Archive for August, 2010

The relationship between Confession and Communion How do we stay “sinless” between confession and communion?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The relationship between Confession and Communion

How do we stay “sinless” between confession and communion?

[This is an oldy but a goody - first put on our website in 1996.Pr S.]

There is a common misunderstanding of the relationship between mysteries of Holy Confession and Holy Communion. There often seems to be a predominant idea that the link between these two is somehow a legal concrete thing – that there must be a 1:1 correspondence or some specific ratio and that any deviation from that ratio constitutes an abrogation of tradition or requires some kind of formal "dispensation".

But this is not the relationship that really exists.

While it is true that there is often a functional relationship that appears as though a formal ration exists, this is actually a coincidental observation.

These two mysteries, actually form part of a larger whole of the spiritual life and both form a closely connected but not dependant link in producing a spiritual life. There are of course other components such as fasting, prayer, self denial, obedience, righteous deeds, etc. to living a spiritual life which are also a part of this picture, but in this case I wish to confine myself only to the issue at hand – confession and communion.

These two mysteries are not part of the same process, but rather are themselves parallel and often intertwined processes.

Holy Communion is not dependent on Holy Confession, nor is Holy Confession dependent upon Holy Communion.

Each is independent but at the same time they work together toward the same goal.

Just as a physician might see you and diagnose an illness and then prescribe therapy that includes many components, (for example medication, diet, physical therapy & counseling) which all are targeted toward the goal of recovery so also the spiritual condition might be diagnosed in confession, and various spiritual remedies prescribed by the confessor.

And one of those spiritual remedies may be to refrain from receiving Holy Communion for a time (just as a physician might temporarily restrict your diet for a particular purpose) or perhaps the remedy prescribed might be to receive Holy Communion (like taking medication – or to stay with the diet analogy, to eat the proper nutritional foods).

The frequency that one goes to the Doctor is determined by the severity and course of the illness and the various restrictions on the diet are governed again by the patient’s condition and improvement. So also the "ratio" of confession to communion is determined by the spiritual physician (your confessor) and corresponds to the severity of your spiritual condition, your relative spiritual health, your particular spiritual needs, etc.

There are times when you cannot receive Holy Communion (such as a period of epitimia – penance – following a divorce for example) but when you should receive the mystery of Holy Confession regularly. OTOH, there may be times when the priest may permit one to receive Holy Communion weekly but only require confession on a biweekly basis. And just because you develop a particular rhythm at one time doesn't mean that it is constant – just as your frequency of seeking medical help is not constant.

Holy Confession in and of itself is not a prerequisite to Holy Communion. To take this position is to subordinate the one mystery to the other and so lessen its importance. Rather both mysteries are necessary and often they are combined for the health of the soul.

The "prerequisite" for Holy Communion is not a completely pure soul, but rather one that is "healthy" and prepared. And most frequently the way to guarantee that state is through receiving the mystery of Holy Confession.

Now on a practical note, there is the question of how to "stay" sinless from confession on Saturday evening until communion on Sunday morning.

If you structure your Saturday evening such that all overt sources of temptation are removed:

(TV

,Movies

,Games

,parties, etc.)

and are replaced with spiritually beneficial activities

(participation in vigil;

the service of preparation, including canons and akathists [1];

spiritual reading;

prayer;

psalmody [2];

spiritual conversation; etc.)

then you will have gone a long ways toward avoiding sin.

This is all very simple to do – except for the fact that one must deny oneself to accomplish all this.

In the "wisdom" of the world, Saturday night is a night of parties and entertainment and leisure and mindless activity. It is hard to rule out all these things and concentrate only on the fact that you will be receiving in yourself He Who is an all consuming purifying fire, He Who is the Creator of All, He Who is Uncontainable; you are about to encounter God face to face.

Read carefully the prayers and hymns that are appointed to be said in preparation and choose those images (they are many) which create in your soul the most beneficial effects. Use those images (verbal icons) as a framework to which you conform your mind and thoughts. If this is your Saturday night activity, then you will be able to keep yourself far from sin.

Edited and footnotes added, from a post to an Orthodox mailing list, dated Fri, 8 Nov 1996 by Priest David Moser,
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (stseraphimboise.org), 872 N 29th St, Boise ID
Email: frdavid@stseraphimboise.org
Used with permission

 

  St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

  http://www.orthodox.net/articles/confession-and-communion.html

http://www.orthodox.net/articles/confession-and-communion.doc

 

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[1] The service for Preparation for communion is in any complete prayer book, like the “Jordanville” prayerbook. It consists of  some introductory prayers, three psalms, a canon of preparation, and a selection of beautiful and highly theological and comprehensive prayers preserved from various holy Fathers. It takes about 40 minutes or less to complete. A short discussion of these prayers is at http://www.orthodox.net/10things/preparation-for-holy-communion.html under item #5. This rule is also found here: http://www.orthodox.net/services/canons-for-communion.html (also in PDF and Word format) . If you are not accustomed to this rule, you need to be. Do not be afraid of it. It could be done in parts each day.

[2] “Psalmody” means chanting from the Psalter, the preeminent “hymn book “ of Christian History. It is well worth it to learn how to “chant” the Psalms” and make it a habit to chant them daily. Your priest or chanter should be able to teach you, and will be willing!

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Parable Of The Unmerciful Debtor. Gratitude and self Knowledge lead to forgiving others. 11th Sun of Pentecost 2010. Audio Homily.

Monday, August 9th, 2010

LISTEN NOW

Many more homilies on the unmerciful debtor at

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#11th_Sunday_of_Pentecost

Matthew 18:23-35 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2010-08-08+parable-of-the-unmerciful-debtor.m3u

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More Questions about the Transfiguration

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

As a portion of our Orthodox brethren are in the midst of the after feast of the Transfiguration, I thought I would make you aware of more Questions and answers about this feast that serve as a catechetical instruction:

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration_1.html

As some are in the Dormition fast, which we will observe in a few days, it is interesting to note that today we commemorate another Dormition, The FALLING-ASLEEP (DORMITION) OF RIGHTEOUS ANNA, MOTHER OF THE MOSTHOLY MOTHER OF GOD, July 25/Aug 7

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Parable Of the Unmerciful Debtor It is all about imitation. Text, Audio Homily.

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Parable Of the Unmerciful Debtor
It is all about imitation.

We will pay the debt. We cannot know Him if we are still sinners.

11th Sunday of Pentecost
Matthew 18:23-35

2009

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

“So likewise shall My Heavenly Father do also unto you,” the Lord says after the parable about the unmerciful debtor. And He begins the parable by saying: “The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto.”

We see this many times in Scripture. Pay attention because constantly the Scripture is telling you what to imitate and what will happen if you do not imitate. The Scripture is full of examples of how we should live. All of the Kingdom of Heaven parables are of this format:

 
“The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto.”

 

And the things that are being described are meant to tell us how we should live, how we should think, what we should feel, what is important, how we should be. The Kingdom of Heaven is what we become - if we do not become good in this life, in the eternal, when we are in the presence of goodness, we will be afraid, we will be terrified.

 

You saw in the Transfiguration that the three Apostles were not prepared to see the light of Christ because they were still impure. So they had to have seasoning, as it were, and become ready to know God in an intimate way, just as we must.

This parable is about how we should live, and it contains obviously a deep moral essence. Everyone knows the basics of it. If someone forgives you, then you should forgive others. God has forgiven us so we should forgive others. But that’s just really a cursory interpretation of the parable.

We must understand what these talents are – we owe God something because He has forgiven us. God is offended with our sins. We should be offended with them, too. Sin causes pain in us and in others – to those we love and those that perhaps we do not love as we should, we cause pain with our sins, with our passions.

These are the talents that were owed to the Lord. We must respond to the Lord’s forgiveness. And we owe – we, I say, because the man in the parable is you and me – we owe ten thousand talents, we have so many sins, so many passions, so many ways we offend God that they cannot even be counted. Ten thousand is an arbitrarily large number. Actually, what would it be? Ten million, ten billion? So many sins.


And what does the Lord say? In this parable He says what is going to happen at the end, in the beginning. The person who has these talents that are owed and does not repent, he will be sold, meaning he will go to hell with his wife and his children. And the “wife” is desire, and the “children” are the results of that desire, meaning our sins. So passions lead to sins, and all of it is going to burn if we do not change.

And so what does the man do? What do we do? Well, haven’t we come to God? Haven’t we been baptized? Don’t we profess ourselves to be Christians? So in essence we are saying what this man said, forgive me, be patient with me and I will pay thee off. And it seems perhaps that we cannot pay this debt.

 

And yet we will pay the debt.

 

Because the debt is not something that we owe to God or else we will be punished. The debt is that we must change and become holy. God wants us to become holy. He came to earth to enable us to become holy. Not just for the forgiveness of our sins. I’ve told you many times: A forgiven sinner is still a sinner and still has all the pain and the incompleteness of being a sinner. God came so that we would not be sinners.

 

We cannot know Him if we are sinners.

When the man is forgiven by the Lord of his ten thousand talents there is an implicit command that the Lord gives him. He doesn’t say it. But at the end, it’s clear that He intended this command to be understood. And that is: Since I’ve forgiven you, you forgive others. Because we love God, we should desire to follow His Commandments. And because God loves His creatures, we should express the highest aspect of love, and that is to forgive others. It’s the hardest and the highest and the greatest aspect of love.

Now, if we love God’s creatures, there are really two ways that we can interact with them that are pleasing to God. The first leads to the second.

The first is that we forgive people their trespasses against us, the things that we don’t like that they’ve done to us, said to us, that they’ve hurt us in some way, that they’ve lied to us. Each one of us has hundreds of occurrences, thousands of occurrences in our lives when these things have happened when people have hurt us, either purposely or accidentally, with thought or without any thought.

 

As we are learning to forgive those who have hurt us, we are empowered to love and reach out to those who have need.

 

It is a false calculus to reach out to strangers when we do not forgive those we know. Nothing good will come out of this for us. You cannot have it in this order. First love those around you, your family, friends, co-workers, enemies. And then out of this love, you will be empowered to do great things for people that perhaps you barely know, to reach out to people that have needs.

We are about to do that in a small way today. I sent you a letter recently, that was sent by Metropolitan Hilarion concerning the difficult circumstances of Father Christopher in Uganda. Sometimes doesn’t even have enough money to buy wine to serve liturgy, and his Matushka is very sick and he can’t afford to help her. So we are taking up a collection for them, as many churches all over the country and all over the world are doing or have done already, to send to them.

 

We do not know much about Fr Christopher. We don’t know him personally. He is an easy guy to like because we don’t know any of his faults. It’s a lot harder to like people when you know their faults. But we must be like the Lord showed us: We have faults, He’s forgiven them. Others have faults, and He has enabled us to become great, to forgive others.

We should not be like this man who goes out and as St James describes in another place looks in the glass and then he walks away and then he doesn’t know who he is [1].

 

All he needed do is one thing.

 

Was he told to say his prayers every day faithfully, fast well, be free of passions of the flesh? No.

 

Forgive. That is the highest of all things. He was told to forgive his brother.

 

And yet the Scripture says that he found someone who owed him money. It sounds like he sought him out.

 

If you notice, the words that the debtor of the small debt says, are identical to the one who was just forgiven by God. It’s not accidental.

And so the man has forgotten who he is, forgotten what the purpose of God’s forgiveness is. The purpose of His forgiveness is to help us to become good.

 

Having forgotten all that he throws his fellow servant into prison for a small paltry sum because his fellow servant gets him angry about things, or his fellow servant has hurt him in some way, or his fellow servant has lied to him or taken a job that he wanted or whatever else.

And we are guilty of these same things -  not throwing people in prison but, remember, parables are meant to show things metaphorically. The servant who has been forgiven who does not forgive his fellow servant is the one who remembers wrongs, who’s angry towards others, who does not love others as God loves him.

All we need do is forgive others and we will be saved.

Remember the story about this monk that I told you? He was lazy; he didn’t get up for matins; he ate too much; he didn’t always fast. He wasn’t a good monk. And he was coming to the point of death. And so all the brothers were gathered around him and were praying for him and were concerned that when the time of death would come he would be terrified because, after all, he had not lived as a good monk. And they saw him with this incredibly beautiful, peaceful smile. And they said: Brother, why aren’t you upset, why aren’t you afraid? You did not lead a good life. He says: ‘Yes, brothers that’s true, but I can tell you that ever since I have come into the monastery, I have never, ever judged anyone.’

That’s the only way we have to make it to Heaven, is to be free of judging others. And then when you learn to be free of judging others, then you can truly act out with love towards others, even those that you don’t know, as well as those that you do know.

This Gospel is all about imitation. The whole Gospel is about imitation. Our life, the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, is about imitation. The saints, we should imitate them. Apostle Paul explicitly says, be imitators of me. Christianity is about imitation.

 
So what our Lord did to us, we must do to others. It’s as simple and as plain as that.

 

So measure yourself by whether or not you forgive others. It’s a very tall order. It’s not just what you do to others. It’s how you think about them.

In the Old Testament sins were what you did. But the Lord showed us that really sins are what are in the heart. It’s how you feel, what you think. Those things lead to what we do. Sometimes we don’t even do anything, but we’re still guilty of not loving our brother and not forgiving him because of the things we harbor in our hearts.

So, brothers and sisters, it is simple, real simple. I wouldn’t say it is easy, but it’s simple. Imitate the Lord. He’s forgiven, so we should forgive.

And as far as I can see, the only way to be able to put this in practice is to feel deeply what the Lord has done for us. The only way one can feel deeply what the Lord has done is by struggling to follow the Commandments, and then there is enlightenment from the Holy Spirit that teaches us the kind of person we are, the kind of person we were and we are becoming. Then we can have true empathy and compassion for our fellow man who is in the same fix that we’re in. The compassionate man is the person who knows himself.

 

This man who was forgiven his sins didn’t know himself, and he fell headlong into hell. Let us not be as he was. Instead, let us be as the King was. Let us forgive those, all of those who have wronged us in any way, and then we will be with the King in Heaven. Amen.

 

Transcribed by the hand of the handmaiden of God Helen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 3010.    

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2009-8-23.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2009-8-23.doc

Audio: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2009-8-23.mp3

 

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[1] James 1:23-24 KJV  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 

 

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Scripture read on Transfiguration: 10 questions 8-10

Friday, August 6th, 2010

All ten questions are at

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration-scripture_1.html

QUESTION 8

How did Jesus' Transfiguration prepare the apostles for His subsequent crucifixion?


Much of the meaning of a particular event is revealed in the holy services, especially Vespers and Matins. This is why it is absolutely necessary for a Christian to zealously attend the Vigil service. The services, and the commentaries of the holy fathers, which have entered into the mind of the church, explain that the apostles were prepared for the crucifixion by witnessing the Transfiguration, and the "splendor of the resurrection" that it prefigured. They would soon be subjected to terrible temptations and fears, and our Savior wanted to put the knowledge of His divinity indelibly in their minds, to help them in the terrible days of his trial and death.

Kontakion of the Feast, Tone 7

On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, / and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it, O Christ God; / that when they would see Thee crucified, / they would comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary, / and proclaim to the world that Thou art of a truth // the Effulgence of the Father.

Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, / the mountain emulated the heavens, / and the cloud spread itself out like a tabernacle / when Thou wast transfigured and borne witness to by the Father. / There were Peter, James and John, / for they were to be with Thee also at the time of Thy betrayal, / that, beholding Thy wonders, / they might not be afraid of Thy sufferings, / which do Thou vouchsafe that we may venerate in peace, // for the sake of Thy great mercy. ( First Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

Taking the disciples up upon the lofty mountain / before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, / Thou wast transfigured before them, / illumining them with effulgence of power, / desiring both in Thy love for mankind and in Thine authority / to show them the splendor of the resurrection, / which do thou vouchsafe unto us in peace, // in that Thou art merciful and lovest man-kind. (Third Sticheron of the Feast for Lord I have cried, Tone 4)


 

QUESTION 9

"But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: " (vs. 32)

Why were they heavy with sleep?


 

"Then to show that he was holden with great fear, both he and the rest, he saith, "They were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory;"25 meaning by deep sleep here, the deep stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed down the infirmity of their eyes." (St John Chrysostom)


 

QUESTION 10

"And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. " (Luke 9:36)

Why did the Apostles tell nobody about this startling event?


  

Jesus ordered his three disciples to say nothing about His transfiguration:

" And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead." (Matthew 17:9)

The Lord told them to be quiet so that people would not be scandalized when they saw him on the cross. He saved this knowledge only for His three favorites, because He knew it would help them.

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Scripture read on Transfiguration: 10 questions 4-7

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

All ten questions are at

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration-scripture_1.html

QUESTION 4

" And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. " (Luke 9:29)

What made His raiment white and glistering? What occurrence in the OT proves it is possible for our "countenance to be altered"?


 Jesus Christ was illuminated by the "uncreated light", or energies of God, which proceeded from Himself.

Moses' face was also bright after he saw the "back parts" of God. When he descended the mountain, no one among the Israelites could bear to look upon his face. He had encountered the uncreated light, and even as a mortal, was changed.

"And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. {13} Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. {14} And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. {15} And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. {16} For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. {17} And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. {18} And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. {19} And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. {20} And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. {21} And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: {22} And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: {23} And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

{34:1} And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. {2} And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. {3} And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. {4} And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. {5} And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. {6} And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, {7} Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …

{28} And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. {29} And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. {30} And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. {31} And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. {32} And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. {33} And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. " (Exodus 33:12-23,34:1-7,28-33)


 

QUESTION 5

"And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. " (Luke 9:20-31)

Moses and Elias conversation about events after their death proves and important truth about the dead, which a good part of those who profess to be Christians seem to not be aware of. What?


 

God is the God of the living, not the dead. The dead in Christ are still aware and can pray to God, and know of things in the material world. We ask their intercessions precisely because they can hear us, and their intercessions on our behalf are bold.


 

QUESTION 6

"And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. " (Luke 9:20-31)

Why did Moses and Elias appear? What does each represent?


 

Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophets. Both the law and the prophets spoke of and pointed to Christ, and were in complete agreement with Him, as their conversation on Mount Tabor shows. Their presence, together with the apostles also underscored that God is the God of the "living and the dead".

"Transfigured on the high mountain, / the Savior, having with Him His Elias-eminent disciples,/ shone forth most wondrously, / showing them forth as illumined by the loftiness of the virtues / and as ones vouchsafed divine glory. / Moses and Elijah, who spake with Christ, / showed that He hath authority over the living and the dead, / and that He is the God Who of old spake through the law and the prophets. / Of Him was the voice of the Father heard saying from the cloud of light: / "Him do ye obey, / Who through the Cross made hell captive // and granteth life everlasting to the dead!" (Lord I have cried, Tone 4)

"Moses the God-beholder and Elijah of the fiery chariot, / who traversed the heavens without being consumed,/ beholding Thee, O Christ, in the cloud at Thy Transfiguration, / bore witness to Thee / as the Creator and Fulfiller of the law and the prophets. / With them vouchsafe Thine enlightenment also unto us, O Master, // that we may hymn Thee forever." (Sticheron for "Now and Ever", Aposticha)

The Vespral OT readings provide further mystical illumination concerning the presence of Moses and Elijah. The former asked to see God face to face, and the latter heard Him in the "still small voice". Both intimately experienced the energies of God. Their experiences were a harbinger of things to come.


 

QUESTION 7

"And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: {31} Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. " (Luke 9:20-31)

Why did Moses and Elias speak of Jesus' upcoming passion? It would not be out of order to make an educated guess.


 

The Apostles were pious Jews, and also weak men who needed to be told by Jesus over and over about His upcoming passion. It was very difficult for them to believe that such a terrible thing would happen. As pious Jews, they believed in the scriptures, and revered Moses and Elias and reliable witnesses of the truth. Their prophesying about Jesus' upcoming passion must have had an effect on them, and helped prepare them for the eventual event. It also showed Jesus was in agreement with the law and the prophets.

"… Since many were thinking that Jesus, in seeming to put aside the Sabbath and transgress the law, was opposed to God, the Lord on the mountain appears with the prophets, one of whom was the lawgiver, and the other a Zealot. Such prophets as these would not have conversed with one who seemed to abolish the law, if what He said did not please them" (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9

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Scripture read on Transfiguration: 10 questions 1-3

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

All ten questions are at

http://www.orthodox.net/questions/transfiguration-scripture_1.html

QUESTION 1

"And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray." (LUKE 9:28)

What sayings?


 

Jesus had just finished discoursing with the Apostles about His upcoming passion, and had finished with the enigmatic words:

"Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. " (Matthew 17:28)

Jesus' Transfiguration was the fulfillment of this prophecy. "Some those standing here" would soon see Jesus as He really is, and will be, in His kingdom.


 QUESTION 2

" And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray." (Luke 9:28)

Why did Jesus take these three of His disciples?


 

 

"Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, "We are able to drink the cup; nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him." (St John Chrysostom, Homily LVI on Matthew)


  QUESTION 3

"And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray." (LUKE 9:28)

What were the practical considerations and spiritual meaning of Jesus ascending a mountain to pray?


 Jesus wanted to be alone with his three chosen disciples, in a remote place, so that no other person would see His Transfiguration. The top of a mountain was a safe place to go.

A mountain has symbolized the elevation of our thoughts to spiritual things. It is also a remote place, away from worldly cares. We must ascend in our prayers and our way of life.

"He brings them unto a high mountain, showing that unless a man is raised on high, he does not become worthy of such divine visions." (Blessed Theophylact, commentary on Matthew 17)

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Preparation for Holy Communion. 10 Things. Part 9,10. Summary

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Preparation for Holy Communion

10 Things [1]

 

9. If we are truly to prepare for communion, we must understand what it is.

 

This is impossible for mortals to completely understand, but we can make a good start by attendance at the evening service, observing the “pre-communion” prayers, and meditating upon the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John

 

I am that Bread of Life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the Bread which cometh down from Heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven. If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. This is that Bread which came down from Heaven, not as your fathers ate manna and are dead; he that eateth of this Bread shall live for ever. [5]

 

10. Preparation for Holy Communion includes (not an exhaustive list!)

 

  • Fasting according to the typikon of the church, under the guidance of the confessor.
  • Prayer in at least a portion of the evening service.
  • Saying the Pre-Communion prayers.
  • Fasting from all food in the morning of liturgy, under the guidance of the confessor.
  • Husband and wife should abstain from sexual relations the evening before liturgy.
  • A quiet evening before liturgy, without movies, parties, etc.
  • Arriving on time to liturgy.

 

 

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

 

This document is at http://www.orthodox.net/10things/preparation-for-holy-communion.doc

& http://www.orthodox.net/10things/preparation-for-holy-communion.html

 

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

Archive of “10 things”: http://www.orthodox.net/10things

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) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called  “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

[5] John 6:48-58

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Why could we not cast him out? This is how you obtain belief. 10th Sunday of Pentecost. 2010. Text homily.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Why could we not cast him out?

This is how you obtain belief.

10th Sunday of Pentecost
2010

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

 

The disciples asked our Lord a question today in the first reading, brothers and sisters:

 

“Why could we not cast him out?”

 

When you read the Scriptures, I’ve told you many times because this is very, very important – read them as if they are speaking to you.

 

So this is not just a question about why the Apostles could not cast out a demon from the boy.

 

This is a question about: Why do I feel unhappy? Why do I have trouble with a relationship or with my marriage or with something that makes me sad all the time? Or why can I not do this thing that is good that I know I should do? Or why can I not stop doing this thing that is bad that I know I should not be doing?

 

The Lord answers all of these questions:

 

“Because of your unbelief.“

 

Now, we all believe in God, don’t we? We all say that we believe in Him. We believe in the Trinity, God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And we believe in the Holy Church and that the Church is the Body of Christ. We believe all these things. So how can it be that we still have troubles? Because we believe, don’t we?

 

Belief is not just knowing something; belief is acting according to what we know. So when we have some difficulty or trouble, it is always because of unbelief.

Now, I don’t mean that if someone runs you over in a car, that it was your unbelief that caused that! But when we have troubles in our hearts, when things are just not right in us, it is because of our unbelief. Always.

 

This is a fundamental Christian principle that those experienced in living the Christian life know.

 

Those who have the Holy Spirit abiding in them and have no shred of darkness in them are not upset, disquieted or fearful because of what is happening to them because they’re always in Christ. A hymn sung during the priest’s communion sums it up:

 

“In everlasting remembrance shall the righteous be, he shall not afraid of evil tidings” [1]

 

Everything that happens to us that we don’t like, causes us tension in our hearts, makes us angry or does something rile us up — is because of our unbelief.

 

So then, the important question is: ‘How can I believe?’ It’s not enough to say, I believe in God, because we still have our troubles. There must be something else. It is to live as the God-Man taught us to live.

 

I suppose no more perfect example of how we should be, if we live in this way, is from Galatians. We read it today. We always read it for venerable saints.  Saint Seraphim of Sarov is celebrated today. [2]

 

So we read from Galatians:

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance” [3]

 

Now, that’s a recitation of virtues, and they are only words unless we live them. So how can we live them?

 

That’s the critical question. It’s really the only question that you will need to answer in your life. How can I live according to the Resurrection? Our Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected, and still many are not going to be saved, including those that say they believe in Him. So the Resurrection is not enough. Saying we believe in God is not enough. We must live according to the Resurrection.

 

And Saint Paul puts it in this way:

 

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

 

In this day and age, we have many troubles that are really epidemic: Depression and a feeling of hopelessness and the feeling of not having purpose in our life, and those sorts of things. Why are they rampant? Because we are not living and walking in the Spirit.

 

And living and walking in the Spirit is always about the other guy. It’s not about us. It’s about our neighbor.

 

It’s about having the love of God within us reach out to others. Not for something so trite as to say to fulfill the “great commission,” as I was taught years ago as a Protestant; that’s not the reason why we spread our love to others. It’s because the love of God is within us, and we must act as God acts. The result of that is to show people the Gospel, to tell them the Good News, and some of them will indeed come to believe in this Good News. But that’s not the reason why we tell them of the Gospel. It is because of the love that is within us that we do it.

 

So we have to look to others and care about others. So the Gospel tells us:

 

“Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another… if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” [4]

 

So what is the law of Christ? It is love. It is to love, and therefore, to know God — Who is love.

 

It’s not a list of 37 things we must do. We are to love God, as He has loved us. And in loving Him as He has loved us, we reach out to others. And we’re not envious; we’re not provoking, and we care about people, even those who don’t care about us, even those that would not return our good favor to them.

 

This is how you obtain belief. This is how you have peace in your soul. To care about others as Christ cared about them.

 

Because they are all God’s creatures, and we are of the same state as they and have the same needs as they, of the same brotherhood as they. And therefore, if we love God’s creatures, uncritically and unhypocritically, then there will be a peace come to our soul.

 

When the Apostles asked this question, they didn’t yet understand the fullness of the answer. He gave them one means by which they can have this kind come out when they were saying, Why couldn’t we cast him out. He said, This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. And the Church tells us, this is not only the demon in the boy but our passions, the things that hold us back, and these things will always make you feel dissatisfied in some way. You might be able to grab certain pleasures, but inwardly there is the dissatisfaction, there is an emptiness in you that searches for God.

 

We can find God only if we become like God. That’s the Christian teaching, to love as God loves.

 

If we are not moral, we cannot believe. It’s just not possible.

 

So if you have any difficulty in your life, anything that you do that you shouldn’t do, or don’t do that you should, or feelings that you wish you didn’t have that just keep coming back like a bad penny, the reason why is because of your unbelief.

 

And the way to have belief is not to go and read a theological treatise but is to live according to that treatise, and look to your neighbor and care about your neighbor. This is how we gain belief, brothers and sisters.

 

The Lord said that, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent. “ We know Him by living as He lived. And He lived only caring about His neighbor.

 

So eternal life, sometimes, I think, seems far away to us because we live in a time when everything is important for a moment and then it’s gone, it’s forgotten. What is incredible news for a day, or a week or a month is forgotten a year from now, and something else equally, supposedly, fantastic replaces it. I think we’re kind of numbed to how important it is to know Jesus Christ. Because we live in an age that doesn’t value things.

 

The only purpose in life is to know Jesus Christ. If you know Him, that means you live like Him. And then you will have true belief, and then you will truly have peace in your heart.

 

So, brothers and sisters, if you have some problem in your life, look to your neighbor, not that your neighbor is causing the problem, mind you, but that you are causing the problem because you are not loving your neighbor enough.

 

May God help us to love our neighbor. Amen.

 

Transcribed by the hand of Helen. Edited from the Audio version.

 

 

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

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·         Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·         Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-10_2010-08-01.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-10_2010-08-01.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-10_2010-08-01.mp3

http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

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To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

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All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.



[1] Psalm 111, Septuagint, “Boston” Translation.

[2] The transfer of his relics, which occurred in 1903, celebrated July 19/ Aug 1.

[3] Galatians 5:22-23

[4] Galatians 5:11-6:2

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Preparation for Holy Communion. 10 Things. Part 8. Confession.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Preparation for Holy Communion

10 Things [1]

8. Confession is part of preparation for Holy Communion.

 

The frequency of confession is dependent on the individual, and the confessor. Certainly, if one has not been to confession for a long time, they should have confession before they commune.

 

The three active principals in confession are self-examination, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. This tract cannot go into all details of confession, but citing the Apostle Paul is apropos:

 

Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and then let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

 

The church provides a very safe way for self-examination and useful repentance, to help us to fulfill the admonition of the Apostle.

 

When confessing to another human being, in the context of a grace filled conversation which includes the priest, the one confessing and Christ, it is easier to avoid the lies we easily tell ourselves when we are alone. These are rarely conscious lies – they are the result of ignorance, borne of our pride and overall spiritual blindness. It is much safer to consider spiritual things with a mentor – a confessor. In addition to a more complete self-examination, the one confessing often receives useful advice which will help them to conquer the sins they wish to repent from.

 

Again, it must be stressed: It is not correct to determine YOURSELF that you are unworthy of the mystery of the Eucharist. This is the assigned task (from God!) of your confessor.

 

Come to confession as often as possible, and you will  come to appreciate the spiritual “safety” of such a practice.

 

I greatly desire that everyone in my flock confesses at least monthly.

 



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

 

This document is at http://www.orthodox.net/10things/preparation-for-holy-communion.doc

& http://www.orthodox.net/10things/preparation-for-holy-communion.html

 

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

Archive of “10 things”: http://www.orthodox.net/10things

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) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called  “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

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