Archive for May, 2010

Gleanings from the Fathers, history, fasting guidelines and stories on the start of the Apostle’s Fast.

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Saints Peter and PaulFrom a Parishioner's Facebook Page (Reader David Hawthorne: (Today) is the beginning of the celebration of the Apostles' Fast. After the celebration of Pentecost, the Apostles began a fast to prepare themselves for taking the Gospel to the whole world. Let us imitate their spiritual struggle so we also may become more fruitful witnesses of Christ to the world!

Do not say to me that I fasted for so many days, that I did not eat this or that, that I did not drink wine, that I endured want; but show me if thou from an angry man hast become gentle, if thou from a cruel man hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water? Do not show forth a useless fast: for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven." St. John Chrysostom
 
And, since this year, the Apostles Fast is particularly long, a word of encouragement from Blessed Augustine: "The more days of fasting there are, the better the healing is; the longer the period of abstinence, the more abundant the gain of salvation is."

More gleanings:

"The Apostles almost always fasted." Saint John Chrysostom (Sermon 57 on the Gospel of Matthew)

"After the long feast of Pentecost, fasting is especially necessary to purify our thoughts and render us worthy to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit … Therefore, the salutary custom was established of fasting after the joyful days during which we celebrated the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.''
St. Leo the Great (†461)

People have to answer greatly for not keeping the rules of the Church with respect to the fasts. People justify themselves by saying that they never considered it a sin to eat dairy products during the fasts. They repent and consider themselves sinners in every other respect, but they do not think to repent about not keeping the fasts. Meanwhile, they are transgressing the commandment of our holy Mother, the Church, and according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, they are as the heathen and publicans because of their disobedience. St. Ambrose of Optina (+1891)

Fasting is an exceptional virtue; it represses bodily impulses and gives strength to the soul to fight against the poisoning of the heart through the senses, and provides it with a remedy against any past poisoning. Fasting causes the mind to be cleansed constantly. It whithers up every evil thought and brings healthy, godly thoughts — -holy thoughts that enlighten the mind and kindle it with more zeal and spiritual fervor. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

Abba Isidore said, "If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself." The Desert Fathers

Abba John the Dwarf said, "If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy's city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh; if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 85-89

Many more Gleanings from the Holy Fathers on Fasting   here.


 

"Ahh, another month of fasting".Shawn Lazar :)

 


A little story. When I was considering whether I should come down to Dallas to be the rector of a small community that was holding reader's services, as asked by my bishop. I asked my spiritual father for advice. He told me to say the akathist to Jesus for forty days with fasting. We were near the end of Great Lent. He told me to wait until after Bright week to begin the forty days fast, which my wife and I did. We were to say the akathist every day. and fast. We missed a couple days of the akathist, so the fast was prolonged a few days. Immediately after we finished, the Apostle's fast began!  Ahh…


Apostles Fast Fasting Guidelines.

From our weekly newsletter: http://docs.google.com/View?id=d926dxr_26ct6kqwnw

The apostles' fast begins this week, and extends until the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul on Monday, June 29/July 12th. During this fast, we fast from meat, fish, dairy, eggs, wine and oil, with the following exceptions:

  • Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturday and Sunday
  • Wine and oil are allowed on Tuesday and Thursday
  • There are also particular relaxations in honor of certain saints. This week,
    • Fish is allowed on Tuesday in honor of St. Dmitry Donskoy
    • Wine & oil are allowed on Wednesday in honor of St. Alexis of Moscow
    • Fish is allowed on Thursday in honor of Sts. Constantine and Helen

A History of the Apostle's Fast, from a pretty good blog :"Mystagogy"

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Sunday of All Saints Are you ready to confess in the Lord? What is confession in the Lord? Priorities

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Sunday of All Saints

 Are you ready to confess in the Lord?

What is confession in the Lord?

Priorities

2009

Matthew 10:32—33,37-38;19:27-30

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

 

Today, brothers and sisters, the Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday of All Saints, so it is appropriate that we would read a reading about what it is to be a saint. This Gospel is about the character of the saints. Of course there are many Gospels that describe holiness. This one is perhaps the best of all.

Now, the question that you should have for yourself is do you fit in the category of people that the Lord is describing, who are saints?

 

In order to be a saint, we must be holy – “saint” actually means “holy”. In fact, we are commanded to be holy. If we don’t become holy we have no part with Christ. Christ came to help us to become holy. He gave us the ability, but we must have the desire and the effort. We are not only called but also commanded to be holy. So to be a saint is to be holy. This is not the calling only of those holy ones we have on our walls, but it is the calling of every person.

 

We must, as the Lord says, confess Him. He says something that is both great and terrible:

“Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him I will confess before My Father which is in Heaven.”

 

And then He says:  

“Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him also I will deny before My Father which is in Heaven.”

 

So one must understand what it means to confess.

 

To confess in the Lord is to live as He taught us. It is to have the priorities He taught us to have. So confession involves living the right way, living as Christians. One cannot confess in the Lord and be a thief. One cannot confess in the Lord and cheat people or be an adulterer.

And also confession in the Lord is something that is difficult in our day and becoming more difficult: we must confess with the lips also. We must stand for what is right as Christians. I have been trying to talk about this a little bit more on the blog entries. This is very important. Our age is one in which good is called bad and bad, good. Abominations are called healthy. And to believe that there are abominations is called hateful, close-minded, and backward. It’s happening. I hope you see it.

Now, I have so far, to my knowledge, never in a sermon been political. I don’t want to talk about parties or governments or particular people. I want to talk about the age we are in. Look at the age we are in: When things that are sinful are called good and those who call them sinful are ostracized and even put in prison. Open your eyes. I hope you see it. It is happening. Even the words I am saying now could be taken to be hate speech and inciting to violence.

Now, you all know me; I’m not inciting anyone to violence, except the kind of violence that wins the Kingdom of God, that is, violence against our sins. But eventually it will happen that this kind of speech will be outlawed. It’s happened in other societies before and it’s happening before our very eyes.

 
It is important not only to know theology; it’s also important to know the reality of what’s going on right in front of you. As a pastor for quite some time now, not at the very beginning because that was 15 years ago, things were not as insane as they are now. The mechanism was not in place to cause people to be subjugated to people’s immoral will. But it’s now in place. A few changes, a few little tweaks, and it will take great courage to be a Christian. Are you ready? Are you ready to say there is sin? Are you ready to say what is good and what is bad? Just see if I’m a prophet or not in five years, ten, three, two. It will come to be that if you want to work at some places or maybe all that you will have to sign a statement of faith which says that you believe things that Christians do not believe. It’s going to happen. Are you ready to confess in the Lord?

It is really good to talk about beautiful theology, the Resurrection, the Ascension, to talk about God’s love for us. But God’s love for us is realized in us when we live as He lived. And if you look at the way our Lord lived, He was the One who never had a place to lay His head and eventually He was crucified. But He was tormented His entire career. This is that side of Christianity that most people who call themselves Christians, don’t want to see. But I as your pastor want you to see it.

 

If you want to be a saint you must confess. You must stand up for the truth.

I’ll give you one example. There was a time when I was in a company and they required us to fill out a piece of paper and give something to United Way. I looked at the things United Way did. A lot of them were things that I would not have any part with, whatsoever. Some of them were good. Many of them were good. But the money just went into the pot so some could get an abortion, some could go to family planning programs in China. Some the good was artfully mixed in with the bad. And so we were required to sign a paper. I didn’t do it.

Now, in that day and age, I was pressured greatly but was not fired but I think it would happen that I would be fired now. Are you ready?

 

Are you ready to confess in the Lord? All right, I’ll tell you how to become ready. The Lord tells us right here. Right after he says, “Whoever shall confess Me, I will confess in him before My Father,” and then the opposite, “if you don’t confess in me, I won’t confess in you before My Father”,  He tells us how to live so that we could confess in Him always.

You know, a saint commemorated just a couple of days ago where a magician recognized the truth about Jesus Christ and immediately confessed and then his head was cut off right there. That’s usually not the way it happens, brothers and sisters. Confession usually is a long process with suffering with testing of your metal, to see whether or not you’re courageous.

I think there are those of us who would be willing to confess and have our heads severed but are we willing to have our houses taken away from us? Have our jobs taken away? Work in menial labor? It’s happened before. It happened in Soviet Russia, in our lifetime. It’s happening now. And it will happen here. So what do you do?

Here is what the Lord tells us. He says:

“He that taketh not his cross and followeth not after Me is not worthy.”

 

Then He says, when Peter asked him a question, “Behold we’ve forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have?” And he promises Peter and the other apostles to be able to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel but then He said something that’s very comprehensive, and this is the key to whether or not you will be ready to confess when it really is time.

 

“And everyone that have forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My Namesake, shall receive a hundredfold. And shall inherit everlasting life.”

 

And He adds something that’s also important.

 

“But many that are first, shall be last and the last shall be first.”

That can mean many things, and one of the meanings is this: Things are not as they seem. Don’t believe what the world tells you. Believe what God tells you. And this list of things that were forsaken, not that we should run away from our parents, but these are symbols of things that we want that might get in the way of who God is. And if anything gets in the way of God, we must forsake it. It’s about priority.

 

As a pastor I’ve seen when people are beset by sins, if they have good priorities, they conquer these sins. I don’t care what it is. If you have good priorities, if you desire to live a Christian life, if you try to pray –  I’m not even talking if you succeed or not, if you want to pray, if you try to order your life to pray, if you try to fast, if you try to be a Christian, if that is what’s important to you from the moment you get up to the moment you put your head on the pillow, then you will conquer your sins, God will help you.

 

And I’ve seen it many time and time again but people who are beset by sins and they will stay in the same sins, it is a priority problem. There is something they are not forsaking. I’m not talking about the sin. Sin can be very sweet; it is a sweet poison. And we can desire something that is very bad for us and be habitually falling into it. That’s not the priority I’m talking about. That’s a weakness of the flesh that God came to help us with. But He will not help us with these weaknesses of the flesh, unless we have a mindset that we want to take up our cross and follow Him, no matter what.

Now, maybe you are not ready to confess in the Lord in such a way that you would lose your job. You’d better get ready. You have time right now. The Lord will not expect of you what you cannot do. But He will expect of you what you can become able to do. So if you sit still and have priorities that are basically day-to-day – do this, do that, then when the time comes, you will not be ready. It’s all about organizing your life in a certain way.

This is what this Gospel is teaching us. Forsake the things that you can forsake. Perhaps there is a sin that you cannot quite forsake yet. I understand. I’ve seen a lot of them. I have them myself. But you can order your life as a Christian.

There are a lot of things that you can do to order your priorities.

I’ll just give a small example. Perhaps it’s a trivial example. Let’s say that you are beset by laziness, you come home and you watch six hours of TV and then fall asleep, not saying your prayers, not reading anything, not doing anything except dissipating yourself and it happens time and time and time again. All right, here is what you can do. Well, you can get a brick. If you cannot take that brick and put it where it should be put, then you can unsubscribe from cable so that it’s a lot harder to see. Or you can make a rule of yourself, I will never, ever copy a TV show on my recorder.

You see, you can show to the Lord that you want to fight against a sin. That’s just one thing. There are many things. You must forsake things that are not Godly, to become Godly. This is the way.

You know, really, this time of life, right now, that is, the life really in the flesh, it’s kind of like, I don’t know, in a crude way to put it, it’s like a boot camp, you’re preparing yourself. And now it’s even more important because there really will be battles. There have been in the past. What makes us think that there won’t be any coming up?

 

Really, what has happened in North America has been an anomaly, with the many years of peace to be able do what we want to. We have people here, Russian, Greek, and others who had member of their families who within the past hundred years died because of righteousness. In many cases the government tried to impose upon them things that they would not allow because of their conscience. They had to make confession. This has in many cases happened in our lifetime, perhaps across the pond. But it’s getting to be a small pond now.

It’s going to happen here. I as your pastor want you to be ready. Now, that doesn’t mean that I want you to stock up on water and buy a shotgun and go off into the woods and be ready for the end. No, I want you to change yourself now and tomorrow and the next day so that you are ready. This is how you become ready.

 

The Gospel tells us: Forsake the things that are not Godly. Have the right priorities. Be willing to take up your cross.

Don’t think of Christianity as something easy. If you think Christianity is easy, then you have not learned what Christianity is. Christianity is warfare to the death. Christianity is violence that wins the Kingdom of Heaven, violence against our passions, and violence against the things that kill us.

So take courage, don’t be afraid – Unless you do nothing – Unless you just live complacently. God will help you, if you pray, if you fast, if you struggle, if you forsake the world and you take up your cross.

 

One more thing. Maybe you can’t do all of it. Okay. Do some of it. There’s a big mistake in our age. It’s like if we can’t do it all, we don’t do any of it.

We are full of sins. Does that mean we shouldn’t be righteous too? Absolutely not.

 

If you don’t fast well, perhaps you could fast a little better.

 

If you don’t pray very much, perhaps you could pray a little more.

 

If your life is spent in fruitless pursuits, perhaps you could find some way to do something that is good for your soul.

 

Speak with me. Speak with someone else. Find a way. Because the time is coming when you will need to confess with your lips that you are a Christian. And I want you to be ready for it.

 

Transcribed by the hand of Helen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.    

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2009-06-14.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2009-06-14.doc

 

 

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Pictures of church, ready for occupancy, inside and outside.

Friday, May 28th, 2010

We await approval by the city, while the temple stands ready in every way for worship. We have a big meeting June 8th, which will decide if we get occupancy that week, or not perhaps for months. Pictures of the outside and inside of our very beautiful little temple.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint-nicholas/sets/72157624032408471/


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Sunday of All Saints, First Sunday after Pentecost. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven

Friday, May 28th, 2010

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

 

Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, we remember all of the saints, and we are inspired by these two readings, I would hope, that contain much encouragement.  How can one not be encouraged when this whole choir of righteous is enumerated by the apostle Paul, and then he says:

 

"Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.  Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

 

This should be like an anthem for we Christians.  The saints are all described at the end of the Gospel reading.  Every righteous one who has ever lived, who has ever pleased God, who has ever struggled with his sins, who has ever truly believed in the resurrection is described today, because our Lord says:

 

"Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands for My Name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and shall inherit ever-lasting life.  But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." 

 

This describes in microcosm the life that pleases God, the life that we are called to.  We are to forsake that which weighs us down, sin which easily besets us, and even father or mother or sister or brother, if they weigh us down, if they keep us from the kingdom of God. 

 

In most cases that would not be literally necessary; Jesus Christ is not telling us to always leave our father and mother.  Indeed we must love them, and honor them, whether they honor God or not.  But it is a value judgment here; it is a set of priorities.  If we are to inherit what is our birthright, then we must live according to that birthright.  You remember, with Esau and Jacob, Esau had the birthright, but he didn't live according to it, so it was taken from him. 

 

These readings contain not only the encouragement and this incredible joy that we should feel about the grace of God; they also contain a blueprint, a path of how to live.  Not only how to live, but also how not to live.  The promise is there, that also contains, very, very clearly for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, what happens when a man does not follow Christ. 

 

Now this is the Sunday after Pentecost.  Pentecost, the out-pouring of the Holy spirit, the gift of the Holy spirit upon all in the church, is what makes us capable of being part of this choir of the saints.  It's what helps all men to attain to the knowledge of God and to righteousness. 

 

St. Paul says through faith they did this, through faith they did that.  This was in the Old Testament times, before the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Even more remarkable are the exploits of the saints before the coming of Christ, because the Holy Spirit did not dwell within them.  The Holy Spirit influenced their lives, guided them, helped them, but did not dwell within them.  This was meant for a later time.  And St. Paul alludes to this when he says,

 

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." 

 

He is pointing to the coming of the God-man Jesus Christ, and then the bringing of the Holy Spirit after Jesus Christ showed and in actuality did what was necessary for our salvation.  He showed us how to live, and lived according to His commandments, and caused Himself to be risen from the dead.  And then the bringing of the Holy Spirit enlightens us, strengthens us and allows us to do the will of God, and to obtain the promise. 

 

I want to focus on some things that were said in the Gospel – the Gospel is a composite reading, by the way.  It is actually Matthew chapter ten and also chapter nineteen, a portion of it.  It fits together very nicely in context, and that's why the Holy Spirit must have desired the reading be put together as it was for this day.  Our Lord said,

 

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." 

 

This is a fundamental characteristic of righteousness, to confess the Lord Jesus Christ.  And how do we confess Him?  With our lips and with our actions; with our priorities and with our way of dealing with people; with what we say is important and what we show is important. 

 

There are some obvious things that you could have come to mind.  We confess the Lord by showing that we care about Christianity, that we live our life in a moral way.  The entire world has gone off unto Sodom and Gomorrah, but we cannot do this.  We must have the courage to stand against it, to stand against every form of immorality and vice.  This is the confession of Christ. 

 

Now there is a new form of Christianity in name only.  It's been around now for quite a good many years.  In fact, you really can see the beginnings of it in Apostolic times.  But certainly, in the past few hundred years of the post enlightenment age, it has been codified that this is an acceptable way of life. 

 

This way of life confesses Christ with the lips, but not with action, not with morality, not with the way we live, not with the way we order our lives.  The new Christianity, from which the Orthodox are not immune, has a sort of dichotomy between belief and action.  But there is no such thing.  This is the great lie.  Faith without works is dead.  There is no dichotomy between action and belief.  And if you do not live according to what you say you believe, then you are not confessing Christ.  And we've been given everything we need to confess Him.  We've been given the Holy Spirit, the comforter, Who lives within us if indeed we make a place for Him, if indeed we clean out our soul, and garnish it and sweep it out with effort and desire.  And He will help us in all things.  But if we do not live righteously we are not confessing Christ. 

 

Christ says He will confess us before His Father, if we live according to His will, and confess Him in this life.  But He won't confess us before His Father if we do not live in such a way.  For those people who do not live in such a way are reserved the words, "I don't know you.  I don't know who you are.  You have no part with Me.  You haven't become like Me.  Go away.  Go unto outer darkness."  Those words are reserved for those people who confess with their lips but not with the way they live, not with their priorities. 

 

Now there are other practical things.  In our modern society we are constantly in social situations.  Are you afraid to make the sign of the cross before you have your dinner in a restaurant?  If this is the case, you should weep and lament and pound your breast and ask God's forgiveness for this, and do it the next time.  Are you afraid among your friends or among your business associates or whomever else you come across in your daily walk of life to show your priorities and the Christian way of thinking, or do you change your priorities based upon the vicissitudes of your life, maybe so you are not in trouble, or so nobody thinks badly of you, or maybe just so that you are not inconvenienced?  This is not confessing Christ, either. 

 

This is confessing the Devil, because this is the way the Devil wants us to live.  The Devil is perfectly happy with lipservice to Christianity; he loves that. In fact, I think he prefers it to out and out paganism, because what does our Lord say to those in the church of Laodicea, in Revelations? 

 

"Thou art lukewarm, and I will spit thee out of my mouth." 

 

No, brothers and sisters, we are not to be lukewarm.  We have fire within us.  The Holy Spirit warms us.  That fire should burn things, not burn us; it should burn the sins within us, and it should glow. There should be a light.  People should see it. 

 

I am convinced there are two main  reasons our churches are not full – one is the world is very, very evil, and people are not interested in a Christian way of life.  They are interested in Christian lip service, but not in actually ordering their lives completely according to Christ.  That's part of it.  But another part of it is, we don't shine.  We don't profess Christ in very aspect of how we live, how we think, how we prioritize.  Every single person in our workplace should notice something about us, or think we're different.  Some may hate us because it – absolutely and positively.  Some hated Christ.  But there was no one that encountered Christ that did not notice something about Him, that did not have to come to a decision because of Him.  So should it be with us. 

 

We must confess Christ before men.  Don't live your life according to the priorities of the world.  Don't let anything get in the way of an all-out assault on your passions, and an all-out desire to follow the commandments.  We have this cloud of witnesses. Look what they did: through faith they subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, they were sawn asunder, they wandered about in sheep skins and in goat skins.  The world was not even worthy of them.  All of these things were struggles.  None of these things that I just mentioned are pleasant.  All of them were difficult trials.  The Christian life is indeed a trial, a difficulty, it is an arena, it is a life-or-death struggle. 

 

If this causes your heart to contract and be afraid, then you must beg the Holy Spirit to indwell in you more, and be joyful on this day that so many have entered into the kingdom of heaven, so many have endured struggles, and pain, and grief, and endured to the end, and come to the kingdom of heaven. 

 

And they are all examples for us, all around.  And they are poof that the resurrection is real.  The resurrection is true.  And it changes a man.  This news is the best news that can be said.  There is nothing greater.  The resurrection changes us!   Now our life sometimes is filled with bitterness and difficulty.  Some of it is from without, brought on by those whom we know, or whom we don't know.  Some of it is from within, from our own sinfulness, our lack of belief, our lack of constancy, our lack of good priorities.  But regardless, life is struggle.  Everyone understands this.  But God has given us the tools to endure in the struggle. 

 

God has given us everything we need, and on this day we celebrate the whole panoply of saints that have endured to the end, as an example to us, but also – we must understand, and we must be able to have these two thoughts together at the same time – also as a reproach against us.  They are both a reproach against us, and also an encouragement to us, both at the same time, because they've all endured.  They're made of the same stuff as we are.  They had the same difficulties with sins that we have.  They were given the same grace that we have been given, the same truth, the same God, the same Holy Spirit.  But they fought the good fight, and endured; they finished the course. 

 

And now we ask their intercessions before God, for our sinful selves.  We can attain; we must attain some measure of what they have attained.  We are called to perfection.  Christianity is not just a belief system, or membership; it is the continual, extreme change of a man.  And this is good news.  There is so much wrong with us, so much incomplete, so much that hurts, so much that is imperfect, so much that we don't know, so much that makes us sad; all of that God will change.  No sadness, no incompleteness, no sickness, no bad thoughts, nothing whatsoever that causes our faces to be downcast, but instead all light. 

 

This is what God wants to give us.  We must live our life according to this promise, aim for this promise, and struggle for this promise.  Then we will truly be called friend by our Lord.  He will call us friend, and we will be able to cry, "Abba, Father."  Such incredible intimacy with God!  The saints obtained it.  And we can attain it.  But only by struggle, only by confessing Christ, only by living according to His commandments. 

 

In the middle of today's reading it says,

 

"He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, the same is not worthy of Me." 

 

We must struggle according to what He has told us to do.  I am continually struck by the lives of the saints, and by the writings of the fathers, by how these two thoughts – our depravity and God's great mercy – are welded into one.  On almost every page of the Scriptures this knowledge of the condition of man, which is deplorable, and the promise of what man will become, is present.  And we see it in the saints.  We see their righteousness, how God brought them home.  We also see their struggles, and we should compare their struggles to our own, and mix always the knowledge of what God has predestined for us with the knowledge of what kind of person we are.  They always must be mixed together.  And then we will struggle. 

 

We will push on, and we will fight, and we will finish the course.  The Holy Spirit has made it possible for us.  The Holy Spirit enlightens us, and lives within us if we live according to His commandments.  May God help you to confess Christ in everything you say and everything you do, in how you prioritize, and live your life.  Amen.

 

The Gospel and Epistle

 

{Heb 11:33}  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, {34}Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. {35} Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: {36} And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: {37} They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; {38} (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. {39} And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: {40} God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. { Heb 12:1-2}  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2}Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

{Mat 10:32}  "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. {10 :37} "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. {38} And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." {19:27} Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? {28} And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. {29} And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. {30} But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2000.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

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Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council – Homily by Hieromonk Methodius

Friday, May 14th, 2010

 

The following is my translation of a homily from collection “Before the Eyes of God's Truth” by Hieromonk Methodius, which is on the web at http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/russian/sermons_ierom_methodij.htm)

 

-Dn. Nicholas

On the first Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord, the Church prayerfully remembers the god-bearing fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

We know from Church history that the Emperor Constantine the Great, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, called this council in 325 AD in the city of Nicea because of his care for the Christian faith.

The subject of discussion at this council was the heresy of Arius. This is the false teaching that the Son of God is not of one essence with the Father, that is that He is not one with the Father in His divine nature, but is merely the highest of His creations.

Every blow directed against the Son of God is directed also at the entire Church, since He is the focus, the center, of the entire christian life, and every false thought about Him is a distortion of that life at its very foundation.

The holy fathers of the Nicean Council understood this. They confirmed the truth that the Son of God is of one essence with God the Father, and as the fruit of their dogmatic labors they gave us the first and largest part of the Symbol of Faith, the Creed.

In our time, the fathers of Nicea present us with a very instructive lesson. Contemporary christian society has almost completely lost any understanding of the importance and overarching significance of the church dogmas, of the truths of the faith.

Truth has become for us something distant, far removed from our life. We no longer love Truth. We have forgotten that every real Truth must manifest itself in life and that every church dogma has moral significance, feeding not only our mind but also the our heart.

The beauty of the Church's authority has been closed to us. We have expelled ourselves from this treasury by our own actions. How often do we see in our days cultured and educated people who are altogether unconcerned with everything having to do with the life of the church? Truly, many of us have become “prodigal sons”, not knowing how to preserve the Father's inheritance and leaving for a land afar off.

And so, in celebrating the memory of the beloved sons who loved Christ's Truth, the Holy Church calls us to the struggle to preserve that Truth. “The days are evil…” Temptations of the mind, heart and will face us on every step of the journey of life.

So so we must remain close to the Church, we must rely on Its unassailable strength.

Christ is in the Church.

And Christ is the way and the truth and the life for everyone who loves the light and who conquers the spiritual iciness and religious indifference in his heart.

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Leavetaking of Pascha, Ascension, Aceticism,Disappointment, A/C progress, moving plans, Schedule change.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Ascention, Archimandrite Zinon, Pskov-Pechery http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/Pskov/PskovPecheryAscensionIcon.jpg

Dear Brothers and sisters of our parish family:

Leavetaking of Pascha

We leave behind using the greeting "Christ is risen!" today (unless of course, we are holy, and live totally in the resurrection, as did my patron, St Seraphim). The leave-taking of Pascha was today, and we served a joyous, short liturgy, just like on Pascha and Bright week. Now I can put away the trikiri with cross for next year.

Ascension.


Ascension is tomorrow. This is a critical part of our salvation, and contains within it many important dogmatic truths that can only be understood if they are experienced. The major part of this experience is the living of the life in Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but our learning must also begin with and continually involve the worship of the church, as we are always like the Ethiopian eunuch, who told the Apostle Philip that he could not understand the scriptures unless he had someone to explain them to him. The explanation, par-excellence that we have access to is the holy services, when we stand, and sing or listen with attention and expectation.

I have taught this to you many times, throughout the whole of my ministry and still, many of you do not understand. I can gauge your understanding by observing over time your actions, and zeal to attend the services and confess and commune.

You only have one opportunity to stand and pray with the entire church, triumphant and militant, about the Ascension this year. There is enlightenment awaiting you, and substantial invisible change that you will experience, whether you understand it or not. I want this change for you, and grieve when the evening services are so poorly attended. I serve them for you, and also for myself, since, like Peter, I must say that I am a man just like you, and therefore am subject to passions, ignorance and weakness. I have discovered a beautiful pearl, and I endeavor several times a week to show it to you, but for the most part, in shines in obscurity.

Ascension vigil 7 PM tonight.
Ascension liturgy 8 AM tomorrow.

Asceticism

I will continue to exhort you to be ascetical in your life, the only one you have. Time is short. Your asceticism must consist of mastering yourself, obeying the commandments, and doing many times what you do not want to do, because it is the way of God.

How can you accomplish these things? There is not a mystery to this.

God helps us, but not when we are on our couch, literally and/or figuratively . We must pray at home, fast, struggle to live as Christians,. read the scriptures, confess and commune frequently,. and pray in the corporate services of the church with zeal and expectation.

Will you join me tonight and  expect something?

Ascension vigil 7 PM tonight.
Ascension liturgy 8 AM tomorrow.

Disappointment, and our place in the parish family

Since I am human, like you, I get disappointed and sad about things. just like you. I was very sad sad last night, when only two people not related to me came to the Paschal Vespers to pray, after I had asked you all to come and pray as a community.

We are in perilous and difficult times, and we should bear these burdens together. No matter what else we do, we must pray together, especially when your pastor specifically asks you to because of a special reason. I know some could not come, but mostly likely some just did not come. 

As a community, a family of believers, we had a great loss last night. I know all about inconveniences and traffic, and being tired, and all the rest. As I said, I am just like you.

My daily prayer and hope as a pastor is that each of you would understand your pivotal role in the health of our parish family, and value our gathering together more. I believe that we have taken so long to build because our community has not valued prayer together enough. I have set an example, as a layman and as a pastor, and all I can do is pray, and occasionally exhort, with the hope that I am not "tuned out". I am doing this now.

A/C progress, moving plans

We have received an anonymous donation for replacing the stolen A/C units. Their cost is covered. I am not sure if this alms-giver will also pay for the additional security measures. They will cost around $1000.

The city of McKinney, required an approval process for the A/C unit cage, has slowed things up a lot. We anticipate having the cage design approved this week, and installed Monday or Tuesday. The new units will be installed after that. We could have an inspection and temp occupancy permit by Wednesday or Thursday next week. We will hopefully move next week, and be in the new temple NEXT weekend

Ascension services, and this weekend's services will be in DALLAS.

We may need to be out of the old place next week no matter what. I will get verification about this on Saturday.

Schedule change.

My son has a play tomorrow night, a kind of "dinner theatre" I want to go. I cannot go on Friday because of an important pastoral commitment. I will therefore not serve a moleben tomorrow. If anyone wants to come to the new temple and sing the akathist to St Nicholas, you have my blessing and encouragement.

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Ascension of Christ. 11 Questions and Answers.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


[1]

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/ascension_1.html

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/ascension_1.doc

QUESTION 1. What significance does the event of the Ascension of Jesus Christ have for the Christian? We should understand why we celebrate any feast, and its inner meaning.

 

ANSWER

Christ ascended to Heaven as man and as God. Once he became a man, being at the same time, as always, perfect God, he never put off His manhood, but deified it, and made it and us capable of apprehending heavenly things.

The Ascension is a prophecy of things to come for those who love God and believe in Him in an Orthodox manner. Those who believe and live according to this belief will be in the heavens, in the flesh, with Him, just as He now abides in the Heavens in the flesh. Our flesh and souls will be saved, because Christ made human flesh capable of deification.

We also call to mind the promise of the Holy Spirit, since Christ mentions this promise He had made before to them, and its advent is tied to His ascension thusly:

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. {8} And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: {9} Of sin, because they believe not on me; {10} Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; {11} Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." (John 16:7-11)

What Christ has done for human flesh and our souls is impossible to understand, but the church, with sweet melody, meditates with fervor and thanksgiving and precise theology in her services.

"O Christ, having taken upon thy shoulders our nature, which had gone astray, thou didst ascend and bring it unto God the Father" (Matins canon for the Ascension, Ode 7)

"Having raised our nature, which was deadened by sin, Thou didst bring it unto Thine own Father, O Savior" (ibid.)

"Unto Him Who by His descent destroyed the adversary, and Who by His ascent raised up man, give praise O ye priests, and supremely exalt Him, O ye people, unto all the ages." (Matins canon for the Ascension, Ode 8)

Since the disciples were "filled with great joy", we who are Orthodox in belief and way of life should naturally be this way also, and should hasten to the temple. There we can meditate upon the magnificent truths and promises in the ascension by listening carefully to the divinely inspired theology, sung in sweet melody. If we pray with care, and expectation, having valued divine worship above our worldly cares, surely God will enlighten us and noetically teach us the true meaning of Christ's Ascension.


 

QUESTION 2. There is an important account of the Ascension in the scriptures that is not in the Gospels. Where is it? The story involves angels. How? Describe how a cloud was involved.

 

ANSWER

St. Luke, who wrote an account of the Ascension in his Gospel, also wrote a slightly different account in his Acts of the Apostles. In this account, he describes two angels who speak to the Apostles as they are gazing at Christ going up into the sky:

"And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)

St Luke also mentions a cloud in his account in the Acts:

"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)

"Thou Who art immortal by nature didst arise on the third day, and didst appear unto the eleven and all the disciples, and riding upon a cloud, didst hasten back unto the Father, O Thou creator of all." (Matins canon for the Ascension, 1st Ode, Irmos)


 

QUESTION 3. In the gospel reading for liturgy on the Ascension, two gifts are mentioned by Christ. One is given and one is promised. What are they? Comment on their importance and meaning for a Christian.

 

 

ANSWER

When Christ saw his disciples in the upper room, he told them:

"Peace be unto you." (Luke 24:36).

This peace is not a worldly peace, but is the gift of God, and the attainment of it is the purpose of our life. The only way to understand this peace is to live the Christian life and be changed. It is freely given, but not freely received – not until a man is purified by intense effort, war against his passions, and desire to fulfill the will of God.

Shortly after this, Christ promised:

"And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49).

This, of course, is the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be given only ten days later, on Pentecost.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is so profound, it cannot be described adequately.

He convicts concerning sin and righteousness, He gives strength, He gives wisdom, and the words to say when being persecuted. Ignorant and weak fisherman and all those who make an abode for Him wax bold in their witness of the gospel. He guides the church, and enlightens every man concerning the truth. Without Him, the Christian life cannot be lived.


 

QUESTION 4. What mountain did Christ ascend from? How will this mountain be involved in another, cataclysmic event?

 

 

ANSWER 4

Christ ascended by the Mount of Olives. "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey." (Luke 1:12). Holy tradition understands that Christ will come to judge the world at the culmination of all things "from the East" over this very same mountain.

"And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; {11} Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)


 

QUESTION 5. There is a significant occurrence in the Ascension story that can only be understood in the context of the church, and the absolute need for apostolic succession of bishops and priests. This occurrence, properly understood, should cause everyone who trusts his own interpretation of the bible outside of the context of a visible, authoritative and dogmatic church to flee from his false, individual understanding and seek out the church.

What is this occurrence? Comment on it, and try to specify other scriptures which point out or support this critical Christian teaching.

 

 

ANSWER

It is clear that the scriptures are a dark book, unless God gives illumination. The Jews did not understand the book they gave appearances to love, and Jesus corrected their misunderstandings numerous times. The Holy apostles themselves had to be taught in numerous private sessions with their Lord, an important one which is described in the Ascension story:

"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, {46} And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: {47} And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. {48} And ye are witnesses of these things. {49} And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:45-49)

There much that the apostles were taught that was not written in the scriptures, and which has become part of the mind of the church, through the teaching of the apostles, and all their successors, who remained true to their teachers as the apostles had to one great teacher. St. John alludes to this hidden wisdom, held so closely to the bosom of the church, when he says:

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (John 21:25)

St. Peter admonishes us and reminds us of our own frailty and the sure reliability of the church when he tells us:

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20)


 

QUESTION 6. When is Ascension celebrated?

 

ANSWER

 

Ascension is always on a Thursday, exactly forty days after Pascha, just like it occurred in the Scriptures. The Jewish (and Orthodox) way of reckoning days is to count the first and last days. So, Pascha is the first day, and Ascension Thursday, in the 6th week after Pascha, is the Fortieth day.

 

In the same way, Christ was in the tomb three days, although not even one and a half days in terms of hours.  Good Friday, the first day, He was buried in the late afternoon. The second day, Saturday, His body lay in the tomb the entire day, then at some point in the very early hours of the third day, He rose from the dead.

 

 


 

QUESTION 7. What commemoration is the day before Ascension? Explain.

 

 

ANSWER

The Apodosis of Pascha is celebrated on the Wednesday before Ascension Thursday (according to the Russian Typicon).

All Great Orthodox feasts, according to the Jewish model, have three phases.

There is a preparation phase, which may be very long. The preparation for Pascha is the whole of Great Lent, and especially Holy Week. Great Feasts such as Theophany and Nativity have pre-festal Vesperal divine liturgies served the day before. Many feasts are preceded with certain hymns, such as the katavasia of the matins canon, sung for a period before a feast.

The feast itself is the ultimate celebration, and then there is a post-festal period, where the truths of the celebration are meditated upon at length in the services.

For Pascha, this period is forty days, and ends on the "Apodosis", or "leave-taking" of the feast, on the Wednesday before Ascension.


 

QUESTION 8. How long is the feast of the Ascension?

 

ANSWER

The feast of the Ascension lasts until the Friday before Pentecost, when its Apodosis occurs. This makes perfect sense, as we are waiting for Pentecost, just as the disciples were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus promised would come to them.


 

QUESTION 9. What, in general terms, is the Typicon for the services of the Ascension? List all the books needed to serve the services completely. Where may one obtain the main texts for the Ascension in English?

 

 

ANSWER

One the eve of the Ascension, Wednesday evening, an All Night vigil is served. This is a service which combines Great Vespers, Litya, Matins and the First Hour, with slight changes to the beginning and end of Great Vespers and Matins from their form when they are served alone.

The "rank" of commemoration is "Vigil" The rank indicates somewhat the importance of the feast, and how much the regular formats for vespers and matins will be modified. Two other "ranks" are "single commemoration" and "double commemoration".

On Thursday morning, the Third and Sixth hours and Divine Liturgy are served.

To serve the Great vespers, Litya, matins, the hours, and Divine liturgy the following service books are needed.

  • The Horologion – the fixed parts of vespers, matins, the hours and the Divine liturgy
  • The Psalter – needed for the kathisma readings at vespers and matins. Usually any other psalms that are read are in the Horologion
  • The Apostolos – for the epistle reading at liturgy.

The Old Testament – Great vespers has 3 OT readings. They are usually contained in the service texts in the

  • Gospel – read in matins and the liturgy.
  • The Pentecostarion – texts for the feast, such as the stichera at Lord I have cried, the Aposticha, the matins canon, etc.
  • The priest's liturgikon – used by the priest for services like vespers, matins, Compline, the midnight office, the hours and divine liturgy.

 

QUESTION 10. Detail the differences between the services of the Ascension and those of a "regular" Sunday.

 

 

ANSWER

On a "regular" Sunday, vigil is appointed, just as for Ascension. The services are very similar, with these differences (and some, similarities, listed for comparison purposes):

Vespers:

Both have ten stichera at Lord I have cried. All of the stichera for the Ascension are about the feast, as is the case for all "great feasts of the Lord". For "regular" Saturday night vespers, there are at most 7 stichera about the Resurrection (sometimes 6, sometimes 4), with the rest being concerned with a Saint(s) or another event At the end of the Lord I have cried stichera, for the Ascension, "Glory … Both Now …" is sung all at once, and one sticheron, about the feast, is sung. In a regular Sunday vigil, there are usually two stichera here, the first one preceded by "Glory to the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit", the second being preceded by "Both now and ever, and to the ages of ages, amen". The second Sticheron is a "Theotokion", which is about the Theotokos and the incarnation.


Three OT readings are read for the Ascension. OT readings are not read in most Sunday vigil services.

Litya is appointed in the Ascension services. This service is usually omitted in a regular Sunday service (but the Old Believers always do a litya on every Sunday)

.
At the end of vespers for the Ascension, the troparion of the feast is sung three times (this is just before the blessing of the loaves, wheat, wine and oil). In regular vespers, "O Theotokos and virgin rejoice" is sung three times.

Matins

The Ascension matins has the "Polyeleos", followed by the "magnification" (the latter is in Russian usage only), whereas a regular Sunday matins usually has in stead of the Polyeleos, the 118th kathisma (known as "the blameless"), and there is no magnification.

Just before the praises, on Sunday, an expostilarion, "Holy is the Lord our God", is sung. This hymn is omitted on the Ascension.

Liturgy

The Ascension liturgy replaces the regular antiphons with festal ones.


QUESTION 11. Detail the differences between the services of the Ascension and those of a "regular" weekday.

 

 

ANSWER

On a "regular" weekday", vespers is served on the eve, and matins in the morning, and no vigil service is sung, as there is for Ascension, Sundays, and most great feasts of the Lord (Pascha being a special exception).

Daily vespers, which is usually served on a weekday is a far simpler service than Great Vespers, with no small entrance, "O Gladsome light" being chanted instead of being sung, and less "Lord I have cried" stichera (there are usually 6). In addition, the last two litanies of both vespers and matins are reverses (read in a different order), and the first two petitions of the second litany in regular (daily) vespers and matins are omitted.

There are numerous other differences, because daily services are much simpler and shorter. Here are a few, off the top of my head.

Vespers

 
The kathisma for Great Vespers on a feast is "Blessed is the man". A different kathisma is read at a daily vespers for every day of the week

No Small entrance, OT readings, at a daily vespers

No litya at the end of a daily vespers.

Less "Lord I have cried stichera" at a daily vespers

Matins

No gospel, "Save O God" intercession at a daily matins.

That is enough for now. The best place to understand these services and their differences is to study the service books and chant or sing in the chanters stand.

 

 

From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texaswww.orthodox.net

 

This document is at http://www.orthodox.net/questions/ascension_1.html  & http://www.orthodox.net/questions/ascension_1.doc

 

 

New Questions & answers” & “10 things” entries, sermons, journal entries , scripture commentary & more are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Archive of “Questions & Answers”:  http://www.orthodox.net/questions

 

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] This document is a list of ten (more or less) questions & answers about a particular topic. More “Questions and Answers” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/questions. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

 

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Ascension. The whole of our faith is Jesus Christ. Two prophesies, one fulfilled, one being fulfilled. Audio

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

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Where thieves break through and steal. Our A/C has been stolen.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  (20)  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  (21)  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Mat 6:19-21)

We are building a temple for one purpose only – the facilitate the laying up of treasure in Heaven. The parish temple is a critical part of the life of the parish.

If we do not pray together, frequently. with compunction and theological correctness, we are nothing, no matter what else we think we are. All the services, and especially, preeminently (but never alone, that is the only service ever celebrated!) the celebration of Divine Liturgy and the partaking of the "bread from Heaven" is the lifeblood of the parish family.

Our temple is important,and has been quite costly in terms of worldly measurements. There have been many delays, difficulties, and problems that can only be understood as part of the attacks of the spirits of the air. We are now enduring another attack. Although human thieves stole our air conditioning units in the dead of night yesterday, we must see the spiritual ramifications of this act of defilement. The thieves defiled themselves by their breaking of God's law, and may God have mercy on them, and lead them to amend their lives.

How will we react to this stunning setback? To answer correctly, we need only remember why we are building the temple. It is for the salvation of our souls, and as we are growing in holiness, the temple will be a place that will shine to the community, and many others will be warmed by our light, and its light. We are building the temple primarily to pray, and to preach the Gospel, by our words and actions.

Let's do this! . We have Paschal Vespers tonight. EVERYONE who is able should come to pray together. We will sing "Christ is risen", and "Let God arise", and we will be changed in some invisible, holy way. We should gather as a people tonight, to worship God, and to beseech His help.

There are practical concerns too, but they are much less important. We have reported the theft to the police. Most likely it is drug related. The thieves will trash the units and attempt to sell the copper. We may have another unit in place today, with security measures. Our insurance may cover some of the cost, but we have a high deductible. Our builder may have some insurance. The additional security measures will come our of our pocket.

This is a time of extreme need for us, as a people, since we have no funds available. Will we react to this setback as Christians do, or will we merely be angry, or passively disappointed?

Perhaps someone reading this will wish to give us alms to help. I am certainly hoping this is the case, and am reaching out to all our friends – those in the community and those many hundreds of thousands (over a half million people last year) who read our blog and website. We need monetary help.

We as a people must be worthy of this help, by doing everything to save our souls, and therefore, having the capacity and ability to reach out to others, and be a light that is set on a table in McKinney.

Paschal Vespers, tonight, in Dallas, 7:15 PM

Wed – Paschal Liturgy: 6 AM

Wed Vigil for the Annunciation 7 PM

Thu Annunciation Liturgy 8 AM

At this point, we still think we will be moving Thursday, and be in the new temple this weekend.

 

Contact Deacon Nicholas (treasurer) or Fr Seraphim if you wish to be a founding benefactor to our temple.

seraphim@orthodox.net

npark153@gmail.com

 

Priest Seraphim Holland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Orthodoxy and Mission work – St Justin Popovich

Monday, May 10th, 2010

St Justin Popovich, recently glorified by the Church of Serbia, is one of my favorite authors. He would not be among the favorites of many Orthodox, because he is blunt and truthful. He addresses here Missionary work. I have had discussions about this in the parish before, and I present his words here because they are provocative, and TRUE. So much that passes for missionary work and its sister "ecumenical dialogue" is insipid and lifeless because it is not ascetical (and therefore, cannot be truthful, because it cannot not know the truth).

Like any quote, it cannot address all aspects of a subject, but every word St Justin speaks should be taken to heart. I hope that some dialogue will result because of this post.


The Ascetics are Orthodoxy’s only missionaries.

Asceticism is her only missionary school.

Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about.

The development of asceticism . . . this ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people. The parish must become an ascetic focal point. But this can only be achieved by an ascetic priest.

Prayer and fasting, the Church-oriented life of the parish, a life of liturgy: Orthodoxy holds these as the primary ways of effecting rebirth in its people. The parish, the parish community must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people, meek and lowly and in a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. And such service must be imbued and nourished by prayer and the liturgical life. This much is groundwork and indispensable.

But to this end there exists one prerequisite: that our Bishops, priests, and our monks become ascetics themselves. That this might be, then: Let us beseech the Lord. (St Justin (Popovi?), Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, ed. Fr Asterios Gerostergios (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 1994), p. 30,31)


Taken from a great Article:

'The Lives of the Saints Are Applied Dogmatics'—On the Glorification of St Justin"

from the Blog "Logismoi"


My comments.

A missionary who does not love the services, the Psalter, the Gospels, fasting and ascetical effort is not a missionary. The same goes for a priest. We cannot give what we do not have, and we cannot have God without struggle – all with ourselves. God gives Himself freely, but we cannot bear Him in our souls without ascetical struggle. The Orthodox world does not readily acknowledge this truth – one only need look at our churches on Saturday night to know something is terribly wrong.

This is why I talk so much about fasting and the services. They are not missionary work (although there are many stories, including mine, of how the holy services caused a person to be joined to the church) – but such work cannot be done without them, except (in the latter instance only) among the truly exceptional – and those are they who have noetic prayer.

I am not an ascetic priest, because my passions burden me – but I can say without lying that I aspire to be. At least, God helping us, we have two liturgies a week, and proper services on the weekend. With God helping us, there will be more. Perhaps in time more of my flock will see the great importance of prayer together, and with it, more frequent confession and communion, and effort in everything!

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