provisional sketch Nicholas has made of the interior of the altar, and came up with a basic plan for the iconostasis and inside of the altar.

 

Our carpenters will frame the iconostasis ands interior walls in the altar. After we get the occupancy permit (sometime in December), we will commence work on finishing the iconostasis with nice wood trim and reasonable (read, not expensive) carving, etc.

 

THE EXCITING NEWS is that we plan to have the unfinished iconostasis up before the visit of Bishop Peter for our Feast Day (Dec 6/19, THIS YEAR).  The doors will not be hung, but the wall will be there, with arched openings where the 2 deacons’ door and royal doors will be.

 

 

Altar and iconostasis design (not showing apse) - subject to change - 2009-10-12_construction+saint-nicholas-mckinney-altar-design.jpg

This is the latest drawing we have of the altar area. (1 cm = 1 ft)

 

Things will change, but the basic idea is there. The apse is not shown in this drawing, due to software constraints.

 

 

I wish to inform our readers that all this design stuff is a leap of faith. The extra things the city has required of us for occupancy have left no funds to finish out the iconostasis.

 

The only reason we are even building the rough iconostasis structure is because of interior design changes which have saved us enough money (from removing interior walls that we had planned on building) to substitute the building of the iconostasis and altar walls.

 

We need as much help as you can give. We are currently trying to raise $40,000 to insure that we can finish the things we need to finish to get occupancy. We have saved as much as we can on construction, and raised about $8000 so far.  

 

If you are looking for a “worthy cause”, please see our request for benefactors letter. We are asking for money, like everybody does, but have also made the solemn promise that you and your immediate loved ones will be remembered in the Divine Liturgy in our parish forever, as well as mentioned in our annual benefactor’s day liturgy.

 

Our benefactor diptychs are already over a hundred names. There will be no wall plaque with names on it in our church, but your names will be remembered at least once a week, forever. Nobody reads the names on those fancy plaques this much!

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-12_iconostasis-design-meeting.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-12_iconostasis-design-meeting.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)

 

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For we are His workmanship…

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

In today’s adult Church School class, we talked about the following selection from Chapter 2 of St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (NKJV)

According to St. Theophan the Recluse (as recorded in Archbishop Averky’s commentary on Ephesians), this passage gives us St. Paul’s (and the church’s) answer to the contemporary "faith vs. works" controversy which rages in other christian confessions. We are saved by grace through faith. Nothing we have done or can do can save us.

But that does not mean that good works are not necessary for salvation; St. Paul immediately goes on to say that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works." So our salvation consists in our resurrection as it were from the dead, and in our new, living state we cannot but do good works out of love and gratitude to Him Who has saved us. Resurrected in His image, we must naturally do His works.

One of the participants in the class pointed out the one of our standard morning prayers more-or-less recapitulates what the Apostle is saying here:

My most merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and take flesh to save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee, for if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty. Indeed, in Thy infinite compassion and unspeakable mercy, Thou O my Christ hast said: Whoever believes in Me shall live and never see death.

If faith in Thee saves the desperate, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Impute my faith instead of deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds which could justify me, but may my faith suffice for all my deeds. May it answer for and acquit me, and may it make me a partaker of Thy eternal glory. And may satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ, my Saviour, whether I will or not, save me. Make haste, quick, quick, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother’s womb.

Grant me, O Lord, to love Thee now as once I loved sin, and also to work for Thee without idleness, as I worked before for deceptive satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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The Miraculous catch of fish. The greatest miracle was not the fish! 18th Sunday 2009 Audio Homily

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Miraulous catch of fish, National Gallery, London

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Like all of Jesus Christ’s miracles and parables, this story can be understood on many levels. It obviously demonstrates dogmas about the God-man, Jesus Christ, and also has beautiful mystical symbolism concerning the Jews, apostles and the church, but it’s most important message is how we should live. The example of Peter and the others with him demonstrates a paradigm that should apply to EVERYTHING in our life. We must hear (and obey), be able to see the results (and understand) and then act upon this understanding.

Luke 5:1-11 1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.



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Blog Statistics

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Here are some statistics for the blog. I am pleased to see that readership has increased. The highest entry is a bit of a mystery to me, but then the angels are mysterious!

 

Following the link which contains a portion of the title is the number of hits for this year. These are all entries above 100 hits.

 

There are other ways the blog gets read – via RSS, email and via the parish email list. None of these readers are reflected by these statistics.

 

Many years to the Mike/Myke(s) Feast day

1,026

Pentecost “Out of His belly shall flow

423

Why do we pray facing East? Why does th

244

What happened on the Cross? Dispassion.

208

Abba Moses the Ethiopian. Icon, Sayings,

191

Prophet Isaiah, today. The Coal from the

180

The Importance of Monasticism Poverty,

157

Old Testament references to the Cross. 4

148

Why were Moses and Elias with Christ on

147

"Godliness with contentment is great ga

147

An Eclectic Commentary on the Book of Jo

145

Bright Thursday 2009. Nicodemus meets Je

143

The Paralytic "Rise, take up thy bed, an

130

We preach Christ crucified. Exaltation o

128

The Rich Young Ruler The main points are

127

"I am building a temple!"

119

Fund-raising news New Construction phot

114

Pentecost Icon Explanation. King Cosmos

108

The Beheading of St John the Baptist

105

Dormition hymns: The Furnace and the The

104

 

 

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Everything MUST have meaning! Sickness Drug Addiction Priorities

Friday, October 9th, 2009

 
Sept 26/ Oct 8 2009. Repose Of The Holy Apostle And Evangelist John The Theologian

  

Being sick this week has made me a little philosophical, with the extra and welcome downtime. Normally, I try to write about the service texts and scripture, because these things are at the core of our faith, and I rarely feel up to some sort of “spiritual essay” not directly related to something I have read or prayed. Here is the exception that proves the rule.

 

Everything we do must have meaning!

 

This should be the goal of the Christian in everything he does, thinks, thinks about doing, desires and says.

 

Let us define ”meaning” for our purposes. This definition will not appear in Webster’s, but it is the Christian definition. For something to have “meaning”, it must be according to the will of God, and lead to eternally good consequences. This is a broad definition, applicable to every circumstance in life. The Christian must, as St Andrew says in his Great canon, “be a good trader”, that is, assess every situation and find the right thing to do.  It takes great wisdom to always find (and do) the meaningful action.

 

Basically, if everything in our life is meaningful we are always living in Christ, in the Spirit. This is not possible for us in our weakened condition, but it is something we must strive for.

 

Of course, we can only control what we do, and not what others do. Our actions have meaning if they are the right actions, according to the will of God, no matter what the results are. It would be wonderful if every time we gave good advice or helped someone with some problem they improved permanently in some way, so that our meaningful actions would also cause someone else to live more meaningfully, but this is not the reason we do what is right. It is always right to do the right thing, even if things do not turn out as we desire.

 

Basically, saying that we must strive  for everything in our life to have meaning is like saying:

 

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. (Philippians 4:8)

 

Remember that as we think, so should we do.

 

The best way to illustrate this important life skill is by examples. Everything in our life should be evaluated under this prism – does it have meaning?

 

 

Sickness

 

I am sick this week. I felt really puny on Wednesday, and really terrible Thursday, so much that I called off liturgy. I acutely felt my mortality during times like these. We should always feel our mortality, and be thinking of our eventual death in the body. There is only so much time – how much time do we have? To my chagrin, I was unable to write this article yesterday, because I did not feel well. I could have done it – it would have been hard, and my head would have hurt more, but I slept a lot instead.

 

I don’t feel “guilty” about any of this, but my small sickness has made me think about how fragile I really am. What if I got sick for a long time? Would I still do the things that need to be done, or would I sleep? I feel far from perfection, and that is a good thing, because it is true. My (minor) sickness has meaning, because of the thoughts I have had concerning it.

 

Sometimes sickness does not have meaning, such as the many times a drug addict is sick because of their habit, or when a person becomes bitter about their health.

 

Drug Addiction

 

Drug addiction is a long series on meaningless events – self-centeredness, excuses, lying, stealing, hurting loved ones, unreliability, and getting high and debilitating one’s body and soul, but God is merciful, and can make these things meaningful if there is repentance. If the addict never repents of his addiction, all of the events comprising that addiction will be meaningless, and there will eventually be the death of body and soul, but with repentance, all can be made well. Of course, this repentance is not a one time event, but a change of life.

 

We need not despair that we do meaningless things (despair has no meaning). We need to try harder, and although the task may seem impossible, with God (helping) all things are possible. This is great news, it is truly the “good news”! With God’s help despite our missteps and weaknesses and plain old stupidity, we can become perfected! Even the meaningless can come to have meaning if we change as the Holy Spirit within us directs.

 

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

 

 

 

We all need rest. Our rest must be meaningful,. It is good to take the family down to Glen Rose to look at dinosaur tracks and tube the Brazos, and laugh and sing and get sunburned noses. It is meaningless to go to Vega and drink and gamble and ogle the lost souls parading around in cocktail dresses. Nothing good can come of this.

 

 

Many times we are tired. What do we do when we feel this way? If it is Saturday night, do we “relax” and watch TV and order pizza? This is a poor choice, when we could go to the Vigil and try to pray. Which option has eternal significance?  Which is meaningful?

 

Priorities

 

Are our priorities meaningful? The verdict on this is borne out by looking at the things we value, the way we spend our time, and spend our money.  If we have cable TV with a zillion channels, many of which will have little (good) eternal significance for us, and we do not tithe to our parish (because we perceive that we do not have the funds to pay our bills and give to the church), something is out of sorts in our life. We have chosen a way of life that is less meaningful.

 

 

 

There are as many more examples as there are situations in our lives. So much of our life is great, meaningless spaces surrounded by little moments full of meaning. The task of the Christian is to have less space. Our Lord Jesus Christ had absolutely none of this “space” Everything He did, thought or said had meaning. This is our goal.  Let’s improve a little, but by bit, until we have reached it.

 

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

 

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-09-everything-we-do-must-have-meaning-drug-addiction-sickness-priorities.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-09-everything-we-do-must-have-meaning-drug-addiction-sickness-priorities.doc

 

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