Archive for May, 2013

Heavenly things are hard to learn John 3:7-12 Bright Friday 2013

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
 

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  (8)  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.  (9)  Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?  (10)  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?  (11)  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  (12)  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"[1] [John 3:7-12]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

Learning holy things is hard. the mind must be changed; we do not naturally think about heavenly things or reason in spiritual ways. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14)

 

Nicodemus was a good man, and very pious and learned. He proved his mettle near three years after his first encounter with Christ by having the courage, even though he was a secret disciple, to attempt to stay the blood lust of the Jewish leaders by reasoning with them, and then by helping to tend to our Lord's body after the crucifixion[2]. Both incidents who great courage and discretion. Even though he was such a man, he could not understand what the Lord was telling him, and was even rebuked about it.[3]

 

Many stories we read from the Gospels during the Paschal season drive home this point[4]understanding heavenly things is hard. Let's just flat out admit it – we are not spiritual people, and our spiritual understanding is limited, and our soul's senses are dull. If we do not work to understand the things of God, we will always be poor.

 

St Seraphim of Sarov, praying on a rock http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/seraphim-of-sarov-rock-01.gifPraying haphazardly, and rarely reading the Scriptures just won't cut it. Watching more TV than we read, pray or attend services (COMBINED!) just won't cut it. If my patron[5] spent 1000 days kneeling on a rock praying with tears, "Lord enlighten my darkness", why are we so haphazard and lackadaisical in living according to our professed faith?

 

Our life must be a quest to become spiritual, and understand things that are only "spiritually discerned".

 

This season should be a time of feasting and spiritual joy, but this DOES NOT eliminate an ESSENTIAL part of what should be in our character – a profound dissatisfaction with who we are, what we know, and how we act. This is the key to spiritual progress – for a man to know himself, measure himself (against Christ[6]), and find himself lacking. God will help us with what we lack, but we must labor with effort, and faith, and repentance and expectation. If we do this, we will have the "joyful sorrow" that is a profound part of true Christian spirituality.

 

Do you understand this? If you don't, then don't despair, nor pass off my words as idle tales, or legalistic, or only for monks, or whatever slander the Evil One tries to plant in your understanding. work! Read the Gospels, pray more, keep the fasts as they are prescribed, strive to be spiritual! God will help you.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-09+john3-7-12+heavenly-things-are-hard-to-learn.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-09+john3-7-12+heavenly-things-are-hard-to-learn.doc

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

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

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

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

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

 


[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days.

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] When the Sanhedrin were Hell bent (literally) on killing Jesus in any way they could (this they wanted to do almost form the beginning of Jesus' ministry), Nicodemus showed incredible courage here: Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?  (46)  The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.  (47)  Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?  (48)  Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?  (49)  But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.  (50)  Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)  (51)  Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?  (52)  They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." (John 7:45-52). After the crucifixion, he showed even greater courage here, as to be associated with the disgraced and crucified Christ was to become a target for assassination: "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.  (39)  And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.  (40)  Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  (41)  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  (42)  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (John19:38-42)

[3] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  (12)  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12)

[4] This is a consistent theme in my homilies for good reason.  some many stories illustrate this – the doubting of Thomas, the Myrhhbearing women, the Samaritan woman, the healing of the man born blind, to name a few.

[5] St Seraphim of Sarov spent 100 days kneeling on a rock in the Forest, with this prayer being the only one on his lips.

[6] "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…" (Ephesians 4:13)

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“…What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” [John 2:18] The Greatest signs are in the heart Bright Thursday 2013

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

 "… What sign showest Thou to us, seeing that Thou doest these things?"[1] [John 2:18]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

an Orthodox girl receiving communion , http://www.orthodox.net/photos/communion-girl.jpg This question the Jewish leaders  asked Jesus after he routed the money changers out of the temple. It is  a stupid question. They shouldn't be asking "what sign", instead they should be asking for forgiveness! The Lord had showed them a very personal sign, much like He would later do to the people of the Gergesenes[2]. Their greed blinded  them  to the blessing the Lord gave them; He exposed their sin and gave them an opportunity to repent.  This was the sign!

 

Sins blind us to the signs the Lord is continually  showing us. We also look  for external  signs,  but the truest and most reliable signs are those that the Lord reveals to the heart. The rulers of Jesus' day truly are the fulfillment of the prophesy (an ongoing one, continually being fulfilled): "And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse."[3] The Lord appeared to them to be a questionable person because or their personal perverseness – their pride, avarice and ambition. such sins, and all the rest of the vast panoply of human perverseness blinds us to the signs that God desires to reveal to the human heart.

 

If a myrrh streaming icon comes to the church, people who have not darkened the church door for a year or more will stream to it, with tears and supplications, and even be in a kind of ecstasy. After the icon travels to another place, they will go on to the rest of their mundane lives, missing the signs that God would give to them every Liturgy in the Eucharist, if they would bother to prepare themselves with expectation.

 

The greatest miracle and sign in our daily lives is the Eucharist, and it is of course, powerful because of the greatest external sign, the sign of Jonah[4]. This is all we need, if we are living real Christian lives.

 

Only a pure heart can see such signs. How many signs did we miss today?

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-18+what-sign-showest-thou-to-us.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-18+what-sign-showest-thou-to-us.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 
 



[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Wednesday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-12, & Bright Thursday the rest of Chapter 2

 

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] In the region of the Gergesenes, the Lord expelled the demons form the two demoniacs and allowed them to go into a herd of swine (an animal considered unclean by  the Jews), and they all rushed down a cliff into the sea and were drowned. Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39

[3] Psalm  17:26, Septuagint, Boston Psalter. I also love the way the KJV renders it, with that marvelous word "froward" – "With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."

[4] The sign of Jonas is the resurrection: " Mat 12:38-40  Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  (39)  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."

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“…Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it ” [John 2:5] Bright Wednesday 2013

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

"…Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it " [John 2:5]

Bright Wednesday 2013

 

 

"… Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it"[1] [John 2:5]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-wedding-feast-of-cana-01.jpg

 

This is is advice that we need to follow closely. It was given by the Holy Theotokos, to the servants at the Wedding Feast in Cana, when there was no more wine at the feast. Our Lord told the servants to fill 6 waterpots with water (an inexplicable command), and draw some off and bring it to the ruler of the feast, and the water turned into wine.

 

Our will is unreliable since it is tainted by the passions. We often get things wrong. God's will is always GOOD.

 

 Sometimes we know and understand why God is telling us to do a certain thing  such as  that we should love our enemies or we should we should do good to those who do evil into us. That is the easy  stuff (to understand, but not always to do!).

 

The hard part is the following God's will when we do not understand why or perhaps we don't even understand exactly what it is we are to do or what the result is supposed to be.

 

This happened to Peter when he was told by the Lord very early in His ministry to let down the nets for a draught[2].  He has been fishing all night and caught nothing, and experienced fishermen of that time knew that the best time to catch fish was at night and therefore it made no sense from an earthly or worldly perspective to let down the nets in the middle of the day; it was a fool's errand. Peter even stated as much to the Lord, but he obeyed him, perhaps not expecting anything, and of course they caught a great catch a fish

 

I tell myself and my flock many times  things that some do not seem to understand or accept – for instance –  come to the services regularly, confess and commune regularly, fast, pray often for some difficult thing to be resolved. The problem is that although all these things cause grace to abound in the heart it happens most of the time in an invisible and even imperceptible way and it takes much time for us to overcome our passions and the difficulties in life that we experience.

 

All we need to do is obey the Lord, and things will always "work to the good[3]". I have a saying which I say often: "It is always right to do the right thing", and its corollary, "It is  always wrong to do the wrong thing". It is really that simple.

 

The part that it is not simple is that sometimes we don't know what the right thing is that we should do. In the wedding at Cana the Lord gave clear instructions; just go fill some water pots with water. In our lives things are much more gray and we often do not have full or even significant understanding, but the Lord will reveal Himself to us and things will "make sense" if we seek Him.

 

If you often don't know what to do or you are confused by the moral choices that life presents to you then I submit to you that you're not seeking the Lord enough. Something in your life is clouding your understanding[4]. Life is about becoming like God;  if we become like God then we think like Him and  we acquire his mind. If we acquire His mind then we are not confused by anything.

 

To summarize: this simple statement – "… Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" seems to me to have two important meanings and commands. The first of course is readily apparent: we must obey the Lord every time in every place and in every situation. The second is more subtle and is inferred by the first: we must learn what it is Lord wants us to do, and knowing this takes effort and dedication.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-5+whatsoever-he-saith-to-you-do-it.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-5+whatsoever-he-saith-to-you-do-it.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 



[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Wednesday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-12, & Bright Thursday the rest of Chapter 2

 

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] Luke 5:4-6  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.  (5)  And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.  (6)  And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

 

 

[3] Romans_8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

[4] Often this is sin, since "Sin makes you stupid".

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“Come and see” – It applies to everything. John 1:46 Bright Tuesday 2013

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

"And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." [John 1:46]

 

[Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of Jon during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Monday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-28, on Tuesday the rest of the chapter (John 1:29-51)]

 

 

The following is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 1:29-51), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

 

"Come and see." This is the way to live your life,  always with obedience and expectation. Our faith is one of experience. We "come and see" by the way we live and the Lord shows us. There are two ways to "Come and See": one is the way of the unbeliever and the other that of the Christian. The unbeliever does something to change his unbelief into belief – he is not sure what he will "see". The Christian knows that God always will act with grace in his life, and that he will always see this, as long as his sins and passions (and not because God has "failed" to act) do not obscure his vision.

 

How many times have our sins,  passions,  doubts kept us from "Coming and seeing"?

 

There are a lot of demoralizing  things that happen in the pastoral ministry (if the pastor is a sinful man). Many times I have been spiritually tired and not wanted to do something,  and not as many times,  but still a large number of times  I have done it anyway,  and I have expected something to happen that would be good for my soul or of some benefit to someone. This is to "come and see".

 

I apply this dictum to prayer for others. Sometimes I see no results for an extended period of time. The Lord expects me to expect results, and continue to pray (there are all kinds of Scripture that state this, do you know some of them?) – this is to "come and see". Do you pray daily (and not just one little "Lord have mercy") for your loved ones and those whom your heart breaks when you think of them?  A good practical way to accomplish this is to pray the Jesus prayer a set number of times (like 10, 50 or 100 – whatever is convenient for your prayer rope) for them every day: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Seraphim". Do not listen to the distracting or even negative and sad thoughts. To listen to them is to not come and to never see.

 

I always (well probably  not always!) had this attitude in regard to the services. Sometimes I am tired and want to "be a parishioner" (not go to church[1])  but of course I go and on most days I go with expectation,  and I have never been disappointed. Something ALWAYS happens.

 

I am convinced that every encounter in our life will teach us something,  strengthen us,  open us up to receiving  and keeping close to our soul grace,  if we always encounter everything  with an attitude  of "Come and see."

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-07+john1-46+come-and-see+it-applies-to-everything.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-07+john1-46+come-and-see+it-applies-to-everything.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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How to BECOME a child of God John 1:12-13

Monday, May 6th, 2013

"But as many as received Him, to them he gave power to become Children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were begotten not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God." [John 1:12-13]

 

[Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of Jon during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Monday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-28, on Tuesday the rest of the chapter (through verse 51)]

 

 

The following is a prayerful meditation on some part of the first "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 1:1-28), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

In one sense we can  say we are not children of God,  but that we are becoming children of God. Of course, the Theologian explicitly states that we are given the power to "become". This implies we are not finished with the transition from being a child of the world (and the Devil) to a child of God. This is a continual, stepwise process.

 

So the question is at what point would we become fully children of God and what is this process. To be a child of God is to be *fully* human,  as Jesus Christ is human. This is a process,  and it takes place over our lifetime.  We are constantly *becoming*. This is not a foregone conclusion. We have the power,  give by Christ through baptism,  and we then must "take our bed and be walking".

 

If we "receive" Christ, we must obey Him. We also must learn about him ("take My yoke upon me and learn of me…"). This learning is not in the head, but in the heart. Our wonderful task is to become like the God-man Jesus Christ, and follow his example, which is well laid out in the Gospels and the lives of his beloved ones, the Saints.

 

The Theologian states that those born of God are not born of:

 

blood – I take this to mean by human birth.

 

the flesh – This may also be human birth, but I take it to mean that the ways of the flesh – our passions, bad priorities, and earthbound desires and practices will never lead us to heaven.

 

nor the will of man – I take this to mean that MY WILL will never lead me to God. I must give my will to God, and so His will if I am to become a child of God. My will does not work, it is unreliable, and dangerous. God's will is perfect, and leads to perfect peace.

 

May God grant that we receive Him in every way and become fully children of God!

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-06+john-1-12-13+how-to-become-a-child-of-god.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-06+john-1-12-13+how-to-become-a-child-of-god.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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