Archive for December, 2011

Newsletter December 12 / 25 28th Sunday after Pentecost

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

December 12 / 25  28th Sunday after Pentecost

Announcements

"Mighty Mites" Collection

Prayer Requests

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Fasting in the Coming week


Announcements

The Nativity of our Lord falls on Saturday, January 7th. We will have many services on the 6th, and Liturgy on the 7th. This is one of the great feast days of the Church. Please plan to attend.

Father Seraphim is helping at an Orthodox youth service retreat in Pharr, TX, and services are therefore cancelled on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Saturday, 12/31, we will have a reader's Vigil service. On Sunday we will, God willing, have Divine Liturgy as usual. Igumen Gregory will serve.


"Mighty Mites" Collection

This week, we collected $30 for Russian American Community Services, which does charitable work both in the US and in Russia.

Next week, we will collect for Flowers for Nativity.


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Alexandra (4 y/o girl wih brain cancer)
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti,  and our sponsored household: Catherine and her family.
  • 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

Monday 12/26

  • No Service

Wednesday 12/28

  • No Service

Thursday 12/29

  • NO LITURGY

Saturday 12/31

  • No Confessions
  • 5:00PM Vigil (Reader's Service)

Sunday 1/1. 

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM  Church School (Elementary, Adult)

Fasting in the Coming week

We are in the Nativity Fast. We fast from all animal products every day. Fish is allowed on weekends and certain saint's days; wine and oil are allowed on Tuesday, Thursday, and certain saints' days.

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Prison Ministry Pastoral Letter. The Jesus Prayer. A short and eclectic teaching about baptism

Sunday, December 25th, 2011


letterhead - St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas - http://www.orthodox.net/images/letterhead.jpg

Dec 11/24 2011 Eve of St Herman and St Spyridon, and for some, the Nativity of our Lord.

 

I am writing this letter on the Eve of St Herman and St Spyridon’s day, or, as some know it, Christmas Eve. I want to write weekly since I now have funds in the prison ministry account, but I see that the last letter was Dec 7th.  With God helping me, I will improve – perhaps two letters a month would be doable.

 

The last letter I wrote  was about fasting. Some of you have commented to me about this letter. If you have questions or comments, please, either mail me or ask in person. Fasting is a critical part of our “getting better”, and I want you to understand and embrace it.

 

There are three of you that will be baptized in January: Catechumens Vladimir, Innocent and John. I am traveling soon, and will not be back seeing you until the first week of the New Year. That Wednesday, Jan 4, God willing, Innocent and John will be baptized in the Michael Unit, just before the Lord’s Nativity. The next week, in the Hughes unit, God willing, Vladimir will be baptized.

 

May God bless you and help you in all things. This letter will be a little about the Jesus prayer and a little about baptism.

 

The Jesus Prayer. 1

You must pray for those you have bad feelings about. 2

Prayer ropes for everyone. 2

A short and eclectic teaching about baptism.. 2

Baptism – to immerse. 2

Scripture and baptism.. 3

An Entry into the Church. 3

The Gift of the Holy Spirit 4

The Sacrament (Mystery) of Christian Baptism – St Cyprian of Carthage. 4

Address at the Baptism of Anna Elizabeth Park. 5

After baptism …. 7

 

The Jesus Prayer.

 

You should be praying for those ready to be baptized and everyone else that comes to our services and classes. It is quite easy to do. Most of you have the list of names, but I can provide it to anyone who does not have them. Just pray “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on _____”  in your regular prayers. Do this once, or perhaps three times per person.

 

This simple prayer is the most powerful prayerful expression we have in the church, as it is simple, easy to remember, theologically rich, and (relatively) easy to pray with intensity. It is well suited to any time and place, and is very useful in prison, when things are usually loud and chaotic. It is very hard to read prayers or the Psalter, etc, with a constant din of background noise, but it is easier to say the “Jesus prayer”.  I will continue to talk to you about this prayer, and encourage you to pray with it everywhere and every time.

 

You must pray for those you have bad feelings about.

 

Also, always pray daily for anybody that troubles you or that you have bad feelings about. You will not have peace until you forgive *everyone* who has wronged you, and this cannot happen without praying for them. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

 

Prayer ropes for everyone.

 

I am also in the process of getting prayer ropes for everyone. You should submit an I-60 to the chaplain asking for permission to have “Greek Orthodox prayer beads”. This is a bit of an odd way to refer to the prayer rope, but their reference book has a picture of a black 100 knot prayer rope under this name, showing that in principle, the prison allows possession of this “devotional item”. When you get back the signed permission slip, mail it to me, and I will then be able to send you a prayer rope. You also could order one – I will work on getting you sources to send to.

 

A short and eclectic teaching about baptism

 

Since we have three baptisms coming up, I thought I would give you some things about baptism. I suppose I could write about Nativity, but this feast is not here yet for me, and I find it hard to think ahead (I am trying to develop this ability, so I can send you letters that apply topically to the season.) It is also important to understand baptism, so I think I will write a little bit in “stream of consciousness” mode. You are all aware of this mode, since I am usually in it when I see you. I would appreciate (and expect) prayers for me, because I have many deficits and organization is one of them.  I have written so much stuff that I find it pretty easy to cobble together things I have written and saved. I hope it is not too incoherent to you. In my old age I have learned that it is more important to do something that is imperfect than nothing because I cannot make it perfect.

 

Baptism – to immerse

 

The word baptism is from the Greek word “baptizo” – to immerse. Christians have always, from the beginning, immersed a person completely, in water, in the name of the Trinity. There has been no other way. There will always be those who cut corners and imitate practices outside the church, but the only normal way (outside of an emergency) to baptize the church knows is to immerse three times in water, in the name of the Holy Trinity. The priest says: “The servant of God ____ is baptized in the name of the Father (and immerses), and the Son (another immersion), and the Holy Spirit (and the last immersion).

 

Scripture and baptism

 

Scripture tells us much about baptism. A general rule of Scriptural exegesis (understanding the meaning of scripture), is that the more something is mentioned, taught about, and referred to in types and prophesy, the more important it is. We have many OT refererences to baptism, the cross, the resurrection, the incarnation, the Eucharist, etc. All these things are important.

 

But as often as water is named alone in the Holy Scriptures, baptism is referred to, as we see intimated in Isaiah: 'Remember not,' says he, 'the former things, and consider not the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, which shall now spring forth; and ye shall know it. I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the dry place, to give drink to my elected people, my people whom I have purchased, that they might show forth my praise.' There God foretold by the prophet, that among the nations, in places which previously had been dry, rivers should afterwards flow plenteously, and should provide water for the elected people of God, that is, for those who were made sons of God by the generation of baptism…. Christ… cries and says, 'If any man thirst, let him come and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.'

 

And that it might be more evident that the Lord is speaking there, not of the cup, but of baptism, the Scripture adds, saying, 'But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.' For by baptism the Holy Spirit is received…

 

As also, in another place, the Lord speaks to the Samaritan woman, saying, 'Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst for ever.' By which is also signified the very baptism of saving water, which indeed is once received, and is not again repeated." St Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD )" The Epistles of Cyprian," Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, pg. 360)

 

Here are a few of the OT references to baptism. These are “types”, which are prophesies and allusions to something to come.

  • The crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel.
  • The healing of Naaman the Syrian in the waters of the Jordan (after immersing himself 7 times)
  • The parting of the Jordan when Elisha crossed over (after seeing Elias ascend in the chariot).
  • The healing of whoever got to the water first after the waters were troubles by an angle in the pool of Besthesda.
  • There are a ton more references. Please write them down and we can talk about them.

 

An Entry into the Church

 

Baptism is the entry into the Holy Church. It was commanded by our Savior, and has always been understood to be the entry of a believer into the Christian Life in the Holy Church:

 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” ( Matthew 28:19-20).

 

Baptism is not only the entry for the believer into the church; it also washes him clean of all sins prior to his holy baptism, no matter how grievous and frequent they were. Here he must remember the admonition the Lord gave to the paralytic, whom He healed of not only his physical infirmity, but of his sins also: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (St. John 5:14).

 

We believe this because baptism is a complete rebirth, where the old man, with his sinful inclinations, dies, and is reborn in the Spirit. Our Lord said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).

 

Therefore, baptism is necessary for our salvation.

 

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

 

Chrismation is the imparting of the gift of the Holy Spirit unto the newly-baptized believer. Christians are “temples of the Holy Spirit”, and this sacrament bestows the Holy Spirit upon them. The Christian must always remember St. Paul’s admonition: “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19).

 

After a person is baptized and chrismated, all his sins are remitted, and he is illumined with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to embark upon the life in Christ within the ark of the Holy Church. This is also the case for infants, who are also empowered to live a Christian life.  The grace of baptism, especially if it is nurtured by strong faith and piety in the household, will operate invisibly in such little ones, and strengthen them so that when they acquire reasoning powers, they will choose the Christian way of life.

 

Excerpted from http://www.orthodox.net/articles/baptism-thoughts.html

The Sacrament (Mystery) of Christian Baptism - St Cyprian of Carthage

From a Letter written to a new convert, 246 A.D.

 

I promise to share with you the grace God in His great mercy has shown me, and to tell you as simply as I can what I have experienced since I was baptized.

 

Until that time, I was still living in the dark, knowing nothing of my true life. I was completely involved in this world's affairs, influenced by all its changing moods and troubles, and exiled from the light of truth.

 

I had indeed been told that God offered men and women a second birth, by which we could be saved, but I very much doubted that I could change the kind of life I was then living.

Frankly, I could not see how a person could cast off his fallen nature, and be changed in heart and soul while he still lived in the same body as before. How was it possible, I asked myself, to change the habits of a lifetime instantaneously.

 

How can one suddenly rid oneself of accumulated guilt and break with sin that has become so deeply rooted in one's life? Can a man whose life has been characterized by feasting and luxury, learn frugality and simplicity in a single moment? A person who craves public distinction and honor cannot bear to be passed over and unnoticed.

 

Another who is accustomed to throngs of flattering attendance, takes it a terrible penance to be left alone. Is every species of temptation suddenly to lose its force? Should we no longer feel the enticement of wine and good living, where pride no longer swells our heads or anger blazen our breasts? Shall we no longer be troubled by covetousness or cruelty or ambition or lust?

These were my thoughts. My past life was so burdened with so many sins, that I saw no way ever to be rid of, that I had grown accustomed to giving way to my weakness. I despaired of ever being any better.

 

Consequently, I simply humored my evil inclinations, and made no attempt to combat them.

But at last I made up my mind to ask for Baptism. I went down into those life-giving waters, and all the stains of my past were washed away.

 

I committed my life to the Lord. He cleansed my heart and filled me with His Holy Spirit. I was born again, a new man.

 

And then in a most marvelous way, all my doubts cleared up, I could now see what had been hidden from me before. I found that I could do things that had previously been impossible.

 

I saw that as long as I had been living according to my lower nature, I was at the mercy of sin, and my course was set for death. But that by living according to my new birth in the Holy Spirit, I had already begun to share God's eternal life. You know, as well as I do, what sins I died to at that moment, just as you know the gifts the Holy Spirit gave me with my new life. I have no desire to boast, but it is surely right to thank God for His free gift. It was through faith in Him, that I received the power to break with the sins into which my own folly had led me.

 

We have received the seal of the Holy Spirit. Our task now is to preserve the integrity of what we have received by living a truly Christian life. We must give time to prayer, and to the study of scripture. Now speaking to God; now listening to His word to us, and letting His teaching mold us. He has enriched us with a treasure no one can take away.

 

We have eaten and drunk at His heavenly banquet, and can never again know the pinch of poverty.


Source: http://www.orthodox.net/articles/sacrament-baptism-cyprian-of-carthage.html

 

Address at the Baptism of Anna Elizabeth Park

2003

By Fr. Seraphim Holland, Celebrant and Grandfather

 

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

 

This is an unique opportunity for me, and I want to take advantage of it. Normally when I baptize someone, I’m speaking to the parents, exhorting the parents to raise their child in piety: that this is a beginning for their child, and that they must continue in the ways of our Lord, following the commandments, so she may grow to maturity.

 

But I know the parents pretty well. I don’t need to exhort the parents to do this, because it would be like … literally … preaching to the choir! So Anna, I want to say these words to you. And since I will record these words, and they will be eventually transcribed, perhaps at some time in your life, when you have a difficulty, these words will help you.

 

Anybody who’s been around me for a while knows that I have certain pet verses; regardless of what the text of the day is, I always seem to mention these things. My favorite verse in the Bible is from St. John. He says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” This explains why we are capable of holiness, greatness, why we love, why we do everything that is good. Because the Lord loved us first. And His love imbued us with the ability to love — to give love and accept love. It imbued us with the ability to do all good things. And the reason why He imbued us with this ability was of course because of His love, and His love made Him desire that we would know Him.

 

Anna, this is the purpose of your life. You don’t know it yet, but you’ll know it soon enough, and your parents will teach you. You will learn what the purpose of your life is: to know God. Our Lord described it in His High-priestly prayer. He said, “And this is life eternal: that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.” This is the reason you were born, not to give joy to your parents, to your grandparents, not to do any great work on the earth, not to go to school, or to play, or to learn anything temporal. You were born to know God.

 

The only way you can know Him is to become good. Now, you’re good now, but you’re good because you’re unspoiled. The great despoiler, the evil one, will attempt to defile you. So when you grow older, it will be harder to be good. But you will have knowledge then, and the Lord will help you.

 

Truly the only way to know God is to become like Him. The only way to know algebra is not to read the book only, but to do the problems. The only way to learn to play baseball is not to watch it, but to participate, to play. The only way to understand the joy I feel, as both a grandparent and the celebrant of your baptism, is … to be me. You can only understand someone, and know someone, if you enter into their life. Otherwise, you cannot know them. This is why the Lord stresses, again and again, His commandments — certainly the Old Testament is a continual stressing of following the ways of God, of following His commandments. And our Lord Jesus Christ spoke often also of righteousness, of goodness, of humility, of love. These things are necessary, because if we do not do these things, we cannot know Jesus Christ, because that is the person He was, and is. The Lord said that the life eternal is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ.  You cannot know God without becoming like Him.

 

Anna, you have made a beginning today. A beginning was made for you, of which you will become aware, soon enough. And those who love you, those who pray for you, feel as the Apostle Paul felt, for his loved ones: “We are confident in this very thing, that He which hath began a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Christ Jesus.” Now He will help you in all things, but you must supply the effort, the desire, the sense of priorities, the ordering of your life according to the commandments. He will give you ability.

 

Now, you’ll have problems in your life, as everyone does. Perhaps you’ll have times of doubt, sadness, perhaps times of sin, times of being unsure, times of great difficulties. But remember, that the kingdom of heaven is within you, Anna. It’s not for later on; it’s now. God has given you everything you need to grow to know Him. He has given you parents who are pious and sweet souls who love you. He has given you the Church; the Holy Spirit abides in you. You have everything you need. Now, you’ll learn this soon enough.

 

My favorite number is 153. This number is the number of fish that the Apostle Peter pulled to land when they saw the Lord after his resurrection. It’s a great big number, and it means a lot for a Christian who has ears to hear. “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.” The key to living the Christian life is to believe in the resurrection. Not just in terms of believing it’s an event that occurred, but believing that it is an event that is occurring, again and again, in you. The kingdom of heaven is within you.

 

Now, this great number of fishes broke the nets, and yet they were able to pull them to land. God can make you capable of great things, Anna. Great, incredible things. To become righteous, to become holy, to become perfected. Things which are beyond our understanding. Just as the apostles caught a great catch of fish. Earlier in their ministry — actually, before their ministry began — the Lord sent them out to fish, and when they let down the net, they had so many fish that their boat began to sink. And Simon Peter, when he saw this, said to Lord, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” He wasn’t able to bear the goodness of Lord yet, but three years of training, three years of difficulties, three years of learning from the Master, three years of being humble, and even after his threefold denial of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord sent them out again, and when they caught the fish, a greater catch of fish, it didn’t make the boat sink, and they were able to bring it to land.

 

Now there’s all kinds of meanings for what these fish are. The most important meaning for us is that the Lord makes us capable of doing everything, things we cannot imagine. We will be prepared for more and more. We will mount up like eagles, continually becoming better and better. All we need do is attempt to live the Christian life. You’ve been given everything you need, you are lacking nothing.

 

May God help you, Anna, through the prayers of your parents, and my poor prayers, through the prayers of your grandparents, and those who love you, and teach you about eternal life. But no matter what we say to you, no matter what we show you, no matter what our example is, you must bring this example into your heart. You must decide that you want to live righteously because there is no other important thing in all the world than to know Jesus Christ. And there’s only one path to know Him: to become like Him.

 

May God bless you, and help you, and grant you salvation. Amen.

 

Source: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/baptism_2003-11-10+anna-park.rtf

 

 

I will leave you with some gleaning from the Holy Fathers about baptism. I have a couple of hundred quotes, so for now, I will try to focus of what happens (and what we should do) after baptism.

 

After baptism ….

 

Baptism does not destroy our self-will and willfulness but it frees us from the tyranny of the devil, who can no longer rule over us against our will. After baptism, it begins to lie within our will either of our own accord to obey the commandments of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, in Whose name we were baptized, or to deviate from the right path, and return again to the devil, our adversary and foe. St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 121, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 126)


 

Abba Gregory said, 'These three things God requires of all the baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.' Gregory the Theologian in The Desert Christian


 

Do not despair of whatever sins you may have committed since baptism and find yourself in true repentance, but await God's mercy. However many and however great and burdensome your sins may be, with God there is greater mercy. Just as His majesty is, so likewise is His mercy. Only guard yourself from sinning henceforth, and walk according to the aforementioned points. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven


 

Faith and baptism are two kindred and inseparable ways of salvation: faith is perfected through baptism, baptism is established through faith, and both are completed by the same names. For as we believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, so are we also baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; first comes the confession, introducing us to salvation, and baptism follows, setting the seal upon our assent" 367 AD St. Basil the Great, The Holy Spirit 12[28]).


 

Faith consists not only of being baptized in Christ, but also in fulfilling His commandments. Holy Baptism is perfect and gives us perfection, but does not make perfect those who do not follow the commandments. St. Mark the Ascetic


 

92. Everyone baptized in the orthodox manner has received mystically the fullness of grace; but he becomes conscious of this grace only to the extent that he actively observes the commandments. Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


 

Baptism is the first Mystery (Sacrament) in Christianity; it makes a Christian man worthy to be vouchsafed the gifts of grace through the other Mysteries also. St Theophan the Recluse, "The Path to Salvation" p 35


 

…from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect,  concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself. When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to his soul. Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Matt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 77)


 

…when a wound has gone deep into the body, even if there has been a healing, the scar remains, so sin wounds soul and body, and the marks of its scars remain in all; and they are removed only from those who receive the washing of Baptism. The past wounds therefore of soul and body God heals by Baptism; against future ones let us one and all jointly guard ourselves, that we may keep this vestment of the body pure, and may not for practicing fornication and sensual indulgence or any other sin for a short season, lose the salvation of heaven, but may inherit the eternal kingdom of God; of which may God, of His own grace, deem all of you worthy. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 18 no. 20)


 

…when you have been deemed worthy of the grace [of baptism], He [Christ] then gives you strength to wrestle against the adverse powers. For as after His baptism He was tempted forty days (not that He was unable to gain the victory before, but because He wished to do all things in due order and succession), so you likewise, though not daring before your baptism to wrestle with the adversaries, yet after you have received the grace and are henceforth confident in 'the armor of righteousness' (2 Cor. 6:7), must then do battle, and preach the Gospel, if you will. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 3 no. 13)


 

Are we only dying with the Master and are we only sharing in His sadness? Most of all, let me say that sharing the Master's death is no sadness. Only wait a little and you shall see yourself sharing in His benefits. 'For if we have died with Him,' says St. Paul, `we believe that we shall also live together with Him.' For in baptism there are both burial and resurrection together at the same time. He who is baptized puts off the old man, takes the new and rises up, `just as Christ has arisen through the glory of the Father.' Do you see how, again, St. Paul calls baptism a resurrection? St. John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instructions


 

For he who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, and has been spiritually re-formed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit; since the apostle says, 'As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.' St Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD ),"The Epistles of Cyprian," Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, pg. 387-388)


 

Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into Christ; and it becomes active within them to the extent that they actively observe the commandments. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good – as far as lies in our power – depends on us. St. Mark the Ascetic (No Righteousness by Works no. 61)


 

Greater than baptism itself is the fountain of tears after baptism, even though it is somewhat audacious to say so. For baptism is the washing away of evils that were in us before, but sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. As baptism is received in infancy, we have all defiled it, but we cleanse it anew with tears. And if God in His love for mankind had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find. St. John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step 7: On Joy-Making Mourning


 

If we shall be eager to make brighter by good deeds the light within us — I mean the grace of the Spirit — so that it is never quenched, we shall enjoy the title of newly baptized for all times. But just as the sober and vigilant man whose conduct is worthy can continue to be a neophyte, so it is possible after a single day for a man to relax his vigilance and become unworthy of that title. St. John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instructions


 

`But the king came in to look at the guests, and saw there a person not clothed in a wedding garment.' What do we think is meant by the wedding garment, dearly beloved? For is we say it is baptism or faith, is there anyone who has entered this marriage feast without them? A person is outside because he has not yet come to believe. What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love? That person enters the marriage feast, but without wearing a wedding garment, who is present in the holy Church, and has faith, but does not have love. We are correct when we say that love is the wedding garment because this is what our Creator Himself possessed when He came to the marriage feast to join the Church to Himself. St. Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies


 

So that you may act on the aforementioned points, you must remember the vows you made at holy Baptism. For though not you yourself but your sponsor made those vows before God on your behalf, you promised then, spitting on Satan, and on his pride, and on his service, and on his evil works-you promised, I say-and vowed to serve Jesus Christ your Lord and Redeemer in faith and in truth, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

 

Consider, Christian, what vows you made and to Whom. It is a grievous thing to lie to a man; how incomparably more grievous it is to lie to God. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). When a Christian does not stand on his promises and does not keep them, what mercy, then, should he expect from God, to Whom he lied? He that keeps his promises shall find himself in God's mercy and in His Kingdom. He remains faithful to God, and God will hold him in mercy and in His protection as His own. And this is what the prophet sings to God, With the holy man wilt Thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt Thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse (Ps. 17:26-27).

 

Christians! All they that commit iniquity and act against their conscience do not keep their vows. These include fornicators, adulterers, and all defilers, robbers, thieves, brigands, the sly, and crafty, deceivers and the guileful, revilers and men of evil speech, drunkards, fault finders, the hateful, and the malicious; they that live in the pride and pomp of this world, and all that do not fear God. They have all lied to God and have not kept their vows, and are outside of the holy Church, though they may even go to churches and pray and receive the Mysteries and build churches and adorn them and display other signs of a Christian.

 

Since they shall be powerfully put to the test at the Judgment of Christ and tormented more there than Turks and idolaters, avoid these deeds, Christian and do not imitate the aforementioned doers of iniquity, lest you be condemned with them to eternal fire by the just judgment of God, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44, 46, 48), but by all means endeavor so to live and act as the word of God teaches, as was said above. Keep in mind those vows of yours, and this will guide you toward the Christian life and restrain you from every evil and do you good. If you notice that you do not keep those vows, then repent and begin the Christian life anew, lest you appear before God in a lie, and perish with liars.

 

The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Apoc. 21:8). St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (A chapter from The Journey to Heaven, translated by Fr. George Lardas)

 


 

This document is at:

·          http://www.orthodox.net/prison-ministry/prison-ministry-pastoral-letter-2011-12-24-the-jesus-prayer+baptism+gleanings-from-the-fathers-on-baptism.html

·          http://www.orthodox.net/prison-ministry/prison-ministry-pastoral-letter-2011-12-24-the-jesus-prayer+baptism+gleanings-from-the-fathers-on-baptism.doc

·          http://www.orthodox.net/prison-ministry/prison-ministry-pastoral-letter-2011-12-24-the-jesus-prayer+baptism+gleanings-from-the-fathers-on-baptism.pdf

 

 

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Commentary: 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4 – 28th Tuesday after Pentecost

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011


Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Our age  and “Political Correctness” “described” by Saint Paul

 

2 Timothy 3:16-4:4 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (28th Tuesday after Pentecost)

 

We should read the daily readings. It is easy to do, with a calendar and a bible, or a computer program. I usually use the Menologion program (on my laptop). I even have it on my Droid phone, in a marvelous calendar app. Whether you do it “old school” by looking at a wall calendar or calendar booklet and use a paper bible, or read on your PC using the Menologion program or online, or read/listen on your Smart Phone, DO IT! If we read the lectionary readings, we keep pace with the rhythm of the church, and the church year does indeed have a rhythm, in which we are taught different things at different times, depending on the season. 

 

This selection has something for everyone.

 

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

 

All of us must read scripture, and we see the purpose here: for “doctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness”. My flock should note that I am not making things up when I repeat that “scripture is *always* about you”! Of course, St Paul was most probably referring to the OT scriptures, since the NT canon was being written, and his words apply even more strongly to the Gospels and Epistles.

 

Perhaps one could construct a “Desert Island” list  of the most important Scripture for personal correction. Certainly the Gospels would rank first, and also the Epistles, the Psalms, Proverbs, Wisdom. All of these books should be read often.

 

If you are not reading scripture daily, how do you expect to learn of God and get better? This is the purpose of your life, and you will not fulfill it by rushing about Christmas shopping or doing whatever else comes up (and things WILL ALWAYS come up), and forgetting the “one thing needful” – to learn of the one Who is meek and lowly and whose burden is light, by sitting at His feet, with reading, prayer and desire.

Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

 

This scripture refers to all of us, but especially to the pastor. This is a difficult command to fulfill to the letter, because our weak humanity gets in the way. The “child Timothy”[1] is being ordered (and we should remember that these instructions are not optional – they ARE orders) to *always* be ready to do the work of a pastor. Preaching “in season” is that which is done at the usual times, when people are expecting or at least will tolerate a sermon, teaching, a word of edification, etc – such as during the liturgy, in or after services such as baptism, crowning, the blessing of a house, etc and, as I have established a custom, between Vespers and matins at vigil).

 

We *all*  must be ready to give a word “out of season”. This is when preaching and teaching  is not convenient or easy, or perhaps, is unlikely to be received in the spirit in which it is given. It is also when we are tired, or vexed or distracted. This happens to a pastor a lot. Not everybody that comes to church is living a spiritual, intense life. I have many small encounters, often once in a lifetime opportunities to do something, say something or BE something that will attract a person to God who is barely aware of the real purpose of their life.

 

I had one recently, and as they say, I am “kicking myself” because of it. Sometimes people come to the church way after the service, just to light a candle, and then leave. I was in the temple talking to someone, and several people entered. They saw me, I saw them, and their body language was purposeful – kiss the icon, light a candle and leave. I was in a conversation, and it was important, but I could have talked to them. They showed no interest in anything except their errand, and I have talked to many who have been running this errand, and almost never does anything come of it, and I never see them again. This could have been one of those times, but I will not know this, because they did not approach me and I did not approach them. It may have been a short conversation, not well understood by either party because of our apparently different mother tongues, but I will most probably never know. This is an example of preaching (which basically means just being there for people, ready to fulfill their perceived and especially unperceived needs) out of season.

 

There are ALWAYS opportunities to teach, exhort, inspire, comfort out of season EVERY DAY. You have them too. May God help us to see them, and not be like the people of the Gergesenes, who missed their opportunity because of blindness, distraction, and sinfulness.

 

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 

This time has come! Is not our age being described?

 

Every possible perversion of life is being accepted by supposed Christians. “Politically Correct “ speech is tailored for those with “itching ears”, and to the great shame of many Christians, they have fallen for this speech. It is shocking how many supposed Christians are pro-abortion, pro homosexual marriage, pro “living together because everybody is doing it”, etc.  

 

I became aware of a web page[2] today where a Greek priest is being criticized because he dared to tell a man living in a sexually active homosexual relationship that he could not have communion until he repented[3] of his sin. That people actually consider the actions of this priest to be a sin is beyond me. This is basic Christianity! Nowadays, we have people who have web pages, blogs, Facebook pages that support their sinful way of life. Their itching ears do not want to be told the truth, but rather, be told that they can do what they want, and label it how they want. This is not Christianity. There is no new sin under the sun – St Paul encountered these people too, and wrote about them, but in our age, with the power of technology, the sinful “excuse with excuses in sins”[4] can be repeated billions of times to billions of people.

 

A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, "You are mad; you are not like us. St. Anthony the Great

 

Abba Anthony said, "I saw the snares the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can escape from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility." St. Anthony the Great, commemorated 17 January

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-28_2011-12-20+instant-in-season-out-of-season+politically-correct-immorality_2timothy3-16-4-4.html

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-28_2011-12-20+instant-in-season-out-of-season+politically-correct-immorality_2timothy3-16-4-4.doc

 

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

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

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

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)



[1] This is how we begin a reading to Timothy in the church.

[2] http://gotruthreform.org/gay-parishioner-denied-communion/  Here is the gist of these sodomy apologists: “The Editors of gotruthreform.org website are compelled to write about an unfortunate matter that has been reported to us. For the sake of brevity, we will not include a long discussion of the Canon Laws regarding the facts. [translation: Don’t confuse us with any stinking rules – we make up our own rules based on how we feel and what we want!! (Fr S]

… Recent events at a Metropolis of Chicago Orthodox Parish in question, concern a devoted Greek Orthodox Christian who is a doctor and the spiritual son of a faith abiding priest. He has been an active parishioner for several decades. He is also gay. The doctor would attend church almost every Sunday and would frequently receive communion. Unfortunately, for the doctor, his spiritual father recently “retired” due to a disability. The doctor sought spiritual guidance from another Greek Orthodox Priest in the Metropolis of Chicago. This new Spiritual Father, like the prior one, did not bar him from taking communion; indeed, with proper preparation, the Priest encouraged it. [Translation: Two priests trampled on their oath to uphold the teachings of the Gospel, and this article is praising them for this Fr S.]

… The new Priest called the doctor and engaged in a conversation with a male person who answered the phone. The new Priest then spoke to the doctor and posed numerous questions including asking who was the male person answering the phone and whether the doctor was living with this man. Of course, being an honest and forthcoming person, the doctor did not lie to this new Priest. The new Priest told him he could no longer receive communion at his Parish. One of the persons reporting the incident to us commented that “his honesty of course was rewarded by condemnation”. [The doctor was honest in reporting his behavior, but his behavior is fundamentally not Christian. Any unrepeated of sin MUST be addressed by a priest! Fr S ]

This article goes on to do some “social engineering” which may occur to have some pastoral merit, but actually, here we have an example,  by no means isolated of people who define Christianity in a way foreign to the Gospel, but perfectly in keeping with the Political Correctness of the Age.  Truly we live in an age of insanity, and “itching ears”!
 

[3] “Repent” means to change one’s mind. It involves admitting a sin, having sorrow for it, and desiring to change. A person who repents of a sin may fall into it again and again. Competence in ceasing a sin is therefore not a criterion to decide if a person has begun the process of repentance, but surely refusing to admit that a sin is a sin, or trying to stop the sinning is absolutely not repentance, and a priest has no choice for a person who will not try to repent – he cannot give them communion. Pro homosexual (activity) politically correct speech is absolutely not repentance. A good pastor will help such a person in many ways, and refusal to give communion is in no way any kind of abandonment. On the contrary, it is the action of a pastor who is trying to encourage and teach.
 

[4] Here is a good “rule of thumb” – If a person cannot recognize the phrase “excuse with excuses and sins” and know what service it occurs in, they are not competent to reject the moral and theological positions of Orthodox Christianity, but should be humble and realize how little they know about Christianity. Such people would benefit by choosing to learn instead of teach. This is part of a Psalm said at every Vespers service. 

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Electronic Newsletter December 5/ 18 27th Sunday after Pentecost

Monday, December 19th, 2011

 


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

December 5/ 18  27th Sunday after Pentecost

Announcements

Happenings in the Past Week

"Mighty Mites" Collection

Prayer Requests

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Fasting in the Coming week


Announcements

The Nativity of our Lord falls on Saturday, January 7th. We will have many services on the 6th, and Liturgy on the 7th. This is one of the great feast days of the Church. Please plan to attend.


 

Happenings in the Past Week at St. Nicholas

  • We helped 2 parishioners borrow vehicles to be able to get to work. Working on more permanent solutions. 
  • Delivered Papa John's pizza and other foods to the Samaritan Inn on Wed and Sat. 
  • 800 miles of prison ministry. Met a man Fr Seraphim baptised in prison who has been released in Dequeen Ak at All Saints of America Orthodox church and made a regularly scheduled visit to the Hughes unit in Gatesville, TX. Planning to baptize Catechuman Vladimir Jan 11th. 
  • The Sisterhood is engaged in much planning for the Nativity Yolka. 
  • Praying for Anna, a local Russian Orthodox Woman  in Hospice. 
  • Prison Pastoral Letter mailed to all men being seen. 
  • Other unspecified actions, helping with material needs people in the community and who have contacted the community.
  • Vespers on Wed and Liturgy on Thursday (when all parishioners and those who are associated with St Nicholas and those on the public prayer list were commemorated by name in the Fervent Ectenia)
  • Invited all local clergy to serve at our Patronal Feast (This Sunday, Vigil Sunday, 6PM, Liturgy, Monday 9AM for St Nicholas the Wonderworker)
  • Deck almost done! 
  • Our pledged tithes are up to $3900/month.

 


"Mighty Mites" Collection

This week, we collected $450 for the building needs of Holy Cross Hermitage in West Virginia. They need $10,000 to finish the insulation, heating and A/C in Igumen Seraphim's cell. Fr. Seraphim is the deputy abbot of the monastery, and is recovering from cancer.

Next week we will collect funds for Russian American Community Services, which does charitable work both in the US and in Russia.


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Alexandra (4 y/o girl wih brain cancer)
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti,  and our sponsored household: Catherine and her family.
  • 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

Monday 12/19

  • 9:00AM Liturgy

Wednesday 12/21

  • 7:00PM Vespers

Thursday 12/22

  • NO LITURGY

Saturday 12/24.

  • 4:00PM Confession
  • 5:00PM Vigil

Sunday 12/25

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy


Fasting in the Coming week

We are in the Nativity Fast. We fast from all animal products every day. Fish is allowed on weekends and certain saint's days; wine and oil are allowed on Tuesday, Thursday, and certain saints' days.

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Newsletter November 28/ December 1 26th Sunday after Pentecost

Monday, December 12th, 2011


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

November 28/ December 1  26th Sunday after Pentecost

Announcements
Special Collection

Scripture Memory

Prayer Requests

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week

Homilies and Spiritual Reading


Announcements

The Feast of St. Nicholas, the patron and protector of our parish, falls on Monday, December 19th. We will have a festal Vigil on Sunday evening and a Liturgy with a processional moleben on Monday morning. Please plan to attend if you can!

Special Collection

This week, we collected $81.21 for the Samaritan Inn in McKinney. Thank you for your generosity.

Next week, we will collect for the building needs of Holy Cross Hermitage in West Virginia. They need $10,000 to finish the insulation, heating and A/C in Igumen Seraphim's cell. Fr. Seraphim is the deputy abbot of the monastery, and is recovering from cancer.


Scripture Memory

Our current memory verse is Ephesians 4:1-3 (from last week's reading):

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Russian text is not working on this blog – for the Russian text, see here: http://days.pravoslavie.ru/bible/z_ef_4_1_3.htm#z

"Yo pues, preso en el Señor, os ruego que andéis como es digno de la vocación con que fuisteis llamados, con toda humildad y mansedumbre, soportándoos con paciencia los unos a los otros en amor, solícitos en guardar la unidad del Espíritu en el vínculo de la paz."


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Alexandra (4 y/o girl wih brain cancer)
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti,  and our sponsored household: Catherine and her family.
  • 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

Monday 12/12

  • NO SERVICE

Wednesday 12/14

  • 5:00PM Vespers

Thursday 12/15

  • 6:00AM Liturgy

Saturday 12/17

  • 3:00PM Council Meeting
  • 4:00PM Confession
  • 5:00PM Vigil

Sunday 12/18 

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Sisterhood meeting and Middle School Class
  • 6:00PM Vigil for St. Nicholas

Sunday 12/18. St. Nicholas. Parish Feast Day

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy

Fasting in the Coming week

We are in the Nativity Fast. We fast from all animal products every day. Fish is allowed on weekends and certain saint's days; wine and oil are allowed on Tuesday, Thursday, and certain saints' days, including this Tuesday (St. Andrew) and next Monday (St. Nicholas)


Homilies and Spiritual Reading

27th Sunday after Pentecost (RTF format)

The Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years
Luke 13-10-17
1996

27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

Two Visions Of The Kingdom
Ephesians 6:10-17, Luke 13:10-17
2007

27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

The Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years
It is really pretty simple.
Luke 13:10-17
2008

27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

Healing Of The Woman With An Infirmity Of Eighteen Years
Luke 13-10-17
2009

27th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)

Jesus Christ Came Into The World To Save Sinners
The Reason For The Season
1 Timothy 1:15-17 Luke 13:10-17
2010
Also in Format: Word DOC

27th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

Jesus Christ Came Into The World To Save Sinners
What Is Sin
1 Timothy 1:15-17 Luke 13:10-17
2010

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Fasting in Prison. Why do we fast? St John Chrysostom on true fasting. Gleanings from the Holy Fathers on Fasting. Prison Ministry Pastoral Letter. Nov 24/ Dec 7 ns 2011. Great Martyr Catherine. Great Martyr Mercurios

Saturday, December 10th, 2011


letterhead - St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas - http://www.orthodox.net/images/letterhead.jpg

Nov 24/ Dec 7 ns Great Martyr Catherine. Great Martyr Mercurios

 

Fasting in Prison

Why do we fast?

St John Chrysostom on true fasting.

Gleanings for the Holy Fathers – Fasting

 

I am writing this letter at a time when I should be in the Michael unit[1], but I was told not to come by the Chaplain, who was kind enough to spare me the trip. So far, I have gone to the Michael unit and not seen anyone only once or twice, but I have been shut down at the Hughes unit 6 or 8 times. I always appreciate it when the chaplain gives a heads up.  

 

A little news. A woman, (n)[2]  wants to become involved in the prison ministry. She will be taking the required training course to become a volunteer chaplain as soon as possible, but we all know that the “wheels of justice grind slowly”. In the meantime, she will be happy to write regularly to anyone who wishes this, and is already praying for all of you by name. Let me know by letter or in person if it is okay for (n) to write to you, and I will let her know.

 

Here is a little note of introduction I asked her to write (from her email to me):.

 

I am waiting to be approved to be a visiting chaplain. In the meantime, I would like to be able to send mail to encourage my brothers and sisters in prison. Because my (family member) is in prison and has been for over (#) years, I know how important it is to stay connected to others who care about you and can encourage you. I can't tell you how many times I sent my dad a note just to say "hello" or "I thought about you today."  That helped him get through the day or week. I would like to be able to support others in the same way. If it is alright for me to correspond with those you are ministering to, would you please allow them to sign up with you or give their agreement in some way and then you could send me a list with names, ID#s, and addresses. Besides sending notes to them, I will also be praying for them daily by name. I am excited to see what God is doing and going to do in ALL our lives. Kind Regards, (n)

 

A little more news. Things are still happening to allow me to serve liturgy once a month. I hope that will start at least in January. There is also at least a possibility of having a conversation with the prison chaplaincy about consolidating all or many Orthodox into one prison – one that I can reach I hope! This may be long term, and may or may not be God’s will, but I am asking you to pray that this may indeed come to pass.

 

We are in the midst of the fasting period for Nativity. It is very normal in Christian tradition to prepare ourselves for important feasts. There is a fasting period before the major feasts of the Christian year – Pascha (Easter), and Nativity (Christmas), and also before the Dormition (falling asleep of the Theotokos), and the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.  We also fast on most Wednesdays and Fridays of the year.

 

Each fast differs a little bit in “character” and rigor. The Nativity Fast is one of joyful expectation, and is one of the easiest of the long fasts. Here are the “rules’. On all days of the fast, we do not eat any “(land or air) animal product” -  beef, chicken, pork, etc or their “products” – cheese, eggs, milk, etc.  We also do not fish, wine and olive oil on all weekdays. On weekends, we may have fish, wine and oil. There are lots of exceptions based upon which saint is celebrated on the calendar. For instance, I am traveling to DeQueen Arkansas to celebrate the Liturgy for the Apostle Andrew next Tuesday (and see one of the men I have  seen many times in the Hughes unit – for the first time since he has gotten out of prison), and on that day we will likely have a nice fish lunch.

 

Of course, in prison, food choices are limited. Everybody has different abilities spiritually and physically. You should talk to me or write if you have any questions. In general, it is very good to avoid meat (beef, chicken, pork, “mystery meat”) during the fast, and supplement your diet with whatever you can get at the commissary, such as peanut butter and beans. I understand that not everyone can make commissary, and there may be medical reasons why you need certain foods, and therefore it is always good to talk to me. The fast is not a set of rules that you must follow “or else” – it is a spiritual exercise in which the body helps the soul.

 

Anyone who has fasted for any length of time should be able to discern so of the benefits. They come over time, and it is very difficult if not impossible to make significant progress in the spiritual life without some fasting. This is because, if we are totally honest with ourselves, we know that we are by nature inclined to selfishness and self-indulgence, and forgetfulness about God. Fasting acts directly against these latter two tendencies – we choose to *not* indulge ourselves for God’s sake, and by choosing to keep a fast (and trying to pray more than we usually do, and read spiritual things too), we are less likely to be forgetful. Fasting acts indirectly against selfishness because a forgetful self-indulgent person is always selfish.

 

I am asking you to fast as you are able, and  to expect God to help you learn things about yourself and Him during your fast. Fasting is a little bit like taking blinders off – we see things more clearly – both good and bad. You may learn some things about yourself – positive and negative. You may  be able to pray more, or perhaps have trouble praying, and even this latter condition may be beneficial to you, because we always have trouble praying because of something in ourselves that is blocking our prayer.

 

We are on the road to perfection, made possible because of the perfect life of the God-man, Jesus Christ. This takes effort, and fasting has been shown to always help us in this task.

 

The following is a wonderful, long quote from St John Chrysostom that explains the significance of fasting. He emphasizes that fasting is not just what you do not eat, but what you do and don’t do to and for your fellow man. We fast to improve in the most important virtue – Love. After this are some quotes from the Holy Fathers

 

I think this is enough for now. God granting, I will see you all very soon. My poor prayers are with you daily. May God bless you and help you in all things. Pray for me please.

 

 



St John Chrysostom on true fasting.

 

This is a long quotation, but very profitable to read. It explains the purpose of fasting, the proper attitude towards it, its effects on our spiritual state, and how fasting not done in the right spirit is actually injurious to us.

 

We also see from St John’s words the reason we have a fast free week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. He does not reference this custom, but his explanation is the reason it exists. The homily from which this quotation was taken has many other profitable things about fasting.

 

St John Chrysostom, Letters; Homilies on the Statutes, Homily III, (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf109.xix.v.htm)

 

Bold face and headings inserted.

 

 

Fasting is a help to us; we should approach fasts with expectation of spiritual improvement.

 

7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession.

 

Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveler boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest.

 

So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveler.

 

Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole amour of God.” Eph. vi. 12.

 

Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behooves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual amour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual amour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow.

 

Cultivate thy soul.

Cut away the thorns.

Sow the word of godliness.

Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman.

 

And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” 2 Tim. ii. 6. He too himself practiced this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1 Cor. iii. 6.

 

Spiritual and physical effects of Fasting.

 

Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on.

 

And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance.

 

Keep down the waves of inordinate desires.

Repel the tempest of evil thoughts.

Preserve the boat; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot.

But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

 

Real Fasting: from meat and sins.

 

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting ; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.” 2 Tim. ii. 5.

 

Why do we fast after the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee?

 

To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,  Luke xviii. 12. but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it.

 

The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God. Jonah iii. 10. The Jews, fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame. Isa. lviii. 3, 7; 1 Cor. ix. 26.

 

Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow.

 

Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

 

 

Admonition – Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!.

 

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it.

 

Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!

 

Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

 

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

 

Fasting for all the senses explained

 

For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.

 

Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.

 

12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.

 

Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Gal. v. 15. Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse…

 

This document is at:

 

 



Gleanings for the Holy Fathers – Fasting

 

Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ said: He who gathers not with Me scatters (Luke 11:23). Not that a good deed can be called anything but gathering, since even though it is not done for Christ's sake, yet it is good. Scripture says: In every nation he who fears God and works righteousness is acceptable to Him (St Seraphim of Sarov)

 

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

 

A worker takes the trouble to get hold of the instruments that he requires. He does so not simply to have them and not use them. Nor is there any profit for him in merely possessing the instruments. What he wants is, with their help, to produce the crafted objective for which these are the efficient means.

In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them. St. John Cassian, Conference One

 

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

 

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

 

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. ‘Loose the bands of wickedness.’ For give your neighbor the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not ‘fast for strife and debate.’ You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts. Woe to those who are ‘drunken, but not with wine.’ Anger is the intoxication of the soul, and makes it out of its wits like wine. St. Basil, in his homilies on the Holy Spirit

 

Bodily purity is primarily attained through fasting, and through bodily purity comes spiritual purity. Abstinence from food, according to the words of that son of grace, St. Ephraim the Syrian, means: 'Not to desire or demand much food, either sweet or costly; to eat nothing outside the stated times; not to give oneself over to gratification of the appetite; not to stir up hunger in oneself by looking at good food; and not to desire one or another sort of food. The Prologue from Ochrid – by St. Nikolai Velimirovich (Volume 4, p 338)

 

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/prison-ministry/prison-ministry-pastoral-letter-2011-12-07-why-do-we-fast+john-chrysostom-on-fasting+gleanings-from-the-fathers-on-fasting.html

http://www.orthodox.net/prison-ministry/prison-ministry-pastoral-letter-2011-12-07-why-do-we-fast+john-chrysostom-on-fasting+gleanings-from-the-fathers-on-fasting.doc

 

You may donate to our prison ministry at:

http://www.orthodox.net/ministries/orthodox-prison-ministry.html

 

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

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

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)



[1] This letter was written, with very slight changes in the opening paragraph to men I serve in the Michael and Hughes units of the Texas State prison system. This version is edited to remove personal references.  The Red headings are added for the web version.

[2] Anything in (parentheses) is from the editor to protect identities

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Parable of the Harvest of the Rich Man. Two kinds of men, of ground, of rooms, of ways to talk to the soul, of goods, or treasure, of wealth.

Monday, December 5th, 2011

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The Parable of the Harvest of the Rich man has many pairs of things which are contrasted: 2 kinds of men, of ground, of rooms, of ways to talk to the soul, of goods, or treasure, of wealth. We look at all of them.

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


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/sunday-of-luke-09_2011-12-04+parable-of-the-harvest-of-the-rich-man_luke12-16-21.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/sunday-of-luke-09_2011-12-04+parable-of-the-harvest-of-the-rich-man_luke12-16-21.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 November 21/ December 4 25th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, December 4th, 2011


St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

November 21/ December 4  25th Sunday after Pentecost

Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos

Announcements
Special Collection

Scripture Memory

Prayer Requests

Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week

Homilies and Spiritual REading


Announcements

Our parish participates in the Haitian Orthodox Family Relief project. We provide $100 a month to support a family of 14 in Haiti. Because some of our donors have moved in the past year, we need your help to provide continued support to this ministry — and maybe to expand it! Please see Fr. Nicholas if you can make a monthly pledge of anywhere from $10 to $100 dollars toward this cause.

Thank you so much to those who have already made donations toward this cause!


The Feast of St. Nicholas, the patron and protector of our parish, falls on Monday, December 19th. We will have a festal Vigil on Sunday evening and a Liturgy with a processional moleben on Monday morning. Please plan to attend if you can!


Congratulations to the newly-illumined Mary, who received the Holy Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation this morning. May God grant her many years! Please keep her in your prayers.

Special Collection

This week, we collected $45.19 for Fr. Seraphim's prison ministry. Thank you for your generosity.

Next week, we will collect for the Samaritan Inn in McKinney.


Scripture Memory

Our current memory verse is Ephesians 4:1-3 (from this week's reading):

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Russian text is not working on this blog – for the Russian text, see here: http://days.pravoslavie.ru/bible/z_ef_4_1_3.htm#z

"Yo pues, preso en el Señor, os ruego que andéis como es digno de la vocación con que fuisteis llamados, con toda humildad y mansedumbre, soportándoos con paciencia los unos a los otros en amor, solícitos en guardar la unidad del Espíritu en el vínculo de la paz."


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Alexandra (4 y/o girl wih brain cancer)
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti,  and our sponsored household: Catherine and her family.
  • 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

Monday 12/5

  • 7:00PM Moleben

Wednesday 12/7

  • 7:00PM Vespers

Thursday 12/8

  • 9:00AM Liturgy

Saturday 12/10

  • 3:00PM Baptisms
  • 4:00PM Confession
  • 5:00PM  Vigil

Sunday 12/11 

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School after Trapeza (Elementary and Adult)

Fasting in the Coming week

We are in the Nativity Fast. We fast from all animal products every day. Fish is allowed on weekends and certain saint's days; wine and oil are allowed on Tuesday, Thursday, and certain saints' days.


Homilies and Spiritual Reading


Feasts of the Theotokos (mp3 format)


Entry Of The Theotokos
One of the "Great Forgotten Feasts" because of our pride in this egalitarian age. Let us explore holiness; we are called to it also!
Luke 10:38-42: 11:27-28
2010

Feasts of the Theotokos (HTML format)

Entry Of The Theotokos
By Saint Gregory Palamas
Also in Format: Word DOC

26th Sunday after Pentecost

26th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)

Harvest Of A Rich Man
1997
Also in Format: Word DOC

26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

2003

26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

The Parable Of The Rich Man Whose Ground Brought Forth Plentifully
An Urgent Question We Must Answer; What Shall I Do
Ephesians 5:9-19, Luke 12:16-21
2007

26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

The Harvest of the Rich Man
Two kinds of men, and redeeming the time.
Ephesians 5:9-19, Luke 12:16-21
2008

26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

Parable Of The Harvest Of A Rich Man
It is not about money. The Rich man made two significant mistakes.
Luke 12:16-21, Ephesians 5:9-19,
2009

26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)

Harvest Of The Rich Man
Luke 12:16-21
2010

26th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)

Harvest Of A Rich Man
Plenty Of Time Remembrance Of Death
Luke 12:16-21 26th Sunday After Pentecost Or 9th Sunday Of Luke
2010
Also in Format: Word DOC

 


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