Archive for March, 2010

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? The Christian life is all about priorities. What are we denying?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

The Third Sunday Of Great Lent  – Sunday of the Precious Cross

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Today is the third Sunday of Great Lent and the day in which we adore the precious and life-giving cross of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

In life, if you do anything, if you're to be successful, then there are two main ingredients for this success. One is the knowledge of what you want, how you should do it — you must have understanding. Then you must also have the correct priority based on this understanding — or should I say, based on reality.

 

You must be able to perceive what reality is. If you wish to become extremely good at basketball, then the reality is you must work over and over and over again on the fundamentals of basketball. If you wish to be a musician or a scholar or a Christian, you must work over and over and over again on the fundamentals of that discipline, of that way of life. And you must know what is good and what is bad for your desire, and you must have your priorities set straight, so that you will act in accordance with what is good and cast away what is bad.

 

Today, this reading really speaks about priorities. It speaks about reality, about the ultimate reality. And it poses a question that every one of us should ask of ourselves every day:

"What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" [1]

 

Nothing; nothing is worth as much as the soul. Our Lord said, if He gains the whole world, it's not worth one soul. All that is corruptible, all that is passing away, you can hold onto for a while, but it's like catching wind, because when you die, there's nothing left. So what does it matter if you gain that which is corruptible? What does it matter if you plant flowers in your garden if it's going to be bulldozed the next day? What does it matter when you paint your house, if it's burning? That's what's happening in this world. The world is passing away, so if we hold on to the things of this world, we hold onto that which is corruptible.

 

Underlying the priorities of a Christian is the understanding of reality, the understanding that the world is passing way. And this is not a bad thing; this not a gruesome thing. Who wants to save the world the way it is? With corruption, with death, with sadness, with imperfection, incompleteness, with that longing in our hearts that can't be fulfilled by anything in the world? Who wants to save the world the way it is? Even people that are outside of Christianity don't like the world the way it is. Sometimes they invent things to cover it up, or they lose themselves in some sort of debauchery or some sort of bad opinion or heresy or something of that nature, but basically they’re dissatisfied with the world.

 

But there's a strong illusion that the Evil One puts upon men. And we're willing; we allow it to come into our hearts. The evil one disguises the reality that the world is passing away, disguises the reality of Whom Jesus Christ is, and that to be a Christian is to become like Christ, to struggle, to work, to labor, to sweat, to desire. He disguises this. People want to have power, or wealth, or comfort, or sex, or drugs, or something else that is their passion, something that they think of as life. Now, some people are completely immersed in this thing, in these things of the world. But then others, such as Christians who have not yet perfected themselves, are influenced by the world, by the cares of the world, by their ambitions and their passions.

 

And so constantly we must make an effort to see the difference between reality and what the world presents as reality.

 

The only solution for us to be able to look past all this delusion–and it is powerful delusion, very, very powerful delusion — the only solution is to labor in the Church. That's all. Not labor outside of the Church; labor within the Church. We have to labor where Christ is to be found. And we must recognize who we are — the reality — who we are, why we're here, why we were born. And we must recognize the purity, the dignity of our soul. Our bodies contain that which is of infinite worth. The Lord equates nothing else to the high worth of our soul. He says that everything in the world is not worth one soul. No matter how much money, no matter how much prestige, no matter what goes on in the world — none of it can be bartered for a man's soul. That's a terrible trade.

 

Today's Gospel summarizes how we are to live, and why. It tells us about real reality. Not what the world tells us is real, but about how a Christian should live, how a Christian should think, how he should be. Our Lord said,

 

"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." [2]

 

It almost sounds like a riddle. To many people in the world this makes no sense whatsoever, and unfortunately also to many Orthodox Christians. They don't understand it. "What do you mean, deny myself?"  We spoke about this a little bit last night. God knows that we have built into our character a desire for survival, a desire for life. We don't wish to do harm to ourselves; we wish to protect ourselves. We don't wish to harm our loved ones; we want to nurture them and help them. This is not the kind of denial that's being spoken of.

 

The denial that's being spoken of is the denial of what we think of as ourselves that is actually cruel delusion, when we define our lives by how we live in the world, by our passions, by our lusts, by our desires. No, we are far above those things.

 

We are created for a purpose. We are created to know the Holy Trinity, intimately, and the whole purpose of our time on earth is to know God. And I tell you, you cannot know someone without loving them. And you cannot love someone without desiring to be like them.

 

Even in a secular sense we understand this. We love people as far as we should love all men, but I mean in the context of loving someone intimately, a husband or a wife or our children. We see that which is good in them, and we rejoice in it.  And we might see a friend or a spouse and say, "There's something that is good and wholesome in them, and I want to emulate them. I want to become like that." It's our nature to want to return good for good. That's why it says, "We love Him because He first loved us." [3] God loves us, and we return that love. This is the reality of life.

 

God also said here, whosoever will. In other words, whosoever desires. If you desire, I will fill you, says the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not desire, I will not force you. But deny yourself. Deny those things in you that are not in keeping with who you are. Deny those things that are on the outside of you. Don't let them come inside — the passions and lusts and all the things that will fall away.

 

But I tell you, He said, if you wish, if you desire. Compel yourself! He gives you the choice, but as a man you shouldn't give yourself the choice. Over and over you should compel yourself to do good and to avoid evil. It's a choice of the will. God will help you with this choice, absolutely, but you must make this choice. You must decide to keep the fasts, you must decide to say your prayers, you must decide the give alms, you must struggle against passions. And if you do these things, God will strengthen you and help you in them. But He won't force you.

 

And He says, take up his cross. He tells us to take up our cross. What does this mean? This means to work, to labor, but to labor with a purpose. No man digs a hole for no reason; he digs a hole for a purpose, in order to plant a tree. We labor so that we will become like our Savior, so that we will recognize Him and He recognize us, so in the eighth day when He judges all of mankind, He will say, "I know you. Come, join the angels and the saints." And He will not say those words, those terrible words, "Depart from Me, because I don't know you." [4] We don't want to hear that.

 

The only way we can know Christ is to live like Him, to become like Him. And we have no excuses. Our Savior lived just like us. What does the epistle say today? It says,

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." [5]

 

He fulfilled everything that He tells us to fulfill, to the letter, and beyond the letter. So we have the capability in Christ to live godly, holy, pure lives – but with effort, by taking up our cross, by making an effort.

 

So, deny yourselves.

 

Don't deny yourself of godliness;

deny your passions and affirm good works.

Deny things earthly,

and think on things heavenly.

Deny grumbling and laziness,

and be obedient.

Deny illusion, all that is within the world that is illusory,

and affirm truth.

Feed on truth,

which is to be found in the Church.

Deny corruption,

and strive for perfection.

 

This is our life, and I tell you, when you give into your passions, whatever they are, no matter how big or how small, you are denying reality. Do you realize that? You are denying reality. Now a man who is at the edge of a cliff and says, well, you know, I think I have got anti-gravity shoes on, and jumps off the cliff, is crazy, and everyone would realize he is denying the reality of gravity. Well, just as real is the pernicious effect of sin in our life. And every single time that we sin, we deny that which is within us. That's craziness. It's actually insanity. To sin is to be insane. Well, God will heal us, though, of our insanity, if we struggle, if we take up our cross.

 

Now the cross is bitter, isn't it? The cross is a bitter way to die. It was known as the most bitter way to die in ancient times; it was reserved only for the arch-criminals. A Roman couldn't be put to death on the cross — only strangers and foreigners. It was a very painful way to die, and it was shameful. Well, medicine can be painful and can be difficult to take. But if we don't take it we won't get well. So our Lord showed that He could take the bitterest of medicines for our salvation. So we should be willing to quaff a little bit of bitterness from our cup.

 

I tell you, it's not really so bitter, because once you start to taste the sweetness of Christ, you want nothing else. Once you feel His yoke setting easily on your shoulders, and you're at peace, you wish to labor. You wish to work harder. You wish to become better. It's from within, not from without. It's from inside a man, because that's where God lives, and that's where God enlightens. He lives in the heart and He enlightens us, and we wish to become better, and better, and better. And if we do become better, it's because we have an understanding of what God will do for us and what He's already done, and we deny those things that are not in keeping with that. That's the meaning of this phrase, deny yourself.

 

Then our Lord continues,

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." [6]

 

To those in the world, another difficult riddle. How can I lose my life? My life is precious to me, says the world. Yes indeed, your life is precious, but eternal life is what God is talking about here.

 

He says, if you lose that which is outside of eternal life, that which is of the world, if you lose the things that are going to go away anyway, then you will save your life.

 

See, there are two lives here. One is a life in the world, a life of lust and depravity and  heedlessness, and the other life eternal, of perfection. And if you lose those things that are heedless, those things that are depraved, then you will save your life. If you lose your life for My sake, He says, and the Gospel, you will save your life. Lose your life for the sake of what God has taught you.

 

And I tell you, you only learn the Gospel inside the Church, because that's where it is preached. So all that is within the life in the Church, if you live that life, and struggle, then God will save. It's rather frightening. The Church understands about passions very well, and in hell, all men will still have their passions. That's what it means when it says that they will be thrown into "the fire that shall not be quenched, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched" [7], where Christ describes hell in the Gospel of St. Mark. You'll still have all your passions when you're in hell. If a man has a desire for drink, or for something illicit, he'll still desire all those things, but he'll have no way to quench his desire, and they'll burn him for the rest of eternity. That's a terrible, terrible thought. But if you lose your life in this world for the sake of the gospel, then God will save you.

 

Losing your life means conquering your passions, denying the evil that's within you, and I tell you, it comes only from understanding reality, actual reality. You know, recently, I was in New York City, and I was rather amazed. It was a very invigorating place. But it was so full of illusion. I saw all these things all over, and it was such illusion. We even have words for it — the "Madison Avenue mentality", about advertising and such. But you can have illusion everywhere, in Dallas, or somewhere else, because illusion is when we allow ourselves to believe that which is untrue. And the only way that you can really believe is by living the life.

 

Philip said to Nathaniel, come and see, because he asked, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" [8] You have to live it; you have to experience God. If you don't experience Him, then these are just words, then they are just rules. Why in the world should I fast? It smells so good; why should I fast? Why should I not have these thoughts that are only in my head; how is it bothering anyone else? Those are the kind of thoughts a man has when he doesn't understand who Christ is. You must live the life to know who Christ is.

 

And Christ asks a question you must ask of yourself every day. This is a terrible question. I tremble when I read it, every time.

 

"What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" [9]

 

Nothing; nothing is equal to the soul. If we lived according to these words, we would not sin, at all. We'd really believe. We’d live as Christians. But we allow ourselves to be deluded over and over and over again. So we must renew ourselves over and over and over again. God knows about our infirmity, and He will save us, if we struggle, take up our cross, and follow him in truth. Ponder this question often. Fear your depravity. Not just because you realize it's a sin, but because if you continue in it, you'll be separated from God, eternally.  That's a terrifying thought. Every man should fear it. Not to fear God's judgement, so much, but to fear that you will miss the sweetness of God. That's what you should fear.

 

And then Christ says some other hard words.

 

"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and My Word in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." [10]

 

He uses adultery here to show betrayal, dishonesty, uncleanness. Adultery is one of the most unclean of sins, because what is it? It's denying intimacy. When two people love each other and have a deep, intimate bond with each other, and when one or the other denies that bond, it is a terrible, terrible sin. Well, we indeed have an intimate bond with our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. He has given us the grace of baptism. He gives us his Holy Mysteries, and all of the life of the Church for our benefit. And when we deny him by the way we live, we are adulterers. We commit adultery.

 

So don't deny Christ, either by your attitude, by your priorities, by indulging in things that you know are unclean, or by fear of another's opinion. You know, there is that meaning to this phrase as well — when people are afraid to show that they are Christians, because especially in our country here, people sometimes think you're crazy when you're an Orthodox Christian. Too strict about fasting, or this or that. You make the sign of the Cross? What for? All these things. Or, you follow that calendar? Why do you do that? That's not the real calendar. All these questions. We should not be ashamed. God has enlightened us and planted us in his vineyard, and we must bear fruit.

 

God help you all to see reality, to see what God has done, and then, to set your face forward, to be on the plow and not to look back, but to set your priorities, to live the Christian life. God help you. Amen.

 

 



 

 

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-03_2001+holy-cross.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-03_2001+holy-cross.html

 

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.

 

Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:1-6

 

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. {15} For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. {16} Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. {5:1} For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: {2} Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. {3} And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. {4} And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. {5} So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. {6} As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

 

 

Mark 8:34-38

 

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. {35} For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. {36} For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? {37} Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. {9:1}  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

 



[1] Cf. Mark 8:37  "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

[2] Mark 8:34, partial

[3] 1 John 4:19

[4] Cf. Matthew 26:31-45, and especially, Luke 13:24-27: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. {25} When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: {26} Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. {27} But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."

[5] Hebrews 4:15

[6] Mark 8:35 

 

[7] Cf. Mark 9:42-48  "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. {43} And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: {44} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. {45} And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: {46} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. {47} And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: {48} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

 

[8] John 1:46  "And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."

[9] Mark 8:36-37

[10] Mark 8:38

Share

“A deceitful balance” – Proverbs 10:31-11:12

Friday, March 5th, 2010

3rd  Week of Great Lent – FRIDAY Vespers

 

A deceitful balance is an abomination before the Lord: and a just weight is his will.  Great Lent, the Third Week, Friday, Vespers – Proverbs 11:1, from the selection: Proverbs 10:31-11:12

 

The Proverbs are excellent texts for checking ourselves. We must read the scriptures with the intent of finding personal correction and guidance.

 

When we observe good or bad behavior, do we resemble it? When there is a rebuke, would we deserve the same? When a prayer is uttered or a promise made, would we be truth tellers or liars if we said the same thing?

 

Here we are told something about honesty. In old times, product was weighed on a balance, and sold by weight. An unscrupulous merchant could add weight to the side on which he weighed the product, so that a small amount would seem heavier, or he could label the weights that he added to the other side incorrectly, by overstating their weight. In either case, the result was (for instance) that a customer would think he was buying a pound, but in reality the weight would only be twelve ounces.

 

The way we judge things, and present ourselves to others may be considered a “balance”.

 

Our balance is deceitful, if we prefer one person over another because of their wealth, or position or notoriety, as the Holy Brother of the Lord tells us:

 

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4 KJV)

 

We have a deceitful balance

 if we speak ill of another behind their back.

 

Our balance is false

if we are more likely to talk or listen to someone if they are pretty, or interesting.

 

Is not our balance deceitful,

when we promise to do something, and do not do it?

 

Anytime that we hide dark thoughts in our hearts regarding our brethren, regardless of whether we think that we act upon them, we carry within us a deceitful balance.

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-friday_2009+deceitful-balance.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-friday_2009+deceitful-balance.doc

Original Post: http://stnicholasdallas.blogspot.com/2008/03/great-lent-3rd-week-friday-vespers.html

 

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

 

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

Share

The Ensign of the people.

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Sixth Hour, Isaiah 11:10-12:2

3rd  Week of Great Lent – Thursday

 

 In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious. Great Lent, the Third Week, Thursday, The Sixth Hour, Isaiah 11:10, from the selection: Isaiah 11:10-12:2

 

The root of Jesse is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, who came from the line of Jesse.

 

“Ensign” can also be rendered “standard”, and this is a foreshadowing of the precious cross. The cross is our ensign; we venerate it because of our Lord's accomplishments upon it, and we look to it to teach us the “way of the cross”, that is, imitating the moral life of our Savior.

 

“His sepulchre shall be glorious”is a prophesy regarding our Lords tomb – it indeed would be glorious when He rose from the dead in it.

 

 

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

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-thursday_2009+sixth-hour+the-ensign-of-the-people..html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-thursday_2009+sixth-hour+the-ensign-of-the-people..doc

Original Post: http://stnicholasdallas.blogspot.com/2008/03/great-lent-3rd-week-thursday-sixth-hour.html

 

All Lenten Lectionary readings are available

in multiple file formats at

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/lenten-lectionary.html

Readings for the Sixth Hour, Vespers and Divine Liturgy are included,

with the prokeimena and troparia sung before and after the readings.

 

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

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

Share

Joyful celebration of the fast. 3rd Week of Great Lent – Wednesday Matins

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

"Joyful celebration of the fast"

WHY follow the commandments? Because we will change.

Orthodox Math

3rd Week of Great Lent – Wednesday Matins

 

 “As we continue in the joyful celebration of the fast, we cry aloud: keep us all in peace, O Lord, deliver us from every snare of the enemy, and in Thy surpassing love count us worthy to venerate with love Thy precious cross, through which thou grantest to the inhabited world Thy mercy, O Thou who alone art most merciful.” Great Lent, the Third Week, Wednesday, The Sixth Hour, Sessional Hymn, Tone Two (by Theodore)

 

The services are enthusiastic! I love to hear their enthusiasm about the living of the spiritual life, and their frequent enraptured meditation on the truths and dogmas of our faith. I hope you do too.

 

This hymn is one of many during the Great Fast that count this “tithe” [1] of the year as great blessing, and joy.

 

This attitude is a different perspective for some of us. For some, Great Lent is a time to “give up” things, and deal with inconvenience and difficulty in planning meals.

 

The reason for these feelings is a serious misunderstanding of the Fast, and also the main reason for the Fast, the following of the commandments.

 

The Fast is not IMPOSED upon us, nor are any of the sweet commandments of the Lord imposed upon us. We follow the commandments because they are the only way of life, and because we will be changed and perfected.

 

Does anybody want to stay the same way they are right now? Do you still want to have bouts of laziness, depression, shame because of your behavior and intrusive thoughts that make you feel dark and cold? If you like this state, you may have it forever, and you need not do anything to achieve it!

 

If a person wants to change, the Fast is a joyful time, because it facilitates change. We will not always be in our current, wretched condition; we will be changed.

 

The joyful faster always has that “blessed hope” [2] within him when he fasts. The fast may truly have great difficulties and sorrows for us, but the Christian is joyful, even in his sorrow, because he knows that he is getting better. Most of the time, we cannot “feel” that we are getting better; we will believe this only as we continue to struggle and God sends us ineffable consolation.

 

To those who consider the phrase “joyful fast” and oxymoron, the church hymns constantly invite: “Come and see!” [3]

 

 

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

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-wednesday_2009+sixth-hour+sessional-hymn,-joyful-celebration.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-wednesday_2009+sixth-hour+sessional-hymn,-joyful-celebration.doc

Original post: http://stnicholasdallas.blogspot.com/2008/03/great-lent-third-week-wednesday-joyful.html

 

All Lenten Lectionary readings are available

in multiple file formats at

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/lenten-lectionary.html

Readings for the Sixth Hour, Vespers and Divine Liturgy are included,

with the prokeimena and troparia sung before and after the readings.

 

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

 

Daily LentenMeditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 



[1] Great Lent and Holy Week, including Holy Saturday is 36 days, and therefore encompasses almost exactly a tenth of the days of the year, and many spiritual writers have commented on this.

Here is the math:

  • Great Lent is 6 weeks long, and Saturday and Sunday are not rigorous fasting days. Counting only weekdays, this gives us 6 weeks of 5 days each = 30 days.
  • Holy Week is also a week of fasting, so this adds another 5 days. We are now at 35 days.
  • Since Holy Saturday is considered to be a fast day (we can have wine, but not oil), we add another day, giving us 36 days.
  • 36/365 = 9.8 percent, or, rounded up, 10%, a tithe of the year.

 

[2]  “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; (14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14 KJV

 

[3] And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.”(John 1:46).

 

This is from the story of Jesus calling Philip and Nathaniel as his disciples, read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Our entire life should be spent answering this question!  “Nazareth” is not just a place, but mystically represents the human heart. The question whose answer we must pursue is “Can we become completely good and perfected?” This is a dogma of the church, but no dogma is powerful and salvific to the individual unless it is believed and lived.

Share

Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

St Hippolytus of Rome, On Proverbs

3rd Week of Great Lent – TUESDAY. Vespers.

Proverbs 9:1-6

 

Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars. 2. She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine in a bowl, and prepared her table. 3. She has sent forth her servants, calling with a loud proclamation to the feast, saying, 4. Who so is foolish, let him turn aside to me: and to them that want understanding she says, 5. Come, eat of my bread, and drink wine which I have mingled for you. 6. Leave folly, that ye may reign for ever; and seek wisdom, and improve understanding by knowledge. Tuesday in the Third Week of Great Lent- At Vespers – Proverbs 9:1-6, from the selection Prov 8:32 – 9:11

 

Christ, he means, the wisdom and power of God the Father, hath builded His house, i.e., His nature in the flesh derived from the Virgin, even as he (John) hath said beforetime, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." As likewise the wise prophet testifies: Wisdom that was before the world, and is the source of life, the infinite "Wisdom of God, hath builded her house" by a mother who knew no man, — to wit, as He assumed the temple of the body.

 

"And hath raised her seven pillars;"that is, the fragrant grace of the all-holy Spirit, as Isaiah says: "And the seven spirits of God shall rest upon Him," But others say that the seven pillars are the seven divine orders which sustain the creation by His holy and inspired teaching; to wit, me prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the hierarchs, the hermits, the saints, and the righteous.

 

And the phrase, "She hath killed her beasts," denotes the prophets and martyrs who in every city and country are slain like sheep every day by the unbelieving, in behalf of the truth, and cry aloud, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we were counted as sheep for the slaughter."

 

And again, "She hath mingled her wine" in the bowl, by which is meant, that the Savior, uniting his Godhead, like pure wine, with the flesh in the Virgin, was born of her at once God and man without confusion of the one in the other.

"And she hath furnished her table:" that denotes the promised knowledge of the Holy Trinity; it also refers to His honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper.

 

And again, "She hath sent forth her servants:" Wisdom, that is to say, has done so– Christ, to wit — summoning them with lofty announcement.

 

"Whoso is simple, Let him turn to me,"she says, alluding manifestly to the holy apostles, who traversed the whole world, and called the nations to the knowledge of Him in truth, with their lofty and divine preaching.

 

And again, "And to those that want understanding she said"– that is, to those who have not yet obtained the power of the Holy Ghost – "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you;" by which is meant, that He gave His divine flesh and honored blood to us, to eat and to drink it for the remission of sins.

 

 

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

All Lenten Lectionary readings are available

in multiple file formats at

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/lenten-lectionary.html

Readings for the Sixth Hour, Vespers and Divine Liturgy are included,

with the prokeimena and troparia sung before and after the readings.

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-tuesday_2009+vespers+wisdom-has-built-a-house-for-herself.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-tuesday_2009+vespers+wisdom-has-built-a-house-for-herself.html

Original Post: http://stnicholasdallas.blogspot.com/2008/03/great-lent-3rd-week-tuesday-vespers.html

 

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

 

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

Share

The Purpose of Creation

Monday, March 1st, 2010

This Saturday, we had a 2-hour Lenten Retreat for our parish youth. The first discussion we had was: "Why were you created?" The following six excerpts, culled from various websites, describe the answers to this question given by a number of religions and philosophies. Can you identify each one? To what extent is each consistent with Orthodox Christianity?

  1. We are not here for any purpose and the pursuit of this question is futile. We are a very lucky chance effect. We are the product of a set of potentially infinite sequence of events that enabled us to become. Ultimately, without our intervention, we will be destroyed.
  2. God is in the world and the world is in God. Man is the highest product of evolution. He must discover for himself his place in the world and the true meaning of life. Life is in a constant state of change, it is transient. Even our personality is not constant. “You” are nothing more than the sum of your feelings and experiences. The goal of man should be to escape from this continual state of flux. 
  3.  The God who had charge of the earth put the other gods to work…. Tired of their condition and at the instigation of one of the gods they went on strike. After a fierce disagreement, a mediator proposed a compromise. They would create man to bear the burden to that the gods would be free.
  4. God created man to worship Him. He made this life to test our faith in Him along with our charity toward each other. Should we pass both tests we are granted entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Should we fail… well, you know what happens then. … By nature man is spiritually weak. However there is a seed inside all of us that could blossom into greatness were we to follow the tenets of the religion.
  5. God did not need to create man, but He did create him for a reason. Man is created for God's glory: by our existence and the fulfillment of His will, we passively reflect His glory. … From the very beginning, although he did not need us, God created us with a goal, one that involves us (making our every action important) and is guaranteed by his unstoppable, insatiable desire to see himself glorified.
  6. God did not need to create man. He was complete and entirely blessed by Himself. Even before creation, he lived the blessed life of love. The Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit lived in mutual love one for another. But to love means to share, and God created man because of love. By voluntary choice God created the world in ecstatic love, so that there might be besides himself other beings to participate in the life and the love that are His.
Share

With the fire of abstinence…

Monday, March 1st, 2010

3rd Week of Great Lent – Monday Matins.

 

With the fire of abstinence let us all burn up the thorns of the passions that assault us, and with streams of tears let us put out the flame that shall never be quenched; and let us cry aloud to Him Who shall come to judge the whole earth: O Savior and all-merciful Lord, guard us uncondemned and grant us the forgiveness of our sins. Great Lent, the Third Week, Monday, Matins Sessional Hymn, Tone 8

 

Our services contain numerous exhortations and explanations about how to live the way of life; their poetry, especially when they are sung, touching the soul in sublime ways.

 

This hymn is an amazing example of one of the favorite poetical themes of our hymns – juxtaposing opposites, by taking some aspect of scripture and looking at it from a different perspective which is useful for our instruction and edification.

 

We sing a request for fire to BURN UP our passions. One does not usually think of fire in this way.

 

In scripture, fire is often used to allude to strong, “hot” passions, such as anger, hate, lust, and all passions of the flesh which burn within us. For instance, when the man with the demoniac boy described the pitiful state of his son, he said:

 

“Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and suffereth grievously; for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and off-times into the water.” (Mat 17:15)

 

The fire represents these “hot sins” and the water “worldly sins” such as acquisitiveness, distractions and vanity.

 

St Andrew of Crete vividly describes fiery sins in his Great Canon, when he refers to Esau as Edom (which is translated “red”):

“Esau was called Edom for his extreme passion of madness for women. For ever burning with incontinence and stained with pleasures, he was named Edom which means a red-hot sin-loving soul.” (Great Canon, Tuesday, Ode 4)

Abstinence is not generally thought of as a “fire”, but rather as something which cools it and starves it. After our Lord healed the demoniac boy, his disciples asked why they could not expel the demon. His answer is a main reason why we fast:

 

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast it out? (20) And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (21) But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting. (Mat 17:19-21)

 

This hymn looks at fire in a wholly different way, but not without precedent. Here, abstinence is referred to with the same vehemence as we would describe “hot” sins which often overpower the soul with their hot ferocity. Here abstinence is overpowering fire!

 

How can such a thing be? Only if we fast with desire. When the soul is aflame with fiery sins, it is taken away, and thinks of nothing else when the flame is burning. So it should be with our fasting.

 

If we fast haphazardly, occasionally, with numerous “exemptions” due to “circumstances”, then we are not burning our sins with fasting. We fool ourselves. If fasting can burn out fire, it must be even hotter than fire; if we fast inconsistently, or without strong resolution, then our fasting is only lukewarm, and lukewarmness is good for nothing in the spiritual life, and even causes our condemnation.

 

“So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16)

 

This hymn calls the passions “thorns”; no thorn is part of the vine of Christ. In the end, that which does not abide in Christ will be burned:

 

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6)

 

Brothers and sisters! With our fasting, we have the opportunity to burn our passions before they burn us! If our abstinence is as fire, we are fulfilling the scripture:

 

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire. (1Corinthians 3:15)

 

Let us pass through the fire now, at a time of our own choosing! Our abstinence is difficult, and indeed, we suffer loss, but with this loss, we burn away our passions, so that in the end, we will not be burned.

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-monday_2009+matins+with-the-fire-of-abstinence.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-03-monday_2009+matins+with-the-fire-of-abstinence.html

 

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

 

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

Share

Saint Gregory Palamas and the Healing of the paralytic borne of four. The answer to the question – Can anything good come out of Nazareth. Audio Homily

Monday, March 1st, 2010

The Second Sunday of Great Lent is like a second "Triumph of Orthodoxy", because the teachings of St Gregory Palamas are remembered. He answers the question posed last week:"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" with resounding eloquence. The healing of the paralytic also contributes to answering this all important question, and indeed Great Lent especially, and our entire life nust be an answer to this question.

LISTEN NOW

SCRIPTURETEXT


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-02_2009-02-28+gregory-palamas-healing-of-the-paralytic-borne-of-four+answer-to-can-anything-good-come-out-of-nazareth.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-02_2009-02-28+gregory-palamas-healing-of-the-paralytic-borne-of-four+answer-to-can-anything-good-come-out-of-nazareth.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share