Archive for the ‘Gospel:John’ Category

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Eternal life, perfect freedom and joy explained – John16:22-24

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

6th Tuesday of Pascha, May 22/June 4 2013

 

"And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.  (23)  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  (24)  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John16:22-24)

 

How are you doing on your reading of John? We are finishing the 16th chapter today. We are headed to the end, on the leave-taking of Pascha (the day before Ascension, next week). I am not concerned if you are reading at a slower pace, but as your pastor I am very concerned of you are not reading at all or very haphazardly! We must read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels and the Psalter, and ponder them. They are the words of eternal life.

 

The Last supper, after which Jesus instructed His Disciples (John 16) http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/last-supper-01.jpgIn the 16th chapter of John, Christ is preparing His disciples for is upcoming passion, on the very night of His arrest. Judas the betrayer of Christ did not hear these words. There is a great and deep well of theology here, a Christological treasure trove. It must be understood, and this happens over time and with repetition – of reading the Scripture texts and living the Christian life.

 

There is something else in this chapter that is too beautiful to talk about properly. It is so wondrous that we cannot explain it, because it promises things that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard"[1]. Our Lord describes our*end* state, the fruit of our labors. This is the entire and only goal of life – perfection in Christ.

 

In the next chapter, Our Lord will pray his high priestly prayer and give His definition of eternal life "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). I have quoted this verse more than any other, because it is a succinct summary of our only purpose in life, and the answer to that question that I ask so often (and re-ask myself often) – "What is the purpose of your life?"

 

In the selection above, Jesus describes our state of being in eternal life. The perfect man has no need to seek for anything, since he wants in nothing. Therefore, he has no need to pray to the Lord. Here we understand prayer in a narrow sense – to ask the Lord for things we need. Of course, perfect prayer actually leads to a state of no prayer – just the state of perfectly being in the presence of the Perfect One.

 

In this world, we are commanded to ask. The Scriptures are replete with these commands. We ask because we need. When we no longer need anything, we will have no reason to ask! therefore the Lord promises us that "in that day ye shall ask me nothing".

 

I yearn for that day. It seems impossible to my feeble mind that I can be totally perfect, without any lingering passions. There are many things in my life that I have conquered, in the sense that I do not do them, and am not even attracted to them, but I cannot say that I still am never tempted by them.

 

Jesus is describing the full restoration of the human will to the Edenic state. We are made in the image of God, and simplistically, that means that we are given the gift of free will. This is the ability to do what is good , always, and without labor (it is NOT the ability to do anything, good or bad, because doing bad destroys free will). We poor ones have learned to do good, but most of the time, it is with labor, and sometimes great and bitter labor. 

 

Never forget what you are laboring for! You are laboring to have joy that cannot be taken away from you; you are laboring to be free from labor. This is the only perfect freedom. Nothing else that man calls freedom is freedom.

 

In this world, we cannot have perfect joy, but we can labor for it, and God will give it to us, because He has promised. He will fully heal our suffering souls, and repair our will so that it is perfectly free, as His is. This is the outstanding promise of Christianity, and I never grow tired of talking about it or meditating on it. This is the reason I became an Orthodox Christian. For a time (a little over a year), I was someone who believed, in a typical sort of "Protestant Evangelical" way, but I never heard these things from my eager and honest peers, nor from any literature. I remember how excited I was when I understood that Christ promises perfection and not just forgiveness. As I have grown in the faith all these years, I have learned that the whole of our ascetical theology focuses on this reality.

 

It is notable that the Lord promises this perfect freedom and joy to His disciples (and to us), when they were experiencing great pain, sorrow and confusion. The next hours would bring about great sins within them, and their weak wills would crumble. So it is with us. We labor and work, and still our wills are weak and we fall, but as we progress in the Christian life, there are glimpses of the freedom and joy that Christ promises to us, and we are encouraged in our labors.

 

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

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-06-04-john16-22-2+and-in-that-day-ye-shall-ask-me-nothing.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-06-04-john16-22-2+and-in-that-day-ye-shall-ask-me-nothing.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] "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

 

 

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Faith and works. John 5:28-29 2nd Wednesday of Pascha, 2013

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,  (29)  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." [1] [John 5:28-29]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

We who are true Christians know that the way we live shows what we believe. The greatest heresy (meaning the most egregious to the soul) of our age is a relatively new one – that salvation is by faith alone. Those who espouse this heresy do not understand what faith is, and who its always present companion is. It is plain as day in the Scripture, as the Holy Apostle and brother of the Lord James says:

 

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  (23)  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  (25)  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  (26)  If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:22-26  )

 

AND

 

 

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?(James 2:14)

 

AND

 

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  (18)  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  (19)  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  (20)  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-20)

 

If we understand faith to mean that we believe and live according to what we believe, and that faith and works cannot be separated, than I will agree that we can be saved by faith alone. However, The Holy Apostle makes a distinction between "faith" – that is – to espouse a belief in something, and "works" – to live according to faith.

 

Many modern Christians essentially believe that only believing in God saves, since of course:

 

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9)  Not of works, lest any man should boast."  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

We who are Orthodox read *all* of Scripture. The very next words the Holy Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians are:

 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

 

Christians have always understood the faith to be believing in God, and acting upon that belief. Only at the time of the Reformation was the terrible heresy of "Faith by works alone" concocted by the mind of Satan and distributed to those who value human reason too highly. This is a terrible tragedy for the soul, and I have seen people lost to the church because they could not grok this concept.

 

It matters what you believe and it matters what you do! Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, always with confidence that God will fill our infirm vessel with grace, and magnify our feeble but sincere efforts.

 

 

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

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-15+john5-28-29+faith-and-works+faith-is-what-you-do.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-15+john5-28-29+faith-and-works+faith-is-what-you-do.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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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

 

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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

 

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The Good and Bad example of Lamech

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

2nd Week of Great Lent – Wednesday Vespers

And Lamech said … I have slain a man to the wounding of myself, and a stripling to my own bruising. Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold. (Great Lent, the Second Week, Wednesday, Vespers: Genesis 4:23-24, from the selection: Genesis 4:16-26)

 

What are we to glean from this first recorded instance of Hebrew poetry?

 

Lamech was a descendant of Cain. One of his two wives, Zillah,

 

"… bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron" Gen 4:22

 

Therefore, Lamech had available to him metal swords, which would give him a distinct advantage over his enemies.

 

To his wives, he confesses to two murders, of a “man” and a “young man” (stripling), and laments his sin, and predicts that his punishment would be greater than Cain's (whereas Cain's punishment would be “seven times”, Lamech's would be “seventy seven times” (some interpret this number as 70*7 = 490))

 

Why the greater punishment? Is it because of two murders and not one? No. It is because Lamech did not learn from the example of his father. St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom make this very clear:

 

“Cain had not learned to murder from another, and had never seen a murderer undergoing punishment. But I, who had before my eyes Cain groaning and trembling, and the mightiness of the wrath of God, was not made wiser by the example before me. Therefore I deserve to suffer four hundred and ninety punishments. “(St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187))

 

Cain was punished, but Lamech, who committed a murder after him, did not suffer near so great a punishment. And yet this was a murder, and that was a murder, and that so much the worse, because even by the example he had not become the better. (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5)

 

We have before us a terrible example! Lamech was senseless to the lesson of his father before him.

 

What examples might we be senseless to?

 

We have the example of the church, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the sublime services, and sacred writ to guide us; all of this in addition to the moment by moment guidance of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.

 

We are without excuse, with “no cloak for our sin” if we are too busy, or too lazy, or tired, or too this, or too that to learn how to live the righteous way of life.

 

Lamech's sin accuses us today! Are we also guilty of some sin due to our negligence? Is there some sin of which the Lord asks us:

 

“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?” (John 14:9)

 

There is more yet to learn from the murderer Lamech. Some of his example is to be emulated! Hear John Chrysostom again:

 

“… since the one [Lamech] neither killed his brother after exhortation, nor needed an accuser, nor shrunk from answering when God questioned him, but even without any accuser both pleaded again himself, and condemned himself more severely, he obtained pardon. (St John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5 [comments added])

 

Lamech felt the great weight of his sin, and accused himself of his crime, unlike his father Cain, who only confessed when confronted by God. In this way he resembles, David, who was guilty of the double sin of murder and adultery, and begged God to forgive him in the fiftieth psalm.

 

Let us act in the same way. Let us confess our sins freely and obtain pardon. Let us learn from Lamech's good and bad example, and take the self-recriminations of St Andrew of Crete to heart:

 

Whom do you resemble, O most sinful soul? Surely the first Cain and that wicked Lamech. For you have stoned your body with evil deeds, and you have murdered your mind with irrational appetites. Great Canon, Wed of first week, Ode 2:8

 

"I have killed a man to the wounding of myself," said Lamech, "and a young man to my own hurt," he cried out wailing. But you, my soul, do not tremble, while polluting the flesh and defiling the mind. Great Canon, Thu of first week. Ode 2:1

 

O how I have emulated that old murderer Lamech! By my pleasure-loving cravings I have killed my soul as the man, my mind as the young man, and my body as my brother, like Cain the murderer. Great Canon, Thu of first week, Ode 2:3

 

There is one more marvelous truth to be gleaned from Lamech's confession. Our Lord alludes to this truth when He answers Peter who had asked: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Mat 18:21)

 

I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. [or “77”,] (Mat 18:22 [comments added])

 

Herein is a marvelous mystery! The Lord teaches to forgive ALWAYS by specifying a large number, but this is a special number. St Basil explains:

 

“The sin of Lamech requires for its cure not a Flood, but Him Who Himself takes away the sin of the world. Count the generations from Adam to the coming of Christ, and you will find, according to the genealogy of Luke, that the Lord was born in the seventy-seventh. St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187)

 

Only Christ, the Good Samaritan, is the one who alone can tend to the wounds of mankind!

 

Let us cleave to Him, confess our sins, and obtain pardon!

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-wednesday_2009+vespers+the-good-and-bad-example-of-lamech.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-wednesday_2009+vespers+the-good-and-bad-example-of-lamech.doc

 

New commentaries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Daily LentenMeditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

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APSE-solutely Wonderful!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Construction Photos

Building of the Apse

Oct 7/20 2009 20th Tuesday after Pentecost

 
Apse construction from Viewd towards the West<br />
2009-10-20_construction+aps-west-view.jpg

 

Apse construction viewed looking West

 

Apse construction viewed looking East.<br />
2009-10-20_construction+apse-east-view.jpg

Apse construction viewed looking East

 

Look good (and will look better when we get some pictures with the deaconesses in front)! We should have the roof on inside of two weeks if the weather holds.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-20_construction-photos-building-of-the-apse.html

&

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-20_construction-photos-building-of-the-apse.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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Lovest Thou Me? Meekness. Patience. Learning things the hard (and only) way. Saturday before Pentecost. Soul Saturday. 2009

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

One of my favorite Matins Gospels is read today, today, but not in matins. I marvel at how, no matter how many times I read this gospel, alone, or in church, I am filled with ineffable emotion and hope. It seems to me that St John’s Gospel is filled with hidden instructions to the soul, that I can just get a glimpse of, or even grasp with my fingers for a moment, but the full understanding of the message eludes me.

 

So it is with this story, which I read every eleven weeks in church, and never tire of it.

 

There is a message here for me (and for you), that we can only see if we love.

 

Today I learned a little bit more about why I cannot quite understand the message.

 

Simon Peter loved the Lord, but not perfectly. The Lord showed Him this gently. Of course, the use of the two Greek words for love is significant – The Lord asked Simon if He loved Him with the Love that we should have for God, and Simon, unsure of himself, still ashamed of his previous fall, answered the Lord that He “had affection” for Him. This happened two times. The third time, the Lord only asked Simon if he “had affection” for Him. Peter was hurt, not because the question had been asked three times, but because the Lord had changed the question the third time!

 

Peter’s three responses: as they say: I have “been there, done that”.

 

Peter wanted to love the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind. Only recently he had fallen far short of this virtue, and he was unsure. It was not that he did not want to love the Lord completely, unreservedly, but that he doubted he could!

 

I am a pastor. I want to help my flock and everyone I meet in the one thing needful. That is the ONLY THING I want to do, ALL The time. My fallen and inconvenient humanity gets in the away. I get tired, depressed, unsure, lazy, angry, impatient … and I show in my actions that I “have affection” for the Lord, but not unreserved love.

 

In reading this passage today, how to love the Lord completely just became a little clearer. I cannot will it to be so, but I am accomplishing it more and more each day, despite myself. The key is in the words the Lord spoke to Peter after his tri-fold question.

 

 

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

 

 

Everyday, I am led where I do not want to go. I wish I would go willingly; I need to learn to go willingly. So many things are not the way I want them. I am tired of fighting to build the church. I know it will happen, but not according to my time schedule. I wonder why – is it because of the city of McKinney, our poverty, my sins?

 

Maybe all three, and a hundred and fifty and three other reasons besides, but this does not matter. Being led where I do not want to go is part of the process. I am being taught to be humble, and what meekness really is. I think the best definition of meekness is that a Christian accepts everything in that happened to him as the will of God, with thankfulness and hope.

 

I sure have a lot of stuff happening to me. I accept some of it. I think our Lord’s words to Peter tell me that I must accept all of it, and that there is only one way to accomplish this – by being led where I do not want to go, and learning to accept it.

 

This is love, and I know it in my head and part of my heart.

 

Perhaps before going to church this afternoon, I will stop by the as of now bare ground (excepting a 11 foot cedar cross) in McKinney, and thank God that it is still barren, and that I do not like this. I will kiss the cross, and remember that love is not what I say, but what I do, and what I accept being done to me.

 

Oh, these are hard lessons to learn!

 

John 21:15-25   15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-06.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-06.doc

 

New Journal entries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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

 

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