Archive for January, 2010

Little Drummer Boy. Nativity Yolka Video 2010.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The "Little Drummer Boy". Another performance by the children for the magus Melchior.

Link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Klb14iPlM8

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:

http://www.youtube.com/natsense

http://www.dailymotion.com/natsense

http://video.yahoo.com/people/4802554

http://natsense.blip.tv/

http://www.metacafe.com/channels/natsense/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.channel&vanity=natsense

http://www.veoh.com/users/natsense

 

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“Nun zünden wir die Lichter an” Nativity Yolka video 2010.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Children’s Yolka (Matinee) at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Dallas/McKinney, TX. 2010

Matushka Marina and Nat are singing a Christmas song in German, "Nun zünden wir die Lichter an".

We all call it the "Shalom Shalom" song.
 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HisFiz_NyW4

 

Here is Nat signing the song alone in her living room, with English subtitles:

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LkosjjSCLg

Music and lyrics by Joachim Christian Rau.

The German lyrics:

Nun zünden wir die Lichter an
Die Glocken sollen klingen.
Und jeder mag so gut er kann
Zusammen mit uns singen.

Frohe Weihnacht,
Merry Christmas,
Shalom, Shalom!

Viel Süßes kann der Nikolaus
In Kinderschuhe schieben.
Wir denken uns Geschenke aus
Für alle unsre Lieben.

Frohe Weihnacht………

Alte Lieder kehren wieder.
Festlich glänzen Turmposaunen.
Kerzen schimmern in den Zimmern.
Helle Kinderaugen staunen.

Die Jahre drehen sich in Kreis
Wie Weihnachtspyramiden.
Wir wünschen uns die Wiesen weiß
Und allen Menschen Frieden.
 


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

http://www.youtube.com/natsense

http://www.dailymotion.com/natsense

http://video.yahoo.com/people/4802554

http://natsense.blip.tv/

http://www.metacafe.com/channels/natsense/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.channel&vanity=natsense

http://www.veoh.com/users/natsense

 

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Thy Nativity – Nativity Troparion videos.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

 

The Nativity Troparion (English),  in a beautiful Serbian melody:One of my favorites! 

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvGra7w70Uc

Here is is in a Russian melody:

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXvs-bXEVy4

 

Nativity Medley, in English and Slavonic. 

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvGra7w70Uc

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Nativity Kontakion videos – English and Slavonic. – Today the Virgin

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Nativity Kontakion – "Today the Virgin". It is sung in a small room, in which the choir sometimes practices.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZb6Lg_QPog

It does not sound as good in the video as it does in person. Our little church is blessed with a very good choir, and what’s more – a peaceful one. Actually, we are all very peaceful, glory be to God. I believe we need to grow a little, but as we do, I pray that we do not change our personality. I have been around, and we have no "drama", except when we have our Yolka (more videos to follow). Slavonic video at the end of this post.

 BTW – We are blessed with a peaceful parish, and a new temple (should be ready just before Great Lent this year). We have also been blessed to have friends and family who have donated $30,000 to help us make the building of the temple a reality. We have a fund-raising goal of $40,000. This additional money will pay for the iconostasis, and maybe get us started on the icons for it (all the labor is local).

Would you help us build our iconostasis and adorn it? You will have the privilege of being a founding benefactor and be commemorated, with your immediate family, in perpetuity, in our parish. See: http://www.orthodox.net/aboutus/benefactors.html

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x_TqVuzsRA

 

More videos at: (pick any link)

http://www.youtube.com/natsense

http://www.dailymotion.com/natsense

http://video.yahoo.com/people/4802554

http://natsense.blip.tv/

http://www.metacafe.com/channels/natsense/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.channel&vanity=natsense

http://www.veoh.com/users/natsense

 

 

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Children’s Yolka (Matinee) at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church

Monday, January 11th, 2010

 Children’s Yolka (Matinee) at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church inMcKinney, TX. The beginning of our own local Christmas tradition – one of the Three Wise Men bringing presents to the kids and asking them for a little performance in return. Fr Deacon Nicholas was the wise man.This is the beginning. of the Yolka.

 

The idea is to build this humble little show into a gala which is done every year. One of the wise men will tell the Christmas story, and verious parts will be acted out.

Link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej6Jot7srVY

 

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

http://www.youtube.com/natsense

http://www.dailymotion.com/natsense

http://video.yahoo.com/people/4802554

http://natsense.blip.tv/

http://www.metacafe.com/channels/natsense/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.channel&vanity=natsense

http://www.veoh.com/users/natsense

 

 

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NB:“They departed into their own country another way.”

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Our encounter with the Nativity of Christ must change our way.

MATTHEW 2:12

Adoration of the Magi. From http://www.atelier-st-andre.net/en/pages/gallery/enicon13.html. Used with permission<br />
adoration-of-the-magi-www-atlier-st-andre-net.jpg And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matthew 2:12)

 This scripture describes what we must do if there is to be a “nativity” in our hearts. As we celebrate the season of the Nativity of the Lord, we must also be continually having a nativity occurring in us. It is described in a previously commented upon hymn regarding the feast:

  Be glad, O human nature, thou barren desert, for the master hath come to make thee bear many children.

 For the event of our Lord’s nativity to have ANY personal meaning for us, our human nature must bear many children – it must give birth to many virtues. This begetting of children by us is the reason why our Lord became incarnate.

 This is only possible if we live according to the spiritual meaning of the historical event of the departure of the wise men; it is an imperative to our soul: we must live in “another” way. This way is published all over the Prophets, and especially in the Gospel. It is the way of truth, and light. This way is a difficult one, and not natural to us in the beginning. As we give birth to the virtues, they become easier for us to perform. Make no mistake – we must perform them. Today’s Epistle makes that plain enough:

 

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) [1]

 

 May God help us to live in “another way”, which He showed to us, taught us, and enabled us to perform.

 

 

“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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-01-11-nb-they-departed-into-their-own-country-another-way+matthew2-12.doc

&

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 



[1] From James 2:14-26, read on the 32nd Monday after Pentecost.

 

 

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Sunday after Nativity 2009. Audio Homily. How should we react to evil?

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

LISTEN NOW

Matthew 2:13-23 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-04_2010-01-10+sunday-after-nativity.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-04_2010-01-10+sunday-after-nativity.mp3



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Sunday after Nativity – events afterwards are to be expected.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Brothers and sisters: Christ is born! 

When we read about the events that occurred right after the birth of Christ – in the 40 days or so right after the birth of Christ – we should be struck with how carefully God plans for our salvation. Everything was already arranged. He knew that Herod would wax wroth. He knew that he would try to kill Him. And although He was only a babe, Herod could not kill Him, because evil is powerless against good. Jesus avoided Herod quietly, very quietly. First He warned the wise men not to go back to Herod, and then He warned Joseph in a dream, to flee into Egypt, and he did. The God-man fled for His life into Egypt, as a babe, but a king as well as a babe, fully in control of everything.

Now Herod, after he saw that Christ had escaped his clutches, was extremely angry. Herod was a brute of a man. He later died in terrible agony, and worms ate his flesh while he was still alive. And the last thing he did was to call his guards to tell them to kill all his enemies, because he wanted to kill anyone that threatened him even after his death. And what did he do shortly after our Lord’s birth? He wanted to kill all the children in the area. Ten thousand holy Innocents were murdered. This should teach us something. It is historical fact, but brothers and sisters, do not read the bible as a history book, because the events in it are carefully arranged, by the providence of God, to teach us about the Christian life.

Now right after this glorious occurrence – a quiet occurrence, but glorious none the less – known by the wise men2, known by the shepherds3, known by the simple people4, and exclaimed throughout all the heavenly hosts5 – the birth of Christ – came a terrible torrent of evil upon that area. It was not accidental that this happened; it was inevitable that this would happen, and we should learn from this occurrence for our own lives.

The Christian life is struggle. The Christian life is battle to the death. Now, God gives us great consolation and fills our hearts with His grace and this exceeding happiness that a Christian should have, at least occasionally, when he wonders at the grace of God. Indeed, a Christian should be happy. And the real meaning of the word happy is blessed. He should feel truly redeemed, he should be at peace in his heart, because he knows that God desires his salvation more that he even desires it himself. But in the midst of this peace that we should feel, there are great deprivations and great difficulties and great sadness.

If a person indeed does not lament and mourn, then he is not a Christian. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."6 The mourning of these mothers was forced upon them. Some of these mothers certainly must have endured their pain with grace and received crown for what they endured. And others, they just lost their children and they probably were among those that later, in their old age, said, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him."7

They suffered involuntarily, but a Christian must suffer voluntarily. A Christian must understand that as God gives grace, the Evil one hates us and tries to take away everything that is given. He tries to snatch away the seed. Now, if we leave the seed out on the ground, the hard earth, it will be snatched away by those birds of the air, the demons.8 If we don’t protect the seed, and nurture the ground, then tares, weeds, will spring up and choke our life.9

We must expect temptations. The Fathers say, without temptations, no man can be saved. And the reason is because Satan hates good. When he sees good, he reacts against it. He used as his instrument Herod, that wicked man, who killed ten thousand holy innocent children, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of Christ. We number then as martyrs.

We see this pattern repeated over and over and over again in the Gospels, in the entire scriptures, and you should see it in your life. Indeed, when you have something in which God truly blesses you, you should steel yourself and be careful, because Satan is lurking like a lion, waiting to devour10, and he will try to devour in the very near future after some victory is obtained.

Now, should we be afraid because of this? Should we be morose? No, not at all. Our Lord and God and Savior showed us the path, He showed us how to live. As a babe He ran away, at night, into Egypt, when He could have called down legions of angels to protect Him. As a man, He allowed the rabble to take Him by night, to try Him unjustly and crucify Him, when He could have called down legions of angels11. Evil thought that it was able to kill Christ, but it was powerless. Herod thought that he could kill Christ when He was born, but he was powerless.

Many times there are things that go on in our lives that truly wash over us like waves and cause us great distress, whatever it might be, such as a terrible situation at work, a family situation that grieves us, maybe our own sins, or something that we cannot battle very effectively at the time, and many other things. And indeed, also as a Christian, we should notice the world around us and grieve and lament and mourn that so few know the God-Man Jesus Christ, and so few live according to this knowledge, even within the church.

The examples of the Scriptures where they show that temptations follow God’s grace, sort of like a hyena follows after the dogs when they make a kill, and eventually will steal the kill from them.12 This is what happens. The demons follow after God and try to upset His grace. And this is possible to do, but only if we do not understand the mercy of God and only if we do not live in this mercy. If we live according to the Christian way of life and understand the Resurrection, then we are unshakable. What does it say about the martyrs that we read in the Old Testament, in the Wisdom of Solomon? – "In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace."13

Even in the midst of our trials, our difficulties, which indeed as Christians we should feel with a great depth of soul, and with great sadness concerning our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses and sins of those we love, and the difficulties that assail the Church, and all the rest, even in the midst of all these terrible things that occur, we must be at peace, because we must understand that God truly has our salvation planned. It only is required of us that we follow the trail that He has already blazed, that we live as He has taught us to live. Then it matters not, concerning the Herods of the world that try to kill us, because we will be at peace.

Truly the Gospels are a beautiful multi-faceted jewel. This story has many facets, and is a sweet story to tell to children. We can talk about Jesus on the donkey and the tree bowing down to worship Him as He went into Egypt, and the beautiful story of Justus and Dismas. The Good Thief was Dismas, who allowed the Theotokos and Joseph and the Family to pass and did not rob them. Later on, Dismas was saved, 30 years later, and Justus went to judgement because he had not shown compassion to the family. All these are beautiful stories, they are all true, and they are very profound. But there is a hidden meaning in these stories, and today I want you to try to understand this hidden meaning.

Expect temptation, but don’t fear it. Expect difficulties, but don’t fear them. Don’t become despondent because of the difficulties of living the Christian life. You are not the only one that struggles to say your prayers and gets bored with them. You’re not the only one that has difficulty in the middle of the fast with being crabby because you’d rather eat non-fasting foods. You’re not the only one that falls into difficulties with anger, or with lust, or with cowardice, or all the rest. If indeed, you understand that you are part of a plan, that God has redeemed you and will indeed perfect you until the day of Christ Jesus14, as St. Paul says, then you should not fear all these things. You should expect them, and like a good soldier, you should fight them.

A soldier who knows that there is going to be an invasion in the night readies himself. He makes sure his weapons are in good working order. He makes sure he understands what the commander has told him to do, what the plan of defense and counter-attack is. He does not cower in his foxhole, because that is a sure way to die. We must be like these soldiers. We are soldiers. We should expect attacks; we should expect Satan to try us, to make things difficult, but we should be at peace because we should feel part of the plan of God, that he cares for us and wishes us to be saved.

I believe in my heart, this is why the birth of Christ and the aftermath of his birth and all the planning that was done is described so carefully, and also such care is taken to describe things about the Mother of God and her birth, and the birth of St. John the Baptist, and all the prophecies. Their purpose is not just to give us an historical tapestry, but it is also to show us the care that God has for us in intimate detail.

So when you struggle tonight or tomorrow or the next day with a sin, God is aware and God cares about that struggle at that moment. Do not feel despondent about your struggle. Do not feel despondent about any losses that you suffer. They are only battle skirmishes. You can lose many battles and still win the war, as long as you stay the course that the Commander has given you. So we must stay this course, which is the living of the Christian life, with faith and with love, and with confidence. Don’t be afraid of temptations, brothers and sisters. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly well because you are a Christian. Every day as a Christian, you should mourn something. Mostly you should mourn your sins. You should mourn how little you’ve accomplished in holding on to the grace of God, which He has given. But in the midst of this mourning, you must not have a sense of hopelessness. Because even if you do not appropriate the grace that God wants to give you today, He will send down the same grace tomorrow and the next day and the next. You must learn to appropriate this grace. You must learn to live with faith. You must learn to see God’s plan in your life. Then you will realize the true meaning of the incarnation.

Jesus Christ lived the life that He wants us to be able to live. He accomplished what He wishes us to accomplish. The battle has been fought, and it is already a decisive victory. The kingdom of God is within you!15 We have all already won. We need only to appropriate this victory. It only appears to us that we are losing the battle, with our sins or with difficulties in life. Indeed God has already fought this battle for us. If we live according to the plan, and we feel secure in His embrace, just like a child, nothing can harm us. Little Sven has no worries in the world. He knows his mommy and daddy are going to take care of him. He does not worry whatsoever about what tomorrow will bring. This is you we should be. He’s just going to do what his mommy and daddy tell him, that’s all. He will grow, become bigger, stronger, and become a man. It’s the same with us. Rest in God’s plan, brothers and sisters.

Of course, to rest in it you must follow it. In the places where you don’t follow it you should feel great restlessness. You should feel great sadness if you’re not following his plan, if you’re not living according to the commandments in some way, if you’re not prioritizing your life properly. Indeed, then you should feel great fear and great trembling. But if you are following the plan as best as you can at the moment God will reward. God will not abandon. This is what this reading is really trying to show us. This is what all the planning that the Scriptures describe is trying to show us. God cares. God knows every hair on our heads.16 Certainly He knows every temptation we will encounter, every sin we will sin, every sadness we will feel. And He will not abandon us, but we are required to not to abandon Him, in order to remain close to His grace.

Brothers and sisters, believe in the incarnation and the Resurrection. Follow the path. You know how well it is marked out. It’s marked out well by the Scriptures and by the way of life in the Church, the perfect way of life. Strive to learn the commandments and be at peace, even though you will have worries and troubles. I tell you honestly, my life is filled with troubles and worries, more than I ever had in my life before. And they affect me in ways I wish they didn’t do. But I know absolutely that I am on the path, and therefore I’m not afraid. You should not be afraid either, even in the midst of all the difficulties you encounter. Stay on the path, listen carefully to the still small voice that God has, when he shows you the way, and be at peace. And save your souls in the midst of all tribulations. Amen.

Originally at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-04_1999+sunday-after-nativity.html

1 This sermon was transcribed from one given on the Sunday after Nativity, Dec 27/ Jan 9 1999/ 2000, at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox church, Dallas, Texas
2 Matthew 2:1-12
3 Luke 2:8-18
4 Luke 2:18
5 Luke 2:13-14
6 Matthew 5:4
7 Luke 23:21
8 Cf. Matthew 13:3-9, the Parable of the Sower
9 Cf. Matthew 13:24-25 – the Parable of the tares
10 (1 Pet 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
11 Matthew 26:53
12 In Africa, the wild dogs often make a kill, and the hyenas or lions often steal it from them.
13 Wisdom of Solomon 3:2-3
14 (Phil 1:6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
15 (Luke 17:20-21) And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: {21} Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
16 (Mat 10:30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Matthew 2:13-23

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. {14} When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: {15} And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, the and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, {18} In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. {21} And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: {23} And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

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The most important “resolution”

Friday, January 8th, 2010

 

My take on the only important "resolution", and how I got to it.

It seems to be an American custom to have resolutions at the New Year: I will lose weight, I will quit smoking, I will exercise “more”, etc. Most of the time these are all good things to try to do, and may even be within the realm of possibility of accomplishment.

I, being a stubborn and a little bit odd person who always seems to be different than everyone else in so many things in life, have never placed much stock in New Year’s resolutions. From the time I was a young boy, I hated temporary things. My heart always told me that it was not supposed to be this way. Resolutions always had a temporary, ephemeral feel to them. The weight loss plan would end by the end of January, exercise habits would not change for very long, and life would go on. This never seemed right to me. I wanted everything I did to be eternal and permanent. The very acts of making resolutions every year just underscored that we are in an impermanent and fallen world, of which I was fully a part, an unwilling and willing participant.

In college, I pursued a path to take me to medical school, in order to become a surgeon. I knew Dr Christian Bernard had some limited success in transplanting hearts, and I thought that if I became a heart surgeon, I could do something good – help a person to live instead of die. However, if I were to extend a man’s life a few years, then he would die. In less than a hundred years, all those who loved him would be dead. In five hundred years, perhaps nobody would even remember that he had lived. This realization was heavy on my soul, causing a great existential sadness.

When, by the grace of God, I found the church, my soul felt the possibility of permanence for the first time. As part of the church, I learned that EVERYTHING I would do should be, and can be, permanent. Good deeds would be forgotten, those I helped would suffer from something else later, and would die, but in some tangible way, everything I would do in the name of Christ would be permanent. It is not the actions that are permanent. The results are not permanent. I learned that what I become is permanent, and if, I had the privilege of helping, enlightening, cajoling, praying for, rebuking, encouraging – anyone else in such a way that they became something permanent, I would be literally being part of the economy of God. I would be, so to say, “speaking” His words, which would never pass away.

This revelation and revolution in my soul has always been a great comfort to me. It has guided everything I have done that is good. It is the reason I became a priest. It has been a distinct privilege to attempt to educate, encourage and help people to learn of, desire, and do those things which really matter – which are permanent.

I have always felt, however, the intense impermanence of my flesh, my tendency towards doing things and expending energy on things that will not last. As I have gotten older, I have become slightly more efficient, and I daresay more that I do today is permanent compared to how I was as a young energetic (and entropic) man in his twenties. I have learned that the major source of impermanence in the world, for me, is precisely me.

It is not what we do that is permanent; it is how we “do” that makes us become permanent. I think this is well expressed by our Lord’s promise:

“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41), “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Mat 10:42)

It is a daunting task to do everything, for every “little one”, in the name of the Lord. How can this be accomplished? There is only one way, and let this be our only abiding and continual resolution, to, in the words of St Herman:

Let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!" (http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2008/12/25/from-this-day-forward-st-hermans-day-dec-12-2008/)

I wish to tell my flock that this is all that I want for you, this is the reason I do everything as a pastor for you. If in any way, any one of you loves God and strives to do His holy will, and my poor ministrations have played some small role in helping you attain this state, then at least that part of my life will not have been lived in vain.

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NB:The barren desert will bear many children.

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Eve of Nativity

Christ cometh to be born, bestowing a strange regeneration upon the descendents of Adam, in that He is God. Be glad, O human nature, thou barren desert, for the master hath come to make thee bear many children. (Matins, Eve of Nativity, December 24, Canon, Ode I)

 

desert flowers http://www.desertusa.com/images/anza-113.jpgThe great power of the holy services of the church and especially the deeply theological and devotional content of matins is that it presents the important dogmas of our faith in startling and understandable ways. In every matins service, there is something that is too beautiful for words, and yet, the words being sung warm the soul and comfort it.

 

This sticheron above contains such words. A dogma of our faith is that Christ came so that human nature could change, be renewed, become holy. We know this (or should know this – many Christians do not understand this dogma), but in order for it to be completely active in us, we must experience it.

 

Here, the bearing of many children is used as a beautiful metaphor to sum up the entire good news of our salvation.

 

Human nature without God becoming man to change it is a “barren desert”. With the coming of the God-man, His teaching, example and His changing of human nature so that it can, if it chooses and desires, be completely changed into holiness and peace is represented by the exclamation ”the master hath come to make thee bear many children.”

 

These “children” are the virtues. They are the same virtues that our Lord Jesus Christ has, and that we are capable of obtaining.

 

The joy of a barren woman who has a child is profound. So is that of the barren soul which becomes clothed in the virtues. This is the real “nativity story”.



 

A comment to this post quoted the entire  35th chapter is Isaiah. Obviously, this sticheron is based on this passage. So, a little bit outside of the "letter of the law" regarding the "nota bene" posts) (all are meant to be short, so they are read more, and therfore more beneficial to our readers), here is that amazing chapter:

Be glad, thou thirsty desert: let the wilderness exult, and flower as the lily.  (2)  And the desert places of Jordan shall blossom and rejoice; the glory of Libanus has been given to it, and the honour of Carmel; and my people shall see the glory o the Lord, and the majesty of God.  (3)  Be strong, ye relaxed hands and palsied knees.  (4)  Comfort one another, ye fainthearted; be strong, fear not; behold, our God renders judgement, and he will render it; he will come and save us.  (5)  Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear.  (6)  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall speak plainly; for water has burst forth in the desert, and a channel of water in a thirsty land.  (7)  And the dry land shall become pools, and a fountain of water shall be poured into the thirsty land; there shall there be a joy of birds, ready habitations and marshes.  (8)  There shall be there a pure way, and it shall be called a holy way; and there shall not pass by there any unclean person, neither shall there be there an unclean way; but the dispersed shall walk on it, and they shall not go astray.  (9)  And there shall be no lion there, neither shall any evil beast go up upon it, nor at all be found there; but the redeemed and gathered on the Lord’s behalf, shall walk in it,  (10)  (35:9B) and shall return, and come to Sion with joy, and everlasting joy shall be over their head; for on their head shall be praise and exultation, and joy shall take possession of them: sorrow and pain, and groaning have fled away. (Isa 35:1-10 Brenton Septuagint)
 

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

 

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