Archive for April, 2012

“Having become bold” – What made Joseph, Nicodemus and the Myrhhbearers bold?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Joseph and Nikodemus taking Jesus down from the cross LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The Scriptures tell us that Joseph "became bold" and asked for the body of Jesus from Pilate. He did a dangerous thing, which would likely cost him his life, as did the Holy Myrhhbearers when they went to the tomb on the day of the resurrection, to anoint a dead man. Why did they become bold? This is very important! They did not quite " get things right", since Jesus was not dead, so it is not so important that we get everything right and understand everything, but we must &become bold", because of love, and God will cause everything to work to the good. Also, at the beginning, an instruction about praying for people during the most sacred part of the Divine Liturgy, which is an obligation for all Orthodox Christians, and not only the clergy.

More homilies on theSunday of the Myrhhbearing Women are HERE

 

 

Holy Myrhbearers at the tomb with the angel

Mark 15:43-16:8 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


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Exegesis of the 3rd Matins Gospel, Mark 16:9-20, and chronology of the day of the resurrection.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

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Synopsis: Exegesis of the 3rd Matins Gospel, Mark 16:9-20, and chronology of the day of the resurrection. The most important points are the spiritual ones – the resurrection was not witnessed by anyone. What does that mean? A lot!

More homilies on the MATINS Gospels are HERE

Mark 16:9-20 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. 14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.


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Is a liberal seminary student as smart as a little girl! No! Children’s sermon on John 5:24-30 and Christology.

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

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Synopsis: A children's sermon on John 5:24-30, and important Christology that 7, 5 and 4 years olds know and liberal seminary students do not!

John 5:24-30 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.


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Why are the altar doors open on Pascha? When are they closed and what does it mean?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012


Why are the altar doors open on Pascha? 

When are they closed and what does it mean?

2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday

2011

 

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen! 

 

As you can see, the doors are now closed.  The doors were open for all of Bright Week, from the time of Pascha, all the way until we sang the first Sticheron of Great Vespers for St. Thomas Sunday.  It happens to be in the first tone.  It's from the Octoechos, so we would sing this every eight weeks we would sing this.

 

We sang "When the doors were shut," and then we shut the doors.  Father Nicholas and I were a little bit tardy.  It actually was on the next one that we shut them, but the meaning is still the same. 

 

"When the doors were shut and the disciples were gathered together, Thou didst suddenly enter in, O our almighty Jesus our God, and standing in their midst and granting them peace Thou didst fill them with the Holy Spirit and didst command them to wait and in no wise to depart from Jerusalem until they were invested with power from on high.  Wherefore we cry out to Thee, O our Enlightenment, Resurrection and Peace, glory be to Thee."

 

There's actually two different usages, the one that I had learned before was to shut the royal doors before Vespers begins on Saturday night.  But Vladyka Peter told me about what they do, and I find it to be very meaningful, that when we say "when the doors were shut" then we shut them at Vespers.  And since Vespers is a transition from the previous day to the next, it's appropriate at that time. 

 

Now what does it mean for the doors to be shut?  Well, what does it mean for them to be open?  Normally they're shut.  Why were they open for Pascha?  They are open because it is a sign of God's grace overflowing and filling us.  Really, all things are made new on Pascha, and God's grace is apparent to all. 

 

Now, there's an unfortunate fact of our human nature, and that is, if we are not careful, if we stop struggle for a period of time, we become lazy and we become forgetful and we can fall into despondency and all manner of sins.  It's not because God will not help us if we do not struggle.  It is because our nature is such that we need to struggle.  It's just human nature.  When you stop struggle, you go backwards, not forwards. 

 

So the doors are open for all of Pascha.  We don't fast for all of the Paschal Bright Week.  And then the doors are closed.  And we return to normal fasting as of tomorrow or the next day, really, Monday, because then we will have normal fasting rules from then on.  So Wednesdays and Fridays we won't eat meat and cheese and eggs, except we will be able to have wine and oil throughout all of Pascha.  This still shows something of the Paschal joy. 

 

All of these things are not just minutia of rules, but they are all things that should remind us about ourselves and about God.  When the doors are open, we feel the Paschal joy.  When they are closed, we realize this is because of us, because we get lazy and because without struggle we will fall away from God. 

 

And also it means another thing, another tragic thing.  But this tragedy can be rectified.  It is rectified by the Resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ.  And that tragedy is that we cannot receive all of the Grace of God that He wishes to give us.  We're too weak for it.  It is as if we have weak eyes and we go out into the sun and we must close our eyes or shield them because it is too bright.  The Grace of God is too bright, too holy for us because we are not holy.  But over time we become capable of having all of the Grace of God that He wishes to give us and containing it in ourselves.

 

But now we are not ready.  So the doors are closed.  It's always kind of a sad time for me but a very instructive time.  I'm not ready for all of the Grace of God that He wants to give me.  Neither are you.  But we will become ready if we struggle, if we pray to God, if we fast at the appointed times and pray at the appointed times.  Not because there are ten rules that we need to follow or ten thousand, but because of our desire for knowing God.  Then, yes, we will become perfected, and the doors will always be open in the Kingdom. 

 

May God bless you and help you.

 

The blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love for mankind always now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011    

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

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

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

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

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-04-30+why-are-the-altar-doors-open-on-pascha+when-are-they-closed-what-does-it-mean.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-04-30+why-are-the-altar-doors-open-on-pascha+when-are-they-closed-what-does-it-mean.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-04-30+why-are-the-altar-doors-open-on-pascha+when-are-they-closed-what-does-it-mean.mp3

 

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

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

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

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

 

Our parish Email list (http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

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

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The core teaching on the Sunday of Thomas: always stay close to Christ no matter what the understanding says, because of love.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Appearances after the Resurrection as depicted in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Italy. The scroll that St. Thomas holds reads: "My Lord and my God." To the left, St. Mary Magdalene and another of the Myrrhbearing women fall down in worship of the Resurrected Christ. ? at Piazza San http://www.facebook.com/pages/Holy-Cross-Orthodox-Monastery/79944443582rco, Venice. source:

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Synopsis: The story of the "unbelieving disbelief" of Thomas, always read on the Sunday after Pascha, and also several other times during the year has one core message that applies to every human being. We look at this, and the only reason Thomas stayed with the Apostles through the eighth day, when He saw Christ – love. Without love, and the actions of Thomas replicated in *our* lives the resurrection will be of no good effect for us. the Christology and theology in this selection is deep and important, but the example which we must learn is of even higher importance.

More homilies (audio, text,video) on THOMAS SUNDAY are HERE

John 20:19-31 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


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2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday. Realism About The Resurrection. Text and Audio.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012


2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday

Realism About The Resurrection

John 20:19-31

 

2010

 

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

 

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!  Christos voskrese!  Voistinu Voskrese!

 

Today, brothers and sisters, we have the second half of the story of the Apostle Thomas.  When I think of the Apostle Thomas, I like his story, I think, among all the Resurrection stories, the best of all because I really think his story fits us to a T.  Or, it should fit us!  It fits those who endure to the end.  It fits those who find their way, who bear fruit.  It doesn't fit anybody else.  Let’s put is this way: if we are to bear fruit, we must be like Thomas.  If we are to be fruitful in the Christian life, our life is going to resemble his. 

 

And why do I say this?  I think Saint Thomas is sort of like every man.  A complex person, with belief, but also with unbelief, with certainty but also with anxiety.  This is what Thomas experienced.  He couldn't believe that the Lord was risen, he didn't see Him the first day that He was risen.  He didn't see Him until the eighth day.  And in that intervening time he just couldn't believe. 

 

Now, someone might judge him for that, saying, why wouldn't he believe his friends?  Many witnesses had told him that the Lord was risen.  Well, there's a lot of things that we don't do right.  There are a lot of things that we get wrong, a lot of misunderstandings that we have,  a lot of stuff that mixes up good and bad in us, so that it's hard to know why we do what we do or why we don't do what we should.  Thomas is just like us.  And he couldn't believe. 

 

But what did he do?  He didn't leave.  He stayed with the apostles.  Imagine how his heart was aching when he wanted to believe.  He just couldn't.  You see, partially, belief is a gift of God.  It's not just to sit in a corner and believe.  God grants us to be able to believe.  He doesn't force us to believe, but He helps us. 

 

You know all those confusing thoughts that go on in your head?  If they just keep going around and around and around, you get so turned around you don't know which end is up.  That's how Thomas was.  And we need divine intervention for things like that. 

 

There's a lot of things in the world that are very curious, very strange, very terrible.  We don't understand why they happen.  So we're like Thomas.  But we do understand that God loves and God is perfect and that somehow His plan will always be realized.  We just have no idea how.  No idea.  But like Thomas, if we continue to struggle, continue to be with God, eventually it will become clear to us. 

 

So, like so many stories, the story of belief of St. Thomas after his unbelief, is life in microcosmLearn to read the Scriptures in this way.  Because constantly it is life in microcosm.  So many of the miracles, the parables, this event, are showing what life is like. 

 

Now, for Thomas it took eight days.  For us, it takes a good part of a lifetime or perhaps a lifetime for some of our problems to be solved, for some of our confusion to become more clear to us.  But we must be like him.  We must be with the apostles.  We have to pray.  We have to fast.  We have to do things when they don't really give us much pleasure or they don't touch us much.  But we know they are right things to do. 

 

I'm not talking about doing things because of some legalistic idea that we've got to do this and we've got to do that.  Christianity is not legalism.  People make it legalism because it is actually easier that way.  Christianity is to give your entire heart to God.  There's nothing legalistic about that at all.  It's just giving all of yourself.  But it's really hard.  Because there's things that pull you back.  Just like Thomas.  So you keep going, keep making mistakes.  Sometimes you believe firmly.  Other times maybe you have doubts.  Sometimes you're happy.  Sometimes you're sad.  Sometimes you're confused.  Sometimes you seem to understand.  That's what life is like. 

 

You know, the Resurrection has to be looked at realistically, from two perspectives.  Number one, the Resurrection is happening now within us.  I talk about that all the time because I don't think we live like that, but the Resurrection is truly transcendent and should affect everything you do, everything you say, everything you are, should be affected by the Resurrection. 

 

But also we're like Thomas.  And there are parts of us that are not quite affected by the Resurrection yet.  There's still darkness in us.  There's still confusion.  There's still anger and passion and all kinds of stuff.  The Resurrection is supposed to fix all that, and it will.  It doesn't happen to the apostle.  It doesn't even happen on the day of Pentecost.  It happens through our lifetime of struggle. 

 

So that's what I mean by being realistic about the Resurrection.  We can't just say it's Pascha, Christ is risen, happy, happy, happy.  Because there's still things in us that should make us not very happy.  What should make us happy is that they can be solved.  They can be changed. 

 

Thomas wasn't real happy, for eight days he wasn't happy.  Imagine how broken his heart was!  He had said he would go die with Him, but he had run away just like everybody else.  And now he didn't even know if He was alive or dead.  I'm sure there was a piece in him that believed.  But there was also all that other stuff in him, probably guilt to a large degree, confusion, that wouldn't let him completely believe.  It wouldn't let him have the joy of the belief.  And it took the Lord, seeing Him, and converting him for Thomas to be able to have this joy. 

 

We're just like him.  If not in eight days, in our lifetime.  This is the blueprint for how to save your soul.  It doesn't matter if you have sins, doubts, unbelief.  None of that matters if you're like Thomas, if you struggle.  Because, no matter how much you have doubts inside, you know what's true.  Sometimes that truth can't quite get out because of your weaknesses.  But it's there and you know it.  And God is going to help you get that truth out. 

 

When I talk of truth, the truth is not a concept or a fact.  Truth is Jesus Christ.  Truth is righteousness.  So you want to be righteous, and yet there are things about you that aren't. 

 

We're celebrating the Resurrection, but not all of us is resurrected.  I don't think we should pretend otherwise.  It's just true that we're not completely resurrected yet.  We should be, and God will help us to be.  And the path is the path of Thomas, of fidelity, of struggle.  Like the man who said, "I believe; help my unbelief."  I think this Thomas is just another application of that idea.  He believed, but he couldn't believe completely.  He just couldn't quite believe completely.  And that's because he had to struggle and God would grant him the ability to believe.  But He only grants this ability to those who struggle and those who try.  Those who are lackadaisical, they are not going to be able to find their way. 

 

Brothers and sisters, I've told you many times, I want you very much to feel that there's darkness in you.  Not because I want you to be miserable.  It's not about being miserable.  It's about being realistic.  It's about knowing what you are and what you will be and having a great desire to be that person that you will be.  Wanting that above everything else.

 

As a pastor, I shudder when I encounter people that don't seem to have a concept of who they are.  They don't seem to know that they've got black in them and that they've got passions.  And when they do talk about some passion, it's, well, you know, “I'm only human”.  Well, I'll tell you what.  “Only human”, from a Christian perspective, means to be like Jesus Christ because He is the model for what a human being should be.  So actually when we say that, we really shouldn't say, we're “only human”.  We should say, we're not really human yet.  But we will be, if we are like Thomas and if we just endure.  Maybe it will take a week.  Maybe it will take a month.  Maybe it will take fifteen years.

 

I've been now a priest for fifteen years, and stuff is still happening, and I'm still waiting.  I believe it's going to happen.  I don't know when.  I don't know how.  But I know that if I stay close to the church, struggle, pray, fast, fall down and get up, then God will enlighten me; and those that I love, my flock, my family, God will enlighten them too.  Not according to my timing.  My timing is "right now."  It's not God's timing. 

 

Thomas wanted to know right now that the Lord was risen.  That wasn't God's timing for him.  He had to endure what must have seemed like an eternity, of eight days of waiting.  But eventually God revealed Himself to him, and He will reveal Himself to you, but only if you're like Thomas. 

 

Since we are like Thomas in our failings, we must be like Thomas in his endurance, or else we will not be saved. 

 

So God help you to endure:  To pray when you don't feel like praying, to repent when you don't feel like repenting, to forgive somebody when you don't really want to forgive him and when he doesn't want to give you any advantage whatsoever.  God will help you.  And God will enlighten you.  And you will know how to do it.  As Thomas was able to say, "My Lord and my God," so will you be able to say that.  I don't mean say it with your lips.  I mean have it, the feeling of it, everywhere in your whole soul and the certainty that knowing that He is your Lord and your God and you are His child. 

 

This is what our aim is in life.  May God help us to get there, like Thomas.  May all of us have an eighth day and we see the Lord as He is and we're not ashamed.  Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

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

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

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

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

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2010-04-11+saint-thomas-sunday+realism-about-the-resurrection.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2010-04-11+saint-thomas-sunday+realism-about-the-resurrection.rtf

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2010-04-11+saint-thomas-sunday+realism-about-the-resurrection.mp3

 

LOTS more Homilies on the Sunday of St Thomas at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#THOMAS_SUNDAY

 

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

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

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

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

 

Our parish Email list (http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

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

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2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday “Believing disbelief” is the most important part of the story. Text and Audio.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012


2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday

"Believing disbelief" is the most important part of the story.

John 20:19-31

2011

 

Icon of Thomas Sunday http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/feasts-of-the-lord-thomas-sunday-01.jpgIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Christ is risen!  Christos voskrese!  Christos aneste!

This is now the eighth day of Pascha; on the eighth day, the Lord visited the disciples with Thomas being present.  He had been absent on the day of the resurrection.  Let us go through some of the important theological points of this reading, and then, saving the best for last, the most practical and the most important for our spiritual life.

On the day of the Resurrection, the Lord comes to the disciples, minus Thomas, and He goes through shut doors because, of course, He's God; He can do anything He wishes.  The first words that He says to them are, "Peace be to you."  This is very important.  One way of describing the goal of life is to have peace because, if there is peace, there is God. And they will achieve this peace, not with a peaceful life because there will be many things that will happen to them and they will all be martyred save one.  But they will have peace in their heart because God will abide in them. 

 

Then He breathed on them and said:  “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”  In Scripture the breath is often indicative of wind, and the wind is indicative of the Holy Spirit because the wind blows where it wills, but we know not how it does it.  It's the same way with the Spirit[1].  That's what Jesus explained to Nicodemus.

 

To this day the priest, when a baptism is conducted, the priest will breathe on the one being baptized three times in the sign of the Cross.  This breath is not the giving of the Holy Spirit.  It is indicative; it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  And when Jesus said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, they did not receive It; He was speaking of what would happen in time.  He was basically prophesying[2] because our Lord was all things so He was also a prophet, as well as God, as well as a King.  The Holy Spirit would come on Pentecost, fifty days after Pascha. 

He also said to them, "Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins you retain they are retained."  And that is why we have the practice of confession with a priest in the presence of God.  And then the priest has the awful responsibility of determining:  Has the person repented of their sins?  Repentance is the only reason why a person can be forgiven.  Repentance is the desire to change; your sins are forgiven, if you have desire to change.  Please note! You may not be very good at changing! You may still be a weak sinner, with the need for healing and strengthening of the will. God does not forgive based on your personal perfection, but only on your honest desire to change and reach perfection.

 

Now, Thomas saw the disciples, perhaps on the same day, but after the Lord had seen all of them, and he could not believe.  In fact, he was very explicit about why he would not believe.  He said:  "Except if I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe."  This is not the recommended way to speak about our Lord Jesus Christ!  It was a blunder on his part.  Clearly!  But even though he blundered, he waited and he still was with the disciples.

 

Now, eight days later Jesus stands in the midst of with them, and Thomas is there.  So He tells Thomas:  “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing”[3]

And then Thomas says something very important; the first time ever in Scripture that the Lord is declared to be God and Man: "My Lord and my God."[4]  That is indicating that Jesus Christ has two natures and is God and Man. 

 

So Jesus says to him, "Thomas, because thou has seen Me thou has believed?  Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."[5] 

 

And this ties in with the most important part.  It is important to know theological facts about God.  To know dogmatic things and be correct, that God is Trinity, Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin,  the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is given to the faithful through Christ.  Those things are all important.  But none of it matters if you don't endure to the end because if you give up, then you will not receive the things that you are striving for. 

 

So Thomas, although he made a terrible blunder when he said he would refuse to believe, he stayed with the apostles, even though his heart was broken, even though he did not believe.

 

But one can say that it was not a hundred percent that he did not believe.  There was some part of him that hoped, and that part of him kept him with the disciples.  And that is the most important part of this reading, brothers and sisters, because all of us are a lot like Thomas.  We make blunders, sometimes serious ones and sometimes we do have doubts.  If you're honest with yourself, you will believe this; you will know this.  And if we are like Thomas, we stay with prayer, with fasting, with the church.  We don't give up.  And God will always enlighten us, every time.  It might not happen in the timing that we want it to happen but it will always happen.

 

Now, why do you think this story of Saint Thomas has been preserved?  It's an interesting story, of course.  But why was it preserved in the Gospel?  Why was so much time spent on it by Saint John?  Well, if you look at the day of the Resurrection and the aftermath, it was difficult for people to believe in the Resurrection.  Our Lord had told them all about the Resurrection many, many times.  He told them about the sign of Jonah[6] and told them many times what would happen.  And then it happened exactly as He said.  And then He died.  And then they saw Him no more.  And then on the day of the Resurrection, some saw Him and some didn't, and the ones who didn't see Him just couldn't believe until finally He appeared to everybody. 

 

The Resurrection is difficult to believe in.  Now, okay, we can say we believe in the historical event of the Resurrection.  We can say, oh, it's easy, of course: “I believe in the Resurrection; I'm a Christian.”  Is that the case?  If you truly believed in the Resurrection, you would never sin, because the purpose of the Resurrection was so that you would become perfected.  There is only truth in the Resurrection and the One Who is resurrected, Jesus Christ.  Nothing else is true.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else has any substance whatsoever in this world.  So the more you live according to the Resurrection, the less you sin and the more peace you have. 

 

It's difficult to believe in the Resurrection, that is, to always live according to it, because you see things in life that contradict it.  There are things in your own life,  the things you do that you shouldn't do, the things you don't do that you should do.  And yet we call ourselves Christians. 

 

How do you deal with this conundrum of having belief and yet unbelief?  The same way Thomas did.  You stick with the Lord.  You keep praying.  You keep fasting.  You confess your sins and you struggle. And as God reveals to you things about yourself, you change them, with Him helping you.  And then He will reveal Himself completely to you, as you are able to see Him. 

 

If we are full of sin, we can't see the Lord very well at all.  It is as if we have eyes with cataracts on them.  But those scales will fall away if we struggle, and that's what Thomas did.  He made a blunder; let's be honest about it; it was not intelligent what he said.  He had heard the same things that the other apostles had said, and now all of his friends that he had been with for three years told him, "We have seen the Lord," and he would not believe.  But he would also not go away.  So let's learn that from Thomas. 

 

Let's understand that living according to the Resurrection is hard, and it is our purpose in life.  So let's stick with the Lord, by prayer, fasting, coming to the Services, even if they don't touch you.  Sometimes they don't.  Sometimes prayer is flat and dry.  Sometimes reading the Scripture is difficult or even boring or even confusing.  Do all those things.  And the Lord will enlighten you as much as He enlightened Thomas.

May God help you in all things.  Amen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011

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

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.rtf

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2011-05-01+thomas-sunday+believing-disbelief-is-the-most-important-part-of-the-story_john20-19-31.mp3

LOTS more Homilies on the Sunday of St Thomas at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#THOMAS_SUNDAY

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[1] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

[2] Of course, the fulfillment of the prophesy “receive ye the Holy Spirit” was accomplished on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Pascha.

[3] John 20:27

[4] John 20:28

[5] John 20:29

[6] “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  (40)  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40 

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Rocking Christ is risen troparion from Africa, and beautiful Serbian Orthodox Paschal Song by St. Vladika Nikolaj Velomirovich

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

This Paschal Troparion  is one of the most popular posts on the blog, with good reason! I hate organs, but I could definitely enjoy the percussion, at least on Pascha!

Here are some comments from the site where this video is found (http://youtu.be/lGqUn5KQ9kE):

"The wonderfully animated priest is my friend and mentor, Fr. Joseph Kwami Labi; with him is Presbytera Gertrude, and they are at a beautiful church in Tema, Ghana….on the sea coast".

"Father choir director does have the Paschal spirit, but the chief celebrant looks like he had a long night." (been there done that! FSH)


 

And now for something completely different, and also compelling (http://youtu.be/PVYIstvJszw). This is a poem (see below) by St. Vladika Nikolaj Velomirovich.

People rejoice, all nations listen:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Dance all ye stars and sing all ye mountains:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O little lambs rejoice and be merry:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Nightengales joyous, lending your song:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

All angels join us, singing this song:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Come down ye heavens, draw near the earth:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

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Bright Week Do’s and Dont’s, Holy Week/ Pascha pictures and video

Monday, April 16th, 2012

pascha-2012-06-holy-saturday-01

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Synopsis: Some Bright week "Do's and Don'ts" that are very important to keep the Paschal joys all week. Here are a few: Do eat a steak and any food you want, every day of the week, and do not eat any tofu, but do not eat too much. Do Read the Gospel of John and the Acts, but do not read the Psalms (I explain why). Do plan on communing on Thomas Sunday, the most important Sunday of the year! Do day the Paschal hours instead of your usual prayers, and do not go back to the world too soon. Towards the end, some heartfelt thank you's for all those who helped with flowers, cleanup, preparation and our choir, which was other-worldly beautiful on Pascha night.

More homilies on the PASCHA are HERE

Short Video of Pascha Eve, including my scratchy voice, wardrobe changes, and Christ is risen in many languages, including Kikuyu!

 

 


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-01_2012-04-15+bright-week-dos-and-donts.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-01_2012-04-15+bright-week-dos-and-donts.mp3


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Impious Judas with avaricious thoughts … falls away from the light and accepts the darkness. A warning to us and a way to avoid losing ourselves.. Great Tuesday 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Judas betrays the Master

Synopsis: Six and a half important minutes using Judas as an example to teach us how not to "accept the darkness" Commentary on the Sessional Hymn from Great Tuesday Matins:

"Impious Judas with avaricious thoughts plots against the Master, / and ponders how he will betray Him. /He falls away from the light and accepts the darkness; / he agrees upon the payment and sells Him that is above all price; / and as the reward for his actions, in his misery / he receives a hangman's noose and death in agony. / O Christ our God, deliver us from such a fate as his, // and grant remission of sins to those who celebrate with love Thy most pure Passion."

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More homilies on Holy Week are HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-02_2012-04-10+he-falls-away-from-the-light-and-accepts-the-darkness_great-tuesday-matins.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-02_2012-04-10+he-falls-away-from-the-light-and-accepts-the-darkness_great-tuesday-matins.mp3

 

There is another homily on this same sessional hymn that is similar but a little different. This is such an important topic that I feel the repitition is worthwhile. It is also in Text form:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-02_2011-04-18+judas-with-avaricious-thoughts-accepts-the-darkness+the-progression-of-sin-into-self-imposed-slavery.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-02_2011-04-18+judas-with-avaricious-thoughts-accepts-the-darkness+the-progression-of-sin-into-self-imposed-slavery.doc

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-02_2011-04-18+judas-with-avaricious-thoughts-accepts-the-darkness+the-progression-of-sin-into-self-imposed-slavery.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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