Archive for September, 2012

The Canaanite woman – Exactly how to pray. 17th Sunday of Pentecost. Matthew 15:21-28. Text,audio.

Saturday, September 29th, 2012


The Canaanite woman – Exactly how to pray

17th Sunday of Pentecost

Matthew 15:21-28

2010

 

 

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

 

Christ and the Canaanite woman. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-exorcism-of-daughter-of-the-canaanite-woman.jpgBrothers and sisters, today we have a perfect example of how to pray.  Several things that this woman of Canaan did that we must do if we are to pray, even though she was not of the children of Israel, being from a pagan land, but she knew something about Jesus.  That means that she cared, and that means she thought about things. 

 

Many of us Orthodox know very little about our faith.  Here a pagan rebukes some of us, because she was not of the household of God, and she yet had enough intelligence to call Him "Son of David."  That is a term for Messiah, and although He was not her Messiah yet, since she was not of the household of Israel. 

 

This is one of the things that we must have when we pray.  We must know who God is.  And that's not something simple.  We can say, oh, yes, I know who God is:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit; I say it in the Creed.  No, we don't know Who God is.  We know Who God is when we become like Him.  That's when someone truly knows someone, when they become like them, when they emulate them. 

 

Since God is love and we do not love with completeness, we cannot say that we know God.  Since the Son of God became Man and humbled Himself, even to death on the Cross, we can't say that we know humility.  So we cannot say that we truly know the Son of God. 

 

If your prayers are to be fruitful, brothers and sisters, they must be joined with morality; they must be joined with becoming something, becoming what God has intended us to be and that is: perfected.  We cannot know Him, or bear to be in His presence unless we struggle for perfection.  So that is the first and foremost thing. 

 

If you don't try to live a moral life, your prayers will not be fruitful.  I'm not saying to stop praying.  Sure, keep praying.  But don't expect God to reach out to you and answer your prayers if you are not struggling to reach out to Him.  And not through prayer, I mean, but through your living your life in a Christian way. 

 

So this is the first thing we must do.  We must know God.  And we can't pretend that we know God.  We know that we don't fully know Him because of our sins.  So any good prayer is proceeded by and accompanied with and followed by the struggle against sin.

 

Now, this woman came to Jesus with her daughter having a demon.  I think a lot of people have demons today but we don't know it. The demons are a little more subtle or we're just much more foolish, and we ascribe all kinds of scientific reasons for people's behavior.  In the past, people knew when people had demons.  Now, I guess, we're a little smarter, or so we think. 

 

So the woman's daughter had the demon, and she wanted the daughter to be healed.  She was from a benighted land, a land of paganism.  A lot of demons there and a lot of people are demonized in those lands.  Of course we shouldn't consider that our land is really much different than a pagan land.  Look at the things that our society considers important[1].  They're things the pagans considered important too. 

 

So this woman goes to Jesus and she prays simply.  She just says, "Lord, have mercy."  That's all.  She explains very, very briefly:  "My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."  That's all. 

 

That is all you need to do. 

 

You don't have to come up with any kind of extremely creative prayer. 

You don't have to be eloquent. 

You don't have to cover everything. 

 

If you're going to surgery, you don't have to pray for the nurses and the doctors and the instruments and the autoclave all to be in good working order.  All you need to do is pray for God to have mercy.  That's all.  And that's what this woman did. 

 

The simpler your prayer is, the more powerful it will be, because pure prayer is not from words.  Pure prayer is from the soul communicating with God, and that is always done without words.  That is done in a language that we do not know, in words that cannot be uttered.  So keep your prayer simple and intense[2].

 

So what did she do?  She asked for mercy.  He completely ignored her.  And here we see another very important part of prayer that we fail in continually.  And that is:  Be persistent.  Be persistent even in the face of rejection. 

 

I'm sure that she knew He heard her.  She was close enough, but He didn't even respond.  So we must be persistent even when it seems as if God does not hear, or when it takes a long time for that which we are praying for.  In fact, some of the things that you pray for will take a long time, even a lifetime, because you should be praying for perfection; you should be praying for complete change in your soul, and that is happening moment by moment and will not happen all at once.

 

So the woman is following after Jesus, calling out, "Lord, have mercy.  My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."  And finally the apostles are tired of it, so they say to the Lord, "Send her away for she keeps crying after us."  The Lord was waiting for this.

 

And then He stopped and then He said to her ‑‑ or said to them, but in her hearing, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel."  He goes on and says, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs."  The dogs, meaning the unwashed, the unbelievers, the pagans, in this context, all that were not Jews.

 

And what does she say?  This gives us another way that we must pray.  When you pray, you might be answered in a way that you don't like. or sometimes will you not hear any answer at all.  So she heard herself called a dog.  It appeared that He was not going to listen to her.  So she told Him something very profound:  "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

 

So she heard God's words and mixed them with humility, and God responded to her and said, "O, woman, great is thy faith.  Be it done to thee even as thou wilt."  And then her daughter was healed immediately.

 

Her daughter was healed because of:  Her persistence, her knowledge, her humility and her simplicity.

 

This is the way we should pray, and this is why our prayers are so fruitless for us many times.  Because we don't do one of these things. 

 

We must know God.  To know God we must live like Him.  The God‑Man showed us how to do it.  It's all in front of us, but we have to make the effort.  To know God is not only struggling and doing the Commandments but learning of the Commandments.  They're all in the Scripture.  Every page is about Jesus Christ.  Every page is about the sweet Commandments of God.  So we are without excuse if we do not know them.  And we are without excuse if we do not struggle to follow them.  This is foremost the thing that we must do if we expect the Lord to hear our prayers. 

 

We also must be persistent in our prayers, to continually ask the Lord for help, and we must pray simply.  Part of the reason why we must be simple is because it's very difficult to be persistent and to be eloquent.  How are you going to do that?  Over and over, come up with some new way to ask the Lord for all you need is mercy?  No.  It is better just to pray with simplicity and persistence AND in the context of struggling to live a Christian life. 

 

This woman is a great example of faith to us and should be a rebuke to us because we don't live this way. 

 

We are of the household of God, so by that context, by extension, we're of that household of Israel.  We are the children that should have the Master's food, and yet we live in such a way that we have very little of this food.  Not that it's not given to us.  It's all available.  But because we don't take it, because of the way we live and our distractions and our false priorities and our laziness and our lack of knowledge and all the rest of it. 

 

Every single one of us, right now, in this room, every single one of us has something we really need, that we know we need, things that we really care about and are vexing to us.  Loved ones that need help or something in our life that is amiss, or perhaps just a burning in our heart to know God more intimately.  The only way this is achieved is by prayer such as this:  Simple, persistent, knowledgeable and humble. 

 

May God help us to pray like the woman of Canaan.  Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

 

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/pentecost-sunday-17_2010-09-19+the-canaanite-woman+exactly-how-to-pray.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-17_2010-09-19+the-canaanite-woman+exactly-how-to-pray.html

 

AUDIO: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-17_2010-09-19+the-canaanite-woman+exactly-how-to-pray.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.

 

 

 

 



[1] for instance, pagans were known for gross sexual immorality of all kinds, mistreatment of women and children, abortion and infanticide,  lust for power and pleasure. How can we in the civilized nations dare say that our society is different than this with a straight face?

[2] Of course, besides "Lord have mercy", the quintessential simple prayer to pray with intensity is the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" (or a variation similar to this).

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We beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 16th Sunday after Pentecost – 2 Corinthians 6:1 10.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012


We beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain

16th Sunday after Pentecost – 2 Corinthians 6:1‑10

2011

 

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

 

This Sunday we read very important words and admonitions from the Apostle Paul.  He beseeches us that we receive not the grace of God in vain.  This is something that you should question, whether or not you receive God's grace in vain or to good purpose, every day. 

 

His admonition is not something that is a rhetorical question.  It is meant to be answered.  All Christians must answer it.  The more holy a Christian is, the more often they consider this question, and the more often they wonder whether or not they have done enough. 

 

He goes on to describe the ministry of being an apostle but really, by extension, the life of any Christian.  Not all of the things he says would apply to us directly but most of them do.  And then he goes on after giving this list of things that is very important to look at closely.  At the end he says that he lives as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. 

 

This is a key to the victorious Christian life, to always have sorrow and rejoicing.  The world doesn't understand this.  The world really doesn't like sorrow, so they try to always replace it with something that makes them happy, whether it is for a little time or a long time, whether it's artificial or natural, they want to feel happy, not to be sorrowful. 

 

The Christian, on the other hand, courts the feeling of sorrow and desires it.  We're not talking about sorrow that is depression and despondency and feeling like there is no meaning in life,  or that there is nothing good that is happening in our lives or that all is difficult and all is terrible.  That is the sorrow of the unbeliever.

 

Our kind of sorrow is that perhaps we have not received all of the grace of God properly and some of it was in vain.  Our sorrow is that we wish to do good and sometimes we do not.  Our sorrow is that God loves us and we do not love Him enough back.  This is Christian sorrow. 

 

But it is also mixed at the same moment, in the same breath; I don't mean on the inhaling and the exhaling, inhale sorrow, exhale joy.  I mean in the same moment, in the same instant we feel sorrow we also feel rejoicing because we are Christians and God has come and become man so that we could become perfect.  This is something to rejoice about.  We sorrow about the things we are not and then we are happy and rejoice about the things that we are becoming, especially. 

 

It's important to ask yourself this question all the time:  Have you received the grace of God in vain?  And it's important to measure yourself against the Scriptures, against the lives of the saint to see whether or not you are living a victorious life. 

 

Let's look at some of the things Saint Paul said right after he said, "I beseech ye that you receive not the grace of God in vain."  Then he quotes Isaiah and he says, "now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation."  This, I would suggest to you, is a sort of pneumonic.  Everything that you do every day is the time for salvation, not later but today. 

 

So everything is important.  Everything you think and do and say, the person you are, the person you are becoming at that moment is important.  And is the acceptable time.  If we put off our salvation until later, later may not come.  But even more so than that, that's a kind of a thing that people can accept, but it sounds kind of trite in some ways, and it's very difficult, when you're tempted in the moment, to realize, okay, I could lose my salvation because of this.  We don't think like that.  But we could think:  This is the time for me to show that I'm a Christian.  Now is the moment.  And if you always think that you are in the "now," to live according to how Christ lived, this will help you immensely.

 

He goes on to say many things about the ministry, but as I said, this applies to us too, although not exactly as he said.  For instance, he says:  In all things proving ourselves as the ministers of God ‑‑ you can substitute "as Christians" ‑‑ in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.

 

Now, much of his distress was physical.  You can see in the Acts how many things happened.  One time he had to escape being murdered by being let down in a basket from a high wall.  Many times he was whipped; shipwrecked, I think, twice.  Many distresses.  If you had asked him what distressed him the most, it would be that his flock did not always receive the Word of God.  This should distress us the most.  So everyone should have this distress.

 

Look out in the world.  Look at how empty people's lives are.  This should cause you distress and sorrow.  Everyone should feel this, not just the pastors, not just the bishops.  Everyone.  You must feel the pain in the world.  This is part of being a Christian.

 

Then he says, in "stripes and imprisonments".  Perhaps that does not apply to us in its exactitude.  Not now.  "In tumults and labors".  Well, if you care about people, you will find out there are tumults because we are messy.  People's lives are messy.  Our own lives are messy and when you care for people, it's a big mess.  And how can you care for people when there's such a mess?  Only by faith and God.  Because it's way too big for us, it's way too complicated for us, it's way too tiring for us.

 

He goes on to say, "in labors and watchings and fastings".  Watchings meaning watching yourself that you do not fall.  The watchings come about with fasting, with the reading of the Scripture, with coming to the services, with confession, with communion, with efforts in all things. 

 

Then he says, "by pureness and by knowledge".  Our world is far from purity.  It's in the air we breathe now.  Impurity.  We are to live by pureness and by knowledge.  The knowledge of God.  The knowledge of God only comes about by striving for purity, by striving to follow the Commandments.  It doesn't come about by reading books.  It comes about by living what's in the books.  By long suffering because that's the archaic word for patience.  Kindness. 

 

Then he says, "by the Holy Ghost".  Perhaps that should give you a shot of electricity down your body.  Do we live by the Holy Spirit?  Our we vessels for the Holy Spirit?  We should be.  By love unfeigned.  Not to put on pretenses.  By the word of truth.  You better know what the truth is if you're going to speak it.  You can't know what it is unless you live it.  You can read about it, you can spout it off, but unless you live it, you do not speak by truth. 

 

And, he says, "by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness" and he goes on and says many other things.

 

And at the end of this long list of things ‑‑ as I've said, most of which apply to us directly ‑‑ he says:  "As sorrowful yet always rejoicing"

 

Brothers and sisters, I beg you, cultivate this feeling of sorrow in your heart, sorrow for your own sins, sorrow for the situation of those in the world.  Not out of judgment to them.  But out of deep sorrow that there is so much pain, that there's so much aimlessness and uselessness in the world.  And that there are those you love who are having troubles.  And that you don't know how to help them.

 

Cultivate this feeling of sorrow.  Don't be afraid of it.  Don't let the world tell you that you shouldn't feel it.  You should cultivate it, and if you cultivate it carefully, you will always have with you joy. 

 

If you only have sorrow then there's something wrong; there's some sin that is keeping you from feeling joy as well.  Perhaps it is pride, vanity, self‑indulgence.  Those are typical things that can keep us from feeling joy.  It could be other sins as well.  You should feel sorrow and joy together, at the same time.  And then it is, as the church calls it, sweet sorrow.  Joyful sorrow.

 

So let us cultivate this feeling in our hearts, and let us ask ourselves every single day:  Have we received the grace of God in vain or not?  Don't be afraid to answer the question.  And don't be afraid to say:  I have not received it properly.  Because really let's be honest, that's got to be the truth for some of the stuff we do.

 

And then run to God in repentance, in sorrow but in joy because He's your father and you can cry out, Abba, Father, to Him and He will help you but only if you ask.

 

So with the apostle, I beseech you that you do not receive the grace of God in vain.

 

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 2010    

 

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/pentecost-sunday-16_2011-10-02+we-beseech-you-also-that-ye-receive-not-the-grace-of-god-in-vain_2corinthians6-1-10.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-16_2011-10-02+we-beseech-you-also-that-ye-receive-not-the-grace-of-god-in-vain_2corinthians6-1-10.html

Audio: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-16_2011-10-02+we-beseech-you-also-that-ye-receive-not-the-grace-of-god-in-vain_2corinthians6-1-10.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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“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Understand yourself, and repentance and change will be unhindered.

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

href="http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-15_2012-09-15+we-have-this-treasure-in-earthen-vessels-that-the-excellency-of-the-power-may-be-of-god-and-not-of-us_2corinthians4-6-15.m3u">LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: It is crucial that we apply the Scripture we read *personally*. St Paul's writings especially have important doctrinal teachings, but they always have personal application that we must not miss. We hone in on a critical &pointer" the Apostle gives regarding our nature and sin. We must takes his words to heart, and "own" them, so that we do not waste time with sadness, grief, guilt, surprise and shame, and always have productive repentance for our sins.

More homilies on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

2 Corinthians 4:6-15 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-15_2012-09-15+we-have-this-treasure-in-earthen-vessels-that-the-excellency-of-the-power-may-be-of-god-and-not-of-us_2corinthians4-6-15.m3u

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Parable of the Wedding Feast & the earnest of the Spirit, & also how/when to pray for people during the Divine Liturgy.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Parable of the Wedding Feast, DionisyLISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The homily begins with a request to pray for an Orthodox woman who is planning to have an abortion. The most important place in the liturgy to offer our heartfelt prayers to God for others is given, and it is explained that among other things, the earnest of the spirit, which St Paul mentions in his epistle should motivate us for our brethren who are suffering or in danger. After a little bit about how Orthodox should view abortion, this " earnest" and the "tie in" to the parable of the wedding feast are explained, and we see how praying for others and struggling for good MUST be the result of our entry into the wedding feast, which has already occurred, and is occurring.

More homilies on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

Matthew 22:1-14 1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.


 

If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-14_2012-09-09+parable-of-the-wedding-feast-earnest-of-the-spirit+praying-for-people-during-divine-liturgy_matthew22-1-14+2corinthians1-21.m3u

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arable of the Vineyard: the outer (Jewish) and inner (Christian) meanings and symbolism: we must bear fruit! AND The Holy Prophet Samuel: Behold, here am I. Speak, for thy servant hears.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Another TWO_FER!

Synopsis: The Parable of the Vineyard, like most parable, has an immediate, outer meaning, and many layers of inner meaning. We compare all the symbolism in the parable, giving the immediate (Jewish) meaning, and The Christian meaning, and then talk about the main inner point of the parable: we must bear fruit – we are commanded to!

LISTEN NOW

More homilies on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

Matthew 21:33-42 33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?


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We celebrated The Prophet Samuel today, and talked about him at Vigil. The Holy Prophet Samuel teaches us how to approach EVERYTHING in life. The manner of the birth and calling of Samuel is also mentioned.

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