Archive for April, 2010

The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son, JOHN 4:46-54 3rd Monday of Pascha

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son, JOHN 4:46-54 

Hw does one glean deep and subtle meanings from scripture?

The superior faith of the Samaritans

Signs and Wonders

The Nobleman compared to the Centurion

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-monday-03_2009-05-04.html

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Stoning of Holy Proto-martyr Stephen. Third Monday of Pascha – Acts 6:8-7:5, 47-60.

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Stoning of Holy Proto-martyr Stephen.


http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/stoning-protomartyr-stephen.jpg

 

Why do we read Acts & the Gospel of John during the Pascha season?

 

I fervently hope my flock is reading from Acts and the Gospel of John regularly this Paschal season. These two books are read almost daily during this season, and their use is wholly appropriate. The Gospel of John is the best exposition in the universe about the God-man Jesus Christ. His resurrection, ascension into Heaven, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching which he entrusted to His disciples, and hence the church makes it possible for us to know Him. This is why we begin reading John during the Paschal season. We read Acts because it is the history of the Holy Spirit working in the church – which was not possible until the Lords passion and resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit 50 days later.

 

Today we continue in Acts from yesterday, after the choosing of the seven deacons, among whom was Stephen, a man “full of faith and power”. His stoning is recounted today.

 

Government may be legal, but it is not always “lawful”.

 

I am struck by how often those in authority (in any epoch), who are sworn to uphold the law – are lawless. We see this today, with many governments, including that of the United States, presenting the murder of unborn children as a “legal” (and even “ethical”) right, and falling all over themselves to codify into law every kind of immoral and perverse sexual behavior. Now, as then, just because something is “legal”, that is, proclaimed by the legal authorities, does not make it moral, or according to God’s law, which is above all law.

 

We also see spiritual pusillanimity, acquiescence and even clandestine participation with immorality of all kinds in “established” churches. We are all well aware of the moral crisis the Roman Catholics are experiencing, The Orthodox church is not immune, and it seems to me that the less monastic in lifestyle and world view a local church is, the more immorality has seeped in and propagated.

 

Jealousy.

 

We see in the stoning of Stephen a major passion which has been responsible for every kind of sin against humanity – wars, strifes, slanders, murders – jealousy. This was the reason why the Holy Proto-martyr [1], Deacon Stephen, was stoned. The Scripture tells us quite clearly that Stephen was full of faith and power, and did many signs and wonders. This alone would be enough for the “whited sepulchers” [2] in power to hate him, according to the Lord’s perfect description of many kinds of jealousy: “Is thine eye evil because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15)

 

As is the case today, so was the case then. Those in authority, who secretly opposed truth, attempted to calumniate those who were truth (not just proclaimed truth, but also lived according to it – make no mistake – if you live truth, you will always get the attention of those who are not true).

 

Since Stephen was “full of grace and power”, according to our Lord’s solemn promise [3]:

 

10 … they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake”

 

What follows is a look into the mechanism of government. Power is used to try to subvert the truth, ending with holy Stephen being stoned, with the “face of an angel”, and saying at the end: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”.

 

Note how St Stephen’s defense was historical and theological. He knew the scripture, lived it, and applied theological truth to history. So should we. If we read TV guide or some gossip web page more than the scripture, we will be ill-equipped to “provide a defense” for our faith when called upon (and we are frequently called upon to do this) – we will neither have the “face as that of an angel”, because we have lived in a lazy and slipshod manner, nor will we know what we are talking about because we will not know the scripture!

 

Stephen’s argument could not be resisted by those in power precisely because he was holy. We see some of the attributes of holiness here: courage, deep calm and freedom from anger and judgment (which of course, will always be expressed by compassion and a willingness to forgive), and precise theological understanding.

Reading the Scripture: Compare, and “Take Note”.

 

As is always the case when we read scripture, we must strive to find personal benefit, usually by comparison and “taking note”.

 

Let’s compare:

 

Am I like Stephen or the Sanhedrin?

Do I live the scripture (and therefore understand it) as Stephen did?

Do I have the face of an angel? Why not?

Would I have Stephen’s courage?

Calm?

Freedom from anger?

Ability to forgive my enemy?

How much do I know the Scripture?

 

Let’s “take note”:

 

Stephen was able to defend the truth because he lived the truth. That is why he had a face as that of an angel, and knew the scripture so well. This begs the question – how do we live?

 

Jealousy is a sin that is rarely admitted, but often present. Perhaps we are guilty of this sin, and have “taken up stones” against those we are jealous of.

 

Government is rarely true. Only God’s law is perfectly true, and it is usually in conflict with government and the world as a whole.

 

 

 

Acts 6:8-7:5, 47-60

 

     8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. 1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so? 2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 47 But Solomon built him an house. 48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things? 51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-monday-03_2010-04-19+stoning-of-holy-proto-martyr-stephen_acts6-8-7-5,47-60.doc

And on our blog.

 

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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] “Proto-martyr” = “first” martyr. St Stephen is remembered as the first martyr of the church after the resurrection.

[2] Matthew 23:27-28 KJV  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.  (28)  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

 

 

[3] Luke 21:12-15 KJV  But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.  (13)  And it shall turn to you for a testimony.  (14)  Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:  (15)  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

 

 

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The Myrrhbearing women – how to live in microcosm. Audio Homily 2010.

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

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The story of the myrhhbearers is like ours, in microcosm. Life is full of moments when we must "become bold" as Joseph (and the myrhhbearers) did, and do what is right, even if we do not how we can accomplish the task (roll away the stone and deal with the armed guards) or what will come of it. Even when we have accomplished something, or grace visits us, we may not recognize it or understand it, just like the myrrhbearers, who were afraid after hearing the announcement of the resurrection from the angel. The myrhhbearers who us the way – do what is right, or even what we think is right, no matter ho "possible" it seems or how likely that the outcome will be pleasing, and in time, all will be revealed to us. This Gospel continues the theme of how the enlightenment of the resurrection is actualized in us.

Many more Homilies on the Myrhbearers here.

Mark 15:43-16:8 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-03_2010-04-18+myrhhbearing-women.m3u

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

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Saint Thomas Sunday. Realism About The Resurrection. Audio Homily 2010

Monday, April 12th, 2010

SYNOPSIS:Of all the resurrection stories, perhaps the one concerning St Thomas is the one we can most relate to. He is the "common man", who was later able to do uncommon things. We are just like him, so our path of life must also be like his, which is the Christian life in microcosm. He, like us, was a complex indivicdual, believing, then faint of heart, couargeous, then full of fear. The one thing that he did that we must do to be saved is to endure, and "believe in the midst of our unbelief". If we do this, we are not far away from the supernatural exploits of St Thomas, the Apostle.

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John 20:19-31 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

 

OTHER HOMILIES FOR ST THOMAS SUNDAY


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2010-04-11+saint-thomas-sunday+realism-about-the-resurrection.m3u

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A metaphor: cactus, a priest and a little church

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Cactus buds from prickly pear pads taken from the Valley in the Winter

I am way too proud of these little cactus buds. They are new growth from prickly pear pads taken from the yard of St George in the Valley (Pharr, Texas) when I was there for the first of hopefully many Winter Service Retreats.

 

All three of the pads I took have new growth. I planted them in containers in December, and put them outside when it was warm enough. Sometimes I would forget to take them in and it would freeze overnight, and other times we would have YET ANOTHER torrential Winter rainstorm which, in addition to slowing down the new construction of our temple by at least three months, filled the containers with water. Now, cacti don't like a lot of water,but my little ones did just fine.

I think if I could pick a plant to be it would be a cactus. This is the perfect plant fror a priest to be.

Now metaphors cannot be taken to the extreme – I do not want to be prickly. Priests go for long periods without water, and sometimes have too much (now what do you think water is in this metaphor?) They survive when it is difficult. They do not ask for much. They just live and grow. I want to be tougher spiritually, emotionally, like a cactus.

Our little church is like a cactus. We have not had good conditions for growth – ridiculous delays, huge expenses, our little size, not much money  – to name a few. We are not, as they say "out of the woods yet". But we are going to get a new temple built. We will sing "Christ is risen" in its first liturgy. We will afford it eventually.

I love spring, and new life. I must get my tomatoes in soon, which I will as soon as somebody adds another day to the week! I also need to plant these cacti in their permanent home (which they have had a lot of trouble finding – another metaphor for our little church, which searched for a new home for 14 years). I get ridiculously happy just looking at them on the walkway.

Oh yes, I have other new growth on my mind. If we do not get the money for a bunch of trees required by the city, our little cactus will remain in its container for a very long time. Even cacti cannot survive for too long in such a cramped space.

We need help affording our trees. Unlike a real cactus, we can ask for help, and we would be very grateful if you would help us get over our last great hurdle. See our "Sponsor a Tree" Paschal appeal

As always, we will pray for our benefactors perpetually.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

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Sponsor a Tree. A Fundraising Drive for St. Nicholas Church in McKinney, TX

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

Our new church is nearly complete, but the cost for landscaping is much higher than we expected or than we can afford.

Can you help us by sponsoring a tree or bush?

 

ALL the trees are REQUIRED by the City of McKinney, and the prices we've found are extremely good.

Benefactors will be commemorated at every Liturgy in perpetuity, and a plaque will be placed on the tree if the donations are made in somebody's memory.

 



Live Oak

(5 needed) $597 ea.



Cedar Elm

(4 needed) $616 ea.



Bald Cypress

(7 needed) $680 ea.


Crapemyrtle

(8 needed) $426.50 ea

 

 

Burford Holly (8 needed) $157 ea.

Burford Holly Dwarf (12 needed) $51 ea.

Japanese Barberry Purple Leaf (23 needed) $45 ea.

Wax Myrtle Dwarf (18 needed) $61 ea.

Nandina Momestica (16 needed) $48 ea.

Yaupon Hollies Dwarf (4 needed) $43 ea.

Grass: (entire lot) $3977

Please send donations to: St Nicholas Orthodox Church, PO 37, McKinney TX 75070.

Our parish will still be praying for your loved ones well past when all the trees are full grown!

 

Fr. Seraphim Holland, Rector, 972-658-5433, seraphim@orthodox.net

Deacon Nicholas Park, Treasurer, 972-422-2092, treasurer@orthodox.net

 

Take a look at our: “Sponsor a Tree” Real-Time Progress

(http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Al_W2UVI6K9MdDJfcXhCLUpYMlhmQTRLNkEwSjlISFE&hl=en)

 

This document is at:

  http://www.orthodox.net/aboutus/sponsor-a-tree-pascha-2010.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/aboutus/sponsor-a-tree-pascha-2010.pdf

http://www.orthodox.net/aboutus/sponsor-a-tree-pascha-2010.html

 

Permission is gratefully given to print this appeal and

distribute it to friends, family, parish bulletin boards, etc.

 

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The Resurrection makes the Impossible Possible!

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Holy Saturday

2002

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, did you hear in the readings – those fifteen beautiful readings[1] – did you hear of the resurrection? Did you hear of faith? Did you hear of things that seemed to be impossible and yet became possible?

How was it that if God promised to Abraham that He would make him a father of many nations[2], and he was an old man, and he had a boy, Isaac — that if God told him to kill his son Isaac, how can he become a father of many nations? But Abraham obeyed when God said, “Sacrifice thy son Isaac.” And even when his son in innocence, asked, “Father, we have the fire and the wood, but where is the ram for the burnt offering?” he said, “God will provide, my son.”

What about when the widow gave hospitality to Elias?[3] This was during the drought that Elias had called upon the earth. People were dying because there was no food. The widow had just a little food left, and Elias said, “Make me a meal first, and then you and your son shall eat, and the cruse of oil shall never run out.” And indeed, it did not during that entire time. But her son died, and Elias prayed, and her son was raised.

An even more poignant example is when Elisseus came to the Sidonian woman.[4] The Sidonian woman had made him a place to stay because she knew that he was a holy man. He, desiring to give her something good, asked her what she would need, and she, out of modesty, would not tell him, so Gezi his servant (who later on turned out to have a sin, a problem in his life — this was a good turn that he did and may the Lord save him for this thing) said that the woman was old and had not a son.  So a son was born according to the promise of Elisseus. And not too long thereafter, the son gets a headache in the fields, goes to his mother, lays his head between her knees and dies.

So what does this woman do? Does this woman tear out her hair and start screaming and wailing, as is the custom of peoples of that area to mourn their dead? No. It doesn't’t even say that she told her husband. She brought the boy up to where the holy man stayed, put him on the bed, and saddled an ass, and went to see the holy man on Mount Carmel. An impossible thing she was wanting – something she could not even express with her lips. She couldn’t even say “Raise my son from the dead.” She could only say, “I told you not to deal deceitfully with me.”

So Elisseus came. Did you listen carefully; do you see what he did? He went up into the room, and he made the sign of the cross on the boy! His hands to his hands, his feet to his feet, his lips to his lips – what was he doing? Making the sign of the cross on the boy, and breathing on him – and it took seven times, and the boy was raised. Impossible things!

What about when the Egyptians, a huge amount of heavily armed, very well trained soldiers, warred against a ragtag group who had no arms – perhaps a few sickles, a few axes, a few clubs, nothing much to speak of – and were running away from Egypt being pursued by this army?[5] The Lord made a wall of waters, so that the people of Israel could go through the Red Sea.  And when the Egyptians, in their arrogance, came into the Red Sea and the wall of waters was still there, the Lord made the wall of waters crash upon them, and horse and rider fell into the red sea. Do you think any Jew, at that moment, when they came to the Red Sea, before the wall of waters; do you think any one of them really thought that they were going to be victorious? They probably thought all was lost. And if you read carefully Exodus and Deuteronomy, you can see that constantly they doubted the Lord. They tormented poor Moses, and yet the Lord saved them.

An impossibility became possible. Elias raises a son, Elisseus raises a son, the people of God are saved from their pursuer – impossibilities become possible because of our Lord. Now how is it that if such things happen and we have such an array of witnesses about us, as the Apostle talks about in Hebrews, how is it that we live such mediocre lives? Why don’t we believe? The resurrection is available to all of us. The power of the resurrection, sure belief, is available to all of us.

How is it that we can attain this understanding? The Apostle Paul tells us how. He says, “Know you not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that as like Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, that we should also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”[6]

What does this mean? What is the likeness of His death? What kind of death did Christ die?

I’m not talking about how He was executed. That He was put on a cross is immaterial. The Cross has become our symbol of victory, but it could have been some other form of punishment that would become our symbol of victory. The Cross itself — although it was prefigured by the prophets and therefore we know it should be the Cross — is not the likeness of His death.

Jesus Christ lived in a way that He gave Himself to the world. He did not live for Himself, but He lived for others. Actually, to be more precise, He lived for One Other. He lived to do the will of His Father. And His Father’s will was that He would become incarnate, He Who had been in the bosom of the Father from the ages of ages, and would walk upon the earth and be an example for others and die a terrible death so that we would live. That is the likeness of His death. It is obedience and righteousness.

 

The reason why the world does not understand the resurrection – even those who say they are Christians – is that they don’t understand that in order to understand the resurrection you have to live it. You have to live like the One Who was resurrected first. You have to live in His likeness. You have to die like He died. Now, He did not have to die to self, because His whole self was willing to do the deed. His whole self was willing to obey His Father.

 

Now our self, on the other hand, many times is not willing to obey God. Stubborn. Obdurate. I was just reading Deuteronomy recently, and I thought, “Things have not changed very much” – we are just like those chosen people, who continually complained, and continually were faithless. And they didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand the greatness of God because of their selfishness.

The key to understanding Christ, the key to being empowered, brothers and sisters, the key to happiness, the key to what God wants us to be, to the fulfillment of our destiny, of what God has predestined us to be, is to live in the likeness of His death. And I say live in the likeness of His death, because He is not dead anymore. He was dead for only a short while, and then He was alive. Now we, we can become alive by living as He lived.

If you struggle to follow virtue, then you will understand about the resurrection. It will enlighten you. That is the key. This is the key. This is why we read this epistle on this day. Because all of the pomp, and all of the beauty, and the rose petals[7] – and the Lord knows, I love the rose petals; the Lord knows, I love all of the beauty of Holy Saturday: the flowers, and the festivity later on, with the foods, the Kulich, the sausages, the Pascha, the eggs, and all the rest, and all the joy and all the feasting – all of that cannot be understood in such a way that brings real joy to the heart — joy that, as our Savior said to His apostles just before He was killed, no one can take away from you, that kind of joy, the kind of joy that cannot be stolen, cannot be lost, is ever with us, never dissipates — that kind of joy can only be had if we live as He lived and if we live in the likeness of His death, and therefore the likeness of His resurrection.

All these things are possible. The Sidonian woman’s son dies, and yet he was risen. Abraham was told he would be a father of many nations, and yet he was told to kill his son, but he believed still, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Do you have anything in your life that you have trouble believing? Don’t despair—the key to believing is not in trying to force yourself to believe this thing. When you have doubts, you cannot force yourself to undo your doubts. We’re temporal creatures, we believe this way, that way, and we’re like a reed blowing in the wind.

The way to no longer have doubts, the way to be able to have power and strength, to live according to the resurrection in its power, is to strive to become righteous, to desire to be pure, to desire to put off all sin – even the difficult ones. Even if you continue to fall, if you desire to live righteously, the Lord not only will forgive you of your sins, but much more than that, He will give you joy, joy which cannot be taken away, joy which ever abides in your heart. And He will give you, with that joy, certainty. How many things in this life are certain? None of us are certain that we will live another hour! If your souls strives to become righteous, to live as Christ lived, God will give you certainty about Himself and the resurrection. And the key is trying to live righteously.

What a blessed day this is! For us still, the Lord is in the tomb, but we know what is occurring right now; We read about it last night.[8]

He went down to Hades, having been preceded by His good messenger, John, and He destroyed the hold that death had over us. Not for only those who were before Christ went down into Hades when they died – that is not the only extent to which death has a hold over us. Even now to this day, death has a hold over people who do not believe in Christ, or who believe in Christ only weakly. And they live as though dead. He made us able to live as though completely alive, completely pure, completely happy, complete in all things, lacking nothing!

What a joy it is to be a Christian! Is there any greater name that a man can have than to be called a Christian? I mean a true Christian – not a Christian in name, not a Christian by patrimony, not a Christian by coming to Church, but a Christian by living righteously and knowing that God will help him with whatever is amiss.

Glory be to God! Glory be to God that we can live! Brothers and sisters, the key, I say again, you must live as if you were baptized into the death of Jesus. The way He died – with humility, with long-suffering, with forgiveness – this is the way which you must die. And your dying will be occurring for the rest of your natural, human life – that is, on the earth.

Live by dying. The world thinks, “We don’t understand what he is talking about.” But Christians understand. And as you die a little, then you feel more alive. Glory be to God that we can live. Amen.

Priest Seraphim Holland

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-06_2002+great-saturday.html

 


[1]  Fifteen Old Testament readings are read at Vespers on Holy Saturday: Genesis 1:1-13; Isaiah 60:1-16; Exodus 12:1-11; Jonah 1:1-4:11; Joshua 5:10-15; Exodus 13:20-15:19; Zephaniah 3:8-15; 3 Kings (1 Kings) 18:8-24; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; Genesis 22:1-18; Isaiah 61:1-9; 4 Kings (2 Kings) 4:8-37; Isaiah 63:11-64:5; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Daniel 3:1-23.

[2] [Genesis 22:1-18]

[3] [3 Kings 17:8-24]

[4] [4 Kings 4:8-37]

[5] [Exodus 13:20-15:19]

[6] [Romans 6:3-11]
[7] There is a tradition of scattering rose petals, and sometimes bay leaves, around the church on Holy Saturday, while the choir sings “Arise, O God” and the vestments are changed from black to white in honor of the resurrection. After the priest has changed his vestments, he comes out of the altar with a basket full of rose petals and scatters them on the tomb and around the whole church. The faithful have the custom of picking up and keeping some of the petals as a blessing.
[8] In the sermon of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus for Holy Saturday, read before the tomb after the Lamentations Matins.
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Pascha: As many have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010


Tonight, brothers, and sisters, I wish to bring you one word. We sang just a moment ago, “As many have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”. This is sung at several great feasts, preeminently Pascha. Why do we sing this hymn today? What does it have to do with Pascha?

 

Look at the example of the apostles and all the Saints. For them, the Lords resurrection, with the subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit, ENABLES them to become like the Lord in virtue! This is the meaning of Pascha! Now we are ABLE to live, ABLE to know God, ABLE to become sweet. Without our Lord living as a man, and breaking the hold death held on the flesh, we would not be able to live, truly be alive, and be in Christ, that is, put on Christ.

 

He broke much more that Hades hold on us after this life. His resurrection heals us now, enables us to attain to the knowledge of Him, and as the Apostle says today – to become sons of God.

 

This is only possible by putting on Christ. If you do not do this, by sincere struggle, the stone at your tomb will not be rolled away, and there will be no resurrection in it’s cold, darkened contents.

 

Put on Christ! Live like Him! Struggle to live virtuously. Put away evil and do good, knowing that all this is possible because Christ did all these things as a man, and therefore we can too, and His resurrection breaks any hold death has on our flesh in this life or the next,  if we only live!

 

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-01_1997.doc

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Condemned to Immortality: A meditation on the Resurrection Archiamandrite Justin Popovic

Monday, April 5th, 2010

People condemned God to death; with His Resurrection He condemned them to immortality. For striking Him, God returned embraces; for insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never did men show more hate towards God than when they crucified Him; and God never showed His love towards people more than when He was resurrected. Mankind wanted to make God dead, but God, with His Resurrection, made people alive, the crucified God resurrected on the third day and thereby killed death ! There is no more death. Immortality is surrounding man and his entire world.

With the Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man is irreversibly led toward the road of immortality and man's nature becomes destructive to death itself. For until the Resurrection of Christ, death was destructive for man; from the Resurrection of Christ, man's nature becomes destructive in death. If man lives in the faith of the Resurrected God Man, he lives above death, he is unreachable for her; death is under man's feet. Death where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? And when a man who believes in Christ dies, he only leaves his body as his clothes, in which he will be dressed again on the Day of Last Judgement.

Before the Resurrection of the God-Man, death was the second nature of man; life was first and death was second. Man became accustomed to death as something natural. But after His Resurrection the Lord changed everything: and it was only natural until Christ's Resurrection, that the people became mortal, so after Christ's Resurrection it was natural that the people became immortal.

Through sin, man becomes mortal and temporal; with the Resurrection of the God-Man, he becomes immortal and eternal. In this lies the strength, in this lies the power, in this lies the might of Christ's Resurrection. Without the Resurrection there is no Christianity. Among the miracles, this is the greatest one; all other miracles begin and end with it. From it sprouted the faith and the love and the hope and the prayer and the love toward God.

from "Philosophical Cliffs"

 

http://www.orthodox.net/pascha/pascha-arch-justin.html

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Pascha: Sin and death are conquered.

Monday, April 5th, 2010


 

I must say a few words on this holy day, not too many, because the hour is late, and we're not accustomed to praying late at night.

 

What is it that we celebrate, brothers and sisters, what do we celebrate today?

 

We celebrate two healings: the God-man, with His two natures – a son twice – healed us of death and sin. And if you read carefully this gospel, it speaks of this . . . not openly, but in a way that is mystical and spiritual.

 

Now, we all know that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. What His rising from the dead did was made our flesh able to become pure. And to the pure all things are pure as it says in the scriptures. If we become purified with the help of God, because now we're capable of becoming this, we will know God. Not only will we know God, but we will become sons of God.

 

Now really, death and sin are two sides of the same coin: where there is death, there is darkness, and sin also darkens the soul. No one can be happy when their soul is darkened with sin, and inevitably, sin brings about death. But the lord broke this cycle where man is born, and inevitably He sins, and inevitably He dies, and is not able to see God, because our lord lived as God in man, made His flesh able to see God – now if He was only begotten of the father, He always knew God as God's son: eternally, but, as a man, He had to make His flesh invigorated, so that it could see God.

 

We can appropriate this great salvation. Now how do we appropriate it? St. John says as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God.

 

Brothers and sisters if you want to truly feel the resurrection, if you want to have joy that cannot be taken away from you, then you must receive Christ. And what is this receiving? The Lord gives us commandments, perfect and wonderful commandments; His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and He desires us to follow these commandments and He makes us capable of following these commandments; and if we struggle to follow them, it is a certainty that the lord will make His abode with us and we will be happy. Happiness that the world doesn't know, happiness that never ever grows old.

 

This is what we celebrate on Pascha, that we can become complete, we can become whole, we can become perfected, we can have absolute happiness, for eternity, knowing God.

 

But the Lord didn't just break the bonds of death: He broke the bonds of sin too, because as a man He lived without sin. He was like us in all things. He was tempted in all ways, just as any other man would be tempted, except that He did not sin. So He made our flesh change, just as the old covenant changed into the new, the old man, who would live in sin and die and go into the grave, was changed into the new man, who would live, and would be capable – if He would receive Christ, of living righteously, and when He dies, He would not die the death of eternal damnation, but He would be alive in Christ. This is what the resurrection does for us: makes us able to see God.

 

Glory be to God that He has given us so many blessings. He's given us grace and truth and grace for grace. May God help you to live righteously so that you can feel in every aspect of your life the presence of God and joy.

 

Amen.

2003.

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-01_2003.doc

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