Archive for January, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: Statement of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Metropolitan Hilarion

NEW YORK: January 16, 2010

Statement by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad 

It was with pain in my heart that I learned of the terrible catastrophe that has befallen the people of Haiti, and wish to express my profound empathy with the anguish felt by all the island’s occupants, and especially our brothers and sisters carrying on their service to God and man within the Orthodox Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. I pray for the repose of the souls of those who died during the earthquake, I pray for those who survived, that the Lord bless them with His consolation and heavenly aid. May the Lord bless the rescuers and all those who are going to that country with the aim of helping its occupants!  

Brothers and sisters, let us not forget that the poor and unfortunate are our joy, for they edify our character, and such tragedies give us the opportunity to be Christians not only in name, but in deed. Let us remember the words of the Gospel, how many images, parables and calls by the Lord in which He says that we must pray for each other, help and serve our neighbor. Much can be said about this, much can be understood, but the most important thing, my beloved, is to act and live in accordance with our faith. That is why I ask all of you, dear brother archpastors, reverend fathers, brothers and sisters, to help the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in its effort to provide necessary aid to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.  

With love in the Lord and a plea for prayers, 

Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. 

January 16, 2010


NB:The Baptism of the Lord and the Legion

Friday, January 15th, 2010

“Of old the prince of this world was also called king of those in the waters; yet he is drowned by thy cleansing and cast down, as once was legion in the lake, O Savior; and by Thy mighty hand Thou hast vouchsafed liberation to the work of Thy hands, which was enslaved by him” (Canon at Compline, Jan 5, Eve of Theophany, Ode 6)


“And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.” (Mark 5:13)


Theophany (Baptism of the Lord) icon feasts-of-the-lord-theophany.jpg

Theophany is just around the corner (this coming Tuesday, Jan 6/19 2010) .


This sticheron shows that we can consider the drowning of the demons in the story of the demonic of the Gergesenes (or “Gadarenes”) to be a “type” (like a prophesy) of baptism.


The casting out of demons is part of the Orthodox baptism service.


Demons are real, and the effect of baptismal waters is real. Just as the sea drowned the Gergesenes demons, our baptismal water drowns our passions. In the former case, the effect was immediate, in our case, the drowning of our passions is begun with baptism, which gives us the ability to become holy, and completed only by our efforts and the grace of God.


“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Homily:Sunday of Zacchaeus. Push past the press!

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Zacchaeus the publican. zaccchaeus-the-publican.jpg In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. [1]

Brothers and sisters, today is Zacchaeus Sunday; it one of the five Sundays that precedes Great Lent and helps us prepare for the Great Fast. 


Zacchaeus was a publican and very rich.  This meant that he was very corrupt because the way publicans became rich was by extorting more money than the Romans actually taxed.  They were Jews, but they extorted their own people for their own personal gain. 


Zacchaeus had heard about Christ; everybody had heard about Christ.  He was the “happening” thing at that time and He was an event wherever He went.  People came out of curiosity, as well because they believed or wanted to be healed. 


As Christ is coming into town, passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus hears about His arrival.  And something in Zacchaeus’ soul, although he probably didn’t even understand it at that time, desired to see Christ.  Perhaps he had some hope he could change and amend his life, even though he had been so far away from God for so long because he had been so corrupt; hurt so many; lied, stolen.  Probably he contributed to people’s death by extorting money from poor widows and such.  But he wanted to see Christ, but he was small, short, and the crowd was large and he wouldn’t be able to see Christ.  So, being a clever man, he ran ahead and climbed into a tree so he could see Christ. 


Now what do we understand from this?  The Scripture is a historical record, but it is also a mystical teaching.  This historical event teaches spiritual truths, and teaches us how to live.  Now, I have also told you that you should read the Scriptures to see how they apply to you, both the good and the bad.  When you see a sinner in the Scriptures, beg the Lord to forgive you of your sins.  When you see someone righteous, confessing in the Scriptures, beg the Lord that you would have the strength to do the same.  When you see Zacchaeus, beg the Lord that you would be freed of any avarice, any grabbing on to money, any greed, any dishonesty, any lack of compassion … all these things that Zacchaeus had in abundance, like shall we say, a legion of sins [2]


Also, when you see Zacchaeus, notice how he climbed up into a tree.  Even though he was hindered from seeing Christ, he didn’t give up.  The press is the crowd of people who were keeping him from seeing because he was short.  I ask you look at the spiritual meaning of what the press is — it is our sins, our passions, our worldly concerns, our false priorities.  And also the press is our shame.  It is important to understand this.  Many of us understand about our sins and desire not to sin anymore, but this press of shame often keeps us from seeing God because what God wants you to do when you sin is to run to Him, and the “press” is a formidable obstacle between us and the arms of our Father.


Our Lord uses the image of a child to teach us what our disposition should be after we sin.  A child who has been in a normal family with parents that love him when he sins and his parents scold him or spank him, what does he do?  He cries big tears and then he hugs his parent and says, “I’m sorry” immediately.  This is how we should be when we sin so we can see Christ again because sin makes our eyes grow dim.  We are not able to see Christ when we sin. 


We should be like Zacchaeus; when we sin we should push pass the press.  And the press indeed is often our own shame; our own incredulity about our sins.  Why are you surprised when you sin?  I have said this to some of you in confession, probably almost everybody.  Why be surprised when you sin?  Why be offended when you sin?  Your sinning shouldn’t offend you.  Your sinning offends God.  When you sin, push past that pride that the devil puts in your way and struggle to repent of that sin so that you will restore full communion with God in your soul. 


Brothers and sisters, the press is just not entanglements in the world.  We create our own press.  The press could be depression; this press could be despondency; this press could be our shame.  Or it could be other sins: laziness, wrong priorities, anything that keeps us from Christ …all these things are the press. 


You must find a way around the press.  If you do not have the strength to push past it, then find a way to be over it like Zacchaeus was.  And how did he find his way to be able to see Christ?  By rising up, by going into the tree.  Always, the only way that we can accomplish anything is by having our eyes on Christ, by thinking of things above and not earthly.  So if there is something that you cannot conquer, something that grieves you, something that saddens you, then you must climb the tree, you must make the effort to pray and as part of your praying to be struggling to follow the Commandments. 


Now Zacchaeus didn’t know these things.  All he wanted to do was see Christ.  Now Christ saw that there was a good heart buried under all that corruption in Zacchaeus.  So when He passed by him, He said, “Zacchaeus make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thine house.” 


Now this occurs with us, too, brothers and sisters.  When our Lord sees that we have pushed past the press, even if it is only a small amount, even if we are still in the middle of the crowd, but struggling to get out, even if we haven’t made it to the tree, much less been able to climb it with exalted thoughts and prayer, the Lord sees this and says, “Make haste, make haste.  I will abide with you.”  Make haste means: “consider My living inside you, My Grace that I give you to be the most critical and important thing in your entire life.  Run to it!  Order your life according to it!”  Make haste today.  Today salvation comes to our house, and every day because the Kingdom of God is within us. 


God is very close, very near brothers and sisters.  And He is constantly telling us, “Make haste!  Come down!  Be with Me.  Learn of Me.  I am meek and lowly.  My yoke is easy.  Learn of Me.  I am sweet; a sweetness that you cannot experience in anything else.  I am joy, a joy which you cannot obtain from anything earthly.  I am incorruptible and I will make you who are corrupted perfect.”  The Lord says this often, brothers and sisters. 


Do you hear Him say, “Make haste”?  Do you hear Him say, “Today I will abide in your house”, that is, your soul?  Do you hear this?  A Christian should hear this.  Everyday you should be trying to prepare your house; make it a little bit cleaner.  A little bit more straightened up, so that the Lord would abide in it as an honored guest. 


Now Zacchaeus had not repented of any of his sins before the Lord said, “Come down.”, but the Lord knew he would.  The Lord accepts us because of our potential brothers and sisters.   We can become perfected; He knows how to accomplish it.  The only thing He asks of us is that we make haste; the only thing He asks of us is that we make an effort.  That we struggle, that we try, that when obstacles are in our lives, we find ways around them by His grace and with His help and with our effort. 


They go and have dinner at Zacchaeus’ house.  Zacchaeus is full of joy because here was a Rabbi, a great teacher, who accepted him.  No one else accepted him because he had defrauded so many people.  And he felt joy.  There must have been such a feeling in his heart at the time of joy and expectation and that maybe he could change now.  Maybe he could put off this burden that had been dragging his conscience down for so many years. 


But there are people in the crowd, at the dinner, that are saying that he is a sinner and they are murmuring about it.  The Lord hears this and so does Zacchaeus.  So he pledges to the Lord, “Behold, the half of my goods I give to poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.”  If you work out the math, basically Zacchaeus has just impoverished himself.  A person who has been accustomed to silk pillows and the finest of foods and an abundance of wine and probably to wealthy courtesans to give him his every whim and wish, suddenly is going to make himself poor for the sake of Christ.  This is repentance, brothers and sisters, this is contrition. 


The Lord requires this of us; requires that we give up what we were so that we can become what we should be.  Jesus waits for Zacchaeus to say this (of course He knew he was going to say it), and when He hears it says, “This day is salvation come to this house.”  Now what is salvation, brothers and sisters?  In the West, salvation is thought of in such a miniscule fashion.  There is such poverty in the minds of people when they consider what salvation is!  Most people think that salvation is that when you die, you go to heaven.  Salvation is, “Well, you have sins and Jesus Christ pays the penalty of your sins and you go to heaven.” 


May it never be that we have such a small view! Salvation is restoration, brothers and sisters.  Salvation is completion.  Salvation is being made perfect.  Salvation is being able to cast off everything that hurts, everything that is heavy, and to be able to see Christ as He is, to be able to know the true nature of things.  Salvation is when a soul changes.  And Zacchaeus was changing. 


Brothers and sisters, do you hear the Lord telling you to make haste?  Do you hear the Lord saying salvation has come to your house?  Do you hear the Lord telling you about His sweetness?  About his perfection? About His love for you?  Do you hear these things?  Perhaps you don’t hear these things.  You should hear them everyday.  If you don’t hear, this is because you have sins that are holding you down. 


Push past the press, brothers and sisters.  The whole world is going to go away.  It is going to be recreated.  Everything will be made new.  Will you be new?  If you have not become new, if you have not changed, then you will be like that old piece of cloth…it can’t be put on a new wineskin [3].  Brothers and sisters, be like Zacchaeus.  Press past the crowd; find a way to see Christ.  And when Christ speaks to you, make haste and come down and do everything in your power so that He may abide in your house and never leave.  May God help you in all things.  Amen.

[1] This homily was preached at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas, on Zacchaeus Sunday, 2002

[2] Cf. Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30

[3] [Mat 9:17]  Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.


From thy youth thou didst love Christ…

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Today we celebrate the memory of our Venerable Father Seraphim, the wonderworker of Sarov.

His troparion reads:

From thy youth thou didst love Christ, O blessed one, and ardently desiring to work for Him alone, thou didst struggle in the wilderness with constant prayer and labor; and have acquired love for Christ with compunction of heart, thou didst prove to be the beloved favorite of the Mother of God. Wherefore, we cry to thee: save us by thy prayers, O Seraphim, our holy father!

Like many of the Holy Church’s hymns, this short ode has much to teach us about the Christian life. Notice that St. Seraphim’s love for Christ is mentioned twice. First, he loved Christ "from his youth," and this led him to labor for Christ’s sake. This labor, in turn, brought him to even greater love for Christ, "with compunction of heart." 

Today is Father Seraphim’s name day. May God grant him many, many years!

Dn. Nicholas


Cupola with Russian Cross pictures.

Thursday, January 14th, 2010


There it is! Isn’t it beautiful! I think the snow is a nice touch, but this cupola will be forced to humble itself and live in Texas. This is a picture of the cupola, which will grace the roof of our church very soon. It is taken where it was made, by  Allen Figula & Daughters, Glen Hope , PA

Here is a closup of the cross:




These photos, and another are in the Flickr set:


We are trying to get local media interested in the raising of the cupola. I will let you know.

I am getting excited! The church roof is almost on, and we will be having services in the temple soon.I doubt we will make it by Great Lent (which begins Feb 2/15, but we should be in by Pascha for sure!

Russian New Year Horovod song “V Lesu Rodilas Yolochka”. Nativity Yolka Video 2010.

Thursday, January 14th, 2010



Many more Yolka and other church videos are available from multiple sources, courtesy of Natalia:

Haiti earthquake relief from the Fund for Assistance

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

A letter from Fr. Victor Potapov, Executive Director of the (ROCOR) Fund for Assistance.

Dear Fathers and Brethren,

As all of you have heard by now, a very powerful earthquake has devastated Haiti, the poorest country in our hemisphere. The media reports that up to 3,000,000 Haitians have been affected by this calamity. Life in Haiti is
very difficult under normal circumstances. Now it on the brink of becoming unbearable.

Officials fear thousands – perhaps more than 100,000 have perished. Death is everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather. Bodies of men were covered with plastic tarps or cotton sheets. The  international Red Cross said a third of Haiti’s 9 million people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of the damage to emerge.

ROCOR’s mission in Haiti has nearly 2000 members. We have been trying to reach our priests there, but so far no luck. Most of the telephone towers in Haiti have been destroyed or damaged.

Folks there need our help.

Please pass this on to your parishioners.

The Fund for Assistance has been reaching out to parishes to get at least 10-20 of our communities to pledge 100-200 dollars a month for our mission in Haiti. Our Haitian Orthodox community needs only 2000 per month to survive. To date the response to FFA’s plea has been lukewarm…

Now the need in Haiti is greater than ever and now may be the time to speak to your parish councils to pledge any monthly you can muster to help our poor brothers and sisters in Haiti.

If you have any questions, please contact my assistant Alena Plavsic at

Any pledges or collections on behalf of the Orthodox community in Haiti should be sent to the following address:

Fund for Assistance
c/o Synod of Bishops
75 East 93rd Street
New York, New York 10128

Thank you.

Fr. Victor Potapov
Executive Director/FFA

“Away in manger’ Nativity Yolka Video 2010.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010


The children were asked to "perform something" in order to get a gift from the Magus.

Many more Yolka and other church videos are available from multiple sources, courtesy of Natalia:

Ukrainian ‘koliadka’ (Christmas carol) – The three holidays. Nativity Yolka 2010.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Children’s Yolka (Matinee) at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in Dallas/McKinney, TX. Two sisters, Natalka and little Olenka, are singing a Ukrainian ‘koliadka’ (Christmas carol).

This is a song about the "Three Holidays" – Nativity, St Basil’s day and Theophany.


The children were asked to "perform something" in order to get a gift from the Magus.

Many more Yolka and other church videos are available from multiple sources, courtesy of Natalia:

Muha-Tzokotuha (Russian Children’s Poem) Nativity Yolka 2010.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010


The children were asked to "perform something" in order to get a gift from the Magus.

Many more Yolka and other church videos are available from multiple sources, courtesy of Natalia: