Archive for December, 2010

A text that Elder Porphyrios loved. By St Symeon the New Theologion.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

We should look upon all the faithful as one person and consider that Christ is in each one of them

By St Symeon the New Theologion

A text that Elder Porphyrios loved.

 

Icon of Elder Porphyrios http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/porphyrios-elder-02.jpg, originally from http://cyberdesert.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/elder-porphyrios/

Elder Porphyrios persistently taught that our love for our fellow man should be such that we look upon them as we look upon ourselves. At one time he had asked one of his spiritual children to photocopy the following article of St. Symeon, the New Theologian, which was handed out to his visitors.


 


Picture of Elder Porphyrios http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/porphyrios-elder-photo-01.jpg from http://ishmaelite.blogspot.com/2010/06/elder-porphyrios-on-simplicity.html


We should look upon all the faithful as one person and consider that Christ is in each one of them.

 

We should have such love for them that we are ready to sacrifice our very lives for them.

 

For it is incumbent upon us neither to say, nor think of any person as evil, but we must look upon everyone as good.

 

If you see a brother afflicted with a passion, do not hate him. Hate the passion that makes war upon him.

 

And if you see him being terrorized by the habits and desires of previous sins, have compassion on him. Maybe you too will be afflicted by temptation, since you are also made from matter that easily turns from good to evil.

 

Love towards your brother prepares you to love God even more.

 

The secret, therefore, of love towards God is love towards your brother.

 

For if you don't love your brother whom you can see, how is it possible to love God, Whom you do not see?

 

"For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he has not seen" (1 Jn. 4:20)

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/a-text-that-elder-porphyrios-loved-by-st-symeon-the-new-theologion.html

and

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/a-text-that-elder-porphyrios-loved-by-st-symeon-the-new-theologion.doc

 

Originally from: http://www.oodegr.com/english/biblia/Porfyrios_Martyries_Empeiries/A7.htm

 

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

 

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Thinking we always have “time”. The Remembrance of death.

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Parable of the Harvest of the Rich Man

Thinking we always have “time”.

The Remembrance of death

Luke 12:16-21, 26th Sunday after Pentecost or 9th Sunday of Luke

 

From the moment of our birth, we begin a journey through this life which inevitably leads to our death.

 

There is no escaping that fact that it is appointed to all men once to die. It is also true that no man truly knows the day and hour of his own death for it can come at any moment. Oh yes, we all believe that we will live to see tomorrow, or next year, or even the next 50 years, but it is not certain. Our lives will end, but we do not know when or where this will occur.

 

Most people respond to this uncertainty with simple denial – it just won't happen to me. Most people never think of their own death, and in fact, it is a breach of polite manners to even bring up the subject of death. Death, especially our own death, is something that we prefer to tuck away out of sight in a place where we won't have to think about it.

 

The rich man of the parable was just this sort of person.

 

It never occurred to him that his life would end. He was oblivious to the possibility that he might die and so gathered his harvest which he planned to enjoy for "many years". Because he did not consider the possibility of his own death, he was a fool, for indeed in that moment, his life suddenly ended and it was no longer his earthly wealth that mattered, but his spiritual wealth (or lack thereof). He had wasted his life in the acquisition of worldly possessions to address the many possibilities of his life without making provision for the one certainty – that he would one day die.

 

The Fathers of the Church all speak of the benefits of being mindful of one's own mortality and death.

 

This does not mean that we should all go around somber and humorless, always afraid that we will drop dead in the next moment, but it does mean that the possibility of our own death is always a factor in our choices about how to live. When we are aware of our own mortality, the context of our lives changes. It is easy to think that we are immortal, that we will not die or that if we do die, it will be in the distant future. This lack of awareness of our death encourages three tendencies in our lives which are detrimental not only to our spiritual lives, but also to many aspects of our earthly lives. These three tendencies are procrastination, vulnerability to temptation and living in the future. These are all the result of thinking that we have "plenty of time" and when we think that we are "immortal", then we consider that there is always "plenty of time".

 

Procrastination comes about when we think there is "plenty of time" to accomplish a task and so choose to do something frivolous over that which is necessary.

 

In the context of the spiritual life, this often means that we put off doing those things which will help us to draw nearer to Jesus Christ and instead do those things which are pleasurable to our fallen nature. Therefore, we might watch TV or surf the internet rather than take time out for our prayer rule – because we can always pray later. We don't read the scripture or other spiritual things because there is always something else to read or some other activity to take up our time. Or perhaps we will pass by a beggar without a thought, thinking that we can catch them "next time". We can skip the divine services on Saturday night because there's always Sunday morning – or there's always next week, or maybe there are too many other things that "need" to get done.

 

There is always "more time" to catch up on those things that we need to do for our spiritual benefit because, well, it doesn't really affect me right now – it won't be important until after I die, and I'm not going to die for a long long time. All this comes about because we forget our mortality and lose sight of our own death. To recall one's own death adds urgency to the thought of acquiring the grace of God and developing one's own spiritual life.

 

When we are not mindful of our own death, sin becomes more palatable because there is always the possibility of repentance.

 

"Why not sin now, I can always repent later" we think, and that suggestion weakens our resolve to resist temptation. The idea that repentance is always possible later is born directly from a lack of awareness that "later" might not always come. When we are mindful of our own death, it brings a certain urgency to living a righteous life now (not later) and that if we sin we might not always have the opportunity to repent.

 

Compounding this is the erroneous idea that repentance is somehow "magic" and takes effect instantaneously.

 

Repentance is more than this, for while it begins at a moment in time, it goes on continually after that moment. Sin is not just "breaking a rule", it has consequences which cause injury to the soul. Just as "breaking" the "law of gravity" will result in injuries to the body (bumps, bruises, even broken bones) so also sin results in injuries to the soul. Just as bodily injuries take time to heal, so also the soul requires time and care to heal from the injuries of sin.

 

Regretting our sin and being sorry are only the beginning of repentance which is a continual turning away from that sinful behavior and thought. Even if we begin the process of repentance instantly, there may not be sufficient time to heal completely from the injury we have inflicted upon our own selves. Without the awareness of our own death and the resulting limitation on our time, there always seems to be "plenty of time" and "later" and so the urgency of resisting temptation is lessened and we fall into sin more easily.

 

One final effect of a lack of awareness of our own death is that of living in the future. By constantly living for tomorrow, we forget today. By constantly worrying about what might happen "later" we lose sight of what is happening "now". When we live in the future, we are not living our lives, but rather we live in a fantasy of our own creation. And the future we create never quite matches up to reality that we live and so to live in the future is fraught with frustration and disappointment in the present.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ told us not to be concerned for tomorrow for tomorrow will care for itself. Our concern is to live the life that God gives us today. If we are always waiting for tomorrow, we miss the challenges, the opportunities, the blessings of today. When we bring in the awareness of death to the context of our lives, then today becomes important and tomorrow fades into nothing more than possibilities that may or may not even come to pass.

 

To live each day as though it were our last brings out the urgency and imminence of the events of each day and the necessity to use each of those events for our own spiritual benefit. Living in this way makes it easier to live each day for the glory of God and brings us step by step and moment by moment nearer to Christ.

 

The rich man of this parable was called a fool because he had forgotten to consider his own death and wasted his time on gathering things that were only of worldly value.

 

While he might have been rich in this life, he was impoverished in eternity. He had wasted all that God had given to him gathering that which was inconsequential, that which was without value and that which lacked any eternal importance.

 

If we forget our own death and trust in having "plenty of time" to accomplish those things which are of eternal benefit and value or if we think that there is always time to sin now and repent "later" we are fools. If we live in the fantasy of the future and ignore the reality of today disregarding the life that God provides for us here and now, then we are fools and will only end up frustrated and depressed because our fantasy does not match up with reality.

 

Let us therefore keep an awareness of our own mortality and death, not so that we might be always somber and sad, but rather that we might experience the joy that God gives to us here and now and not miss the opportunities that He puts before us every moment of every day.

 

The remembrance of death is a tool recommended to us by the saints to help us in our spiritual lives.

 

The remembrance of death is the remembrance that one day we will stand before God and that we are destined to either live in the joy union and communion with Him or to be forever deprived of that joy.

 

Let us not be fools, but be wise and prepare for the moment when we shall see God face to face.

 

 

Luke 12:16-2116 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

 

 

 

Archpriest David Moser St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)  2010

Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/  (Usually, 1 homily a week)

Website: http://stseraphimboise.org

Published with permission

This and other Orthodox materials are available from:

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2010-12-06+harvest-of-a-rich-man+plenty-of-time-remembrance-of-death_luke12-16-21.doc

and

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/message/426 (original)

 

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Colossians 1:12-18 Partakers of the inheritance of the saints. Read the scriptures! Audio exposition.

Monday, December 6th, 2010

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Synopsis: In this "second sermon" on a Sunday (a short talk after liturgy), the important selection from the first chapter of Colossions is discussed, with an emphasis on the context of the selection and the important Christological dogma expressed, which was later faithfully reproduced in the Symbol of Faith. It is important to read this passage correctly, as some heretics, such as the Arians (Jehovah Witnesses) do not understand the phrase . Also, the importance of reading the scriptures is mentioned.

Colossians 1:12-18 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.


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Parable of the Harvest of the Rich man. Audio Homily 2010.

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Parable of the Harvest of the rich man who pulled down his barns http://saints.sqpn.com/wp-content/gallery/parable/parable-of-the-rich-man-who-set-up-greater-barns.jpg

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Synopsis: The Parable of the Harvest of a rich man should be read in context, as it is in the middele of important teaching about how we shuold regard wealth and the things we should value. The context of the parable is discussed, and then follows an exposotion of the symbolism and moral teacing of the parable. This year (2010), We read this the 28th Sunday after Pentecost, on the 28th Sunday of Luke, since we follow the Julian Calendar and the Lukan jump.

More homilies on the 26th day after Pentecost are HERE

SCRIPTURETEXT


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Entry of the Theotokos. One of the Great Forgotten Feasts because of our pride in this egalitarian age. Let us explore holiness. Audio Homily.

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

theotokos-entry-of-nov-21

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Synopsis: The Entry of the Theotokos is one of the "Great Forgotten Feasts" in the church calendar, even though it is one of the "12 great feasts". There are good reasons for this – this feast is especially about holiness, humility and submission, which our modern egalitarian world does not understand. The Theotokos is holy because she chose to be holy, of her own free will. We do not denigrate her by thinking that God in any way made her holy by making her different in some way from the rest of humanity. The Gospel reading for this feast (and all feasts of the Theotokos) is explained in detail. It is a peculiar reading, because the Mary in the reading is not the Theotokos, and it is also a concatenation of two sections of Scripture that are not related in time to each other, but it describes fully the virtue of the Theotokos, which we must emulate. Let us be in awe of the holiness of the Theotokos and all the Saints, and see our destiny in them. Let us explore holiness in this arrogant and egalitarian age.

Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. 27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.


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DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

The Entrance of the Theotokos is celebrated tomorrow  (Nov 21/Dec 4). Every year, it is very beneficial to read St Gregory Palamas' discourse on the feast, which is one of the most masterful Christological expositions ever written. Everything in this sermon is a gem, worth reading and re-reading and cogitating on.

DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES

by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

November 21

Entry of the Theotokos, from St John the Baptist Cathedral, Washignton DC - http://www.stjohndc.org/icons/209.htm

Entry of the Theotokos, from St John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington DC

 

If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Lk. 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above?

 

Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven.

 

For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves.

 

Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.

 

In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.

 

The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God.

 

Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

 

If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots[1]. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.

 

It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam[2], not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it.[3] And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St. Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, "the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).

 

Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.

 

As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God's creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.

 

It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way.

 

But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature, Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.

 

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation.

 

He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

 

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin.

 

She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

 

Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called "sons of God," because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.

 

And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy.

 

But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a foretype of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendents of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God.

 

It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice. This was Enos, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).

 

In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage.

 

When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised. So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.

 

Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God[4].

 

And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, she, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner she showed that she was not so much presented into the Temple, but that she Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.

 

Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in her miraculous birthgiving.

 

So it is, and this is why she, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. she who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving … the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father. Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before birth, and also after birth.

 

We, who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give her thanks and praise according to our ability.

 

And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked" (Lk. 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?

 

Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things.

 

Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit.

 

Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure.

 

Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away.

 

Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished.

 

Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessable places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.

 

Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

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[1] St Gregory here gives the Orthodox understanding of the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. Their sin caused the corruption of the human race, weakening it, so that we are inclined to sin. Since all sin leads to death, we are therefore “death bearing shoots”. There is not a trace of the Latin idea of so-called “original sin”, which, to them, means that because of the sin of Adam and Eve all people are born ALREADY guilty of sin before God. A baby is not automatically guilty of sin from birth, but there is no doubt that as he grows, he WILL sin.

[2] “new Adam” is one of the many names by which we know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Adam” means “man”; the incarnation produced a new man, or as St Paul calls it, a “new creature”. (“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17)

[3] Is there a trace of the so-called “substitutionary atonement” doctrine, so much favored by most non-Orthodox, in St Gregory’s Christology. NO! Jesus Christ did not become incarnate to be slain by His Father, taking on our punishment, but in order to give us life, which He was fully capable of giving.

[4] There are foolish so-called “Orthodox theologians” who consider the entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple as a myth which nonetheless communicates holy truths. By this they mean that the event did not actually occur, but that the church uses the story as a sort of parable. These intelligent fools are at odds with St Gregory, and the services of the church, which know that this actual event occurred. How can it be that a man considers himself more intelligent than St Gregory Palamas, and many other holy fathers of the church, and our service texts themselves, which have been chanted with one voice and belief for hundreds of years?

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Divine Liturgy – the one thing needful. Any other time is like dying. Very Personal reflections.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
The best two days of the week are Thursday and Sunday. I believe I am most alive, and doing my most important work on this earth on those two days – when I celebrate the liturgy. 

I am finding that I have much more anticipation of the liturgy then I had earlier in my ministry. I am not sure why that it, but I think several things have contributed.

 

I have seen God’s grace move through our parish after we started celebrating at least one weekday liturgy – we have been doing this for over two years. We have built a temple that we could not afford (and a rational, worldly man would say we cannot afford it even now), and I have noticed subtle, invisible things in my soul. I am not a better person, but I pray more, and the liturgy is an incredible consolation.

 

Building was tense, and keeping the building has its moments too. I should not be anxious! I am a Christian! But, the fact remains, that due to weak faith, I do get anxious. This anxiety is obliterated by the liturgy. Of course, it comes back, but the feeling (that is not the right word – I do not think there is a word) I had during the Liturgy remains.

 

I am a priest, and must pray for my flock, and anyone who “crosses my path”. This I do, but prayer alone is very difficult. There are the inevitable “mind games”. I know that the “effective prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, but I am not righteous, and I “hear” the whispers of “Do not trouble the Master” (because I am sinful). Of course, through all of this I still pray, but I do not pray well. I have the great privilege to be a priest of the Most High God and when I serve the liturgy, I have great confidence in my prayers before the altar, God receives the prayers of his priests. I know that the wine and bread become the body and blood of Christ through my ministrations, and not in any way because of my virtue, not any bit less than if St John Chrysostom was serving, and also know that in the same way (but I think, somewhat less), my pastoral supplications before the altar are received by God because He receives the prayers of his priests.

 

I have been reading books about and by Fr Silouan, Archimandrite Sophrony and Archimandrite Zacharias (three generations!). and have been deeply affected by many things in these books. Some time I will find the quote, but I believe Fr Sophrony said that he only felt truly alive when he was celebrating the liturgy, and outside of the liturgy, he felt like he was dying. Fr Zacharias has described Fr Sophrony’s zeal for the liturgy – a zeal much great than my own – and this has also made a deep impression on me. I in my own sinful way, I have  started thinking this way. So much of what I do daily is “dead” – mind wandering, wasting time, useless and stupid emotions of irritation, anxiety, anger, etc – and even my prayer “in my closet” can often have little warmth, but during the liturgy I am in the presence of life and truly alive, and my prayer has life in it.

 

A pastor's life is filled with problems. Any psychological approach to them inevitably causes fatigue, fear, anxiety, confusion. Celebrating the liturgy is not a psychological solution, but a spiritual one (the idea of turning a psychological feeling into a spiritual one I have gleaned from Archimandrite Zacharias – and it deserves much attention). I am not confused when I celebrate the liturgy. I do not forget the problems, and for many of them, I still have no idea what to do, or remembering them causes a great emotional “sting” in my heart, but at no other time am I so sure that God will help me in all things, and help those I love and care for. I am never so happy as when I am praying for my loved ones during the liturgy!

 

So much of my time is wasted! I do not always pray well in the liturgy, but it is never a waste of time.

 

 

These are just a few of the reasons I can think of off the top of my head about what the liturgy means to me. At the beginning of the liturgy the priest announces the Kingdom (Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!) , and we enter it. What better place can we be or more important activity can we do?

 

I am convinced that I was born to serve the liturgy. I do not know why, and I do not do it well, but I am intensely grateful for the great blessing to do so.

 

 

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

 

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The Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Orthodox and Heterodoxy during the Season of Advent

The Holy Spirit outside the church

Why baptism? Why the Church? Why “Right Worship”?

The Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God

 I [1] have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the Orthodox and their non-Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ.  I have witnessed, experienced and read countless accounts of the abundant grace of God, the transforming power and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit outside of the walls of the Orthodox Church.  Even in the midst of much error, ignorance and confusion, Christ is clearly present.  Just as God poured out the Holy Spirit on Gentiles not long after Pentecost, sometimes even before they were baptized, so He pours out His Holy Spirit on all who call on his name and desire pure hearts.

So what then is the necessity of the Orthodox, of Orthodox baptism and worship, some might ask?

 

I think the Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ. 

 

Looking at the structure of our temple has led me to think about these things.  Before Christ, the temple was the place where the children of God gathered to pray to the Lord–and their prayers sustained the world.  In the outer area, the children of Israel gathered to worship and pray. Then there was the altar where the Levites served and priests offered sacrifices for the people – and the Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter. 

 

Today, it is the followers of Christ who are God's people.  All can stand in the narthex to pray and worship our God and pray for the world, just as the children of Israel once did in the courtyard of the temple.  The Orthodox in the nave then represent the priests, standing in the altar, offering up our sacrifice of prayer and fasting, keepers of the sacred tradition handed to us by Christ.  The altar where the Orthodox priest enters on our behalf is, of course, the new Holy of Holies. 

Like monastics, the Orthodox pray, fast and asceticize more than other Christians. 

 

They are the intercessors before the Lord and His saints on behalf of their brothers and sisters that live more in the world. 

 

Without the mighty prayers of those who answered the monastic call of God, the Church would likely have failed. 

 

Without the Orthodox having preserved the fullness of the teachings of Christ and of His Church, Christianity would not have survived, either. 

 

The rest of Christendom, along with the whole world, survives off of the intercession and labor of the Orthodox Church of Christ on their behalf.

So at Christmastime, while some celebrate Christmas as a time of feasting and exchanging gifts, others withdraw into the cell of their souls to pray and fast.  Even the Enemy's attempt to spoil the beautiful picture with his garish threads of commercialism and dark threads of secularism cannot diminish this picture—the glory of the world preparing to receive her King.

 

It will be a beautiful and wonderful thing when all the people of God, all those that love Christ, all those to whom and through whom the Lord is ministering, are one – when all who love and follow Him are finally 'Orthodox', is another way of putting it – even if this is not until after His return . 

 

For now, for whatever reasons the Lord has allowed it to be, I find beauty in what is.  Aside from the crass commercialism,  I thoroughly enjoy the metaphor of the world's happy, noisy preparations and celebration of the Savior's birth on December 25th — followed 13 days later by the joyous, but quieter, less noticed (in our culture, anyway), more sacred welcome of the Christ Child on January 7.

 

To these words, I add some things, which I thought of when I read my email.

I have a theory – the less monastic and "struggling" a church is, and therefore the more secular – the more the lines are blurred between where the church is and where it is not.

 

We see this secularism in drastically reduced and omitted services, either very infrequent communion, or frequent communion with no preparation, a hatred and distrust of monasticism or even little or no knowledge of it, bishops who do not live openly ascetical, monastic lives, and other symptoms.

 

I believe that one of the worst things the calendar change did was bring many Orthodox closer to secular Christianity (an oxymoron, really), and decreased their spiritual life in numerous ways.

 

Of course, not everyone following the Pope’s calendar are secular, and many who follow the Julian calendar are barely Christian, but, at least in this country, in many places the church has lost its way. We need more asceticism – not less, and this must be personal asceticism, where we fast and pray, and give alms, and look to the mind of the church and not secular life for inspiration. We also need bishops who truly live and act as bishops – that is, inspirations to the faithful, because they live a sober and monastic life. We have too many administrators and not enough spiritual men.

I wonder sometimes -  what am I doing! – when I finish a vigil with myself and one or two other people present – but I always know in my heart that I cannot be what I am not, and I cannot be other than what I am. I am a sinner, but also a Christian priest, and my service, whether almost alone, or in a crowded church, (especially my service outside of Sunday, which seems to be the only “traditional” day when the majority of Orthodox Christians think they should go to church) is part of what was written above: Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ.

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-12-01+orthodox-and-heterodoxy-advent+-holy-spirit-outside-the-church+-orthodox-are-the-priests-and-monastics-of-the-people-of-god.doc

 

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[1] A recent email from a correspondent to Priest Seraphim, posted with permission, and a few editorial changes. I have added the Headers.

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