Author Archive

The greatest sin of Judas was that he had no anger against sin. The action of communion within us, with the exchange of attributes.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

I think it is really important that you listen to this 11 minute homily.

SYNOPSIS:On Holy Thursday we simultaneously contemplate the sin of Judas and the institution of the Eucharist. There are two hymns from the matins canon that perfectly explain the greatest sin of Judas – it was not avarice, but to not be angry against sin. This is important to know, and apply to your life. Be angry in a godly way, and become godly. Many partake of communion without understanding why, or what it does. Another hymn from the canon perfectly explains this. We should know why we do things, and how we should do them. Learn from these two hymns the essence of Christianity.

Lacking all conscience, he received the Body that delivers men from sin and the divine Blood that was shed for the world. He was not ashamed to drink what he had sold for money, he felt no anger against sin, for he knew not how to cry, #39;O ye works of the Lord praise ye the and exalt Him above all for ever#39;.

Since I am man not merely in appearance but in reality, the human nature united to Me is made godlike through the exchange of attributes. Know Me, then, as one single Christ, who saves those among whom I have been born and whose nature I have taken.(Canon, Ode 8,9, Matins for Holy Thursday)



“Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” Only those whose heart is hot will escape deception.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Great Monday Presanctified Gospel.

Overview of the Gospel on for Presanctified Liturgy on Great Monday, in which the Lord teaches about the state of the world, and His second coming, especially emphasizing the coldness of the hearts of modern man. Our reactions to this coldness and depravity? our hearts must be hot to compensate for the cold, or else we risk being deceived with all the rest. Also a story explains how to know if Christ is coming when someone “Here is Christ”

We hold up branches because “The Lord is at hand”, but will we live in such a way that we will “rejoice always”, and overcome the things in our life that are “four days dead”?

Monday, April 14th, 2014

We hold up branches because “The Lord is at hand”, but will we live in such a way that we will “rejoice always”, and overcome the things in our life that are “four days dead”?


Today is basically from my heart to yours, with a bit of incoherence and great love. The epistle today tells us the Lord is at hand, and we are standing with palms and pussy willows in our hands, emulating the children of Israel. A large portion of those who held palms when the Lord was at hand in the entry into Jerusalem later were complicit in His crucifixion, and a large portion of Orthodox who have not been in church for a great while hold palms on a great church holiday. How are we going to be different? The apostle also tells us to rejoice always – how doe this apply to the raising of Lazarus, which moist of you never hear in church, and the things in your life that are four days dead?



A review of the Great Monday Matins Gospel, with emphasis on a few spiritually edifying points.? – the fig tree teaches us to look at everything spiritually, the scribes who questioned Jesus show how empty and lifeless dishonesty is. We must be the first son. The cornerstone in the vineyard parable.


Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer… The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer…

The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

29. Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer, that nothing has been gained, for you have already gained something. And what higher good is there than to cling the Lord and to persevere in unceasing union with Him?

The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

I have learned, slowly, to pray more, almost exclusively the Prayer of Jesus. There is an irrational feeling that this is not productive since I have many temporal things to do, and because of my passions and insensitivity, I do not feel God very much.

I am reminded of a phrase my friend, Fr Michael, rails against. He hates it when someone says, often apologetically, “At least I will pray for you”. This is the MOST we can do, and our actions are fruitless without prayer.

Try praying for those you are concerned about with lengthy sessions of the Jesus prayer. This is hard, but is the only work that will succeed; it gives wings to all our other work.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2014??? ?St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

This article is at:

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” How do we cultivate this mysterious belief?

Monday, March 31st, 2014

In the healing of the demoniac boy, context is important. The healing occurred immediately after the Transfiguration and the failure of the other disciples to cast out the demon. There is an important lesson for us. God is very near, even though we do not always (or even often) fell Him. Things can change in a moment. The Lord said to the man: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” How do we cultivate this belief? It is a very mysterious and holy thing, and required our effort, but only by God’s great mercy will we have powerful, life changing belief.
If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

“They that observe vain and false things have abandoned mercy for themselves.” Sobering and comforting at the same time.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

SYNOPSIS:The Biblical Odes are used especially during Great Lent. and during weekday matins, this verse, from ode 6, is always said: “They that observe vain and false things have abandoned mercy for themselves.” This is one of my favorite parts of the matins service, because this pithy verse describes the reason for ALL our problems, and the simple solution. It is sobering, rebuking, but also comforting. It reminds me of the oft read scripture: ” For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39) Nothing can separate the sinner from God, except if the sinner observes vain and false things without repentance.

Biblical Ode 6. Jonah 2:9

For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity….

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. (24) Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.” Wisdom (of Solomon) 2:23-24

This is why I read this book, and you should too. This is a fine, Patristic quality explanation of why man was created and what happened in the fall, many hundreds of years before the birth of the God-man, Jesus Christ. this book is mainly about Him.

3 homilies: On The forty Martys, The Third sunday of Lent, and “Before Thy Cross”:

Monday, March 24th, 2014

What is “life”? You cannot understand the cross unless you understand life.

We cannot understand the cross, and the way of the cross unless we understand life. What is life? Most people do not know the answer to this simple question or understand why the way of the cross is the only way to have life, or understand what is meant when we are told to “lose our life”, or that everything in our life is an exchange – with life or death.

Sunday of the Cross. Mark 8:34-9:1. 2014-03-23

What should we feel when we prostate during “Before Thy Cross…”

We must learn how to feel the troparion “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship” as we are prostrating before the cross. this is a moment in the church year that we cannot miss, when our body and soul pray as one, and the mystery of life is explained to us in words that cannot be uttered.

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste are a fantastic example of patience. This year, their feast was on the 3rd Saturday of Great Lent, which has an epistle the says in part “For ye have need of patience.” Such simple words, and so true for each of us! Let us see how their martyrdom exemplifies patience. Depending on God with patience will always turn out well. We also explain why the Gospel of the workers of the vineyard is read for their feast.

WHY do we fast? Always do the things you CAN do The Holy Fathers on Fasting.

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Prison Ministry Letter, Mon, Jul 30/ Aug 12 2013


[This is the contents of a letter sent to the men in prison whom I visit in prison. Personal references are removed.]


Dear Brothers:


I am writing on Sunday (oops, actually now Mon morning), with the hopes that this jpay letter will reach you on Tue. I am healthy now, and just as stubborn as usual. I have not after effects from the Shingles, except an autograph on my forehead. No big deal. I appreciate your prayers, and the card that some of you sent from the Hughes unit.  I showed my wife the card, and she was very touched, as was I. I suppose it is good to be reminded of one's mortality. but I was never really, really sick, although the pneumonia, before it was treated, made me feel pretty puny, and the shingles, while they were active, although the discomfort was minimal (especially for shingles!), made it impossible for me to be in groups of people that could get infected (Chicken pox, from which Shingles comes, is dangerous when an adult gets it). I went to the Michael unit last week, and then kayaked, and plan to come to the Hughes unit this week (on Wed, Aug 14). May God allow it.


The Dormition Fast begins this Wednesday (Aug 1/14 until Aug 15/28 – the 1st date is the church calendar day, and the 2nd is the date on the civil calendar, the one hanging on a typical wall in America, such as in "Joe's Garage"). I will chant the supplicatory canon to the Mother of God at church every day for this 14 day fast. This canon is in your prayer books. I recommend highly that you also read it during these 14 days. In this way, we will all be praying together, and this is a very powerful thing. I will explain about Dormition and the supplicatory canon when I see you, and write about it if I am able.


I also ask you to try as best you can to fast also. If you have money for commissary, peanut butter and beans will help a lot, and if you have no other protein sources, then fast as best you can according to the spirit of the fast. I know you have few choices, but nevertheless, fasting is greatly beneficial to the soul.


The typical fasting we do on a "fast day" is to refrain from eating animal products (meat, fish, milk products, eggs), olive oil and alcoholic beverages. The latter two are no problem, I am sure, but in prison, they serve mostly things that resemble animal products! In the free world, a person has many choices – we are always allow to eat non-finned seafood (like shrimp, clams, etc), and peanut butter, nuts, beans, rice, and lentils and even Quinoa are easy to come by. The diet may be a bit monotonous, but it never killed anyone. If you have no other protein source, and cannot abstain because of health reasons, then you can make choices like not using cream in your coffee, or not using condiments on that thing (I saw it once!) they call a chicken patty. Talk to me about this too.




Why do we fast? It is because we are aware that we need healing, and fasting is something that helps us be healed of our passions. Jesus clearly expected that his disciples would fast after He ascended into heaven: "Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?  (15)  And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." (Mat 9:14-15)


I try to look at things simply. Jesus expected it, and even prophesied it, so I do it. Jesus established His church to guide us, and the wisdom of the church is from the mind of Christ. If the church teaches it, I do it.


If I fully understand it, that is great, but a hidden bit of wisdom that people in our world do not understand is this – understanding comes AFTER obedience. We are disobedient people – we constantly are concerned with ourselves, and rely on our own understanding. This is always a bad thing to do. We must rely on God for all things, and obeying Him regarding fasting, which His church teaches, is a superb fist and ongoing step.


"Trust in the LORD with all Thine heart; and lean not unto Thine own understanding." Pro 3:5


So, plain and simple, I fast because I am a Christian, and my Savior expects me to do it.


I suppose obedience to someone other than ourselves is the first and best reason to fast. this helps us to defeat self-reliance, which is a product of pride and vanity, which assails almost every human being on the earth.


Fasting is something that we normally do twice a week (Wed and Fri all but about 4 weeks of the year), and is something that we CAN do.


I have learned a really important bit of wisdom over the years, that has served me and those I have counseled well. It is summed up in the aphorism:


Always do the things you CAN do


"Always do the things you CAN do, so you can learn to do the things you CANNOT do". This sums up the Christian life – we should always be learning and improving.


There are many things we cannot do – control our thoughts, pray with attention, love everyone with a pure heart, etc. In each individual there are sins, passions and habits that are very hard to eradicate – these are things we CANNOT do consistently. In every individual there also things that are easier to do, that are also important in the Christian life. For me, fasting is one of those things.  I hope it will also be so for you.


There are other things that a particular individual CAN do – perhaps you are consistent in reading the Scriptures, or attending the services, going to confession regularly, having communion, or saying your morning prayers, or praying for others. If this is the case, then you will make great progress in EVERYTHING if you obediently do the things that you are capable of doing.


THIS WORKS! One of my most important goals as a pastor is to get people to believe it, to "sign on" to the idea if you will. I hope you "sign on", and seek the wisdom of God to know which things you CAN consistently do, even if they take a little effort.


In my pastoral experience, the person who makes the greatest progress in the spiritual life is the one who is consistent in *something*. The one who makes very little progress is consistent in nothing, or almost nothing. Each person must find the things they CAN more info

do, and do them. Nothing is too small, if you can be consistent in doing it. Even something as small as always taking out the garbage each morning, or doing the dishes even if you have not dirtied them, if you do it consistently, and without complaining, and offer it to God as a sacrifice, will really help you in EVERYTHING.


Other reason to fast are that consistent fasting helps us remember God and our purpose. We are born to be spiritual beings, to think in spiritual ways. When speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus told him:


"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?" (John3:11-12).


We are earthly in our ways and habits. It takes work and practice to he "heavenly". Fasting helps focus us on heavenly things.


Fasting is in no way a repudiation of pleasure. Food is pleasurable, and it is good to enjoy it, but it is still an earthly thing. 


Abstinence from certain foods teaches us self control and to think spiritually. Self control gained from fasting will extend to self-control in everything in life, especially in the most important area – our thoughts.


If we think rightly, everything is right with us. All sin starts with thought, and controlling thoughts is one of the greatest accomplishments of a Christian. We learn to control our thoughts from self-control in easier things (like fasting – no matter how hard it is for someone to fast, controlling what we eat is infinitely easier than controlling our thoughts, which is often like trying to catch the wind).


Fasting also helps greatly with the really difficult thoughts, those "hot" thoughts which are very hard to control, such as lust, anger, judgment of others, jealousy, etc.


Jesus taught that fasting is needed to get rid of "this kind" of thoughts when He said:


"… This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29)


He was answering the disciple's question about why they were unable to cast a demon out of a boy. He answered first that is was because of their lack of faith, and followed by telling them about fasting. The juxtaposition of those things (faith and fasting) is important! The church knows that fasting will increase our faith.


We also understand the Lord's words about "this kind" to also refer mystically to the passions that "possess" all of us. All of us are slaves to passions, because the nature of sin is that it always enslaves us. We were born to be free from sin, and it is clear to those who fast with effort, diligence and expectation, that fasting helps immensely in this.


We all have bad days, and sometimes bad weeks, or months. We get lazy, or depressed, or out of sorts. I have found that fasting is a kind of "anchor" for me. I may have a terrible day – I may not have prayed as I should – I may have had trouble controlling my thoughts – but I have at least fasted, and offered God something! This is not anything to be proud of, like the Pharisee, who boasted that he "fasted twice in the week", but it is something that keeps me "attached" in some way to God.


I have fasted according to the teaching of the church for over 30 years, and I am glad for it. I would not want to know myself if I had never fasted. I am not a continent man, and do not always control my thoughts, or have attentive prayer, but over the years, things have gotten much better, and fasting is like an old friend now, who supports me and helps me get through things when things are tough.


My experience as a pastor is definitely that those who fast consistently have much more self-control and a more "even" spiritual life, instead of the "ups and downs" that most people experience. I want you all to have this stability and comfort too, and that is why I encourage you to fast.



The Holy Fathers on Fasting.


What we gain by fasting is not so great as the damage done by anger; nor is the profit from spiritual reading as great as the harm done when we scorn or grieve a brother. – St. John Cassian


Prayer and reading are excellent; they stop the aimless wandering of thoughts, shackle the thought which turns on useless things and keep it close by them with profit, occupied without distraction by this excellent doing.' St. Nilus of Sinai


Do not say to me that I fasted for so many days, that I did not eat this or that, that I did not drink wine, that I endured want; but show me if thou from an angry man hast become gentle, if thou from a cruel man hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water? Do not show forth a useless fast: for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven. – St. John Chrysostom


As a flame of fire in dry wood, so too is a body with a full belly. – St. Isaac the Syrian


Whosoever rejects the fasts, deprives himself and others of weapons against his own much-suffering flesh and against the devil, who have power over us especially as the result of our intemperance. St. John of Kronstadt


O brethren, as ye take up the spiritual fast, speak no deceit with your tongue, neither put a stumbling block in the way of your brother as an occasion for him to fall: but by repentance let us trim the lamp of our soul, that with tears we may cry unto Christ Forgive us our transgressions, since Thou art the Friend of man.

Vespers of Wednesday of the Second Week of Great Lent


Let us love that fasting of the soul which, by the cooperation of the Spirit, doth wither the grievous passions and doth strengthen us to do godly deeds, and doth uplift our mind towards Heaven, and doth obtain our sins' forgiveness, grant unto us by the compassionate God. Triodion, Monday Vespers of the Third Week



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


This article is at:


New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG:

Journal Archive:

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: to join.


Redeeming the Time BLOG:

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! (

All things work to the good Crown them with glory and honor! Humble Pie

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

All things work to the good

Crown them with glory and honor!

Humble Pie

July 9/22 2013



Crowning of Mychael and Anastasia (Gloria) Enright. am full of joy for Mykael and Anastasia (Gloria), who were crowned (married) yesterday (Sunday afternoon, after having received communion[1]). I am profoundly disappointed that I could not be the celebrant, because of my Shingles outbreak and probability that I was contagious with the Chicken Pox virus (and Myke has never had Chicken Pox!). Thank God that Fr Gregory was available to serve the liturgy and the wedding. His kindness made all of this possible, and allowed me to keep my promise to Myke that he would be wed on this date, no matter what.


Certainly, our God works in mysterious ways. I baptized Myke many years ago, and catechized Anastasia and baptized her recently. She has been an apt and willing pupil, and I believe that she is fully into the process of having Orthodoxy completely in her heart (as we all should be!). I wanted to see this thing through to the end (which of course, as all our Sacraments are, is really another beginning), but God had other plans for me and my little flock.


Truly, in my absence, our  little parish stepped up to the plate for this wedding. Fr Nicholas catechized them over many sessions regarding Orthodox marriage, and I sat in a few times and learned some things! Deborah as usual devotedly worked on flowers for the wedding. Reader David and Gabrielle were the witnesses and sponsors (the so -called "best man" and "maid of honor"). Fr Gregory willingly served when I could not. Jenny and Natalie sang in the choir, a long day. Many provided food. I am thrilled that it all came together, and despite some of my health challenges, "All things work(ed) to the good"[2].


By the way, I did my part as best I could. I say the following in the hope of setting an example.


I did not eat or drink Sunday until after Liturgy would have likely been over (at noon). I also was very aware of the time, and prayed continuously to the best of my meager abilities, from 10am till noon. I tried to observe the resurrection, even though I was at home. You should do the same thing also, if you are home for an honorable reason (or, I suppose, a bad reason too) on a Sunday morning. We are all part of the church, and because our church is Catholic, the whole church is present with us when we liturgize. I joined myself to that great assembly by praying during the liturgy. I prayed simply – just the Jesus prayer, with a rope for one person and then another, or for my whole flock, or even for the whole world, and of course, several times for the bridal couple.


Kettlebells and chalk health is improving. I saw my ophthalmologist today regarding my left eye, which has been affected by the Shingles outbreak (it affected my Trigeminal nerve on the left side, which enervates the eyes). All my sores are crusted over now, and I was certified as non-infectious today. This will allow me to serve again, and also get back to work. My first episode of Shingles was relatively mild by Shingles standards. I have had some manageable pain, and itchiness, but mostly, my concern has been blurry vision in my left eye. My eye is almost back to normal. It may be weeks or months before everything is as it was. but I should not be limited in what I can do  (depending, of course on me not being an idiot). I even was able to work out today, and it felt real good!


My short illnesses have been very instructive to me. It is good to really feel one's mortality. I do not particularly like this lesson, even though I often seek to have it, because my soul needs to be reminded. It is pretty easy to seek a lesson theoretically, but quite another to experience it in actual life.  My illnesses started with pneumonia, which to my foolish mind seemed to be a Non Sequitur – how can a healthy guy like me, who does so much stuff get sick with pneumonia? This does not fit with my image of myself, which my heart knows is an unrealistic image, but my vanity fights against it. In theory, I know that I am a weak and insignificant sinner, and can do nothing without Christ.


I preach about human weakness and mortality all the time (since, as I have told my flock many times, my homilies are those of a sinner trying to help other sinners not to sin – they are from the heart and according to my own experience, and are basically autobiographical in spirit), and cultivate this feeling with the prayer and reading I do. I will continue to preach about this, because if we do not fully acknowledge our weaknesses, we will not fully reach out to God for help with them.


Theory is not practice however. I do not like to ask for help. I do not like to be unable to do something because my body will not let me. I do not like to actually feel weak, even though I readily admit that I am weak! These are not good things about my character – they are passions. In theory, it is easy to acknowledge these faults, but when reality shows me unmistakably that I am weak and need help, the lesson is truly learned. Humble pie is good for the soul.


Many people have told me that "stress" must have caused my illnesses. A pastor's life is filled with stress because, even if he is a sinner, as long as he is trying and praying for his flock, he feels the sadness and weakness and failures of many. I do not believe that any of this "stress" causes illness. It seems to me that self-reliance and lack of faith, when combined with "stress" can cause illness. I think by God's providence, my body was pleased to give me a strident lesson. Although I did not feel particularly "stressed", my body told me otherwise. I think if I prayed much more than I worried, there would be no debilitating stress.


During my illness, I have slept much more than usual, and allowed myself to waken naturally, instead of getting up early every day. I have read a lot of Scripture, and prayed a lot of the prayer (the Jesus prayer), and it seems to me that there is more clarity in my mind now. It is good to know that we are weak, and without Christ we can do nothing, and it is better to feel this viscerally, with one's entire heart. This feeling, if it was "100%", would ALWAYS lead us to deep prayer to God, and as  our spirit worked, our body would rest. I am not sure what my percentage is, but, thank God, it is a little higher now, than it was a scant 2 weeks before, when I could basically physically do anything I wanted to do.


My prayer for my flock is that you learn to depend on God completely, and not trust yourself in any way, and in so doing, to begin to be fully perfected in the Lord. This is a difficult thing to learn; let's learn together.


If you are not reading the Scripture daily, with expectation, you will never master this lesson.

If you are not praying regularly, and especially with attention and quiet, you will never master this lesson.

If you are no subjugating your body by fasting, you will never learn this lesson.

If the services are basically optional to you and attendance at them gets "bumped" for almost any reason, you will never learn this lesson.

Perhaps, for most of us, if we are not shown graphic evidence through sickness or the events of life  that we are weak and have no control over anything (except whether of not we turn to God for help in all things), we will never master this lesson.


 Many years to the newly crowned Mykael and Anastasia!


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


This article is at:


New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG:


Journal Archive:


Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: to join.


Redeeming the Time BLOG:

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! (



[1] God being my helper, I will NEVER serve a wedding on that "sacred" wedding night for Americans and American Orthodox who do not know their faith, which is Saturday night. It is ridiculous for the couple to eschew the Vigil service, placing all emphasis on the worldly matters of "getting ready for the wedding", and then to skip the celebration of the Resurrection and the partaking of the Eucharist the following morning. This is a terrible trade of earthly things instead of heavenly things. This is a terrible way to ask God to bless a union, which is NOT primarily sexual, but is an image of the love of the church. The purpose of marriage is so that two people can become one, and mutually labor for the salvation of their souls. Sleeping in on Sunday, after a night of carnal relations, which would be blessed if they did not substitute for preparation for the Holy Mysteries, is not a good beginning.

[2] Romans 8:28  And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.