Archive for May, 2012

How to seek truly new things. Commentary and suggestions regarding acts 17:21

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012


 How to seek truly new things.

For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21)

 

This is from the reading for the 6th Tuesday of Pascha, Acts 17:19-28. The Holy Apostle Paul, blessed by the wisdom of God to be able to "give an answer"[1], capitalized on this tendency of those in Athens to bring their attention to their "unknown God", and to enlighten them regarding the "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands".[2] There were many converts that day, including St Dionysius, the Aereopagite, who would become a great saint.

 

St Paul was successful because he was anointed, and persuaded men who were ready to hear the truth in a face to face encounter. I daresay he would be hard pressed to have such success with people in the modern age, who also strive to spend "their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing". We moderns who have modern technology and connectivity can hear some new thing every moment of the day, at opportune and inopportune times, and the vast majority of the new things we learn, via email, our smart phones, trashy magazines, talk radio and all of our social networking is actually not new at all. It is mostly a curious hodgepodge of time wasters, the odd, the interesting, the frivolous and depraved, and almost none of it is useful to our salvation in any way.

 

I have a smart phone now, after calling them stupid phones for a long time. They are useful devices, and especially the texting feature saves me time, gets me *important* news that directly applies to my family and pastoral work, and organizes my appointments. It may even get somebody to come to church, since I use it to announce services.

 

The problem is that this phone, and all the other devices we swim in daily, makes it very easy to veg out with useless (at its best) information, and to avoid prayer and sobriety. As with any tool, it can be used improperly.

 

As a pastor, I see that very few people have an attention span greater than that of a hummingbird. They flit around every day, and do not have the legs, attention or desire to stand in a beautiful, long service, or hear a theological sermon, or read even a line of Scripture in the day. I can see why the big box churches are growing. They feed the addiction of people for shallow information, entertainment and video closeups. They do not challenge because that kind of stuff takes too much time and effort! Let's not kid ourselves. Our Orthodox churches do not have two big TV screens above their altars, but our people have just as many big screen TVs in their houses as anybody else.

I think we must fight this tendency on our modern world to feed ourselves with the trivial. All the "new" things that we see in status updates, tweets, email messages, and all the rest are really old things. The old news is that it is difficult to pray and to be sober and to remain "in the spirit", with watchfulness and attention. Almost everything in the world takes us away from this condition, and we moderns are particularly at risk, because there are distractions that we carry in our pocket or that sit in our rooms or backpacks that are unique to our technological culture.

 

The preacher said that there is nothing new under the sun.. This is an apt saying worthy of all acceptation, when it refers that anything that takes us away from God. Of course, with God, all things are new, and if we learn of Him, then were are truly learning new things.

 

Let us focus on some old things before we seek new and useless things.

 

I have some ideas. Who will join me? If we can do 1 "new" thing from this list, we will be profited. Perhaps incorporating all of them is just too tough, after all, we are weak and easily distracted, addicted creatures. I would love to hear some ideas from you.

 

1. Pray in the morning before anything else. That includes checking our email, our Facebook page, our texts. At least do the "Four Bows"[3].

 

2. Pray for others before anything else. This is too easy to put off and forget. It is very hard, and there is nothing "new" about it at all. It is the most important, and the most difficult time of the day for me. I have written a lot about this because it is important. I wish I knew 20 years ago what I know now.

 

3. Read something holy before anything useless. I think the daily readings are a good place to start. The Psalter is also important. It will teach you how to pray. I read the 17th Kathisma every morning. I recommend you try it.

 

4. Limit the times you check your email, Facebook page, etc. This is a hard one. Perhaps we can modify this one a bit. Force yourself to pray before you check it. Maybe a psalm, or the Prayer of the Optina Elders, or a "rope" of the Jesus prayer. You would pray when you perceive danger, correct? There be dragons out there in cyber space, and they are trying to steal something precious from you – time, and with it, sobriety and watchfulness.

 

5. Go to church, already! You have no good, logical reason to not go, and no good logical reason to leave early. Admit it! The problem with this suggestion is that the vast majority of you who rarely or incompletely go to church do not have the patience to let this practice bring fruit in your lives. Going to 10 vigils in a row will not make you an appreciably better person, but after a hundred or two, you will feel the effects. Are you willing to make this commitment, and "endure to the end"? History says that few will, but you can determine YOUR future. You can choose to do a truly "new" thing, and become truly renewed.

 

6. Get RID of your TV service. Especially do this if you spend more on it than you give to the church! Who are you trying to kid? If you spend more on entertainment than on God, then you value entertainment more than God. In any case, you can get a lot of this junk for free online.  If people gave to the church what they spend on themselves to be able to watch American Idol (aptly named!), then we would not have such small, poorly attended churches, and poor, overworked priests. That is a new fact for you!

 

Okay, are you going to do anything new in your life after if you have read this far? May God help you!

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2012     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-05-22_for-all-the-athenians-and-strangers-which-were-there-spent-their-time-in-nothing-else-but-either-to-tell,-or-to-hear-some-new-thing_acts17-21.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-05-22_for-all-the-athenians-and-strangers-which-were-there-spent-their-time-in-nothing-else-but-either-to-tell,-or-to-hear-some-new-thing_acts17-21.doc

 

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



[1] Luke 12:11-12  And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:  (12)  For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

[2] Acts 17:24

[3] Here is a talk on the Four Bows – A short talk on the four bows

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Selections from Vespers, Liturgical Music Committee of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, Choral Seminar, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKinney, Texas. May 5/18 – 7/20 2012

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Orthodox Choral Seminar

Liturgical Music Committee of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America

Selections from Vespers

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKinney, Texas. May 5/18 – 7/20 2012


Vespers, Sat May 6/19, Psalm 103. Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Chant. Arr. Priest George Johnson. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander

http://youtu.be/31hozPIec44

Blessed is the Man No. 2 by Kurt (Reader Lawrence) Sander. Directed by Larissa Kaminsky Sander.

http://youtu.be/XgTULDJIndE

O Gladsome Light, melody by St. Elias Skete on Mount Athos. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander.

http://youtu.be/KZ5ddQkBGCc

Vespers, The Great Prokimenon, Tone 6, Carpatho-Russian Chant. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander.

http://youtu.be/ma2aEYNIIGk

Vespers, Paschal Stichera, Tone 5, Znameny Chant, Arr. L. Margitich. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander.

http://youtu.be/MdIk7rILrlA

Prayer of St. Symeon. No. 5 by N.V. Lebedev.Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander. http://youtu.be/ZSc0G9Hyvzc

"O Theotokos Virgin, Rejoice". Tone 4 Kievan Chant and Resurrection Monastery Chant. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander. http://youtu.be/XJAcfj2ltbQ


End of Vespers, Psalm 33, Archimandrite Matthew. Conducted by Larissa Kaminsky Sander. http://youtu.be/qwJTqiXCGW0

 

Video recorded by Natalia Hawthorne.

Sound successfully avoided being messed up by Priest Seraphim, who did not sing!

 

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The Healing of the Blind man – without courage there will never be healing.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Healing of the Blind ManLISTEN NOW

Synopsis: What is the most important part of the healing of the blind man story? It is undoubtedly the courage of the blind man and how because of his courage he was brought to full enlightenment and healing. Our healing in Christ will not proceed to completion without personal courage. It does not matter how talented, intelligent or knowledgeable you are, or whether you have more self control than most and your life is in good order or not – without personal courage and willingness to stand up and be a Christian in our post Christian age (a misnomer term, there has never been a "Christian" age, since the world has always been against Christ), you will not be healed of your passions and sins and achieve perfection. The dialogue of the blind man with the Pharisees of his age (every age has them), shows how we incrementally become wiser and sounder in soul as we react to whatever the world brings to is with courage, and with what we know at the time. This is an "every man" kind of story. The blind man had no special talent, nor did he have complete knowledge (his answers showed him growing in knowledge), but he was courageous, and because of this, he gained not only physical eyes, but also spiritual ones. Anyone who is tempted to cave in to the political correctness of this age, which demands certain ways of thinking, speaking and acting, needs to ponder the healing of the blind man in great detail.

More homilies on the 6th sunday of Pascha, The Sunday of the Blind man, are HERE

John 9:1-38 1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. 13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. 24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.


Healing of the Blind ManIf the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-06_2011-05-20+the-blind-man+courage-precedes-full-enlightenment_john9-1-38.m3u

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“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Commentary by Saint Nicolai Velimirovich, Missionary Letters, Part 1, Letter 9, followed by contemporary commentary.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012


"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Mat 10:34)

 

Thus said the Lord. Read it as if He had said, "I did not come to reconcile truth and lie, wisdom and stupidity, good and evil, justice and violence, bestiality and humanity, God and mammon; but I came to bring a sword so that I may cut and separate one from the other, so they do not mingle"

 

What will you cut with O Lord? With the sword of truth, or with the sword of God's word, which is the same thing. For the truth is God's word and God's word is the truth.

 

Apostle Paul advises, "Take ye up the spiritual sword which is the word of God"[1]. Saint John saw in a vision "The Son of Man between two candlestands"[2] – "and from His mouth proceeded a double edged sword."[3] What can the sword that proceeds from the mouth be if not the word of God, the word of truth? That is the sword that Jesus Christ brought on to the earth. That sword is unto salvation of the word[4], not unto the reconciling of good with evil, – then, now, and forever.

 

Saint Nicolai Velimirovich, Missionary Letters, Part 1, Letter 9, "To a Blacksmith about the meaning of Christ's words, "I came not to bring peace but a sword"

—-

The sword of the Word is being ignored by many in our world, who lie when they call themselves Christians. Some of these are those among so called Orthodox Christians, who, in lockstep with the world and its fashions and obsessions, espouse and practice the same morality as any other common person.

 

Things that the Apostle tells us that we should not speak of, under the pretence of (the list is long, the following is only a partial list), so called "inclusiveness", "love", "diversity", etc. I have even seen Orthodox Christians ignore clear Scripture about sexual morality (both involving sexuality according to nature, and especially involving that which the Scripture says is not according to nature), either because they are addicted to sexual sin, or because they are addicted to a listening to the intellectual sophism of this age.

 

Those outside the church may deny that Christ descended into Hell (since they do not believe in Hell, or that demons exist), or that He is truly God and Man, or seventy times seven other dogmas that do not set well with their modern, supposedly enlightened mentality. Any Orthodox priest knows that false opinions also prevail among lukewarm, barely practicing Orthodox Christians.

 

Do not be afraid to believe the truth! Most people are, you know. They believe in a part of the truth, but the parts that are embarrassing for them to admit to among their friends and peers, or are just plain too hard to do or even try to do, they reject. Those people have thrown down the sword and will be annihilated by the enemy.

 

We have recently witnessed the President say out loud what everybody knew that he believed in and was a champion of – unbridled legal acceptance and promotion of sexual immorality. Here is a clear, modern opinion that you must apply the sword of truth to. Do not be fooled into thinking that you can contradict the Word of God because of Modern science, learning, laws and opinions. and remain in the Truth. This is not possible.

To apply the Sword of truth to our lives is to consciously submit our will, which includes our opinions, priorities, actions and words, to the truth. We may still sin because of weakness, but we can be healed of such things through repentance and God's grace. We will not be healed if we do not have the courage to speak the truth and attempt to do it.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2012     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-05-15-think-not-that-i-am-come-to-send-peace-on-earth-i-came-not-to-send-peace-but-a-sword+saint-nicolai-velimirovich.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-05-15-think-not-that-i-am-come-to-send-peace-on-earth-i-came-not-to-send-peace-but-a-sword+saint-nicolai-velimirovich.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.

 

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

 

 

 

 



[1] Eph 6:17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

 

 

[2] Rev 1:13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

 

[3] Rev 1:16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

 

 

[4] Of course, since "salvation of the Word", is, by the power of the Word, learning of and following the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ.

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You will be a missionary…

Monday, May 14th, 2012

"You will be a missionary. Let your first rule of missionary work be – praying to God for the apostates."

St Nicolai Velimirovich, Missionary Letters, Part 1, Letter 4

We had spoken about the 1st Matinal Resurrectional Gospel yesterday in the adult school. The so called "Great Commission" was discussed, and the difference in how Protestants and Orthodox approach, understand and fulfil the Lord's command: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (20)  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." (Mat 28:19-20 )

Surely St Nicolai's admonition is part of that difference. So, also, is the dogma that the solitary monk, who prays for the whole world with love that we cannot imagine, because we have not walked the road of purification that gives birth to such love, is a great missionary. Our missionary work, or put in another, more direct way, all of our life, must begin with prayer.

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She left her waterpot! The extreme humility and faith of the Samaritan Woman.

Monday, May 14th, 2012

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The story of the woman at the well, St Photini (Svetlana) has an enormous amount of deep and important theology, but the most important part is the personality of the Samaritan woman must be understood an emulated to understand any of it. She was very humble; when the Lord exposed her sin, she stayede with Him to hear more. When she understood Him, she left her waterpot. We esplore these two actions. She was an extremist. We cannot be saved unless we are too.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-05_2012-05-13+the-samaritan-woman_john4-5-42.m3u

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I will bless the Lord at all times, Psalm 33, sung at the end of Vespers

Monday, May 7th, 2012

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: Psalm 33, as sung by our choir at the end of Vespers in the vigil service. Our choir, as usual, sounds prayerful and melodic. The "recording engineer" regrets messing with the unit suring the recording (it was just after our between services homily at vigil), and we were getting ready for matins), but you will definately get the idea.

More music from our choir is HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/music/vespers_2012-05-05+i-will-bless-the-lord-at-all-times+psalm-33-sung-at-the-end-of-vespers.m3u

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Two homilies on the 4th Sunday of Pascha. Faith must deal with despondency and the variable relationship of faith to miracles.

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Healing of the Paralytic by the Sheeps poolSynopsis: The Healing of the Paralytic by the sheep's pool has many deep theological concepts in it, but none of this matters if we do not adopt the character and faith of the paralytic. We examine his patience and also his despondency. All true faith must battle with despondency. The paralytic and other examples during this Paschal period, such at the Apostle Thomas and Peter, and the Myrrh bearing women teach us this critical lesson.

LISTEN NOW

More text and audio homilies on the 4th Sunday of Pascha, the Paralytic are HERE

John 5:1-15 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-04_2012-05-06+paralytic-by-the-sheeps-pool+i-have-no-man_john5-1-15.m3u

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Peter raises Tabitha, part of a mosaic in San Vitale, at Ravenna, early 6th century.source http://www.comeandseeicons.com/t/pdg15.htmSynopsis: Exegesis of Acts 9:32-42, the reading for the 4th Sunday of Pascha. Two miracles of Peter. The variable relationship of faith to miracles.

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Acts 9:32-42 32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. 33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. 34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. 35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. 36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. 42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-04_2012-05-05+peter-heals-aeneas-and-raises-tabitha+faith-and-miracles_acts9-32-42.m3u

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Just do the right thing. All the time. God will roll away the stone. Myrhbearing Women. Next text homily.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012


3rd Sunday of Pascha – The Myrrhbearing Women

Just do the right thing.  All the time.  God will roll away the stone.

Mark 15:43 – 16:8

2010

 

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

 

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

 

Brothers and sisters, when we read the Scriptures, sometimes there must be detailed exegesis in order to really understand it, such as we say the Lord was the Bread from Heaven, or speaking about the Eucharist or the Beatitudes, or other places in the Scripture which are really theologically dense, and take a lot of study to understand. 

 

And other times, like today, it's a story and we glean the characteristics of the people involved from what they did.  Their actions show us their personalities, and teach us theology if we listen. 

 

This is one of those times. 

St Joseph of Arimathea and Nikodemus and the Myrhhbearing women at the cross http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/cross-joseph-and-nicodemus-01.jpg

This is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women.  We also celebrate Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who took down Christ from the Cross and buried Him in Joseph's tomb. 

 

And we know the story. 

 

The women, after the Sabbath had passed, early Sunday morning, at five or six, when the sun is coming up, and they are going to the tomb.  And they wondered, who can roll away the stone from the tomb because it's very big.  They don't know how they're going to do it, and yet they still go, and they were going with myrrh and aloes in order to anoint a dead man.  And they went at a time when it was dangerous to go.  They were approaching a tomb where there were armed soldiers who could have killed them and nobody would have thought anything of it.  And yet they went.

 

It's interesting, if you look at the tense of the verb tense; it says he became bold[1].  He became bold and craved the body of Jesus from Pilate.  He wasn't bold before, but he became bold. 

 

This teaches us something, I think, if we listen.  There are times when we are not very bold.  But there are critical moments in our life; we have to stand up and we have to be bold.  And God will help us with it. 

 

We don't always get it right.  Joseph didn't.  Joseph heard all of His teachings.  So did Nicodemus.  Nicodemus, very early in the Gospel of John, saw Christ and He said, “you must be born again”, and Nicodemus didn't understand it.  But they still followed Christ, and they were still in their positions of authority and they couldn't quite give them up because they weren't really sure.  They loved Christ but they weren't so sure, not as sure as Peter and James and John and the rest, who had left all to follow Him[2].  And yet when it came to a critical moment in Joseph's life, he became bold, and he went in to get the body of Jesus. 

 

The Gospel today also describes a critical moment in the lives of the Myrrhbearers.  Their teacher, their friend, their son in one case, had given them so much hope, and then He died in a horrible way, and yet there was something they had to do.  They had to go and anoint Him because of love.  They were bold too.

 

To become bold doesn't mean you do something without being scared.  It means you do something despite the fact that you're scared, or confused, or whatever.

 

That's what courage is.  Courage is to do things regardless of how you feel, and that's what the Myrrhbearing Women did, and that's what Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did, and that's what we must do.  And there will be moments in our life when we have to be bold, not just one, but many moments. 

 

There are critical moments in our life; we must stand up and be Christians, especially in a society now that is ceasing to be Christian in so many ways.  Some would say, we should say it has ceased to be Christian.  But certainly in so many ways, even when it calls itself Christian, it is a far thing from true Christianity, true morality.  We call ourselves Christian but we must be true, so that takes courage. 

 

So there are critical moments in your life that will happen.  They will happen again and again.  If you do not notice them, if you have not noticed them, then you have already lost because I tell you, they've happened.  In the work place, with friends, with family, they happen, where you have to be bold, and you have to stand up for truth.  Perhaps you will shake a little bit in your boots, but you must stand up for truth just as the Myrrhbearers did. 

 

And also, it doesn't matter, when you stand up for this truth, whether you deem it possible or not or that there are going to be good or bad consequences from what you do.  Really, you just do what's right.  That's a good slogan, if you will, or a good way of life. 

 

Just do the right thing.  All the time.

 

Or, shall we say, what you think is right.  Because the Myrrhbearers thought they were doing the right thing, or they were trying to do something that was impossible.  They were trying to anoint a dead Man when actually He was alive.  But God counts it towards their righteousness because of their hearts.  So we must do what is right, even when it's difficult. 

 

There are a lot of critical moments when you must do what's right and you don't see that a good consequence is going to come, or perhaps you don't see that anything good is going to happen, or perhaps you think maybe nothing is going to change.  I have that temptation all the time.  So what?  Serving Vespers, is anything really going to change?  Yes, a lot is going to change.  I know that in my heart.  But my head doesn't always feel it.  And since I am human, I think I know something about you guys since you're human and you feel the same thing sometimes. 

 

So the women go to the tomb thinking, who is going to roll away the stone, a gigantic stone in front of the tomb with large guards in front of the tomb with swords.  How in the world were they going to get in the tomb?  They had no idea, no idea at all.  Someone might say that was a fool's errand that they hadn't figured out what to do.  But they knew it was right and they just did it. 

 

That's how we should do things.  I'm not saying we shouldn't plan our lives.  I'm not saying we shouldn't plan when we want to do something that's good and decide how we are going to do it.  Absolutely.  But there's a certain point in your life where you might say I'm going to do what's right no matter what the consequences are or no matter how we are even going to do it.

 

To be honest with you, my mind is really quite a bit preoccupied right now, trying to get into the temple[3].  In many ways, the temple has had big stones around it.  Mike and I were just talking yesterday.  I don't know if you know this.  We had money with a bank and we were going to take the money out so that it would be available so that we can purchase the land.  This was several years ago.  We didn't know it, but this was just before a financial crisis in which the money that we had in that money market would have been worth less than 25 percent of its value.  We took it out and two weeks later, poof!  God guided us.  We didn't know it at the time.  We would have been destitute, but it didn't happen. 

 

So now, we go through with a lot of difficulties and, really, some real big difficulties at the end.  But if any of you are runners – some of us are – you know, the littlest hill seems really, really, really big at the end of your run. 

 

So we're at the end, and there are some little hills, but they seem really, really big, but God will help us.  Just applying what these people did in this Gospel.  Do what's right.  We pray, we fast, we struggle, and God will help us. 

 

Someone is going to roll away the stone.  I'm not sure how, but it's going to happen.  I think that's the way we need to live our lives.  And the impossible becomes possible.

 

Christianity is all about the impossible being made possible.  God says that we are to be perfect.  It's not an idle command.  This is what we are to become:  Perfect.  It doesn't seem very possible, not when I take stock of my life, and yet it is happening; that stone is being rolled away right now. 

 

So we must do what's right.  We must look for critical moments in our life and just do what's right, no matter how hard it seems.  No matter how impossible it seems.  No matter whether it seems like it's going to have good consequences or bad. 

 

Sometimes I'm speaking of actual critical moments where there is something you must do and it could have a good result or a bad result and you don't know what's going to happen.  For the most part in our life, we must just do what's right.

 

We must pray; we must fast; we must struggle even though we don't feel or see the results from this[4].

 

If you're a Christian, you know the results are happening, but you don't really see them – sort of like a flower opening.  You don't see it open and yet, in a day or two, it has bloomed.  That's what the Christian life is like.  We don't see our flower opening.  We don't see our stone being rolled away, and yet it gets rolled away. 

 

There's another thing that I gleaned from the lives from this story about the Myrrhbearers.  So they go to the tomb.  Picture yourself.  You're going to the tomb; you're scared half to death because this is dangerous what you're doing.  You can go to the soldiers and they might just kill you.  And so you go, not knowing how you're going to get past the soldiers, how you're going to get into the tomb.  And then the soldiers are gone or laying about as stupefied, terrified men, the stone has been rolled away and you speak to an angel[5].  What an amazing thing. 

 

Now, if this was a Hollywood movie then suddenly they would be so filled with joy and be singing and dancing.  That's not how it happened, is it?  They were afraid.  They were confused.  It took multiple times of the Lord appearing on that day to really have people really understand anything, and Thomas didn't understand for eight days. 

 

So God reveals things to us but we don't get it.  God's grace is present, working in us now, but we don't completely see it.  We are like these women.  He's risen; He's not here.  But we're confused.  Maybe afraid, maybe despondent, whatever human emotion or failing you want to name.  And yet God is working in us.  God is here.  God is present.  God lives within us.  But we don't apprehend it.  It's really a deep mystery why we don't.  But even in the midst of that, eventually we have become aware of what God has revealed.

 

This is one of the many stories in the Gospel that shows our life in microcosm.  It's not just a story of people going to a tomb and the tomb being empty.  This is a story of our soul's journey in life, through difficulty, through things that make us afraid, make us confused- trying to do the right thing, not knowing exactly how to get it done.  And then the tomb is opened.  We still don't quite understand, but we will.  We will understand.  This is our life.  This is why these stories have been preserved, because they describe us.  They describe the human soul.  They describe the human need for God and how we can fulfill that need. 

 

All of us are on the journey to the tomb – not knowing exactly how we're going to get the stone rolled away or how we're going to deal with the guards.

 

If you want to make the guards a metaphor, they can be our passions or the world or anything else.  The stone can be our hardheartedness, the deadness inside us, our own weaknesses and passions that make it so difficult for us to do well.  All we know is that we look through a glass darkly[6].

 

We will see face-to-face, just like these Myrrhbearers did.  All we need to do is just keep going, keep walking to the tomb and believing that God will roll away the stone.  He will; He's guaranteed it.  I think you feel it in your heart.  But if you're like me and I know you are, sometimes you don't feel it in your head.  That's when you've just got to keep walking, one foot in front of the other, praying, fasting, struggling, doing what's right, trying to find out what's right, looking for those moments when you really must stand up and be a Christian, when there's a cross to be paid for it.  And then God will help you.  And you will get to the tomb and it will be opened.  That's the Christian life.  May God help us to live it.  Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

 

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[1] It is really important to read a translation that understands verb tenses and other aspects of Greek grammar. All the paraphrasements are useless for this, and they are tainted by a Protestant mindset in most cases. A good article about this is at: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/10/holy-scripture-in-orthodox-church.html. Most English translations get this verb tense wrong. Even the generally at least reasonably accurate King James version has “Joseph boldly…”, when the actual verb tense is “became bold”. 

[2] Matthew 4:18-22 KJV  “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  (19)  And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  (20)  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.  (21)  And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  (22)  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”

[3] We were building our temple in McKinney at the time, and had many financial setbacks and difficulties with the city.

[4] I have had the unpleasant experience many times of seeing those indoctrinated with the modern reformers heresies considering this to be “works”. We truly use the same words, but speak a different language. In what important endeavor, can we make progress without effort? (None).

[5] The Gospels accounts indicate that there were multiple visits by different groups of people to the tomb. Each describes slightly different details.

 

For instance, in Mathew, the visit by Mary Magdalene and the Theotokos is described as follows, and shows that they saw the stone rolled away, and the guards “as dead men”:

 

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.  (2)  And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  (3)  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:  (4)  And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” (Mat 28:1-4 KJV)

 

St Mark’s gospel does not mention any guards:

 

“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.” (Mar 16:1-5)

 

St Luke’s gospels describes yet another visitation, where the stone is clearly already rolled away (and appears to include Joseph and Nikodemus in the party):

 

“And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.  (50)  And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just:  (51)  (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.  (52)  This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  (53)  And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.  (54)  And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.  (55)  And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.  (56)  And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.  (24:1)  Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.  (2)  And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.  (3)  And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.”

(Luke 23:49-24:4)

[6] 1Corinthians13:12 KJV For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

 

 

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