Archive for June, 2011

Scripture for Orthodox Christians to memorize

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

We have started a new routine at St Nicholas. I want my flock to be more scripturally literate. I am taking a page from the Protestants, who memorize the bible frequently. They memorize things they often do not completely understand – we have the true faith, and the precise exposition of the bible is present in all our (often neglected by the majority) services, and yet, as a people, many of our bibles are dusty! This should not be.

Here is the first scripture I chose. I have no idea how I am going to choose scripture to memorize. I have a zillion favorites, and there are are zillion important scriptures. I will probably use the church year as a guide, so for our first scripture,. I chose something from the Apostle Peter, since we are in the Apostle's fast. I hope we can get something from St Paul memorized before the end of the fast.

All scripture will be at http://www./orthodox.net/scripture-memory

It will be in PDF and Word fornats, suitable for printing, and dividing into quarters.


Scripture for Orthodox Christians Orthodox Christians use the Bible in their services more than anyone, with more theological precision and understanding than anyone, and unfortunately many have a poor reading understanding of the Bible. These scriptures were presented for memorization at St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, for the purpose of awakening in my flock a love of, understanding of, and memory of the scriptures. In English, Russian and Spanish.
  • 1 Peter 2:20
  • For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. Also in WORD format  
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A good beginning. We all must leave our nets or we will never come close to fulfilling the beatititudes. 2nd /Sunday after Pentecost

Monday, June 27th, 2011

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Synopsis: On this day, commemorating All Saints of Russia on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, we read the beatitudes, and the first Gospel tells us what we MUST do it we are to have any chance whatsoever to fulfil the beatitudes (and we are called to do this!). The calling of the apostles Peter ans Andrew and James and John is recounted. The Gospel is short, but very specific: both pairs left their nets, that is, left everything, and followed Jesus. We must have this sort of dedicated beginning in order to endure to the end. It gets hard in the middle, and if we do not begin with dedication, and constantly remember our original dedication, we will never make it to salvation. What does "leaving their nets" mean for us and how can this resolute act help us?

More homilies on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

Matthew 4:18-23 18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-02_2011-06-26+a-good-beginning_matthew4-18-23.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-02_2011-06-26+a-good-beginning_matthew4-18-23.mp3


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

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Electronic Newsletter June 6/19 All Saints of Russia

Friday, June 24th, 2011

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

June 6/19

All Saints of Russia

Announcements
Prayer Requests
Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week
Links related to the coming week

Wherefore, seeing we also are encompassed

with so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us lay aside every weight,

and the sin which doth so easily beset [us],

and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking to Jesus

the author and finisher of [our] faith.

(Heb 12:1-2)

 


Announcements

On Sunday, July 17th, we will be holding a fund-raising event to fund the construction of our covered porch, which we hope will provide a much-needed expansion to our dining space. Igumen Gregory from St. Arsenius Hermitage in Decator will present a talk about "Prayer and its Practice." The talk will take place across the street at the Bingham House. Parishioners are encouraged to attend;

Tickets will not be available at the door. They may be purchased unto July 2nd at www.orthodox.net.

Parishioners are also asked, if possible, to help provide the complementary refreshments during the talk. Emails have been sent out to the St. Julianna Sisterhood list with suggested menu items that need to be provided. If you have any questions, contact Elaine King. .


 

The brotherhood (and everybody else who is interested) is reminded that Saturday, July 4th is the feast day of our brotherhood patron, St. John of San Francisco. We will have Vigil Friday night and Liturgy Saturday morning, and a brotherhood meeting over lunch.

 


 

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


 

Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Kateryna (Kayla) Bayda. (employment)
  • Natalia and Nicholas (traveling in Ukraine until mid August)
  • David
  • Elizabeth
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire & all the faithful and suffering of Haiti.
  • The suffering people of East Japan.

For a more complete listing, please see our parish prayer list. Anyone can make requests.
 


 

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Saturday 6/25

  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM Vigil

Sunday 6/26 All Saints of Russia

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School

Monday 6/27

  • 7:30PM Moleben

Wednesday 6/29

  • 7:00PM Vespers

Thursday 6/30

  • 9AM Divine Liturgy

Friday 7/1

  • 7PM Vigil for St. John

Saturday 7/2 St. John of San Francisco

  • 9AM Divine Liturgy for St. John
  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM Vigil

Sunday 7/3 New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School

Fasting in the Coming weeks

The fast of the Holy Apostles will continue until the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29 / July 12. During this time, we abstain from meat, dairy and egg products. Fish is eaten on weekends only. Wine and cooking oil are used on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and certain days in honor of major saints.

This week, Fish will be allowed on Tuesday in honor of the St. Jonah of Moscow.

LINKS

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Celebrating Sanctity. How To Become A Saint. Sunday of All Saints 2011

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

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Synopsis: It is apropos to celebrate All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost, because with the coming of the Holy Spirit, coupled with all the effects of the incarnation, we have the ability to become holy – in fact we are commanded to become holy ("saint" means "holy one"). The readings today focus on how we can become holy. We must have true, living faith – we discuss what faith is (it is not mere belief in something!), and confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men (we discuss what "confession" is – it is not just what we say, but also what we do and who we are – and it is especially difficult in our day, because the spirit of the age permeates and pollutes everything). We also discuss what it means to "take up our cross", and "run with patience the race that is set before us".

More homilies on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

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

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


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2011-06-19+celebrating-sanctity+how-to-become-a-saint_hebrews11-33-12-2,matthew10-32-33,37-38,19-27-30.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2011-06-19+celebrating-sanctity+how-to-become-a-saint_hebrews11-33-12-2,matthew10-32-33,37-38,19-27-30.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

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

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Electronic Newsletter June 6/19 Sunday of All Saints

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

June 6/19

Sunday of All Saints

Announcements
Prayer Requests
Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week
Links related to the coming week

Wherefore, seeing we also are encompassed

with so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us lay aside every weight,

and the sin which doth so easily beset [us],

and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking to Jesus

the author and finisher of [our] faith.

(Heb 12:1-2)

 


Announcements

On Sunday, July 17th, we will be holding a fund-raising event to fund the construction of our covered porch, which we hope will provide a much-needed expansion to our dining space. Igumen Gregory from St. Arsenius Hermitage in Decator will present a talk about "Prayer and its Practice." The talk will take place across the street at the Bingham House. Parishioners are encouraged to attend;

Tickets will not be available at the door. They may be purchased unto July 2nd at www.orthodox.net.

Parishioners are also asked, if possible, to help provide the complementary refreshments during the talk. Emails have been sent out to the St. Julianna Sisterhood list with suggested menu items that need to be provided. If you have any questions, contact Elaine King. .


 

 

The brotherhood (and everybody else who is interested) is reminded that Saturday, July 4th is the feast day of our brotherhood patron, St. John of San Francisco. We will have Vigil Friday night and Liturgy Saturday morning, and a brotherhood meeting over lunch.

 


 

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

 


 

Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Kateryna (Kayla) Bayda. (employment)
  • Natalia and Nicholas (traveling in Ukraine until mid August)
  • David
  • Elizabeth
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire & all the faithful and suffering of Haiti.
  • The suffering people of East Japan.

For a more complete listing, please see our parish prayer list. Anyone can make requests.
 


 

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Saturday 6/18

  • 3PM Parish Council Meeting
  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM Vigil

Sunday 6/19 Sunday of All Saints

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Sisterhood Meeting

Monday 6/20

 

 

  • 7:30PM Moleben

Wednesday 6/22

  • 7:00PM Vespers

Thursday 6/23

  • 9AM Divine Liturgy

Saturday 6/25

  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM Vigil

Sunday 6/26 All Saints of Russia

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School

Fasting in the Coming weeks

The Fast of the Apostles begins on Monday, June 20th! Our Lord said of his disciples that "when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast." The Paschal period is over. The Holy Spirit has come. The feast of All Saints has challenged us to "run with patience the race that is set before us," in obedience to our Lord's command to "be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." And one necessary tool in our struggle to conform ourselves to the Image of Christ is… Fasting with Prayer.

The fast of the Holy Apostles will continue until the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29 / July 12. During this time, we abstain from meat, dairy and egg products. Fish is eaten on weekends only. Wine and cooking oil are used on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and certain days in honor of major saints.

This week, Fish will be allowed on Friday in honor of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabus.

LINKS

 

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Exegesis Of Sunday Of All Saints Vespers Parables.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

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Synopsis: The "parables" of Vespers are OT or sometimes, NT readings, which elucidate the meaning of the feast. Since this is the Sunday of All Saints, these 3 OT readings describe sanctity – holiness (the word "Saint" means "holy one"). Saints, which we are also called to be, are witnesses who are misunderstood by the world of sinners, and their virtues are described, much like the apostle Paul described virtues in the passage in Ephesians which described the armor of faith (Ephesians 6:13-17)

More homilies on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost – Sunday of All Saints are HERE

Isaiah 43:9-14 9 All the nations are assembled together, and the tribes are gathered: who among you can declare this, and shall make us hear the former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, let them be justified, and hear, and say: It is truth. 10 You are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know, and believe me, and understand that I myself am. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there shall be none. 11 I am, I am the Lord: and there is no saviour besides me. 12 I have declared, and have saved. I have made it heard, and there was no strange one among you. You are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and I am God. 13 And from the beginning I am the same, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall turn it away? 14 Thus saith the Lord your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake I sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their bars, and the Chaldeans glorying in their ships.

Wisdom 3:1-9 1 But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. 2 In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: 3 And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4 And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself. 6 As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them. 7 The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds. 8 They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. 9 They that trust in him, shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love shall rest in him: for grace and peace is to his elect.

Wisdom 5:15-6:3 15 For the hope of the wicked is as dust, which is blown away with the wind, and as a thin froth which is dispersed by the storm: and a smoke that is scattered abroad by the wind: and as the remembrance of a guest of one day that passeth by. 16 But the just shall live for evermore: and their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them with the most High. 17 Therefore shall they receive a kingdom of glory, and a crown of beauty at the hand of the Lord: for with his right hand he will cover them, and with his holy arm he will defend them. 18 And his zeal will take armour, and he will arm the creature for the revenge of his enemies. 19 He will put on justice as a breastplate, and will take true judgment instead of a helmet. 20 He will take equity for an invincible shield: 21 And he will sharpen his severe wrath for a spear, and the whole world shall fight with him against the unwise. 22 Then shafts of lightning shall go directly from the clouds, as from a bow well bent, they shall be shot out, and shall fly to the mark. 23 And thick hail shall be cast upon them from the stone casting wrath: the water of the sea shall rage against them, and the rivers shall run together in a terrible manner. 24 A mighty wind shall stand up against them, and as a whirlwind shall divide them: and their iniquity shall bring all the earth to a desert, and wickedness shall overthrow the thrones of the mighty. 1 Wisdom is better than strength, and a wise man is better than a strong man. 2 Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth. 3 Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2011-06-19+exegesis-of-sunday-of-all-saints-vespers-parables_isaiah43-9-14,wisdom-3-1-9,wisdom-5-15-6-3.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-01_2011-06-19+exegesis-of-sunday-of-all-saints-vespers-parables_isaiah43-9-14,wisdom-3-1-9,wisdom-5-15-6-3.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

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

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Sunday of All Saints – Several Homilies

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

 This is a fundamental characteristic of righteousness, to confess the Lord Jesus Christ.  And how do we confess Him?  With our lips and with our actions; with our priorities and with our way of dealing with people; with what we say is important and what we show is important. There are some obvious things that you could have come to mind.  We confess the Lord by showing that we care about Christianity, that we live our life in a moral way.  The entire world has gone off unto Sodom and Gomorrah, but we cannot do this.  We must have the courage to stand against it, to stand against every form of immorality and vice.  This is the confession of Christ.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

 



Sun of All Saints 2009. Audio Homily. I want you to be ready.

In order to be a saint – "Holy" – we are commanded to become holy – we must have desire and effort, and God will help us. If we do not have this desire and effort, God will not help us, and He will have no part with us.

We must, as the Lord says. "Confess" Him. He says something great and terrible: Whosoever will confess me before me.

One must understand what it means to confess. To confess in the Lord is is to live as He taught us, to have the priorities He taught us to have. Confession involved living the tight way. You cannot confession the Lord and steal, or be an adulterer. We must confess with the lips also – stand for what is right as Christians. We live in an age where good is called bad, and bad good. Abominations are deemed healthy, and to even believe that abominations are bad is labeled as bigoted, or even mental illness.

Let's not talks about politics, or parties, or particular people – let's talk about the age we are in, and what we must do – who we must be – in order to confess Christ in this age.


Sunday of All Saints. Homily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentecost If any man thirst… Three important things John 7:37-52,8:12. Text/Audio Homily

Thursday, June 16th, 2011


Pentecost
If any man thirst…
Three important things
John 7:37-52,8:12

2008

 

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

 

Brothers and sisters, there are three very important things that are said in the gospel today. They’re right in a row. One is basically a question. The other is a command or actually, a suggestion, and the other is the result.

We are celebrating today Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the apostles and all the rest of the believers up to and including us – the Holy Spirit Who enlightens us, Who shows us the way of life, Who speaks to us in groanings that cannot be uttered[1]. He tells us the things of God, the things of Christ; He enlightens us.

 

But none of this, none of this will happen unless first we consider this very, very important question. And we must answer.

When you answer a question, a Christian question, it’s not something that you say once. It’s something that you answer again and again and again. An example is when the Lord said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” And he said, “Yea, Lord, I love thee.[2]” And he was asked three times in a row.

 

We are asked that question every day. Do we love the Lord or do we love the world? So we can’t answer that question just one time. It has to be answered over and over again.

And here is another question very similar to the question that is posed to us on the Sunday of the Cross: “If any man thirst, if any man will,” it says on the Sunday of the Cross, “let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.[3]” Here it says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”

 

There’s a parallel here. How do you come unto Christ and drink? You deny yourself; you take up your cross and you follow Him.

 

“If any man thirst” – It’s a question that needs to be answered every day. Do you thirst?

Now, thirst, biologically, is just when you feel the need for water, and if you are extremely active, you need to be drinking water even when you don’t think you need it. In the Christian life we should be cultivating our thirst, constantly thinking.

 

How do you cultivate your thirst? I think the easiest way is to compare this life to the next, comparing the person you are with the person you should be. Compare the promises of God with the way of the world. And if that doesn’t make you thirst, then you have a severe problem like unto being that ground that is hard packed, so that the seed cannot grow.

I’ll be honest with you, a priest really is preaching to the people that at least have some thirst. If a person has no thirst whatsoever, the Holy Spirit will not fill them; the Holy Spirit will not live in them, no matter how Orthodox they are. No matter if their father and mother were Orthodox, it’s been in their family, no matter if they serve in the church, no matter if they are clergy. If a person does not thirst for God, then the Holy Spirit will not fill him.

So the first and foremost thing that is necessary for our salvation is for us to thirst, for us to desire.

 

Of course, perhaps I am a little ahead of myself. God revealed Himself to us. Otherwise, we would know nothing of Him. So the first and foremost thing of salvation is God loving us and creating us.

But we were created, and we often look to worldly and earthly things instead of spiritual things because they are more immediately tasty to us. They are more immediately pleasurable to us. They are easier to obtain, and the things of God are hidden. So it takes effort to cultivate a thirst.

 
So on this day of Pentecost, I’m asking you: Do you thirst?

Now, the apostles were gathered together on the day of Pentecost and the tongues of flame came and stood over each one of their heads and they prophesied and they spoke in other languages. Why did this happen? It was because they were gathered together; they were thirsting. In the fifty days since the Lord had risen they were together every day in prayer and in fasting, not understanding really about the future. The Lord had spoken to them about this future, but they did not understand, but they stayed in one place so that on the day of the Holy Spirit they were all enlightened. If any one among their company had left, then on that day they were not enlightened.

So the first thing that you must do is thirst. And then the next thing[4] with thirst, find something to slake your thirst. And the only thing that will satisfy us is Jesus Christ. So we must come unto Him and drink.

Does this make you remember the woman at the well? He said to the woman at the well, “If you ask of me, I’ll give you living water.”[5] This living water is the Holy Spirit. “He that believeth on me,” says the Lord, “out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.”[6]

This metaphor is really wonderful. The belly is also a figure of speech for the heart; it is interesting that the belly is sometimes taken as the heart in Scriptures. The belly is the place where we fulfill our desires; it is a metaphor for all desire. And the Lord will sanctify all of us. If our belly is sanctified, then certainly the rest of us will be as well.

Now, sometimes people indicate to me that they have trouble believing. It’s really difficult. There’s a lot of, I told you before, dissonance in the world. We want to be something and we’re not. We try to be good, and yet there are these thoughts that assail us. We try to find Christ, and sometimes He does not seem so near. So there’s this tug of war that’s going on all the time. It’s a lot easier to believe the things in the world because we see them and we feel them and we experience them rather than the things of God. And anyone who says that they never have any such feelings, I tell you, that person is not telling you the truth.

How do we experience Christ? First by knowing we need Him. Thirsting. Second, by coming to Him. And the gospel of the Cross is “Deny yourself, take up your Cross and follow Me.” So we are talking work, and not anything that’s really, really easy. We are talking if you have something that you really need and you know that the only way to get it is by obtaining something, you’re willing to work for that.

And then what happens? “Out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.”[7] I tell you, if out of your belly was flowing forth cool, refreshing, life-giving water, wouldn’t you know it? Would any man need to tell you any proofs of Christ? Would you need to have any dogmatic definitions? No. Because God would be within you. You would feel Him moving. There would be no doubt. This is what we are attempting to obtain, and it is obtainable, and we do believe this because the saints obtained it.

If you are having doubts, then recognize that this is a sign of your own fallenness and weakness, and renew your thirst. Whatever you can do to come to the Lord, do it, and drink of His living water, and you will eventually feel out of your belly this living water. There will be no doubt. There won’t be any room for any doubt because the Holy Spirit fulfills all things.

Now, recently I have been saying to you a little statement in some of the writings, some very important things that we have been writing about on the mailing list and on the blog, and that is:

 

Do what you can do so that eventually you can do what you cannot do.

 

And this Scripture is basically teaching that same thing.

First of all, you must be thirsty. You must know that you have a need. You have to know that you need God. And I tell you, unfortunately there are people that don’t know this need. Sometimes we don’t know this need either. But if we know this need, then let us come to Christ. And you come to Him by being completely pure, never thinking evil thinking thoughts, never cursing, never having any unclean thoughts, never being jealous, never lying, never being unpleasant, and never being irritable. If you can do this, then that is good, but most people cannot. None of us can do this, not consistently, not every single moment. But we can do some of it; and the things we can do, we must do.

If you can be kind to your neighbors, be kind even if they are not kind to you.

If you can refrain from judging someone or at least refrain from judging with your lips, then do this.

If you can fast, then fast.

If you can come to the services frequently, then do this.

There are many, many other things.

 

We could speak of hundreds of things that, if you can do them, I tell you, you must do them.

Now, I am convinced as a pastor that there are things, sometimes simple things in the Christian life that we, for various reasons, really are not capable of doing. We say we are lazy and we don’t want to be lazy, but we really don’t know how not to be lazy. And it seems like every day we end up being lazy. We don’t want to be angry, and yet we get angry. We don’t want to have lustful thoughts or hurtful thoughts or remember wrongs, and yet usually at very usually inconvenient times these thoughts come to us.

 

Sometimes things that you and I consider simple, other people consider difficult, like fasting, for instance, or saying our prayers in our morning or continence or any other things. But what you can do, you must do because the Lord says, “Come unto Me and drink, and out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And this is the part that you cannot do, but you will be able to do. No man will be saved without great effort.

If you want to show the Lord that you thirst, then evaluate what you can do.

 

Now, can you fast? All right.

Can you pray?

Can you come to church regularly?

Can you commune?

Can you confess?

Can you tithe?

Can you be kind?

Then do these things.

 

If these are things that you are capable of doing and you are not doing them, then woe unto you because how can the Spirit come in, because if you are not doing things that you can do, you certainly won’t be able to do anything that you’re not capable of, and you never will.

So that is what that little aphorism that I made up means. It is important, and the Scripture teaches it all the time. I mean, I didn’t make it up out of the air. It’s right in the Scriptures.

So if you thirst, follow Christ to the extent of your abilities. Perhaps those abilities are not very good right now. But they will become better if you follow according to the extent of your abilities now. And then you will become better able to do good things later on. And there is no substitute for purity and goodness. Purity and goodness make us know Christ in the way that no one can gainsay, no one can fool us, and no doubts can creep in.

 

To the pure all things are pure. And since God is pure, if we are pure, we know God without a shadow of a doubt. So this pure water that is flowing out of the belly is purifying and maintains our purity, but we must struggle for that purity to the extent we have the ability to do so now.

So here is the key to the Christian life. Thirst for God. Thirst for goodness. Thirst for peace. Recognize that you are lacking something, something very precious that you need. Desire that thing. And then, to the best of your abilities, come to Christ and drink of His water which He offers. Take up your cross, deny yourself, struggle.

There is no doubt that the Christian life has struggling, but you can either struggle in Christ or struggle outside of Christ. The whole world is struggling,  so you must pick which one you want to do, which struggle you want to have.

“If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believeth on Me,” as the Scripture has said, “out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.” And we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming today to make this a possibility for us to have the rivers of living water in our life but only if we thirst and if this thirst drives us to come after Christ and to follow him. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2008    

Transcribed by the hand of Helen. Edited by the author.

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

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[1] Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

[2] John 21:15 KJV  “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” – and the following verses. This is the 11th matinal gospel – a piece of scripture so important that the church reads it at least 5 times a year.

[3] Matthew 16:24 KJV  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

[4] Number 2 of 3, mentioned at the beginning of the homily.

[5] This story is so important that it is read on the 5th Sunday after Pascha, because it describes how we must react to God if we are to become enlightened. Homilies on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman are here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Samaritan_Woman

[6] John 7:37 “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” – read during Pentecost Liturgy.

[7] Number 3 of 3, the result.

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What is praying in Jesus’ name? It is not adding a suffix!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

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Synopsis: In our day, many people who believe in Christ end their extemporaneous prayers with the ubiquitous phrase: "In Jesus name", in large part due to an incorrect understanding of this verse: "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." What does it means to pray in Jesus' name? It does not mean to add a suffix to our prayers, but rather, to live according to His name, and then, of course, our prayers will be in accordance with His all-holy will. We explore this important idea.

John 16:23-33 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. 29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


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Exegesis of the Parables at Vespers for Pentecost Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29 ; Joel 2:23-32 ; Ezekiel 36:24-28

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Coptic Ikon of Pentecost.

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Synopsis: The "Parables" for an important commemoration are read on the eve of the feast, and are usually from the OT, and they always elucidate the meaning of the feast in some way. We look at the 3 OT readings for Pentecost Vespers, which, among other things, describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the calling of the Gentiles, the promise of the sending of the Holy Spirit to all Christians, and a superb description of the human condition and how the Holy Spirit helps heal it. This last point may be the most important one, because of we do not recognize our need, we will not do everything in our power to have the Holy Spirit abide in us.

More homilies on Pentecost are HERE

Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29 16 And the Lord said to Moses: Gather unto me seventy men of the ancients of Israel, whom thou knowest to be ancients and masters of the people: and thou shalt bring them to the door of the tabernacle of the covenant, and shalt make them stand there with thee, 17 That I may come down and speak with thee: and I will take of thy spirit, and will give to them, that they may bear with thee the burden of the people, and thou mayest not be burthened alone. 24 Moses therefore came, and told the people the words of the Lord, and assembled seventy men of the ancients of Israel, and made them to stand about the tabernacle. 25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke to him, taking away of the spirit that was in Moses, and giving to the seventy men. And when the spirit had rested on them they prophesied, nor did they cease afterwards. 26 Now there remained in the camp two of the men, of whom one was called Eldad, and the other Medad, upon whom the spirit rested; for they also had been enrolled, but were not gone forth to the tabernacle. 27 And when they prophesied in the camp, there ran a young man, and told Moses, saying: Eldad and Medad prophesy in the camp. 28 Forthwith Josue the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, and chosen out of many, said: My lord Moses forbid them. 29 But he said: Why hast thou emulation for me? O that all the people might prophesy, and that the Lord would give them his spirit!

Joel 2:23-32 23 And you, O children of Sion, rejoice, and be joyful in the Lord your God: because he hath given you a teacher of justice, and he will make the early and the latter rain to come down to you as in the beginning. 24 And the floors shall be filled with wheat, and the presses shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 And I will restore to you the ears which the locust, and the bruchus, and the mildew, and the palmerworm have eaten; my great host which I sent upon you. 26 And you shall eat in plenty, and shall be filled: and you shall praise the name of the Lord your God, who hath done wonders with you, and my people shall not be confounded for ever. 27 And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: and I am the Lord your God, and there is none besides: and my people shall not be confounded for ever. 28 And it shall come to pass after this, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Moreover upon my servants and handmaids in those days I will pour forth my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in heaven; and in earth, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood: before the great and dreadful day of the Lord doth come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that every one that shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: for in mount Sion, and in Jerusalem shall be salvation, as the Lord hath said, and in the residue whom the Lord shall call.

Ezekiel 36:24-28 24 For I will take you from among the Gentiles, and will gather you together out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit in the midst of you: and I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God


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