Archive for December, 2009

Mother Nati and the baseball bat.

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

 Stories from the International Winter Youth/Young Adult Service Retreat

Pharr, Texas 2009
 
I am in Pharr Texas, at St George the Great Martyr parish, attending in their 5th annual Winter retreat. I plan to come back many times. There have been many moving things in my time here, and although I am on a slow connection, I wanted to share another story with you.
 
Mother Nati and the baseball bat
 
The parish regularly goes to help a Roman Catholic orphanage called “Casa Amparo”, in the outskirts of Renosa, Mexico. The Abbess is Mother Natividad, but everyone calls her Mother Nati. She is a very small Mexican woman, no more than 4 feet 8 inches tall, with brown, weathered skin and a smile as wide as the Rio Grande. She has been at the convent at least 20 years.
 
I saw her on Tuesday, when she came to the parish of St George. We were going to go to her convent and orphanage Thursday to deliver some clothing and food and help with projects. I was really looking forward to this, but there have been several shootings in Renosa, including a shootout in the streets in the midst of innocent civilians, all no doubt drug related, and many parents are afraid for the safety of their children. In addition, most of the children of the orphanage are not there right now – they have gone home!
 
Orphanages in Mexico are different than we are accustomed to in the USA. There are “orphans” in the “traditional” sense – those whose parents are dead, but many of the children are “economic” or “spiritual” orphans. Some have parents who are too poor to care for them, or are drug addicts or prostitutes. We live in a sheltered world, and there is a lot of misery out there. We must be aware of it and see.
 
Mother Nati has built an orphanage brick by brick, with her own hands and the hands of volunteers, without a peso from the Mexican government or Roman Catholic church. Between 75-100 girls of ages 5 to 18 live there. They are educated there, and learn trades such as sewing, baking, and computer skills (they have a computer lab). They have a thrift store, sewing shop and bakery to support themselves, and also make and sell empanadas and tamales to local workers. English is taught to everyone, to help them be as employable as possible. 
 
The story that follows is sad, and horrible and infuriating, but also fantastic and beautiful. This is the way with so many things in the world – a mix of good and evil, as we are creatures capable at one moment of acts of extreme and godly beauty, and at another of the darkest evil. Lets us learn something about true authority from this story – where it comes from, and how to exercise it.
 
One evening, two of the girls were kidnapped for the sex trade. For those of you who may not understand, girls from countries all over the world are routinely stolen and transported to other countries, usually to be sex slaves until they die or escape or perhaps are no longer useful and are let go. This evil occurs all over the world, with the supply coming mainly from impoverished countries, and the demand from the richer countries. There are no words to describe this type of evil, nor which rung of Hell is reserved for the criminals who perpetrate such acts.
 
Mother Nati found out, and immediately grabbed a baseball bat and went off into the red light district of Renosa. to find the girls. She broke down doors, and eventually found one of the girls. Lamentably, the other child was never found, and is probably out of country, likely in some city in the United States. This tragedy is profound, and its frequency does not lessen the tragedy.
 
Let us focus on Mother Nati. all of 4 feet 8 inches and of no physical threat to anyone, even with a baseball bat. Her zeal and love gave her authority, which even the armed pimps were unable to gainsay. I daresay that I could also go to the red light district with a baseball bat, and I am bigger and stronger than most Mexican men, but I might have been shot, because authority is not something that comes from being angry or strong. It comes from zeal and love.
 
Mark 11:27-33 27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesusanswering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
 
In this gospel, the Pharisees, asked the Lord from where He had His authority. He asked them a question and promised that He would answer them if they answered Him. They were afraid to answer it, because they were full of deceit, and with deceit comes cowardice (and no coward has any authority). The question went unanswered in the Gospel.
 
We must answer all questions in the scripture. The Pharisees could not answer this question, but we should know it well, and also its corollary – from where do we obtain our authority? Or, perhaps, a better questions to ask is do we have any authority?
 
Of course, the Lord had authority because He is God and man, and as God is over all things. He is, as The Evangelist John tells us, “full of grace and truth”.
The God-man came to give us the ability to have authority over ourselves – to the extent that we become full of grace and truth. If we feel we lack authority in something in our lives – manifested by confusion, weakness, bad habits and despair – then we are in some way not living according to the Gospel. There is something impure, something sinful in us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Coke lady and the ice. Stories from the International Winter Youth/Young Adult Service Retreat, Pharr, Texas

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

I am in Pharr Texas, at St George the Great Martyr parish, attending in their 5th annual Winter retreat. I plan to come back many times. There have been many moving things in my time here, and although I am on a slow connection, I wanted to at least share a couple stories with you in the next two posts. If God allows, I will tell you much about my time here in more future posts. I have much to say to my flock about things we should do based on the good example of Father Antonio, Matushka Elizabeth and the parish of St George.

 
The Coke Lady and the ice.
 
Reader Stephen spoke on opening night. He and his wife were formerly Protestant missionaries in South America, and especially Guatemala. He told of a trip to a little town in Guatemala with a group of youth missionaries, which started in a Southern US state, in a van without air conditioning. One disaster after another occurred – car breakdowns, tire blowouts, and oppressive heat and lack of sleep, food and hygiene. When they arrived in Guatemala, they had been up over 24 hours, and were exhausted in every way a person can measure.
 
They got out of the van and were wondering what to do next, and as he told it, looked “pitiful”. An old Guatemalan woman was selling cokes from a cooler beside the road. She looked at them for a long time, and then opened her cooler and chipped off a chunk of ice (the ice was a large chunk), and gave it to Steven, so they could refresh themselves with the ice on their wrists and necks and face.
 
I was so moved by this story that I used it as the main point in a homily I was asked to give later in the retreat. I asked the young people, and I ask you now – WHY did the women do this? Correct, but superficial answers are things like “She noticed their suffering”, or “She saw that they were hot”, or “She took pity on them”. If this is your first answer, I will be like a three year old and again ask WHY? Why did she notice, and take pity on them? What is the root reason?
 
It is related to the opposite of the disposition of the rich man who had a bountiful harvest. This is important stuff. This woman, most likely a Roman Catholic, and incredibly poor, had something that we need to have if we are going to be saved. The Rich man did not have it. What is it?
 
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Sunday Of The Holy Forefathers. The Great Supper

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Especially note the words "quickly" and "compel"! 

 

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The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers Parable of the Great Supper

Friday, December 25th, 2009

The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers

Parable of the Great Supper

Preparation for Nativity

What does this word mean:”compel”?

 

 

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen [1]

 

Today is the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, which is always celebrated two Sundays before the Nativity. Next Sunday is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, and Nativity follows shortly thereafter on Tuesday. This is part of our preparation for the great feast of our Lord’s incarnation. We have already been preparing by fasting. Now the pace is quickening. You can feel it.

 

Let us ask ourselves why is it that we have this particular reading, about the Great supper, two Sundays before the Nativity? What is it that the church is trying to teach us, and why do we remember the Holy Forefathers today?

 

It is hard to explore all the aspects of this reading. We cannot but scratch the surface of what this parable means in the Christian life, but it is here primarily because one cannot celebrate a feast without being morally prepared.

 

This parable tells us sins to avoid, attitudes to avoid. It tells us to wake up! It tells us to be ready. We commemorate the Holy Forefathers today, because they indeed were part of the preparation for Christ. Without them, there would have been no God-man, Jesus Christ, because He was born of a woman, who was of their lineage, and, if this is not exactly so in a physical sense [2], their prophesies and piety prepared the way for the coming of Christ. That was part of God’s plan.

 

We Orthodox Christians never forget from whence we are come from. We not only remember that we are from the dust of the earth, but we also remember those who have preceded us, and indeed, are joined to us, in piety, and in faith, and in struggle. We never feel disassociated from our history.

 

I tell you, if you do not take this time today, and in the remaining days to prepare yourself for Nativity, you will MISS it. You may come to church, but you will miss the incarnation. It will not touch you. A man must be prepared for anything that is of value. You must prepare, so that you can inculcate virtue into your hearts, and know what it is that the Lord wants you to know. Now, we prepare not as the world prepares, right? The world prepares with frivolity, and partying. Now, they are already forgetting [3].

 

There is some background preceding this parable which we must know. The Lord was at a gathering, and discussing theology with the Pharisees. This parable is in reaction to what a Pharisee has just said. Let’s look hear the verses immediately preceding Jesus’ response.

 

“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” [4]

 

This Pharisee made a correct statement, but with an incorrect understanding.

 

He was thinking, blessed is the Jew that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, and our Lord gave this parable partially to say to him, and all the Jews,

 

“No, Pharisee, it is not just the Jews that will eat bread with me, it is all that will worship me as God. It is all that live according to who I am. Your inheritance is not in your bloodline, but it is in how you live, and how you act, and how you believe.”

 

After all, in another time, just before they were going to crucify Him, what did He say: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” [5]

 

And you know what? I am a stone, you are a stone. The Gentiles are the stones that He would raise up as children to Abraham. Now, in the church, those that have no Abrahamic blood in them outnumber those that are Jews by race.

 

This parable is much more than an indictment of the misunderstanding of the Pharisee. It is very important to understand this, but even more important, here we see God’s economy, [6] His great love for mankind.

 

It is truly awesome, and difficult to speak of, how God loves us so, and how He is so assiduous in His care for us, that we would know Him. Listen carefully, as we go through the short verses of this parable. Listen to the care God is taking in preparing us for the revelation of Himself in us. Then, contrast that with the heedlessness of these people He spoke with, and tremble and learn. See if there is anything in your heart that is like any of these people, and amend yourself.

 

You don’t have much time. Your life is but a vapor. [7] You have very little time to repent, very little time to inculcate virtue in your heart. Whether you live a hundred more years, or whether you die today, you still have very little time, and this is the period, right now, to especially think on these things, and prepare yourself, so that when God reveals Himself, as He surely will, you will know Him. You won’t miss Him.

 

“THE LORD SAID THIS PARABLE: A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. “ [8]

 

Such theology, in one sentence! Such symbolism, such truth, such love.

 

What is this great supper? It is the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and all the implications of that great event.

 

And it is great, because we cannot fathom it. It is the mystery of our salvation, which we cannot understand, but we can be warmed by it, and enlightened by it, and saved by it, even though we don’t completely, and never will completely understand God.

 

It is a supper, not a dinner. I did not understand this distinction until I came to the South. In the North, we considered supper and dinner to be the same meal, but actually, supper indicated the evening meal. The evening meal is Christ coming in the latter times. At a particular time he made the supper, and at supper time He said to His servant, go to them that were bidden.

 

And Who is this who is that is making the supper? It is God, our Father, who loves us, and desired good things for us.

 

He spreads a table laden with delicacies, and the fatted calf, His own son, for us.

 

Who is this servant? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who refers to Himself as a servant, because He was willing to be made in the form of a servant. [9] He, being God, despised not becoming man, and becoming a servant, obedient to His father in all things, Who He was completely equal to, as God.

 

Who are them that were bidden?

 

In the beginning, these were the Jews. Later, it would be everyone, every man. Did you see that is a double calling? “To say to them that were bidden” – they were already bidden, and He is going out again to call them, and say “Come, all things are made ready”. This call is resounding to us now. It resounds to every man.

 

We are called in two ways.

 

First of all, every man has the internal law written on his heart. Doesn’t the apostle say this in his epistle to the Romans? It’s written in our hearts [10] – every man knows something of God, because God has created Him. And every man reaches out to God because it is natural for the created to reach out to the creator. There is an inner reason that will surely lead a man towards God, if he does not let his sin interfere. It’s built into us.

 

Now, with this inner condition that predisposes a man towards searching for God, and desiring Him, a man is made ready to hear the Gospel, to hear the preaching and the teaching of the holy church, to see the life of the church, and to be enlightened by every aspect of our life, and to have life in Christ. There are these two callings, and both of them are operating simultaneously in us at all times. The first calling prepares for the second.

 

“And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” [11]

 

“They all with one consent” – do you know who that was? He was indicting the Jews, and especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who with one consent would eventually have him crucified.

 

And they all made excuses for themselves. These excuses are, in microcosm, the sins that keep a man away from God.

 

One bought a piece of ground. He was a lover of possessions, He was looking down. He was a lover of earthly things. He was a lover of wealth.

 

Another one had bought five yoke of oxen. The fathers speak of these as indicating the five senses, and a yoke shows they apply equally to everyone, to both sexes, because a yoke holds two oxen.

 

The senses are a great gift, given to us by God. Our church understands this, because our faith is truly a sensual faith. We feel our faith. We see our faith, in our icons, in the incense, in our liturgics, in our preaching and teaching. We use all of our senses. We taste and see that the Lord is good, literally, as well as in a spiritual way. The senses are given to us for our enlightenment, and to bring God into our hearts. The senses are not evil – far from it – it depends on how one uses the senses. We must be always having this prayer on our lips from the communion prayers, communion prayers: “Purify my soul, sanctify my mind, enlighten the simplicity of my five senses.” [12]The senses are good and holy, but when they are used only for pleasure, and the living of our life, then they contribute to our damnation, because they blind us to the one who created the senses.

 

Another one married a wife, and this is a metaphor for lust, and illicit pleasures in life.

 

Of course, we understand that lawful marriage is a great blessing. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” [13] So it says. Marriage is good, but to be caught up in pleasures is evil. As an aside, I tell you, those that are married, and those that may someday be married, we fast from the flesh sometimes, during the fasts, according to our strength, we fast from martial relations. This is not because marital relations are sinful in any way, because the marriage bed is undefiled, but in order so that we do not allow any gift that God has given us to control us, and as the Apostle says, to devote ourselves to prayer. [14]

 

Pope Gregory the Dialogist has said some marvelous things about this parable in his marvelous sermon, and I must share this with you.

 

There are two kinds of hunger in the world. There is carnal hunger, a natural hunger. Everyone has it. These sins are all carnal type things, wanting money or wealth, indulging in the pleasures of life, or even in illicit things. Eventually, the indulging in carnal pleasures leads to satiety, and even revulsion. A man who gorges himself with food will eventually pull away from the table, and will not want food for a long time. It is the same, really, with any other kind of pleasure. We get tired of it. We have enough of it.

 

Spiritual hunger is much different than this. It takes a longer time to develop a palate for spiritual things. The sweetness of the Lord is so sweet, that He is too sweet for us, until we have lived the Christian life for a period of time, and struggles, and then He becomes so sweet that all we want to do is taste of Him. In the beginning, this food appears bland, or even unpalatable to us. We must learn to continually strive to taste of the Lord, to taste of spiritual things, even though they might not appear to us to be so pleasurable compared to the inticements of the world, the flesh pots of Egypt [15], shall we say. If we do this, surely the Lord will enlighten us, and He will become sweet to us, and we will want nothing else beside the Lord.

 

Men barter carnal things over and over for their salvation. An honest man realizes that he does this too, even if only on a small scale.

 

So I tell you again, the clarion bell has sounded, the final preparation for the Nativity. We must make ready. We must consider within ourselves – do we have a field, or a yoke of oxen, or a wife that we are paying more attention to than the Lord?

 

I speak in spiritual terms of course. If we are, is it endangering us, to turn down His invitation? I tell you, these people, who said they did not want to come to the supper did not even know what they were turning down. They were too taken with what they were doing at the moment. They did not know that they were rejecting our Lord permanently.

 

“So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” [16]

 

Here is something great, and something terrible. It is impossible to understand – how much our Lord loves us. He sees that the Jews have rejected Him, and indeed, He sees that many other men have rejected Him, and He is angry, but He is full of love. And He says “go out QUICKLY, with haste in to the streets, the lanes of the city. Go find people that are lost. Go struggle to bring them to me”. And those that are poor, maimed, halt and blind are ourselves, brothers and sisters. We are those things of which the Lord has spoken: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” [17] First the Jews, later the Gentiles – behold the great patience of our God, and His care for us.

 

Now what about these streets, and the lanes? Streets and lanes crisscross and wind, and are hilly, and sometimes are overgrown and rutted. Sometimes they are very hard to negotiate. It is very easy to get lost, and it takes great labor to find your way along them. This is what our Lord did. Didn’t He labor more than all? Didn’t He go onto lanes to find the Samaritan woman? Didn’t He proceed with great effort across a tempestuous sea to free the Gadarene demoniac? Didn’t He free the ten lepers (and yet only one was truly freed)? Didn’t He cure the affliction of the Canaanite woman’s daughter? He sought out and found those that had need, and He gave them all that they needed.

 

“And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. “ [18]

 

What is this? Our Lord still cares. Do you see how complete His care is for us? “Go out into the highways” – and where are highways? They are far away from the city. They lead a man FAR AWAY from God, like the prodigal son, far, far away. What of these hedges? Thieves hide in hedges, and wild beasts and snakes, and they are dangerous to a man. Our Lord goes even into the highways and the hedges. He searches every corner of the earth for a man that will believe in Him.

 

What is this word, “compel”? What an amazing thing our Lord says! “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled!” After all, in another place, He said that in my Fathers house there are many mansions [19]. There is room for all, if only all will believe.

 

But what is this “compelling”?

 

We have free will, and God does not force any man to believe, but love compels a man to act. This compelling is from God caring for us so much that we finally begin to notice. It is from Him becoming incarnate for our sake, living and being born in humble circumstances, having no roof under which to lay His head [20], being hated and despised, and finally crucified, and being maligned and slandered and blasphemed by so many. And it is the actions of the Apostles, and the incredible feats of bravery of the martyrs and the saints that COMPEL us to live the Christian life.

 

When one looks upon these things, one is so filled with awe, if you truly understand it, you MUST live the Christian life! How can you do anything else?

 

It is like a spring that is flowing out of your belly. Didn’t the Lord say that: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”? [21] Can you stop the river from flowing down the mountain side? Can you stop the waterfall from falling? It not possible! The water is COMPELLED to fall, and so are we, by God’s incredible love for us. You see the incredible beauty, the profound love of our Savior for us. His love gives us no other option, but to follow Him. But indeed, there are some that don’t follow Him. A tragedy.

 

“For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. For many are called, but few are chosen.” [22]

 

He speaks of the men that are bidden that did not obey the call, and yet, He tried to compel them by showing them goodness, and grace, and mercy. And they did not listen, because they were concerned about their grounds, or their lusts, their pleasures, their pride. They were concerned about everything, save holiness, and sanctity, and blessedness.

 

These are marvelous words, and they are terrible words! They give us hope that indeed, God will save us, because we see how much He cares. We see how much He pursues us. They also show that we will have no excuse if we do not obey His call, in the end.

 

Who are those who are called? All mankind is called, every man. Who are the chosen? Those are chosen who obey the call. We can decide if we are of the chosen, or are of the goats on the left hand side. It is our decision, and although the Lord desires to compel us, He will not force us. But, if we live the Christian life with care, we WILL be compelled. It will not be possible for us to do anything but love our Savior and be pleasing to Him.

 

You must, as Christians, struggle to feel in all ways compelled to love your Savior. In every way. Now, we have a few days left. Let us continue our preparation. Let us hope, that despite our sins, in light of our Savior’s great love for us, that He will enlighten us, that He will make us able to see Him, that He will help us with whatever sins beset us – because I tell you, our sins are trivial compared His mercy. We only need to understand that, we only need to struggle against our sins, and God will help us. Amen.

 

Bibliography

Old Believer Sermon (unpublished).

The One Thing Needful, Archbishop Andrei

Parables of the Gospel, St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome

Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria

Drops From the Living Water, Bishop Augustinos N. Kantiotes

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 1996.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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[1]               This homily was transcribed from one given On December 16th, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, which is always celebrated 2 Sundays before Nativity

 

                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]               The actual progenitors of Christ are commemorated the following Sunday. This is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, which is always the Sunday immediately preceding Nativity. The Gospel reading for this day is from the very beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

[3] We celebrate Nativity according to the church calendar, which is Jan 7 on the civil calendar. Most of the “world” in this area are not Orthodox and secular in spirit. Of course, there are Orthodox who follow the New Calendar who do enter into the feast and are nor secular.

[4] Luke 14:12-15

[5] Matthew 3:9

[6] Economy is a complex term that indicates God’s action in the world, and His revelation of Himself to mankind. It is also used (and many times misused) to indicate the action of the pastors of the church in applying the canons and all of the Christian law to an individual. For example, “by economy” a bishop may allow a divorce, or second marriage, or lessen the usual epitemia (a period of time, during which a Christian is required to abstain from Communion, and possibly do other things, as part of their therapeutic treatment from their confessor) for a certain sin, such as adultery. It is also used, and grossly misunderstood in may places to allow certain people to enter the church by means of chrismation, rather than baptism and chrismation, because of certain very specialized circumstance that are described in the Holy Canons.

[7] Cf. James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

[8] Luke 14:16-17

[9] Cf. Philippians 2:5-8 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

[10] Cf. Romans 1:14-15 “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”

[11] Luke 14:18-20

[12] Prayer of St. Symeon the Translator, from the Prayers after Holy Communion,

[13] Hebrews 13:4

[14] Cf. 1 Cor 7:5, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

[15] The church has always understood Exodus 16:3, “And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”, to indicate the turning away from God that all mankind does when they pursue their own will and pleasures.

[16] Luke 14:21

[17] 1 Corinthians 1:27

[18] Luke 14:22-24

[19] Cf. John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

[20] Cf. Matthew 8:20 “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

[21] John 7:38

[22] Luke 14:24

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Ordination to the Diaconate – Homily by Met Anthony Bloom

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


The Primary task of a deacon is love

The deacon protects the prayer of the priest.

The deacon proclaims the Gospel with power and authority, but only if he himself has received the word.

 

andrei-ryabushkin-a-deacon-1888.jpg[ On Dec 6/19, 2009, on our feast, Nicholas Park was ordained to the deaconate (pictures) by Bishop Peter, in our church.

 

Deacon Nicholas has translated a homily by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom about the diaconate.

I wish to reiterate one of Met Anthony’s main points – you (the parish of St Nicholas, and all who care about us) MUST pray for Fr Deacon Nicholas daily, (and my unworthy self).  We take on the calling of the church willingly, but the task of perfect love is above us, although we try. There are burdens (and joys) of the diaconate and priesthood that cannot be fathomed until one experiences them. (Priest Seraphim)]

 

 


The ordination of one of the members of a Christian parish to sacerdotal rank is an event that concerns to the entire community, and even extends beyond the local community to the whole Church.

 

2009-12-19-deacon-nicholas-with-fan-axios.jpgToday we performed an ordination to the diaconate. But exactly what is this rank of deacon which the Church — and through her Christ — gives to her servant?

 

The first deacons were appointed that they might manifest the Church’s compassionate love. The Church is compassion, the Church is love and not anything else — and if she becomes something else, then she ceases to be the Church in all of her fullness. This love must be penetrating, deep, personal, and concrete.

 

In the first centuries of Christian life, when the entire Church was full of love, she selected people with deep hearts — hearts that were alive — people with pure lives, men of prayer – so that she might make them instruments of her love among the poor and needy, among those experiencing misfortune and grief [Acts 6:3-6].

To be a member of this brotherhood of compassionate love is a great responsibility, for to give we must have a giving heart. We must possess profound compassion and love, so that people can accept our gifts without shame. For when we give with a cold heart or out of a sense of duty, when we are outwardly compassionate but our heart is not moved by love, then he who receives our gift receives also humiliation, pain and insult.

 

2009-12-19-priest-seraphim-deacon-nicholas-after-first-full-liturgy-together.jpg And so our new deacon P. has before him a life-long task. By a life of patient labor, of zealous and attentive work on himself, he is to cultivate a deep and merciful heart that is able to respond quickly and constantly. He must cultivate a heart that never tires, is never disappointed, and is ever filled with Christ’s love, so that that love might pour out through him upon all who need it.

 

Later, this love that is the deacon’s task was tied by the Church to the performance of her Mysteries. Here the deacon becomes both the guardian of the priest’s prayers and the leader of the prayers of the faithful. He provides the theme for your prayers; answering the petitions which he proclaims, you repeat, “Lord, have mercy,” or give yourselves into the hands of God, saying “To Thee, O Lord,” or confess the truth of the Church’s words, saying, “Amen.”

 

This love is great: step by step the deacon leads us into the liturgical mystery, drawing us in to its very depths, into those depths which you would not have been able to reach by yourself in your own spiritual life.

 

But the deacon has another assignment as well: to protect the prayer of the priest. During the divine services the priest should be prayer, he should forget everything, so that he might stand before God as a living candle. All care about the service, even about the actual conducting of the service, is laid on the deacon, so that the priest may give himself to prayer without distraction.

 

We wish, then, that our new deacon would pray with such depth of spirit that you also would enter fully into the spirit of the divine service. May he lead you by his own prayer, into the depths of the Eucharistic Mysteries, and let him be a man of peaceful heart and peaceful body, able to guard the priest’s prayer so that the priest may stand before God with full attention.

 

Thirdly and finally, I wish to remind you that the deacon proclaims the Gospel. He is not called to preach in his own words – that creative act which, according the ancient saying makes each priest a fifth evangelist. He is called only to proclaim the word of God. But if he is to proclaim that word with power and authority, and to reach hearts and minds persuasively, then he must first himself receive the word.

 

He must proclaim it from the depth of his own heart and from the experience of a truly Christian life, as the word of a Teacher whom he understands and to whom he is obedient in everything. Therefore he must all the more attentively pursue the Gospel and live by the Gospel as fully as he can, so that, proclaiming it, he does not proclaim his own condemnation.

 

May God grant him a pure life and a truly evangelical life that will enable him to fulfill the three tasks of which I have just spoken. As for you, who are attending this ordination and praying during this miracle – the descent of the Holy Spirit on a person, whom he has invested with His power for a service which not one person could dare to take upon himself – you must all continue to pray for him, because we are all brethren and temptations surround us on every side.

 

Pray for him every day, that the Lord will make him a worthy servant of His Church and that he would in everything follow – as we ask in the prayer of ordination – the first deacon, the Protomartyr Stephen. Pray that he would become like Christ, just as Stephen became like Christ, that he would witness to Christ as Stephen did, and that he would enter into the peace of Christ, as Stephen did when he entered into the glory of God. Amen.

 

Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), Collected Homilies, 1993.

translated by Deacon Nicholas Park from the Russian at http://www.deacon.ru/books/bloom.htm

 

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

 

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Commentary on Hebrews 4:1-13 29th Tuesday after Pentecost

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

 

Heb 4:1-2Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

 

Hebrews is among the most difficult of all the books in the entire bible, but within its intricate layers of theology are certain things that anyone with “ears to hear” can understand. These verses are such an example.

 

The Gospel is very simple: hear, believe, do, and be saved. We are such fickle, lazy creatures that we often delude ourselves into believing that hearing is enough, as if knowledge concerning holiness makes one holy. It just so happens that yesterday the Prophet Haggai was commemorated, and I read his short book of prophesy. It contains startling moral teaching that very much applies to St Paul’s words. Haggai was rebuking the faithless Jews who were not obeying the will of God to rebuild the temple, and asked them a series of questions.

 

 (2:11) In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius the king, the word of the Lord came to Aggeus the prophet, saying:  (11)  (2:12) Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests the law, saying:  (12)  (2:13) If a man carry sanctified flesh in the skirt of his garment, and touch with his skirt, bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat: shall it be sanctified? And the priests answered, and said: No.  (13)  (2:14) And Aggeus said: If one that is unclean by occasion of a soul touch any of all these things, shall it be defiled? And the priests answered, and said: It shall be defiled.  (14)  (2:15) And Aggeus answered, and said: So is this people, and so is this nation before my face, saith the Lord, and so is all the work of their hands: and all that they have offered there, shall be defiled. (Hag 2:10-14 DRB)

 

The jist of the holy prophet’s discourse, in so many words, is this: being around holiness does not make one holy. Hearing about holiness (hearing the gospel preached) does not make one holy. Only hearing and doing, with the heart changing, can make one holy.

 

The Gospel preached is just like a sanctified item wrapped in a garment. The Gospel contains the words of life, and when it touches the ears, they are holy, but if these words of life are not unwrapped and allowed to penetrate into the “joints and marrow”, then the soul does not become holy.

 

How much holiness is all around us? We attend the liturgy every Sunday, and perhaps even commune the Holy Mysteries, but do we change? Why do we not change? St Paul tells us plainly: because the things we heard were not “mixed with faith”.

 

Faith is to do what we hear; and in time, to be what we hear. The Apostle gives us the example of the Jews in the wilderness, who heard but did not do, and then asks us to compare ourselves to them. He tells us we should be afraid, lest we end up in the same state.

 

As a Christian, I am acutely aware of how little I have become holy, even though I am surrounded by holiness. I wonder if I have done enough, changed enough. St Paul’s words are a ringing rebuke to my ears.

 

Do they sting your ears too? What can you do about this?

 

I am always available to give constructive suggestions in every personal case. Talk to me. Let’s work together to become holy. 

 

Hebrews 4:1-131 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

 

Luke 21:12-1912 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. 13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. 16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. 18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 19 In your patience possess ye your souls.

 

Bibliography

 

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

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Dec 17/30 2008.                                                                                                St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

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The Healing Of The 10 Lepers Arise, go thy way thy faith hath made thee whole. Audio Homily 2009

Monday, December 21st, 2009

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This Sunday is the 28th after Pentecost, but because the reading for the 28th Sunday after Pentecost is always read on the Sunday of the Forefathers (which precedes Nativity and will occur next Sunday), sometimes another Sunday reading is used. In this case, the 29th Sunday is substituted,. I know, it is complicated.

Luke 17:12-19 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.



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The Healing of the Ten Lepers 29th Sunday after Pentecost Luke 17:12-19

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

The Healing of the Ten Lepers, 29th Sunday after Pentecost, Luke 17:12-19

 

Healing of the 10 lepers. miracle-healing-of-the-10-lepers.jpg

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen [1]

 

Today is the Twenty ninth Sunday after Pentecost and also, being December 9th, we remember the Conception of the Holy Theotokos by St. Anna. The main reading today is about the Healing of the Ten Lepers.

 

In this miracle, like most of the miracles in the Gospel, is presented to us aninner meaning and outer meaning.

 

The inner meaning is about  what true faith really is, and also about the unfaithfulness and unthankfulness of the Jews.

 

The outer meaning seems to be clear, that  we should in all things give thanks to God, particularly when we are given great gifts, and only one man gave thanks  to God for this great boon that he was given, this healing from his leprosy.

 



 

 

 “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. “ [2]

 

Leprosy was an affliction  that represented uncleanness. A leper was disenfranchised from his community. He could not enter into the temple, and he could not even come near a Jew, much less touch one. Someone who came close to him or touched him would be considered unclean, until he fulfilled various ceremonies prescribed in the law. A leper was truly an exile among his own people.

 

These lepers were “afar off”. They were afar off because they had to stay away from the Jews, because of their uncleanness. They also were afar off because we cannot approach God, being full of sins. Leprosy is a metaphor for our sins.  A man who has  sins is certainly afar off  from God. When they lifted up their  voices to ask God to have mercy, this reminds us of the two blind men. In another place, it says: “two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.” [3] They were insistent, just as these lepers must have been insistent. Being afar off, they must have had to shout loudly and often, since with the bustle and press of the crowd, it would have been hard to make their voices known. They must have insistently had to cry out for mercy to God, far away from Him, in their sins.

 

At least  they knew they were fall away. So many of us don’t understand  how far away we truly are, and how much we need to call out to God, and ask forgiveness for our sins, like the publican [4], or like the blind men [5], or like these lepers.

 

“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” [6]

 

He is following Jewish law to the  letter here. He did not always do it this way. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.  And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” [7] There was a whole ritual  and ceremony that was necessary when a leper was cleansed. It is quite beautiful, and symbolic of Christ’s economy, and cleansing of us. I cannot really go into it, because I don’t know it very well, but St. Cyril of Jerusalem talks about it extensively.

 

Our Lord was following Jewish law so that He would not be judged before His time, but we can see from this other example that our Lord will touch the unclean and make it clean. He also shows from what we are reading today, that obedience can make a man clean. He just said to the lepers, before they were cleansed, ‘Go to the priests’. Now, why in the world would a man go to a priest, when he  is  still full of leprosy. This is akin to the man, who was born blind, even without eyes, to go to the pool of Siloam, and wash, still being blind. Because of obedience, these people were cleansed. Even the ones who were not thankful to the Lord  were cleansed, because, after all, they were obedient too, but they lost their reward, as we will see in a minute.

 

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,  And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.” [8]

 

This man uses his head, or should I say, he uses his heart. He was ordered to go to the priest, and then he was cleansed on the way. He knew that the  Great High Priest had healed him, so he obeyed the command. He  went to Great High Priest and worshipped Him. This man understood. He had eyes to see, and ears to hear. He saw what a  great miracle had been worked, and he knew that only God would be able to do such a thing. This man was a thoughtful man. He considered things. These other nine, even upon seeing the example of one of their kindred,  were not thoughtful. It did not occur to they why they were cleansed, and Who they had just encountered. They had just seen the God-man, and been healed  by His mercy, and yet they did not really understand.

 

The law is about love and thankfulness. The law is about becoming like God.  The Jewish law is very  intricate, and you would be amazed how many things in the Jewish law we still follow to this day, but its  essence is the Christian law. that  essence is to become like God, to be enlightened, and, being enlightened by Him, to become like Him. Not in His essence, but in His actions. to be full of love  for every man, to be fire. This leper understood that he had just encountered fire, and he went back to it. These nine men, who had also been healed, did not understand, because they were not thinking with their hearts. They were not being enlightened.

 

The other Gospel says something that relates very much to what we are considering here. It says:

 

“Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” [9]

 

Be careful how you hear.  Everyone is hearing the same thing, but we are hearing it differently, because we are hearing it through the prism of our consciousness, and our passions, and our sins, and our agendas. To the pure, all things are pure. [10] The pure in heart will see God [11]. The impure will see Him, and yet not see Him, and hear Him, and yet not understand him. They may be healed by Him, and yet they will not really be completely healed by Him. The real healing of the leper we  are about to see. His healing from leprosy was only the beginning, just like the man who was born blind. [12] When he went to the pool of Siloam and came back, having been  given eyes to see,  he was enlightened to see the God-man, and to know Him, and REALLY healed at that point. [13] We can see this over and over again. Christ heals the man inside and out. We have seen only a partial  healing so far today. The leper still has a bit more medication to be given, and his healing will be completed.

 

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” [14]

 

A Samaritan  was a heretic, plain and simple. They worshipped false gods, and also the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, as the falsely understood Him, and rejected all of the sacred scripture, save the Pentateuch, the first five books. They were shunned by the Jews, as they should have been, because they were an unclean people, and yet, even among those people, there were ones with great souls, that God was able to touch, just like St. Photini, who was a Samaritan, the woman at the well. [15] The nine  Jews who did not return represent, in microcosm, the Jewish nation. Someone in that audience certainly understood what He was really referring to.  This healing, and many other actions of our Savior  was a harbinger of things to come, bringing the nations into communion with God. As for those who were first given the promise, so many of those would reject it, just like these 9 lepers who rejected God by  not giving Him thanks.

 

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” [16]

 

We have heard  this so many times in the scriptures, “thy faith hath made thee whole.” Now, what was his faith? He was told to go to the priests.  We don’t know if he had a sure hope of being healed at that time. He might have been confused. We don’t know if his faith was in that action or not, but when he  was healed, he came to the God-man and worshipped him There was his faith! Faith is how we live. Faith  is how we act. Faith is when God enlightens us, and He fills us, and there is so much within  us that we cannot but act in ways that are pleasing to Him. A spring overflowing from our hearts! — that’s what faith is. Faith is not only believing something. It is being so filled with God, that we act like God, in mercy in love, in compassion, and  that we recognize God, and we worship Him as Who He is. That is faith, and this leper, this former leper, had faith, because He saw the God-man, and he was touched by Him, and he reacted to Him!

 

What can  we learn from this short, little story, just a few lines? We can certainly  see that one should give thanks to God, but more fundamentally, the inner meaning is that this leper had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and saw the God-man, and ACTED upon what he learned and what he knew  Then, the God-man, truly healed him, and made him filled with knowledge, so  that he would grow to fruition.

 

It is the same principle for us. The church gives us so many wonderful gifts, so many incalculable  riches, and many times, we do not value them very much at all. We don’t understand what a great thing we have been given. On an intellectual level, perhaps we understand, but we don’t act with fervent faith because of them. The gifts we have been given are so tremendous that they should spur us on, and make us live in Christ.

 

Brothers and sisters, living in Christ is not only knowing those things that God has revealed to us in the books and the traditions of our church. Those are all  God inspired, and God breathed, but we must make these things to be the definition of who we are, not just what we know.  We should have such a mastery of God’s mercy in our life so that we would react in ways that are good and holy naturally. It was natural for this leper.

 

For us, just as for this  leper,  this comes though labor, through effort. The leper was sick for a long time, he had to endure much for a long time. So do we, unfortunately, mostly  because of our sins. So, let us endure, let us proceed, and let us try to capture God’s mercy in our hearts, and let it warm us and enlighten us.

 

Amen.

 

Bibliography:

Old Believer Sermon for the 29th  Sunday after Pentecost (unpublished)

 “Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke”, St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria

 

 

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

 

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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On December 9th   1996 according to the church calendar (Dec 22 ns) , being the Twenty Ninth  Sunday after Pentecost, and commemoration of the conception of the Most Holy Theotokos.

 

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] Luke 17:14

[3] Matthew 9:27

[4] Luke 18:10-14, read on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, one of the preparatory sundays before Great Lent

[5] Matthew 9:27-30, and especially, Matthew 20:30-34

[6] Luke 17:15

[7] Matthew 8:2-4

[8] Luke 17:16

[9] Luke 8:18 (part of the reading for the Conception of the Holy Theotokos by St. Anna)

[10] Titus 1:15

[11] Matthew 5:8, sung at liturgy as part of the 3rd Antiphon  (the beatitudes)

[12] Cf. John 9:1-38, the Healing of the man born blind from his birth, read on the Sunday of the Blind Man, the 5th  Sunday after Pascha

[13] See especially  John 9:35-38

[14] Luke 17:17-18

[15] Cf. John 4:5-42, the story of the Samaritan woman, who became a great Saint, and equal to the Apostles, St. Photini. The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is the 4th Sunday after Pascha.

[16] Luke 17:19

 

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A Miracle Wrought By St. Nicholas in Kiev in The 1920s

Saturday, December 19th, 2009


St Nicholas saves a young man from being shot.

 St Nicholas the Wonderworker, by the hand of hieromonk Andrew, Hermitage of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross , http://www.holycross-hermitage.com/

 

It was nearly half a century ago that I first heard of this miracle wrought by St. Nicholas. Never had I chanced to read anything about it in the writings of the Church. I would not want this case of the saintly bishop’s help to depart to my grave with me.

 

 

During the mid-1940s (I can’t recall the exact date), I had to spend the night in the city of Munchen [Munich] in West Germany. The city was in ruins after the war, and I would be forced to spend the night outside. Fortunately, there chanced to be a "Good Samaritan" church-house in the city, and I was provided with its address.

 

 

There were two of us in the room. Myself, and a man unknown to me, some 40-45 years of age. We introduced ourselves, each to the other. I do not remember either his name or his surname – and they probably would not have been "real," anyway. We had to sleep on wooden benches and chairs. So, in order to pass the night more quickly, we fell to talking. I can’t remember why, but my co-locutor, for some reason or other, asked me whether I was acquainted with the miracle of St. Nicholas that took place in Kiev in the 1920s. I did not know of it, and he related the following tale to me.

 

 

In Kiev, at Podol (the northern section of the city), there dwelt an elderly widow with her son and daughter. The old woman dearly loved St. Nicholas and, in all cases of difficulty, would go to his church to pray before the image [obraz] of the saintly bishop [sviatitel'], always receiving consolation and the easing of her misfortune. Her son, seemingly a student, became an officer.

 

 

The governments of the city changed frequently: Whites, Reds, a Hetman, a Directory, Poles, Germans, etc. All former officers were arrested on the spot, the old woman’s son among them. His sister rushed about from one "department" of the time to another. She ran her legs off, but achieved nothing. But the old woman ran off to St. Nicholas. Long did she pray before his ikon; then she returned home, consoled–the saintly bishop will help. She sat down to have a spot of tea, while her daughter’s hands simply fell to her sides. O, woe! her brother had vanished!

 

 

The son returned home at dawn of the following day. Famished, beaten, dirty, weary. According to him, a large group of officers under a strong convoy of guards was being led off to Pechersk. This is the hilly section of town, opposite from Podol, by the Kiev-Caves Lavra. There was a large hippodrome there, where horse races were held. Beyond it, there was a grove, and rampart-trenches which had been dug in Peter I’s day, as a defense against the Swedes. It was in that grove, by the rampart-trenches, that the shootings took place.

 

 

They had come up to the hippodrome when, suddenly, some little old man or other stepped out from around a corner. He approached the convoy-commandant and asked: "Where are you taking them?"

 

 

The commandant replied, rudely: "To Dukhonin’s H.Q.!" (which meant, in the jargon of the time, "to be shot"). "Go away, old man!" The old man left, but, in doing so, he took the old woman’s son by the hand and said: "Let him go. I know him."

 

 

Neither the commandant nor the escort-guards replied with even so much as a single word, nor did they hinder him. The little old man led the young fellow out around the corner and, saying, "Go on home to your mother," vanished away somewhere.

 

 

The old woman was overjoyed and immediately set off to thank St. Nicholas. The son wanted to do nothing more than to lie down and have a good, long sleep, but his mother took him along with her to the church. He had probably been there on previous occasions, but had been but little interested in anything.

 

 

The little old woman led him up to a huge image of the saintly bishop. The son turned ashen-pale and began to tremble. He could only whisper: "Mother, dear, but that’s the very same elder who led me to freedom…"

 

Wondrous is God in His Saints.

 

Many of the details of this tale were precise and animated. Who had my co-locutor been? Perhaps he had been speaking of himself? I don’t know…

 

– N. P. F.  California 1993

 

 

[Translated from the Russian text appearing in ~Pravoslavnaya Rus'~ ("Orthodox Rus'"), No. 13, 1997 by G. Spruksts, English-language translation copyright (c) 1997.]English-language translation copyright (c) 1997 by the St. Stefan Of Perm Guild, the Russian Cultural Heritage Society and the Translator. Used with permission.

 

 

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

 

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A Miracle in World War 2 by St Nicholas of Myra in Lycia

Friday, December 18th, 2009

St Nicholas, Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia

Dec 6/19




Tomorrow is a big day for our parish. It is our patronal feast, and Bishop Peter will be among us. He will ordain Reader Nicholas Park to the deaconate on the day of the feast, I will try to post a few things about our patron.

This is a difficult feast for our sister church, St Nicholas Orthodox Church, in Stratford CT. Fr George Lardas is the rector, and his matushka is Anna. Her brother, Archiamandrite Joasaph, reposed yesterday after a short battle with a rare cancer. I know them from way back, when they were “exiled” in Houston (Mat Anna is a died in the wool Easterner).

 

May God comfort them in their loss, and memory eternal to Fr Joasaph. I knew him (as a layman), and he was a kind, quiet, and yet energetic and pious man. I will miss his always sanguine and informative posts on various mailing lists.

We will add Fr Joasaph to our list of commemorations "during the forty days" (currently Patriarch Pavle and the murdered priest Daniel).


How close the Saints are to us! During WWII, some Ukrainian soldiers were stuck on the wrong side of enemy lines and were trying on a very cold night to get back where they were supposed to be. However, they became too exhausted and were facing dying of exposure, when they saw a twinkle of light between some trees.

 

Following the light, they found a clearing with a little cabin. A kind-looking old man invited them inside for shelter and to regain their strength. As soon as these comrades-at-arms went inside, they collapsed on the floor in utter exhaustion.

 

When they awoke, they found themselves, much refreshed, in the middle of the same clearing, but there was no building, no old man, in sight. Wondering at this, they continued on. Soon they were in a safe area.

 

They saw a church and went inside to thank the Lord for His mercy towards them. There, in the church, they saw an icon of St. Nicholas on the wall. "That’s him!" they said to one another. "That’s the old man who gave us shelter last night!"

 

Hieromonk Aidan St. Hilarion Monastery Austin, Texas http://listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9408b&L=orthodox&F=&S=&P=19689

 

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