Archive for January, 2010

Sunday Of The Prodigal Son. Our life in microcosm. Two things keep us from salvation. Audio Homily 2010.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

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Luke 15:11-32 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.



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Homily on the Prodigal Son.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

The Sunday Of The Prodigal Son

He came to himself – what does this mean?

The two things we must know to be saved.

 

Parable of the Prodigal Son               parable-prodigal-son.jpg

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



 

The Church gives us another example today, about repentance. It tells us another part of the story. This is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and is yet another Sunday that prepares us for the Great Fast. We are coming quickly upon it. Next week will be the Sunday of the Last Judgment, after which we stop eating meat, and after that is the Sunday of Forgiveness, and we then begin the fast, the following day.

 

The church has had something very important to say about repentance the past few Sundays, if you have been listening carefully. There have been three aspects of repentance that have been shown to us. One aspect is humility. We saw the publican [2] whom, in our mind’s eye, we may consider to be Zacchaeus [3],  and we saw how his humility saved him. This was humility with knowledge, because with humility comes knowledge of God. Although he was humble and would not look up to heaven, he was still bold in his prayer to ask God for mercy, because he knew God would give him mercy.

 

The Sunday before, we saw Zacchaeus. We saw that he was a very bad man, but he changed. Repentance involves changing the way you live, the way you think. It also involves making restitution. It is not that restitution will save us. There is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. Restitution is something that should come from deep within us.  We should desire to make ourselves better in those things in which we have been lax. Whether our sin be depriving a man of his goods, as Zacchaeus did, or unclean thoughts, or any other sin, whether our sin be an internal sin, or an external one, or whether it has affected other people or affected no one except ourselves, we must desire and struggle to be better.

 

Now we see another aspect of repentance that is so important today, especially in light of what we are going to read and contemplate next week. That is, God receives a man’s repentance. This may seem to be an obvious statement, hardly worth making, but in actuality, many people do not really believe God will receive their repentance, or that they can truly change. We can see how marvelous God’s mercy is in this parable we have before us.

 

The father who has the two sons is God the Father. The younger of the two sons is humanity. The younger son is you and me. We should see ourselves in this younger son. What did he do? The father was getting old, and the son did not want to wait for him to die. He wanted his inheritance NOW. So he said, "Give me my inheritance now."  His father, who loved him, must have grieved over such a request, because he knew it would most probably be harmful to his son, and also he wished to have his son with him, but he gave in to him because of love.

 

God does the same thing with you and me. He gives us things that are good and precious, and we misuse and abuse them, but He gives them nonetheless. He causes the rains to fall on the evil and the good, and He even does much good to the evil, hoping that they will turn and repent. That’s what he did with the younger son, knowing what the son was going to do.

 

The son goes into a FAR country. There is sometimes much meaning in a single word. He went into a FAR country; it was far away, a land full of debauchery and uncleanness, FAR away from God, FAR away from salvation. And, indeed, if the man had died in such a state, he would have perished. He would have died far from God. But when he was in this far country, did he give any thought to God? No. He wasted his living with harlots, as his older son is so careful to point out later, and in debauchery and uncleanness of every kind. He had not thought whatsoever for his father, and how he had caused his father pain. He had no understanding how far away he was from salvation.

 

And that is how we are, too. Maybe not all of the time, but so much of the time what we do is so foolish, so stupid, and yet we do not see this or understand. We might live many, many years and not understand how evil the things we do are.

 

This son was the same as we are. He had no understanding of the evil he was doing and of the uncleanness and of how far away he was from God. And then the inevitable happened to him. He had wasted all of his living, and now began to be in want. He had no money, and was hungry and cold. He had to join himself to a citizen of the country who really did not care about him at all, and he was told to feed pigs. And this unclean food, which the pigs were eating, looked appetizing, because he was so hungry.

 

He began to be in want – what does this really mean?

 

It describes much more that the younger son’s penury. Humanity is in want. Remember that this younger son represents humanity – he represents you and me.  Both the good and the evil that are in humanity are represented in this man, the debauchery, and also, the dignity of soul, later, when he repents.

 

When the son begins to be in want, he recognizes what his needs are. The unclean food, given him by the devil (for that is who the citizen of that far country is), cannot satisfy him, even though he is hungry for it. He looks back in his mind’s eye and he says: "I once lived with my father who loved me, and I had food and clothing and friends. And I was in an atmosphere of love and acceptance and affection. How could I have been so foolish to have left that all behind?" And he grieves and weeps bitterly over his misfortune.

 

But notice that he did not blame anyone for his situation. He did not blame his father for allowing him the inheritance, which, by the way, is something that a lot of people do with God. They blame Him for their sins. They do not understand how much God loves them and gives them all good things for their salvation. Instead, they blame Him if there is something wrong. "Why hasn’t God taken this sin away from me? I have been struggling with it for two months, two years. Why is this happening to me? Why don’t these people like me? Why do I have troubles here, troubles there?" Always blaming God.

 

By the way, as an aside, every single evening at Vespers, we pray that we not make "excuse with excuses in sins" [4]. This shows how prevalent this sin is, and how important the church thinks it is to fight it. This son did not make excuses. He recognized his want, and what was wrong with him.

 

Then he "came to himself". This is a very hard thing to understand. A man cannot be saved unless he comes to himself. What does this mean?

 

We have spoken of it many times. In saving our souls, what two things must we know? One is to know God, and other is to know ourselves. The two are learned in parallel. If you learn only of God, you will be filled with pride, and your soul will be paralyzed. If you know only about your sins and your unworthiness and know little about God, you will be filled with despondency and fear, or escapism, and your soul will also be paralyzed, unable to do good. This latter sin is the more common one for Christians, I think.

 

Despondency is also very common and happens in each one of us to a greater or lesser degree. And if it happens in too great a degree, I tell you, you won’t be saved, because you won’t be able to do the things you need to do to learn of God. But if you learn of yourself and God at the same time, God will reveal Himself and self-knowledge also, within you. Then you will believe in the depths of your soul that you are a great sinner, but you will nonetheless say to yourself with confidence,  "God will receive my repentance!’ and you will see the situation you are in, and you will want to be better, and you will know that you CAN become better!

 

I see this again and again, where people do not ACCEPT that they CAN change.

 

Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, people don’t want to change. They have an inkling, a desire, a little bit, to change. "I want to stop this sin. But I like this sin." And they don’t have the gumption to make the effort. God even understands this!

 

This is why we have a "baseline" of things we must do as Christians – keeping the fasts, saying our prayers, coming to church – because without those things we would truly fall far away. But that is not enough, mind you, because a man must make an inner change. He must know of God and he must come to himself. And he must say exactly what the younger son said. He said, "I will arise and I will go to my father. I will make an effort. I will not only talk about my sins and lament about them and do nothing. I will arise and make a great effort."

 

And then the son realized how far away he was. He was in a far country. And he still had to travel a long way, even until his father would see him, from a long way off. So that was a great struggle. That is what we must do. We pile sin upon sin in our soul. Everything that we pile onto our soul we must painstakingly take off, one brick at a time. So the more we pile on ourselves, the more difficult it is, and the further away we are, and the further we must travel back. But this younger son was great of soul, because he struggled back.

 

What was his attitude? It was not absolutely correct, but his misunderstanding was corrected by his father later. He went and said " I will go to my father and say I have sinned against heaven and earth, and I am not worthy to be called your son". So far, he is absolutely correct. But then he said, "Make me as one of thy hired servants," and God will not do that! That’s not our God! He will make us friends! [5] This son, as he was walking back to his father, did not understand this. But we can understand, because we have the perspective of history and the Holy Scriptures to tell us: God will not make us as hired servants! Jesus Christ said He would make us friends. "I will call you friends, and there are many mansions in my father’s house." [6] So we will not be hired servants. We will have everything that our Father has available for us!

 

And this is the meaning when the father saw his son and ran out to him. Can you imagine this meeting? The son is bedraggled and poor, starving, faint both of heart and of body, and the father comes to him and embraces him and kisses him. He puts the ring on his finger, a token of the father’s love and his authority; He kills the fatted calf, and makes merry because his son has come home. The son was only expecting to stay in the shack with the hired hands, and maybe to have a little bit of meat once in a while and his father gave him back EVERYTHNG that he had lost, and more than he had lost. That is what our Father will do for us.

 

The Church tells us about it right now, because we are now about to enter into a period of time when we had better think about our sins quite a bit. Next week we will talk about the Last Judgement, and it is terrifying what will happen in the Last Judgement for those who do not repent. But, if you only read that, and do not understand from today that the Father will accept your repentance, then you have lost the most important part of the story. This part is that God will accept you, if you arise, and go.

 

I will speak honestly here, that the major problem is that most people don’t want to "arise and go". And therefore when they don’t arise and go, they cook up in their minds all kinds of ideas, about why they cannot stop a certain sin, or do better. And yet, they are not doing the things that God has laid out for them to do to bring them back to Him. If this fits any one of you, then may it be that you would understand the things that you must do, and that you would have a firmer resolve to arise and go.

 

A man cannot do something with full effort unless he believes it with full conviction. Our life is difficult. It is painful. And we have trouble fighting our sins, and some are so pleasurable that we have trouble wanting to fight them. The question is, "Why bother?"  If we do not know what God will do for us, then we do not have the resolve to really, really attack our sins, and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

So the Church tells us what God will do. He shows us, as a loving Father, He will take us in His arms, and will put the ring upon our finger, which is His authority, you know, and His dignity, and His image. The ring has an image on it, doesn’t it? That is the image of God, which is within man. And He will kill the fatted calf, and we will feast sumptuously for all eternity.

 

But we’re not at that point yet because we’re still wearing flesh, and we’re still having difficulty with our sins. So, most of us are somewhere in that journey from the far country. And we must continue that journey. It is described with only a few words here in the Scriptures. He starts to journey, and then his Father comes upon him. Well … that’s not the way it really happened! He had to journey for quite some way before his Father saw him. He was quite a ways away, and he still had to travel a long way. Rectifying our life is like that. It takes a long time, and a lot of effort, but the Church tells us clearly what the effect of it will be, what the outcome will be. Keep this in your mind. It’s very important to remember these kinds of readings in the Scriptures because when you start to think of your sins, they will overwhelm you if you don’t realize the love of God. And next Sunday, and then the Sunday after that, and all the Sundays of Great Lent and all of the services of Great Lent, are full of recounting and remembering our sins and our unrighteousness and our wickedness.

 

It’s good to know those things; and remember them, because it keeps us from pride. But if you only learn those things, and you don’t know of God’s mercy, then you will fall away. Vast amounts of people that call themselves Christian have fallen away already, because they cannot understand the greatness of God in parallel with their wickedness. They either cast one away, or the other. They dumb down God, or they have exalted pride in themselves — one or the other. And you can see that many modern day heresies are because of these two things.

 

So, arise! Today, decide to arise. And when you fall down tomorrow, get up out of the dust and continue to walk. And if you cannot walk, then crawl, but keep going towards God. And if you have fixed in your mind what God has promised, then God will help you. And you will have the strength. No matter how weak you feel, you will have the strength to be saved. Amen.

 

 

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, A certain man had two sons: {12} And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. {13} And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. {14} And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. {15} And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. {16} And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. {17} And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, {19} And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. {20} And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. {21} And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. {22} But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: {23} And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: {24} For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. {25} Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. {26} And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. {27} And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. {28} And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. {29} And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: {30} But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. {31} And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. {32} It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.



 

 

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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given in 1997, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This Sunday is part of a five Sunday sequence that precedes Great Lent. 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 18:10-14

[3] Luke 19:1-10

[4] This is sung at "Lord I have cried" in Vespers

[5] John 15:14-15

[6] John 14:2

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Haiti Earthquake relief – Report and list of needs from Deacon Matthew Williams

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Received on a ROCOR 

clergy list today:

from Deacon Matthew Williams

Jan 26, 2009

I have just returned from a week in Haiti following the disastrous earthquake on Jan 12. The condition of the mission in Haiti, along with the population at large, is dire beyond all imagination. While there, I visited three parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting with the faithful and assessing their needs. I travelled with a paramedic/medical officer from Belfast, Ireland (Lars Stuewe) who was able to treat approximately 50 sick and wounded, including many of our parishioners. There are so many concerns that I hardly know where to begin, but I will mention a few of the issues I believe to be most pressing.

Public Health and Welfare:

Much of the population, including many of the members or our parishes, have limited or no access to food and water, or cannot afford the food and water available. Sanitation is practically non-existent throughout the country. While provisions and medical attention are in abundance in some areas, others are reported to have received so far only 10% of what is needed. Our mission could greatly aid our parishes and the people of Haiti by addressing these needs. For example, the mission could establish food distribution networks and, especially, water purification centers. Proper sanitation also needs to be established at locations accessible to the members of our parishes. 

Shelter:

Shelter is an extreme concern that should be addressed promptly, as the general health of the population, including our own parishioners, will degrade drastically once the rainy season begins in a few months. This is especially true in Leogane, where the houses occupied by the parishioners were completely destroyed and the entire parish is living in an outdoor camp. One of the parishioners owns the parcel of land where these houses stood and where the camp is now located. If usage of this land could be obtained by the mission (by purchase or lease), an apartment building sufficient to house the entire parish could be built. I have spoken with an accomplished general contractor who is prepared to spend considerable time in Haiti overseeing this or any other construction projects.

Church Buildings:

Three parishes (in Port-au-Prince, Leogane, and Jacmel) were directly affected by the earthquake. In Port-au-Prince the church is badly damaged and must be repaired or replaced before it is safe to resume services in the building. In Leogane the church (a rented building) was completely destroyed. In Jacmel the rented building does not appear to have been damaged. As mentioned above, there is a general contractor prepared to aid the mission in repairing or constructing the church buildings in Haiti.

Education:

The school operated by Fr Jean Chenier-Dumais was completely destroyed along with his home and vehicle. I am not certain who owns this land, but if it is owned by Fr Jean or the mission, the building will need to be rebuilt. Otherwise I believe it most advisable to purchase land and rebuild the school there. In addition to the needs of Fr Jean’s school, I became acquainted with the director of a school that provides a high standard of education to some 300 students. He has thus far operated the school with no outside funds, but he no longer has a building (it was destroyed) and is unable to pay the teachers’ meager salaries. He was previously paying the teachers by himself taking side jobs as an interpreter. This is not an immediate need on the same level as some of the other concerns presented here, but it is my hope that the mission could take over this school’s activities, thus providing critical education at a time when 90% of Port-au-Prince’s schools have been destroyed. The funds needed for this project are not extreme and the benefits to the community would be great.

 

I realize that I have raised many concerns and provided few solutions. The funds needed to properly re-establish our mission and provide for the future health is staggering, but the need is immediate.  I call upon all the faithful to contribute generously to the needs of the mission and people in Haiti. Donations can be made through the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (www.fundforassistance.org).

 

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Haiti Earthquake relief – news from Deacon Matthew Williams

Monday, January 25th, 2010

 The latest reports from and about Deacon Matthew Williams: (St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church, House Springs, MO)

From Fr Matthew’s Diaconissa Elizabeth’s Facebook Page: 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Please remember Rdr. Vladimir from the parish of the Nativity in Port au Prince. He taught at a private school in the city that was destroyed in the quake. He never returned home… Remember his widow, Madeline, and two children, Ester and Sebastian. They are devastated. Fr. M. will stay until after the funeral in the a.m. There are many from the parish that are still unaccounted for… Lord have mercy!!!

Fr. M. is on his way back to the Dom. Rep. this evening. I’m certain that it must be very difficult to leave the people there. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be, feeling as if he should have accomplished so much more in a week. Unfortunately though, he has to keep his job(s) here at home! Please pray for him. He hopes to be home Monday.


An email from Fr Matthew on Thu, Jan 21, 2010
 

I arrived in the Dominican Republic on Friday, Jan 15, determined to provide as much aid to Haiti as possible. At the time that I left the US, we had received no word from the clergy in Haiti.  Thank God, while I was en route to Haiti, we received word that the clergy were alive and in good health and that there were no confirmed fatalities among the parishioners.

 
Due to many complications, it was only Monday when I arrived in Port-au-prince, by which time I had been joined by a German medical officer, Lars Stuewe, who practices medicine in Belfast Ireland. After some discussion of the obvious need, he decided that he would like to work with our Mission to provide medical attention to our parishioners and the surrounding communities.
 
We arrived late Monday night, driving through large areas that had been destroyed to such an extent that no one remained in those places.  Other places, large groups of people would be gathered in outdoor camps, sleeping on the ground without shelter.
 
Fr Gregoire and some of the faithful.
 
Fr Gregoire` and some of the the faithful (before the earthquake).
 
On Tuesday, the feast of Theophany, we opened a small clinic near Fr. Gregoire`s home, where we were able to treat 42 patients with medical supplies purchased by FFA that we brought with us from the DR. A few patients were treated after dark, with stitches being performed by flashlight. Careful records were kept for every patient and health cards were issued to help reduce the risk of duplicated health care. Twenty patients were referred to the hospital due to injuries that we did not have materials or equipment to treat. Unfortunately, the situation with the hospitals appears dire, as we were finding that patients with complicated fractures were being turned away from the hospitals due to lack of space. However, the need for a more significant clinic at Fr. Gregoire`s home in Fontamara appeared limited, and we determined to assess the situation in other areas, including Jacmel. At that time there was news that no aid had yet arrived in Jacmel, a city of 110,000.
 
While Lars was treating the patients, I made initial contacts at the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) and learned that the UN assessment of public health would only begin assessments of the situation on the ground on Friday, Jan. 22.
 
On Wednesday morning we were awakened by a second quake measured at 6.1. The house we were in was undamaged, but other houses in the area were seriously damaged. After resolving numerous logistical issues, we began the long and arduous task of locating the WHO medical supply warehouse. The medical director and pharmacist were very supportive and issued the required drugs and medications after verifying our charity status and practitioners license. We received adequate medical supplies to treat 1000 patients. Further medical supplies can be obtained now as needed. Immediately we headed toward Jacmel from whence we had received word that 30 members of the parish of St Augustine were sick and wounded. By this time we had also learned that the Canadian military was on site in Jacmel, but were unable to determine what, if any, aid they were providing.
 
Arriving in Jacmel late in the evening, we immediately began the task of assessing the situation here. Everywhere we went, we received contradictory reports or even total lack of knowledge of the situation. On the one hand, we repeatedly heard report of 2,000 fatalities, yet at the hospital there were only 83 patients. The senior house officer (SHO) there reports that he is the medical officer in charge and has 17 more medical staff. However, they have no X-Ray film and no orthopedic surgeon. Therefore they cannot provide any bone surgery at that hospital. They were assessed several times by various organizations, but have received no medical supplies and is running short of antibiotics and pain relieve such as morphine, etc. They have received food and water from the World Food Program (WFP). 
 
At the Police station no useful information could be obtained at all — not even the population of the city. At the Canadian base, the situation was similar — they were not even aware of whether they were providing any medical care to the area. 
 
Our last visit on Wednesday was to the football field where an IDP camp has been set up and appears to be housing approximately 800 families. There we learned that medical treatment was being provided by Canadian doctors. Which organization they are from and what type of treatment they are providing is yet to be determined, as the local representative of the United Nations did not know the answers to these questions.
 
Today, Thursday, Jan 21, we will be completing the assessment of Jacmel and meeting with the mayor and other personell whose contact information we received from the hotel. We will also meet with the faithful at the church for prayer. After this we will make a decision as to whether the parish and others in the area are in fact in need of our medical care. This decision will determine whether we move on now to other parishes or stay here.9
 
We have the opportunity, with sufficient funding, to establish a permanent clinic with Lars as the directing medical officer. Here is a brief note from Lars:

I have experience in Emergency Medicine and Pre-Hospital Care. I graduated in 2003 in Germany with a BSc in Medicine and Anaesthesia. After my internship I served as an Officer to the Olympic Games in Athens as a Teamleader in the HOC and OLV. After the Tsunami I was deployed by the German Medical NGO EMT International Aid  to Sri Lanka (Trincomalee) in the early days with a response team. We provided Emergency Response in affiliation with the catholic church . We treated more than 5000 patients initially. For the long term we built a Medical Centre in the Holy Cross Grounds (caritas funding), During the building period I provided Medical Aid to the public and the international community. In the rising violence and full scale of war, I was appointed UN-MEDEVAC leader. I was acting Chief for the Field Hospital in Kantale during the defense action on Mutur district. I have the expertise to deal on all kinds of Trauma and Tropical diseases. I am familiar with Primary Care and Minor surgical procedures in difficult environments.

The situation in Haiti is worse than expected. Due to no coordination, lack in communication and planning, the situation is extremely difficult to find the right location to set up treatment to avoid duplication. I recommend a long term project. In what way it has to be determined. Initially I see importance to help the suffering and injured people wherever help is needed.

I will attempt to prepare a rough proposal as to the cost of such a project as soon as possible.
 
A brief summary of the situation in each parish follows:
 
In Port-au-prince, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin is still standing but damaged.  One reader, Vladimir, is missing and cannot be located. There are no confirmed casualties in the parish. The school operated by Fr. Jean was completely destroyed, along with his home and vehicle.
 
L-r: Fr Gregory, Bishop Michael, Fr Jean, in St Moses Chapel.
 
Fr Gregory, Bishop Michael, Fr Jean in St Moses chapel
 
At Fontamara, Fr Gregoire`s home withstood both quakes, but the chapel of St Moses sustained some damage. The school operated by Fr Gregoire is damages as well.
 
At Jacmel the house where services are held is standing without damage. About 30 of the parishioners are injured, with three admitted to the hospital.
 
At Leogogne, the Church of Sts Peter and Paul and many houses were destroyed, but no details regarding the situation of the faithful is available.
 
The parishes in Cayes, Cap Haitien, and Maissade were unaffected.
 
Later today I will meet with an organization (I don`t have the exact name) that is working with IOCC. They are receiving a container today from IOCC with aid for the parishes.
 
In summary, the situation is very complicated and chaotic. Even within our parishes,  We are determined to provide aid to the faithful and to the population at large. I will continue to report on our activity.
 
Please pray for all of us here.
 
In Christ, Dcn Matthew
 

 
Monies sent to the Fund for Assistance will go directly to the faithful (already, substantial cash has been entrusted to the clergy there). Questions? Contact Rev Victor Patapov, the unpaid Executive director of the FFA, or his assistant Alena Plavsic, (917-817-2925, alena@fundforassistance.org)
 
The faithful can volunteer with the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) . I have filled out the paperwork, to be a Frontline Emergency response Volunteer, how about you? (Send it to the address below, or directly to Pascalis). A more general online form is at https://iocc.org/giving/giving_volunteerapplication.aspx,
 

 
IOCC Contact information:
 

Pascalis Papouras, US Program Coordinator, International Orthodox Christian Charities

110 West Road, Suite 360, Baltimore, MD 21204, USA

Email: ppapouras@iocc.org Phone: +1 410 243 9820 ; Fax: +1 410 243 9824

www.iocc.org

 

 

 

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Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

 

The rest of the story, How was the publican justified?



 

Icon of the Publican and Pharisee<br />
http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/publican-and-pharisee.jpg In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. [1] Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. It is a formal beginning to our preparation for the Holy Fast, and is the first day we read anything from the Triodion this year. We are now in a period of time to prepare ourselves – 4 more weeks. Next week follows the Prodigal Son, then the Sunday of the Last Judgment, then the last Sunday before the Holy Fast begins – the Sunday of Forgiveness. There is not much more time, and this time is given for us to reflect upon what it is that we need to do to improve ourselves.

 

The church gives us some help here.  The Sunday before this day is always the Sunday of Zacchaeus, who was a publican. Today, we read about another publican, just a nameless person in a parable. This event never actually occurred; it is a parable our Lord used to teach us. However, it has extra meaning when we think of it in light of the story of Zacchaeus, and in our mind’s eye, equate the publican in this parable with Zacchaeus.

 

In this parable we see two kinds of humility – or rather, humility and its evil opposite, pride – and two kinds of knowledge. We see the pride of the Pharisee, and the church in its hymnology points out the differences between his pride and the humility of the publican. In order to fully understand the lesson we must see that the Pharisee was not completely wrong and the publican was not completely virtuous, and yet, one of them was justified and the other was not.

 

The Pharisee was not condemned for keeping the fasts. He was not condemned for doing righteous good works. The publican was not praised for the life of sin that he had led. Rather, the Pharisee was condemned for judging another man, for using a measure in measuring that he was not capable of truly fulfilling himself. He was condemned because he was either unaware or did not care about the hidden sins that he had in his life, and how he truly was impure before God. He should have been in his demeanor just as the publican.

 

And the publican – why was he justified? He was justified because of his humility, but there is a very interesting aspect to his humility that we must know. He certainly did not judge another man, but he was well aware of his sin. There is something I see over and over again in our society and even in those who are Orthodox in our world as well, since we breathe poisoned air and hear poisoned ideas and we have some of that poison accumulate in us. I see this problem constantly. That is, that people, because of their sins, even though they know that they are wrong, and they want to do better, and have an inner conviction that something is wrong and unholy – instead of struggling against them, because they fail so often – they find a way to avoid being continually pricked by their conscience and being made aware of their sin.

 

This happens among profligate people. Why do you thing that people drink, or find themselves lost in promiscuity or other debauchery? This is to lose themselves from the reality of who they are and how far they are away from virtue. Everyone knows internally what virtue is – it is built into our hearts; it is built into our character.  The Apostle Paul talks about it in Romans, and it is very evident that all men know what is right. But when he falls so far short of virtue he is afraid to really tackle the problem, as it is a very difficult one. So, in extreme cases, he falls away through debauchery, disbelief, falling into extremely wrong doctrines and ideologies and ways of life. And if we get into this state (and it is easy to fall into it: beware!) we deny and deny and deny the reality of who we are, and Who God is. Because generally someone must be blamed, and you can bet that we do not like to blame ourselves very often.

 

Another thing that people do when they are aware of their sins and wish to do better and continually fail – they fall into despondency. This is not so much where they blame someone else, or fall into impure activities without any heedfulness at all, but their despondency eats them alive. Truly, despondency kills more than any other sin.

 

Let us imagine now that the publican of today’s parable IS Zacchaeus. One of the fathers I read quite often, the Blessed Archbishop Andrei, draws this parallel and it is a striking one. Imagine the life of Zacchaeus before he was enlightened by Christ. He was the chief among the publicans. He was the biggest sinner. This meant that he had been guilty of murder and of defrauding widows and orphans. Howso murder? He may not have killed a man with his own hands, but he caused people to starve, widows and orphans with no money, who had no means to live, and they starved or became sick and died. Their murder was on his head. And of course, he was a thief, and a man in his situation, with so much abundance, would fall into every kind of sin. Certainly he had his pick of any wealthy courtesan he wanted, who feigned affection towards him because of his money, and he certainly ate the finest of foods, and drank great quantities of the finest of wines. There was much that he did that was wicked and abased.

 

What happened to this bad man? He was enlightened by God in a way that was wondrous and miraculous and totally outside of what he expected. Therefore, he in his zeal said, "I will restore fourfold to anyone I have defrauded, and I will give half of my goods to the poor", and he had great warmth in his heart when he was in the presence of Christ, and he wanted to do better. 

 

And then came tomorrow, the next day. He fell back into his bad habits. He still had avarice, and he still had lust, and he still had a desire for wine. He still had a weakness for all the things that he wished to get away from, so likely he would have fallen, again and again and again, or at least felt within himself great uncleanness because he still had these desires.. Look at the life of St Mary of Egypt. Can any one of us say we were as bad as she was? I don’t think so. Look what happened to her. When she realized how evil she had been and she desired to change, she went into the desert and for 18 years (if you read her story, you can see this) – EIGHTEEN YEARS! – she spent these years struggling with lustful imaginations and hearing songs that she used to hear when she was in drunken orgies, again and again in her head, and desiring to have flesh meats and wine which she used to drink in abundance. Eighteen years! So many of us, if we had to spend only a year struggling against lust and being unsuccessful – we would just throw in the towel, and go back across our Jordan, back to the former life we had been living, because we were not “cuttin” it. She spent 18 years doing this, till finally God removed from her this lust and this depravity which she had so carefully cultivated from the time she was a maiden. It took 18 years. Very few of us in this room have been Orthodox 18 years, much less struggled 18 years against our passions.

 

Why did she do such a thing, and why did the publican Zacchaeus (shall we say), struggle so, and go into the temple and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner?” Why didn’t he just give up? That’s the most likely thing to happen in this world: most people give up. The reason they give up is because they do not have salvific knowledge of Who God is and what He has done, and what He will do. I said this so many times – our life is spent in learning TWO pieces of knowledge that are critical to our salvation. And they must be done in parallel and a little bit at a time. Too much of one or two much of the other will cause our death. The pieces of knowledge are of ourselves and of God. As a man grows in knowledge of God he learns how great God is and he develops confidence, and he develops this overwhelming desire to become holy. As he grows in knowledge of himself he sees those areas in his life that are not in keeping with Who God is, and he desires to change them.

 

But if a man learns of himself outside of learning about God, you can see in our society what happens. You can see the depravity of people. You can see their angst and anguish over their life’s situation for it is outside of God. Many very poetic things are said by people in music or literature that are TRUE, but they do not give the solution; they only know (and this just partially) the problem! If they do not know the solution, they cannot gain salvation. And the solution is the God-man Jesus Christ, Who has enlightened us and come to all of us, unworthy ones. He came not to the worthy, but the unworthy. Not to the pure, but to the impure! And as we grow in knowledge of that, then we will become pure.

 

The problem with sin in Christians is not so much that they just want to do it and don’t care. The problem is that they don’t understand really truly Who God is. The knowledge of God cannot be learned from a book or listening to preaching or teaching – it is learned from within. All these things help – the services of the church, preaching in the context of the services, keeping the fasts. They are all essential, absolutely. I have said this before, and I suppose I should learn to stop saying it, since it scares some people, but I believe that if a man does not fast, and if he does not value the services, it is very unlikely that he will be saved. Not because of the sin of not fasting or of missing the services because of frivolous reasons or laziness, but because you won’t know God if you eschew these things, because this is how God reveals Himself to us. And if you don’t know Him, then when there is a sin that you have trouble with – it will devour you. You will have no chance against it whatsoever, because you will not know how to fight it.

 

This publican UNDERSTOOD God. He also knew himself. This man was guilty of murder, of theft, of lying, of cheating, of every kind of debauchery and sin, but he wanted to change. So he went to the temple knowing that he was unworthy, but at the same time knowing Who God is, and since he knew who God is, there was hope in his breast, and he knew that God could change him. That is why he came into the temple and that is why he did not think about anything else except his own sin, and that is why he looked at the ground and did not care about the virtues or the vices of anyone else. He was too consumed with his own pressing problem. And he was justified, because of his faith. Because he had faith in God – in a true Being, not in some phantom or fantasy. Because he was living according to Who God is. Was he failing? Was he still falling into lust, and even debauchery.  Probably. Did he still have the lust of avarice in his heart? Oh yes! It takes a long time to divulge yourself of your passions. It is a hard lesson to learn. When I became Orthodox I thought some things I had difficulty with… well, I would not have trouble with them any more. And even now I struggle against them.

 

But I know that God can save and God will save. That was his purpose for becoming incarnate, to save sinners, like me, and like you. And the only way to know this in your heart is to live according to it. Christian knowledge is not static. It is not words on a page; it is life. Salvation is to be had in living, in living according to God is.

 

This is what the publican did. He knew who God is, and he knew himself, and the thought of who he was sickened him and made him sad, but he still went to the temple even though he could not look up to heaven because he could not behold the brightness of God because of his impurity. Even though he was in fear and trembling, he had confidence in God’s mercy, because of making even a small effort. That is where you gain knowledge of God, brothers and sisters. That is where you gain confidence that you can be saved. It is by making an effort. I did not say – being successful in your effort – because if that was the criteria, then we all indeed should fall into deep despondency because none of us would be saved.

 

It is not how good we are at change by which God judges, but is us how good we are at making an effort to repent. And it is a miraculous thing – we will change, but we not see ourselves change. Things happen so quickly. Consider our children. One moment they are just laying in the crib and making incomprehensible noises, and the next moment, they are young adults and saying things that touch our souls in ways that we never knew that they could be touched. It happens overnight. That is how it happens with our souls. We think we are muddy and filthy and unclean, and we struggle and we think that we are making no progress whatsoever, but unknown to us, although sometimes known to those who love us, we make changes, and we come closer and closer to God. And there will be a day when we have sweet release from those things that beset us.

 

If I did not believe that, then I would have no reason to live – none whatsoever. And that is why so many people blow their heads off – they have no reason – no hope at all. If all that life is, is this life, then it is a cruel joke, and a cruel comedy. But we know we are Christians. We know that God lives in us, and even if we sin, God will hear our repentance and receive us time and time again. And if you are not sure of that fact than you have not learned enough of Who God is. And you had best study this very important subject – it is called Theology – to study God, to learn of God, the science of sciences. And the laboratory in which you learn is your own life! Live life in Christ. That is what this publican was doing. The Pharisee, although he had great knowledge, (but knowledge without humility just puffeth up), he did not have the feelings that we should often have, of feeling incredibly unworthy. He lived in an externally righteous way and thought himself righteous, but he was even more depraved than a man who visits a brothel every night, because he had not real fear of God in his eyes.

 

Do you see the contrast? Do you see what made the Pharisee fall away and what made the publican cleave to Christ? And why are we considering them now? Why is this reading today? Well, we are going to be speaking of the last judgment soon, and we will also consider another repentance – that of the prodigal son. These are hard subjects. The church is trying to prepare us so we can look inside ourselves and learn of ourselves and learn of God during the great fast, by struggling as much as we are able, and even BEYOND what we are able. In fact, the Christian life is continually living beyond what we are capable of. God said unto us, "be ye perfect for I am perfect." And through the Apostle He says, "pray without ceasing," and He says, "turn the other cheek" when someone smites us, and, "if our enemy has us go with him one mile, to go with him two." He tells us impossible things – things that cannot be accomplished and yet they WILL be accomplished because He lives in us.

 

If you have any doubts whatsoever those doubts are because you are not living with enough effort, and if you make the effort – I tell you – that you will become absolutely sure that God lives in you and He will save even you, a sinner. You know your sins better than anyone else does, and if you have sensitivity, they hurt. They make us very sad, but despondency does not belong in a Christian’s character. And if is in your life, this just means that you have not learned enough of God. So you must study Him more. Study Him in keeping the fasts. Study Him in the services. Study him in pulling your mind back to prayer after it has wandered away into the ravine and onto the mountainsides. If you have one minute of prayer in a three-hour vigil service, then you have accomplished something great that day. It’s true.

 

God help us to be like this publican in his virtue. Yea, I say his virtue. It is a great virtue when a man knows himself and when he knows God. I tell you, when those two pieces of knowledge are in a man, he WILL be saved. Amen.

 

 



Luke 18:10-14

 

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. {11} The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. {12} I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. {13} And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. {14} I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

 

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

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_1999+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee.doc

 

New sermons, commentaries, etc  are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

 



[1]               This homily was transcribed from one given in 1997, on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. This Sunday is part of a five Sunday sequence that precedes Great Lent. 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.

 

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Report from Haiti

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

The following is a report from Dcn Matthew Williams after a week in Haiti.

http://eviljuan.blogspot.com/2010/01/report-from-earhtquake-ravaged-haiti.html

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ROCOR Sts. Peter & Paul parish in Leogane was totally destroyed in the earthquake.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Fr. Matthew Williams informed us that the church building of our ROCOR Sts. Peter & Paul parish in Leogane was totally destroyed in the earthquake. He also visited the parish in Jacmel. The situation there is not too bad.

If any of our clergy would consider going to Haiti to help with pastoral  care for a three-week stay, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has a training program and would welcome our help.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)
110 West Rd., Suite 360
Baltimore, MD 21204 USA

E-mail: relief@iocc.org
Telephone: (410) 243-9820
Toll-free donation hotline (877) 803-IOCC (4622)
Fax: (410) 243-9824

In XC,
Fr. Victor Potapov

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Haiti Earthquake relief – Medical relief, FFA news

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Jan 8/21 2010

Fr. Matthew Williams is en route to King’s Hospital in Port au Prince, where IOCC has delivered $1m in medical supplies.  It is one of the few functioning hospitals in Port au Prince and while there are many doctors, there exists a great need for experienced medical personnel to support the doctors in operating rooms and with follow up care. 

Also, later this afternoon, another convoy of supplies will be arriving in Port au Prince that contains food and water purification equipment. IOCC has  made arrangements for Fr. Matthew and Fr. Gregoire to meet the coordinators of this shipment so that they can link the Orthodox communities to distributions of these items.  

The Fund for Assistance to ROCOR has donated 10,000 to the IOCC and 6,000 directly to our team on the ground.

Fr. Victor Potapov

FFA Executive Director


Personal note:

I am a registered nurse, but not highly trained in trauma. I have contacted the IOCC but will most likely get some trauma training and become a first responder at a later date. I have no idea where all this will lead. At this point, I am itching to get there and help with my two "skills" – nursing and the priesthood. In the meantime, as I get word of Orthodox victims, living or reposed, I will pass them on. An IOCC representative has told me that they will publish names of reposed when they get confirmation. We are obligated to pray fervently for Haiti, and especially for our suffering brethren there. In my church, this will be happening for a very long time. Priest Seraphim.

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Haiti Earthquake relief/Fund for Assistance News

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Just received from the Executive director of the FFA, Archpriest Victor Patapov:

Another 6.0 earthquake struck Haiti today. The situation in that poor country is dire.

As of today the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has collected over $50,000 and disbursed $16,000 of aid to the suffering people of Haiti through trusted clergymen on the ground there. This is an ongoing fundraising effort.

We are working towards opening a clinic on the grounds of one of our five parishes in Haiti. Please pray for Fr. Gregoire, Fr. Jean, their long-suffering parishioners and for Deacon Matthew Williams of House Springs, MO. He is doing a magnificent job in Haiti, negotiated with the United Nations, the Red Cross, IOCC and other organizations to get aid to our people.

Please support our fundraising effort. If have yet to give, or would like to donate more, please send your checks to

Fund for Assistance/Haiti
c/o Synod of Bishops
75 East 93rd St.
New York, N.Y. 10128

I want to emphasize that every single penny donated to this project is spent on this project. None of the money earmarked for Haiti is being used for administrative costs or overhead. When the dust settles and we catch our breath, a full accounting of how our donors money was spent will be published on the FFA’s website:

http://www.fundforassistance.org/ffa_site/index.html

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Regarding Haiti: Letter from the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America
Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Tel: (847) 298-5383
Fax: (847) 298-5380
P.O Box 1367
Des Plaines, IL 60017

4/17 January, 2010
Synaxis of the 70 Apostles

Rectors of the Diocese:

Christ is amongst us!

 As all are no doubt aware, on January 12, 2010 a devastating earthquake struck Haiti – the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Peter, Deacon Matthew Williams, a cleric of St. John Chrysostom Church in House Springs, MO, has traveled to the Dominican Republic with a medical relief team and will soon be entering Haiti. Fr. Matthew is reporting his progress to His Grace daily, and we hope that very soon he will be able to provide a full report on the status of our clergymen, faithful, and properties in Haiti. As of today we are aware that two of our priests there, Fr. Gregoire and Fr. Jean, have survived. We know nothing about the other clergymen, their families, the faithful, or our properties.

In recent disasters much of the aid money sent was wasted or lost to local corruption. Bishop Peter intends that the funds collected in our diocese as a response to this disaster will not be lost to such a fate. Rather, once Fr. Matthew’s reports have been assessed a detailed plan for dispersement of funds collected in our parishes will be sent to the Rectors so that the faithful may be appropriately urged to give from their abundance to those suffering in Haiti. We hope to be able to help our Mission there directly, either by supporting the family of one of the clergymen if need be, or perhaps helping them to erect a new temple, again if need be.

In the mean time, Rectors are hereby informed to take up collections on all Sundays until further notice for the Diocesan Fund for those in Need of Assistance. These funds will be used directly for support of the Orthodox Christians in Haiti once we have been made aware of their needs by Fr. Matthew. Funds gathered at these weekly collections are to be sent to Andrei Urtiew, Diocesan Treasurer, at the address above.

With Love in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Rev. Fr. Gregory Joyce
Secretary of the Diocesan Council

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