Archive for February, 2011

Sunday Of The Publican And Pharisee. Do not judge. 2011

Monday, February 14th, 2011

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The major thrust of Great Lent is given many times in the services for the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, such as "Vainglory brings to nothing the riches of righteousness, but humility scatters a multitude of passions. Grant then that we may seek humilty, O Savior, and do Thou bestow upon us the portion of the publican; (Matins canon, Ode 3). This time is for the pursuit of humility, because without humilty we will not be saved. What can we glean from the publican and pharisee? The worst sin of the pharisee was his judgment of the publican. Above all things, we must not judge others. Since this sin is so pervasive, how can we learn to not judge others? END:SUB:Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

More homilies on the Publican and Pharisee are HERE

Luke 18:10-14 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_2011-02-13+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee+do-not-judge_luke18-10-14.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_2011-02-13+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee+do-not-judge_luke18-10-14.mp3


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Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Themes of Great Lent. Text, audio

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Second Sunday before Great Lent

Themes of Great Lent

Luke 18:10-14
 

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

 

We must become humble to be saved.

Today, brothers and sisters, in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, we have witnessed the one of the themes of Great Lent being proclaimed. We must become humble if we are to become justified. This is the whole reason why we go through all of our exercises, the fasting, increased prayer, increased almsgiving, more introspection, increased prayer at home and in the church. The reason for it is not so that we can feel good about ourselves. Christianity is not about feeling good about yourself; Christianity is about becoming good. The only way to become good is to become humble. If we are humble, we see the truth; we see ourselves; we see God; we see what we need and what God can give.

 

We know God can give us everything, but we are not humble enough to see everything that’s wrong with us and all the darkness in us. So basically, Great Lent is a time when we especially try to learn to become humble so that we can become, as the Publican was, justified.

 

Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Another theme of Great Lent was proclaimed in the Gospel for the Sunday after Theophany because the Lord said, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”[1]

Truly when we enter upon Great Lent, we should think the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand because if we can become humble, if we can know ourselves just a little bit more, then that means we will know God more, and we will become more holy, more purified. And only the holy are happy. Only the good know God. So the Kingdom of Heaven truly is at hand if we are becoming humble.
 

Now, there are many paths to humility. We can’t just sit in a corner and become humble. We can’t just act in a humble way and become humble. Truly, full humility is a gift of God, given by grace. But we must, with great effort, with our blood, pursue humility.

Now, one of the ways that one pursues humility is, of course, through the knowledge of what the Scripture teaches us so that we can learn by example, but example only goes so far.

An awful lot of people know the story of the Publican and the Pharisee, but they don’t see that they are the Pharisee. I hope you see that you are the Pharisee, and maybe a little bit the Publican. And the more we become like the Publican, not in his deeds, but in his humility, then we will become justified.

We are all like the Pharisee. How is the Pharisee? He had an inflated view of himself. He could tick off easily a laundry list of all the good things he had done, but he didn’t said anything about anything bad he had done because the good sort of obliterated his knowledge of the bad, sort of like when you look into a bright light and then you look into the darkness and you can’t see anything. So, yes, he did good things, and we do good things too. People who are unbelievers do good things. But he didn’t see also that there was darkness in his heart because he had an inflated view of himself. Does that sound familiar to you? It should because it is the human condition. So it applies to us.

 

Also, the Pharisee judged the Publican. And that goes hand in hand with pride and not knowing yourself. And so that judgment of the Publican obliterated his ability to see himself at all.

Truly, the path to salvation is to not judge because judgment is only for God. Those that are proud judge others. And judgment of others doesn’t just mean that we say, oh, you know, that person is a drinker or that person is lazy or that person has been through three marriages or something like that. No, judgment is also when we’re irritated with others because they don’t act up to our standards. So judgment is not just what we think; it’s how we act towards people too.

There is a story from the Fathers, Abba Moses, the Ethiopian, a beautiful story. The fathers would gather together if they had to judge a brother for something that he had done. And Moses was one of the senior monks, and he was called to this judgment, and he came; he was a big man, very large. And he was carrying this giant barrel. In some stories it’s sand; in other stories it’s water. But it had a hole in the back of it. And as he was carrying this barrel, the water was going out behind him. It doesn’t make much sense to carry water in the desert and be losing the water. People asked him, what are you doing. He says, well, I’m going to judge a man while my own sins are unnoticed behind me. He understood humility. He understood that he had sins that he didn’t even know about. So do we.

Brothers and sisters, this is the time now; it’s always the time. But because of our nature, we have to concentrate more on certain things at certain times of the year. It’s always good to repent. It’s always good to be humble. But this time especially, this time when you must have as a goal that you would just be more humble. Like I said, it’s not from acting humble. It’s not whispering and putting your head down when you talk to people. That’s not humility. That’s just contrivances.

What humility is, is to know that in your heart you’re a sinner, and at the same time, to know that God will save you and God will help you. The Kingdom of Heaven truly is near.

Now, there is a question that the world would ask us: Why would we think like this? Some people in the world think, “This is mental illness to think poorly of ourselves. We should have better self-esteem. We should think better of ourselves. We should recognize that we are unique individuals in the world, blah, blah, blah.” The world thinks that way. Even people who are Christians are affected with this idea. I’ll tell you why.

It’s quite obvious from our Services; it’s quite obvious from the Psalms and all the rest of the Scriptures: joy only comes from purity and holiness; happiness is only for the holy. Because otherwise, there’s stuff in you that’s always going to make you unhappy. There’s impurity and there’s darkness. We were not made for darkness. We were made for light, and yet there is darkness in us. The only way to get rid of the darkness is to recognize it’s there. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. Nobody goes to the doctor if they don’t know they’re sick.
 

So we must know we are sick, and the Publican did. It’s really the whole essence of Great Lent. We are sick. Let’s just go ahead and admit it, not just like in conversation, but deeply in our heart: We are sick; there is darkness; there is ugliness in us. But God said it could all get out, every bit of it. Because He called us to be perfect, and in the perfect there is no darkness; it’s all light.

 

But since we know that we have darkness in us, we need the grace of God to have that become light. And God does not come to those who are not humble. God gives grace to the humble but not to the proud. To the extent that you’re proud, is the extent to which you have darkness in you.

So Great Lent is a time of light. A time to become light. But the only way to become light is to know that you’re dark. And that’s what the Publican knew. The services make it very clear. The Publican was exalted because of his humility. We do not praise him for his acts of depravity. We do praise the Pharisee for his acts of goodness, but we censure him for his pride, for his blindness and for his stupidity.

So let’s be intelligent about the Publican. Let’s know that we have sins in our heart. Let’s know that we need God’s grace to be rid of all these sins. And let’s pursue God as if we were pursuing a stag through the wilderness, running after it, trying to get to God’s grace as much as we can, and knowing that only with His help can we attain it. That’s what the Publican knew.
 

I’ll tell you one more thing. Remember, this is a parable. Parables usually are life in microcosm. Just about all of them are really about our entire life. So this describes this one event which might have taken place in maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes where they were in the temple. Is actually describing the entire life of a man, the life of a man that leads to death, which is pride, arrogance, judging others, not knowing ourselves, not knowing our sins and therefore not seeking the grace of God for those sins. Or the way of life, which is humility and knowing that we are sinful and begging God to help us.

 

The meaning of “Justified”

And this way of life makes us justified: One of the most misunderstood words in all of our language. Because to be justified means to become righteous. Many think to be justified means that God forgives us because of His Son. No, to be justified is God helps us to become righteous because of His Son. This is a process. It didn’t happen immediately when he left the temple. It happened over the course of his life, many times going to the temple and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” many times falling, many times getting up. But every time having in his heart, “God help me; I’m dark, and I want to be light.” This is how he and we become justified: By going to the temple many times and beating our breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
 

And as we go and things change in us and we don’t judge people so readily and we’re more patient with people and kind with people and there’s less turbulence in our soul and there is less mud and we see things more clearly and we are happier even though we see our sins more clearly. And maybe there will be times when we see our sins so clearly that we feel that we are further away from God than we ever were. That’s an illusion, that’s a mirage. We’re already far from God. We just don’t see it.

 

To the proud, God appears very close, very near, even as a friend, even right in the same room. To the saints, they know that God is far from them in terms of their righteousness vs. His. But they also know that He will forgive them because – we are going to talk about this in a week – the father will forgive His son even when His son is far away.

We have to keep these things uppermost in our minds. And when I say that, I don’t mean that you should be thinking, okay, how can I be humble in this moment or in whatever is happening in my life at the moment. No, it has to be in the heart. Not the mind, meaning the brain, but the heart meaning that the highest part of the soul that knows truths about ourselves and about God.

 

This parable describes our entire life. So let us be like the Publican. Let us take this period of Great Lent to try to become a little more humble so that God will help us and we will be justified. Amen.

 

Transcribed by the hand of Helen. May the Lord save her and her loved ones.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.    

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/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_2010-01-24+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee+theme-of-great-lent.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_2010-01-24+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee+theme-of-great-lent.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-02_2010-01-24+sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee+theme-of-great-lent.mp3

 

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[1] Sometimes, the Lenten Triodion begins very early, even just after Theophany, as in this year (2010). The Gospel for the Sunday after Theophany is: “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17)

 

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On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee The meaning of “Two men went to the temple” St Gregory Palamas

Friday, February 11th, 2011

On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee

The meaning of “Two men went to the temple”

St Gregory Palamas

 

The Publican and the Pharisee. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/publican-and-pharisee.jpg

 

The Lord did not say, “Two men went to the temple”, but “went up” into the temple.

 

Even now there are some who come to the holy church without going up. Instead they bring down the church, the image of heaven. They come for the sake of meeting each other and talking, or to buy and sell goods, and they resemble each other, for the latter offer goods, the former words, and all receive a fair exchange.

 

As in those days the Lord drove them completely out of the temple saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13), so He also drove them away from their conversations as they did not really go up into the Temple at all, even if they came there every day.

(St Gregory Palamas, Homily TWO, On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee)

 

 

St Gregory packs an incredible amount of theology and insightful moral teaching into his homilies. Here he begins to show the difference in the demeanor of the publican and Pharisee, and, as is critical to any good homily, applies it to us, in the here and now. Of course, this parable is not about two real people, but about all of us, and St Gregory makes this very apparent.

 

We should continually evaluate why we do things. The Pharisee did not do this, because he was blinded by pride. Perhaps we are blinded by this same passion, or it may be indifference, worldliness, inattention, intemperance in the way we live, infrequent prayer, self-indulgence and many other things. All these things will cause us to merely “go” to the temple, without our hearts elevated, expectant, repentant, and attentive. We will then receive that which we have come for, which is nothing of value. On the other hand, if we “go up” to the temple, with a desire to be taught, and filled, and healed, we will surely receive what we have sought.

 

Can a person “go up” to the temple if they are habitually late to the service?

 

Can a person “go up” to the temple if they pray inattentively?

 

Can a person “go up” to the temple if they only want to come on Sunday, with no expectation or even desire to receive the holy mysteries?

 

Can a person “go up” to the temple if they are lazy, and rarely pray, and even more rarely read the scriptures?

 

Can a person “go up” to the temple if they are not trying to change their life, and follow the commandments?

 

I cannot answer these questions for any person, but they must be answered.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-11-st-gregory-palamas-two-men-went-to-the-temple.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-11-st-gregory-palamas-two-men-went-to-the-temple.doc

 

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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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Newsletter – Jan 31/ Feb 13 2011 – Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
Electronic Newsletter
January 31/ February 13 2011
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

 

Who is St. Valentine?. 1

Announcements. 2

Prayer Requests. 2

Commemorations, past week, coming weeks. 2

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week.. 3

 

Who is St. Valentine?

    The secular commemoration of Valentine's Day originates with the Roman Catholic observance of the memory of St. Valentine, an early Roman martyr. The Orthodox Church also commemorates St. Valentine, but at a different time in the year.

    St. Valentine's life, like that of all the martyrs, exhibits love for God taken to the end, for "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). St. Valentine, according to popular accounts of his life, suffered in prison during a time of persecution because of his love for Christ.

    Near the end of the saint's life, the account goes, he cured a young girl of blindness after first restoring her spiritual sight by bringing her to know our Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of his life, he left her a letter exhorting her to hold fast to Christ — a letter signed "from your Valentine."

    The best way to honor St. Valentine's memory is then to follow his example and heed his exhortation to hold fast to Christ. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart. Let us then, on this day when the world celebrates commercialized romantic love, reaffirm first of all our love for God by honoring Him first.

    Monday evening is the Vigil service for the Feast of the Meeting of our Lord. On this day we celebrate the time when our Lord — as a child 6 weeks old — was brought into the temple and held in the arms of St. Symeon, who proclaimed his ministry as Savior of the world. Let us gather together in the holy temple to sing His praises, at the same time preparing our souls to love Him more deeply and looking ahead to our celebration of His Cross, Resurrection and Ascension in the coming months.

    More on St. Valentine can be found here.


Announcements

Fr. Seraphim will be at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in West Virginia this week, for a much needed retreat. Our usual Wednesday and Thursday services will be canceled.

We will have reader's services for the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord on Tuesday:

  • 6:30 Monday: Vigil
  • 9:00 Tuesday: Typica

Our new facility brings with it many new maintenance and upkeep tasks. Matushka Marina and Reader David Hawthorne need volunteers to help get all the work done.If you can give a few hours of our time to help care for God's house, please contact Matushka Marina, Reader David or Deacon Nicholas and we'll tell you how you can help.

We have updated our list of things our parish needs. If you or somebody you know wish to supply one of these items, please contact us.


Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), President of the Department for External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, will be in Dallas this weekend for the performance of his composition, the St. Matthew's Passion. The performance will be held at 5:30pm on Sunday at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas and is free of charge.


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Kateryna (Kayla) Bayda.
  • Alexander (Yuliya Guzman's father)
  • David and Elizabeth Ash.
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti

For a more complete listing, please see our parish prayer list (http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn).


Commemorations, past week, coming weeks

  • Saturday, February 12th is the anniversary of the repose of Ruth Ash. Please pray for her repose.

 

If you have corrections or additions, e-mail Deacon Nicholas. We would love to announce your birthdays and anniversaries as well, but our records are very incomplete, so please give us this information.


Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Saturday, 2/5.

  • Confession, 4pm.
  • Vigil, 5pm.

Sunday, 2/12

  • Divine Liturgy, 10am
  • Church School, 12:45pm (Elementary and Adult)

Monday, 2/13

  • Vigil, 6:30pm

Tuesday, 2/14.

  • Typika, 9:00AM

Saturday, 2/19.

  • Confession, 4pm.
  • Vigil, 5pm.

Sunday, 2/20

  • Divine Liturgy, 10am
  • Church School, 12:45pm (Elementary and High School)

 

Our ongoing calendar of services is posted here:

Our "Redeeming the Time" blog usually has at least several posts a week – http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime.


NO Fasting in the Coming week

This Sunday we read the Gospel about the Publican and Pharisee. One of the reminders we are given in this reading is that our acts of piety — such as fasting, which is specifically mentioned in the reading — do not save us and should cause us to be lifted up with pride. Rather, we are saved by repentance and by humbly putting all of our hope in God.

Fasting is important for our spiritual life, and therefore forms one of the essential disciplines of Great Lent. However, we must not allow ourselves to think that fasting is a virtue in and of itself or to take pride in our labors.

For this reason, the Church has appointed that the week after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee be FAST-FREE. Eating freely of all foods during the coming week, let us reflect on the fact that we are saved by God's grace, received with humility and repentance. With the proper attitude, we will then be ready to fast profitably in a few weeks' time.

 

Permanent links to this document:

 

http://www.orthodox.net/newsletter/newsletter-2011-03-13-sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee.html

 

http://www.orthodox.net/newsletter/newsletter-2011-03-13-sunday-of-the-publican-and-pharisee.doc

 

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The Christian view of suffering and pleasure. 1 Peter 4:1-2

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Arm yourselves with the same mind.

He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin

The Christian view of suffering and pleasure.

1 Peter 4:1-2

38th Wednesday after Pentecost

 

1 Peter 4:1-2 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

 

 

Our life must be an emulation of Christ. He voluntarily suffered; we must VOLUNTARILY suffer. This idea is not well known or well-liked among many people, including Christians.

 

In emulating Christ, we acquire His mind – we think like Him, act like Him, and begin to understand Him. Since salvation is to know God (“and this is eternal life, that they may know Thee the true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent”), it is essential that we acquire the mind of Christ. There is NO other way to do this except to emulate Christ, with God helping us.

 

The Apostle explains why this is important, and here is the Christian understanding of pleasure: “he that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”

 

To experience pleasure is not sinful in and of itself, but to seek pleasure above God darkens the mind. If we are pleasure seeking creatures, we cannot cease from sin. We must have the mentality of a soldier, who is willing to forgo pleasure to fulfill his mission.

 

It is not the “suffering” that causes us to “cease from sin”, but the willingness to suffer in order to follow God only. There is much suffering in the world that does not purify us, because we do not experience it seeking God. If we suffer in any way because of our attempt to follow God and Him only, this suffering will purify us (over time, not all at once), “like gold in the furnace”.

 

The Fathers talk a lot about “attachment” and how important it is to free ourselves from this passion. The more free we are from attachment (which is always associated in some way with pleasure, and our own desires) the less we sin, because our motivations will change to spiritual ones.

 

Christians are not “anti-pleasure”, but against the seeking of pleasure above God. If we are honest with ourselves, we all do this, and this is why we still sin.

 

As we think so we are. Let us desire above all things to acquire the mind of Christ, and we will become like Christ.

 

 

The full epistle reading for the 38th Wednesday after Pentecost

 

1 Peter 4:1-11 1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.   St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-09-arm-yourselves-with-the-same-mind+he-that-hath-suffered-in-the-flesh-hath-ceased-from-sin+the-christian-view-of-suffering-and-pleasure+-38th-wednesday-after-pentecost_1-peter-4-1-2.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-09-arm-yourselves-with-the-same-mind+he-that-hath-suffered-in-the-flesh-hath-ceased-from-sin+the-christian-view-of-suffering-and-pleasure+-38th-wednesday-after-pentecost_1-peter-4-1-2.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

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“let him refrain his tongue from evil” One cannot be a Christian without enduring persecution without complaining 1 Peter 3:10-22 Mark 12:18-27

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

“let him refrain his tongue from evil”

One cannot be a Christian without enduring persecution without complaining

1 Peter 3:10-22 Mark 12:18-27

 

The readings for today, Tuesday, the 38th week after Pentecost are from 1 Peter and Mark. We should read the Scriptures with understanding. Here are a few points about these readings.

 

1 Peter 3:10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

 

This is a quote from  Psalm_34:12-16.  It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to “keep our tongue from evil”. I have said before, “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind!” This is because the first and greatest commandment is fulfilled in the doing of the second – to love our neighbor as ourselves. Perhaps I should say: “at least be kind and hold your tongue!” because it is rare that we talk about others and do not do harm to them in some way. Some of the best things I have ever said are the things I have not said, and I am certain this applies to everyone. We may have poor self-control over many things, but God will help us in all of them if we control our tongue. Even if our thoughts are evil, if we do not let words pass our lips that reflects the evil in our heart, the fire of the passions that causes our evil thoughts will be snuffed out, just as a fire goes out when the flue is closed.  

 

 

1 Peter 3:17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

 

This is something to remember when we feel persecuted. The Apostle explains later that we must endure persecution gladly because our Lord was persecuted. Our life is an emulation of Him. Perhaps we cannot pray with great attention, and are a little lazy, and many other things. But if we endure persecution and even simple unpleasantness without complaining and responding in kind, God will help us in all things. There are many things we cannot do, but we can be kind to others, and we can stop complaining about our lives. If we do these things, we will truly attract God’s grace to us.

 

 

1 Peter 3:18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

 

It is important to note that the Apostle says that Christ suffered ONCE for our sins. We do not believe that the Eucharist is a reenactment of our Lord’s sacrifice, but rather an entering into the one sacrifice He made.

 

The Apostle also mentions the dogma that Christ descended into Hades (“prison”) and preached to all the spirits there. This idea is repeated many times in our services.

 

 

1 Peter 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

 

Here the purpose if baptism is described. – a “good conscience toward God”. Baptism enables us to pursue perfection and attain it. We cannot have a good conscience toward God unless we change. This is a well known idea in our daily life. We may do something terrible to someone and be forgiven by them, but we still bear a burden of unease until we have made amends or changed in some way. Our friend forgives us, and his forgiveness is not predicated upon our actions, just as God forgives us, but we must change in order have a good conscience towards our friend (or God). Without baptism, this change is not possible.

 

 

Mark 12:26And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

 

We show that we BELIEVE the Lord’s words when we ask those who have dies (in the body) to pray for us.

 

 

1 Peter 3:10-22 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

 

Mark 12:18-27 18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.   St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-08-let-him-refrain-his-tongue-from-evil+one-cannot-be-a-christian-without-enduring-persecution-without-complaining_1peter3-10-22-mark12-18-27.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-08-let-him-refrain-his-tongue-from-evil+one-cannot-be-a-christian-without-enduring-persecution-without-complaining_1peter3-10-22-mark12-18-27.doc

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On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee -Humility and Conceit. St Gregory Palamas

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee

Humility and Conceit

St Gregory Palamas

 

Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin? Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help. Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand, and relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help and grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but He giveth grace to unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34, LXX)

(St Gregory Palamas, Homily TWO, On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee)

 

 

Parable of the Publican and Pharisee http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/publican-and-pharisee.jpg The Parable of the Publican and Pharisee is a case study in how to and how not to think of oneself. St Gregory’s homily talks about this often.

 

In our day (and perhaps in any day, although the difference in our day is that technology and media bolster bad attitudes and try to squelch good ones) conceit clouds the minds of most people. It is a rare person who can honestly see themselves for what they are. This is only possible for the humble.

 

Another side of conceit is self-loathing. Our world is also inundated by this passion. To “despise oneself”, as St Gregory describes, is not the same as having “poor self-esteem”. The true Christian knows that he is a sinner, above all other men, and yet has confidence in God’s mercy, because God sees his humility and comforts him.

 

It takes a lifetime to learn this lesson.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-08-st-gregory-palamas-humility-and-conceit.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-08-st-gregory-palamas-humility-and-conceit.doc

 

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On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee – Various ways the Evil One attacks virtue. St Gregory Palamas

Monday, February 7th, 2011

On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee

Various ways the Evil One attacks virtue.

St Gregory Palamas

 

The unseen patron of evil is full of evil ingenuity. Right at the beginning he can drag away, by means of hopelessness and lack of faith, the foundations of virtue already laid in the soul. Again, by means of indifference and laziness, he can make an attempt on the walls of virtue’s house just when they are being built up. Or he can bring down the roof of good works after its construction, by means of pride and madness.

 

But stand firm, do not be alarmed, for a diligent man is even more ingenious in good things, and virtue has superior forces to deploy against evil. It has at its disposal supplies and support in battle from Him who is all-powerful, Who in His goodness strengthens all lovers of virtue. So not only can virtue remain unshaken by the various wicked devices prepared by the enemy, but it can also lift up and restore those fallen into the depths of evil, and easily lead them to God by repentance and humility.

(St Gregory Palamas, Homily TWO, On the Lord’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee)

 

 

St Gregory, as one of the foremost neptic fathers, is a master psychologist, He introduces his homily on the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee with these words (above).

 

He will go on to explain that the publican was great in faith precisely because he did not wallow in despondency over his sins, and by his repentance negated the his former indifference and laziness regarding virtue and his salvation. The Pharisee, on the other hand, is the quintessential example of pride and madness.

 

The services of the Triodion touch on this “psychology of sin” many times, especially in matins. Let us listen for them.

 

St Gregory does not go into great detail here, but in other places the fathers explain that the second means of battle that St Gregory describes often precedes the first. We think little about a sin until we do it, then we are consumed with shame and despondency over it.

 

Summary of St Gregory’s explanation of how the Evil One fights against us:

 

  1. Hopelessness, despondency over a sin or our sinfulness
  2. Indifference regarding sin and laziness
  3. Pride and madness (shown in the Pharisee by his mad judging)

 

If you are careful, you will see all three of these temptations operating in your life. May God to us reveal the machinations of the enemy against us.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-07-st-gregory-palamas-how-the-evil-one-attacks-virtue.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-07-st-gregory-palamas-how-the-evil-one-attacks-virtue.doc

 

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Sunday Of Zacchaeus. He Sought To See Jesus Who He Was.

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Icon of Zacchaeus and Christ

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Synopsis: Jesus will show Himself to every man, without exception. Why is it that some, such as Zacchaeus see Him as He really is, and others such as the crowd who judged Zacchaeus, do not see Him even though He is in their midst? The whole point to life is to "see Jesus", that is, to know Him. Zacchaeus gives us import instructions as to how to accomplish this. Every day, we must be like Zacchaeus, recognizing who we are, and how little we are and how much our sins present an obstacle to knowing God, and run ahead of them to await the Lord coming to us. HE will always come – are we always in the proper state of mind to receive Him?

More text and audio homilies on the the Sunday of Zacchaeus are HERE

Luke 19:1-10 1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.


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Zacchaeus Sunday A before and beginning story, to be continued… Text and audio.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Zacchaeus Sunday
A “before” and “beginning” story, to be continued…

Hope is very precious. Hope must be kindled. It must be taken care of. Take care of your hope.

Luke 19:1-10

Icons of the Lord Jesus Christ, with Zacchaeus the publican, in the sycamore tree. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/zaccchaeus-the-publican.jpg I

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

Today, brothers and sisters, we have a “before” story and a “beginning” story. It is appropriate on this Sunday – only four Sundays remain now after this Sunday before Great Lent. On this day we talk about Zacchaeus, how he was before, at the beginning of the salvation. And it is appropriate because during Great Lent should be, for all of us, a struggle to become more spiritual, to know more about ourselves and about God, to do good works, to pray, to fast.

It’s a struggle that is difficult. We will see next Sunday the prayer of the Publican. In our mind’s eye, we think of Zacchaeus when we think of the Publican and the Pharisee, when he was crying: “Oh, God, be merciful to me a sinner”, because he felt the weight of his sins. This is after Zacchaeus had been received by Christ, and he had entered into the struggle against his passions.  

In the Christian life salvation comes to us by degrees, because salvation is us being changed. We change by degrees. Nobody changes all at once. You might make a decision at a critical moment in your life as Zacchaeus did, but you don’t change all at once. You change with struggle.

Now, what happened to Zacchaeus was one of those moments that happen rarely in a man’s life when he saw himself and when he felt deeply in his soul the desire for God.

When you read the Scriptures, you must read them so that they relate to you. You’re the one reading them. What is it saying to you? What is God trying to tell you?

Of course, to read the Scriptures and understand them, you must understand the content of what they say, the factual dogmatic content, the circumstances in which the things were said, instructions that are given and all the rest. All this is very important. But also, another thing that is so important when you read the Scriptures: There must be some emotional impact in your soul, like Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was changed in a day or rather, I should say, he had the resolve to change. He made a decision and spent the rest of his life living it.

Zacchaeus had many things that were in the way of him finding Christ. The Scripture mentions three: He was a Publican, there was a big crowd, and he was very little.

As a Publican he had done many sinful things. He was ashamed because he had defrauded people, he hurt people. Are we like publicans? You had better think so because there’s not a human being that shouldn’t feel ashamed for the things he’s done or not done, is willing to do, not willing to do, the way he thinks, the way he doesn’t think. And often these feelings can keep one away from God.

I am convinced that the majority of the entertainments and all the things in life that are so frivolous and fruitless are really a way for people to escape from knowing who they really are. You cannot hear God if you’re not quiet; and if you hear God and you’re quiet, you’re going to find out what kind of a person you are, and that’s not a pretty picture.

Zacchaeus had all of that going on in his life. He was a very bad man. He was the chief of the publicans. He had done a lot of bad and terrible things, and he had that on his conscience, but he had heard of Christ. After all, he was a Jew even if he was a bad one. He knew of Christ, and wanted to see Him because there was this thing in his heart that was wondering: “How can I get out of this morass that I am in? I want to change, I don’t know how.”

So what was he going to do? He wanted to be better. He didn’t know how. Any of you ever feel like that? I feel like that every day. Now, I know in principle how: Through the blood of Christ, through God’s mercy, through my struggle. As far as how to get from A to B in exact detail, I don’t understand that because my sins are too big for me. They’re too big for you too.

So Zacchaeus wants to see Christ but the press is in the way, the crowd. So many things get in our way, so many busy things, so many concerns that we have that we really shouldn’t be very concerned about. Most of the press is ourselves. Most of the crowd is our own lifestyle getting in the way of being good.

But he had the crowd to deal with, he was short, and could not see. So what did he do? He went up high. He went up in a tree. Now, imagine the scene: A publican hated by everybody, making a spectacle of himself in a tree. Certainly there must have been many comments about him. This is a man accustomed to at least people flattering him in public; they wouldn’t say anything about him to his face. But in a crowd probably there was a lot of snickering and laughter.

And then Christ came and what happened? He looked up, and He saw Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus was changed because Christ loves transforming. And He said something very interesting. “Make haste. Come down because today I must abide in your house.”

This would have been unheard of and quite a scandal: a holy man going to the house of a sinner. It was not just his house the Lord was talking about: it was his soul. The Lord will abide in our soul. What an amazing thing!

When I read this Scripture, I’m filled with possibilities for me and, since I’m a pastor, always about you too. God can change us if we are willing, but we have to be able to overcome all that inertia of sin, all those chains that are holding onto us or sometimes that we hold onto ourselves. And we have to do something. We have to press past the crowd, and we have to get up in the tree, and we have to wait for Christ.

And the thing is, every single time that He comes to the tree, He will look up and tell us to make haste and come down because He will abide within us. Every time. Sometimes this is hard for us to believe. I know this, having been a pastor for many years, I know that we really don’t completely believe it, because we’re pretty bad, and it’s hard for us to really believe that we can really be changed. When you read Scriptures like this it’s important to hold onto that emotion, that fervor, that feeling of being changed that Zacchaeus must have had.

There are many Scriptures like this. I have dozens of favorite Scriptures that touch me in a very intimate way and that I hold onto (and you should too). Most of life, (as I said in a post [1] just recently that I hope you all read carefully), seems to be great spaces filled with short moments. That’s not what it should be for a Christian. It should be one moment of being in Christ. Nothing in our life is mundane. Nothing in our life cannot be changed. Everything can be changed.

But I think we need to feel this fervor and remind ourselves of it. It is very difficult when you are down, when you’re tired, when you’re lazy, when you’re feeling bad thoughts or whatever else is going on — it’s really hard to remember that feeling you had before such as Zacchaeus had when the Lord looked up to him and there was hope for Zacchaeus.

What did he do in his fervor? He made promises to the Lord. He was full of joy, and he made promises that he hadn’t thought of before. And surely he fulfilled them. Absolutely he fulfilled them, but they would be difficult to fulfill., and he would have a lot of habits that he’d have to overcome.

Just getting out of that tree didn’t make him good. Getting out of that tree gave him the ability to become good, gave him hope to become good, gave him a way out. But he was still a person with passions, proclivities towards sin, commitments to people that he couldn’t ignore. He still had a long road to go.

And that’s why I believe that this is right before Great Lent, because Great Lent is a long road. Great Lent should be hard. It should be when you learn something of yourself and you struggle and you do more than you usually do. We have more services during Great Lent. We fast more strictly during Great Lent. And, to be perfectly frank with you, if you do those things — I guess if you don’t do these things, probably this doesn’t happen — but if you do those things you will come to periods of time in Great Lent when you feel a great sense of despair, and you’re not getting much better; you’re pretty much the same person you were two weeks ago, two years ago, twenty years ago, still full of sin, full of bad habits.

Remember when Jairus’ daughter was dying and his servant came up to Him as Christ was going, and he said, don’t trouble the Master; she’s dead? I think we feel that; I know we feel that; I’m positive. I think very few people who struggle do not have those moments.

The way you get through those moments is with struggle and with holding things close to your breast from the Scriptures and the services. It’s not so much that we must have particular things memorized, although that’s a very good thing to do; I recommend it highly. But the feeling of reading the Scriptures, the feeling of hopefulness that Zacchaeus must have had, that decision: “I am going to be better and now I have a way to be better”; that’s the good news, and this is what you must hold onto. There’s going to be a lot of times when it’s very hard. But if you will hold onto that, then there is still joy in you even in the midst of sadness.

Try it. See if I’m right. During this Lent, fast more strictly than you did before. Go to more services. We have plenty of opportunities. Pray. Read the Scripture more, or even start reading the Scripture. Attempt to give alms and do good works.

And you’ll find, even before the third week, you’re kind of tired, and there will be those voices inside you, those voices of the person that’s the Publican inside you: “You’re not really going to get much better. You really do have a lot of bad habits. What are you doing all this for? You’re just hungry and you’re more irritable than usual.” Don’t listen to those voices.

Listen to that voice inside you that was the person in the tree and you heard the Lord say to you, “Come down because I’ll abide in your house.”

It’s not just a nursery tale. This is the truth. This is absolutely what happens to the Christian soul. God visits it, fills it with hope. You can’t do anything without hope, nothing. Hope is very precious. Hope must be kindled. It must be taken care of. Take care of your hope.

Struggle. But remember that God will receive you just as He received Zacchaeus. Don’t let anything or anybody make you forget this. And He will abide in your house, and you will be saved. Amen.

Transcribed by the hand of Helen

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009

 

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This homily is at:

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http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2009-02-01+sunday-of-zacchaeus.doc

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[1] The article begin referred to is:

“Everything MUST have meaning! Sickness.  Drug Addiction. Priorities”, writtenSept 26/ Oct 8 2009.

http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2009/10/09/everything-must-have-meaning-sickness-drug-addiction-priorities/

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-09-everything-we-do-must-have-meaning-drug-addiction-sickness-priorities.html

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-09-everything-we-do-must-have-meaning-drug-addiction-sickness-priorities.doc

 

The conclusion of this article was: There are as many more examples as there are situations in our lives. So much of our life is great, meaningless spaces surrounded by little moments full of meaning. The task of the Christian is to have less space. Our Lord Jesus Christ had absolutely none of this “space” Everything He did, thought or said had meaning. This is our goal.  Let’s improve a little, but by bit, until we have reached it.”

 

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