Archive for the ‘Pastoral Journal’ Category

Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller Commemorated Sep 19 – I AM A CHRISTIAN!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012


Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller

Commemorated Sep 19 (Oct 2 on Civil Calendar)

 

Let's learn something today from the slave of God Zosimas the wilderness dweller. We live in difficult times. Almost nobody tells the truth anymore, and our society is becoming infested with legally enforced and subsidized immorality and depravity. Many who identify as Christian are no different than those in the world and their love for Christ is cold. I suppose the conditions are no worse and not better than those in which Zosimas live. He chose to reject all the depravity and become holy. That is the ultimate solution for all of us.

 

When you read his life below, ask yourself if you can answer the question as he did – "I am a Christian". I cannot say this completely yet, and that is why I suppose I confess that I am a liar twice a week, at least when I say my preparation prayers for communion[1]

 

 

            The Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller lived during the IV Century. One time while hunting, the governor of Cilicia named Dometian caught sight of the elder, who calmly and amiably conversed with the beasts around him. Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. They then interrogated the elder, — who was he and why did he live in the wilderness. The elder answered, that he was called Zosima, that he was a Christian, and that he was not able to live in the city with the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore he lived alone amongst the wild animals. Then Dometian said threateningly: "If thou dost worship the Nazarene, at Nazareth I shalt hand thee over publicly to fierce tortures, and thou wilt renounce Christ".

 

To the question of what kind of magic Zosima used to tame wild beasts, the elder answered only: "I — am a Christian".

 

At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the elder head downwards, and to his neck a large stone, and they began to lacerate at his body with iron hooks. The torturers taunted the sufferer: "If the beasts do hearken unto thee, direct one of them to come forth here, and we then will believe in thine God". The holy martyr turned with a prayer to God, and suddenly an huge lion sprang forth. Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the elder, and with its paw began to lift the stone, tied to the neck of the martyr. The governor began to implore the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, so as to convey him off to the emperor, but Saint Zosima was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God. (from the Menologion program)

 

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

 

This article is at:

 http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-10-02+martyr-zosima-the-wilderness-dweller+september-19.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-10-02+martyr-zosima-the-wilderness-dweller+september-19.doc

 

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

Articles Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/articles

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

 

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

 



[1] Psalm 115 is read in the preparation prayers for Holy Communion. It begins "I believed wherefore I spake; I was humbled exceedingly. As for me, I said in mine ecstasy: Every man is a liar. What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He hath rendered unto me? " See http://www.orthodox.net/services/order-of-preparation-for-holy-communion.rtf or http://www.orthodox.net/services/order-of-preparation-for-holy-communion.pdf

 

 

 

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The world, that is life enslaved by the affections of the flesh. St Basil the Great.

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012


The world, that is life enslaved by the affections of the flesh.

St Basil the Great.

The word "world" is used in multiple senses in Scripture. It is important to recognize the different uses, and the most important discernment to have is to understand what is sinful and leads away from God – this is perhaps the most important understanding of the word "world". We can leave the nuances of syntax to the philologists and theologians, but all Christians must recognize that which is of the world and is therefore to be avoided.

St Basil the Great, in his discourse on the Holy Spirit, incidentally gives a wonderful definition of the most important understanding of the word world. Let's look at it, with text pertinent to "the world" highlighted in bold italics.

——

Establishment of the natural communion of the Spirit from His being, equally with the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought.1167

53.  Moreover the surpassing excellence of the nature of the Spirit is to be learned not only from His having the same title as the Father and the Son, and sharing in their operations, but also from His being, like the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought. 

For what our Lord says of the Father as being above and beyond human conception, and what He says of the Son, this same language He uses also of the Holy Ghost.  “O righteous Father,” He says, “the world hath not known Thee,”1168 meaning here by the world not the complex whole compounded of heaven and earth, but this life of ours subject to death,1169 and exposed to innumerable vicissitudes.

And when discoursing of Himself He says, “Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more, but ye see me;”1170 again in this passage, applying the word world to those who being bound down by this material and carnal life, and beholding1171 the truth by material sight alone,1172 were ordained, through their unbelief in the resurrection, to see our Lord no more with the eyes of the heart. 

And He said the same concerning the Spirit.  “The Spirit of truth,” He says, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him:  but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you.”1173  For the carnal man, who has never trained his mind to contemplation,1174 but rather keeps it buried deep in lust of the flesh,1175 as in mud, is powerless to look up to the spiritual light of the truth. 

And so the world, that is life enslaved by the affections of the flesh, can no more receive the grace of the Spirit than a weak eye the light of a sunbeam. 

But the Lord, who by His teaching bore witness to purity of life, gives to His disciples the power of now both beholding and contemplating the Spirit.  For “now,” He says, “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,”1176 wherefore “the world cannot receive Him, because it seeth Him not,…but ye know Him; for he dwelleth with you.”1177  And so says Isaiah;—“He that spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and Spirit to them that trample on it”1178; for they that trample down earthly things and rise above them are borne witness to as worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  What then ought to be thought of Him whom the world cannot receive, and Whom saints alone can contemplate through pureness of heart?  What kind of honours can be deemed adequate to Him?

(St Basil the Great, "On the Holy Spirit", Ch XXII, #53, http://www.ccel.org/print/schaff/npnf208/vii.xxiii

 


From the Saint, we see that:

·         The "World" is "this life of ours subject to death,1169 and exposed to innumerable vicissitudes."

·         Those in the world are those "who (are) being bound down by this material and carnal life, and (are) beholding1171 the truth by material sight alone."

·         The 'World:  "that is life enslaved by the affections of the flesh, can no more receive the grace of the Spirit than a weak eye the light of a sunbeam."

 

It now remains for us to be in the world but not of it, or else we will have no comprehension of Who God is, and will inevitably fall along the broad path to Hell.

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-06-05_the-world-defined-by-st-basil-the-great-as-life-enslaved-by-the-affections-of-the-flesh.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-06-05_the-world-defined-by-st-basil-the-great-as-life-enslaved-by-the-affections-of-the-flesh.html

 

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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Twelve hour vigil in front of Planned Parenthood in McKinney TX. Abortion Euphemisms. Anger. Do not reason with the unreasonable.

Thursday, March 8th, 2012


A day in the life, praying for the healing of life.

Twelve hour vigil in front of Planned Parenthood in McKinney TX

Abortion  Euphemisms

Anger

Do not reason with the unreasonable.

Mar 6, 2012

 

Original sign of Planned Parenthood, McKinney Texas. Currently ?Express? is blanked out, because somebody must have realized that they should not advertise their business model so honestly. http://www.orthodox.net/images/planned-parenthood-express-mckinney-texas.jpg

 

On Tuesday, Mar 6,  for 12 hours, I prayed with many other Orthodox Christians in front of the McKinney Planned Parenthood in the “Orthodox Day” in the “40 Days for life, McKinney TX” prayer vigil.

 

Above is their original sign – currently “Express” is blanked out, because somebody must have realized that they should not advertise their business model so honestly.

 

The purpose of vigil in front of these houses of another currently legal, government promoted and funded “peculiar institution[1]”, is, for me, the healing of all people touched by abortion, directly and indirectly – the mother, father, other children, other family members, abortion workers. I know others pray for the especially for the murdered innocents, but for me, their suffering is over.

 

With God being our helper, there were always at least two Orthodox Christians present at all hours, as we promised, and usually 3-8.  Many other people came as well. Most people held signs; many Roman Catholics prayed the rosary. I prayed all the canonical Lenten hours at various times, with a litany at the end of each, with a “Prayer for the sanctity of life”[2], and the Orthodox “Pro-Life” Psalter[3]. Many others prayed the Psalter, or the “Akathist for a Woman who has had an Abortion”, the Paraclesis to the Theotokos, or the Jesus prayer.

 

Twelve hours is a long time. As in most things in life, this time was large amounts of “space” punctuated with brief, important moments. Some of the moments were very intense, and at the time. I thought I wanted to save them somehow, but I am not too inspired right now, so it may not translate. Here goes.

 

I learned a lot during this vigil. I have been in front of Abortion clinics before – actual “surgical” clinics, when I was praying at the very same moment that pre-born lives and those who knew them were being dismembered, body and soul. This clinic only refers people for abortions, in addition to all the other services it offers as a fig leaf for their over three hundred million dollar a year abortion “services” business. Therefore, it was not as emotionally intense, because people were not dying in front of us on this day, but this clinic is still important to Planned Parenthood, because the profitable and busy Sherman TX clinic closed last year, when the director, Ramona Trevino, with the help, support and prayer of people during a “40 days for life” vigil outside that clinic left the clinic. Ramona sometimes speaks about the reality of the Planned Parenthood business. It is not what your average TV talking head or “Pro choice” politician says!

 

We live in a land of Euphemisms. Very little in the “Pro-choice” camp tells the actual truth. We do not have “Abortion Clinics” – we have “Women’s Services”, or perhaps “Surgical Centers”.  They are actually “Shredding centers”, because they literally, in some procedures, shred a living child[4], and also shred the lives of those responsible for the death of that child. A Christian who is not benighted by politically correct “speak” knows this, and knows that the sin of abortion has a ripple effect that almost nobody wants to talk about it, but this elephant in the living room of peoples lives will never leave until it is cast out by repentance and healing, and when that happens, the scripture is truly fulfilled, they are free indeed![5]

 

This is the reason I pray in front of abortion facilities. They tell a big lie, and people believe the lie with their minds, but the soul knows. I am a pastor, and much more so than a doctor, I am sworn to heal.

 

We have a lot of work to do. A recent exchange with a Protestant pastor has shown me that people actually believe, somehow, that the bible supports a “woman’s right to choose”.  I am convinced that the mind control of the media and our modern, hedonistic and lax society cannot be broken, except by prayer. The position that a woman has a right to choose to kill a child is not reasonable, but neither is it reasonable to naively believe that there are not significant numbers of women, who because of a multitude of environmental and spiritual factors actually feel that they have no choice in significant events and lifestyle choices in their life. Reason is not the reason people support abortion, so trying to reason with them is of limited utility. God only can deliver all of us from our unreasonable opinions.

 

I also will continue to speak about abortion (providing my sins do not cut me off from God giving me wisdom and courage), as a pastor, until I am put in prison. If I lived in Sweden, I would be there already. I am very aware that repentance is a process, and takes a lot of time. When the prodigal son “came to himself” it was after along period of sin and suffering. I am always aware that there may be somebody I am talking too who has a secret – maybe their secret is still even a secret from them – and I want that person to know that I offer them healing and understanding. If the reader has this secret, there are people who are safe, and will be honest with you, and will help you heal. You will need to make that call to begin the process. May God help you to do this!

 

I know all this stuff intuitively, and also from pastoral experience, and being a reasonably smart fellow, know that those who have been involved in abortion or who have never experienced it indirectly or directly, but have swallowed  the lie broadcast on our TV sets every day have significant anger towards those who are pro life. They believe a mythology about pro-life people – they are “anti-choice”, misogynistic, do not care about women, will do nothing to help the mother who keeps her baby, etc. All these ridiculous, unfounded opinions one can easily glean from reading “Salon”,  or a Newspaper, watching the nightly news, or even by reading supposedly Christian email forums and Facebook pages.

 

I know this stuff. No matter, I was amazed at the anger directed to us by drivers. It is always more intense when you experience something directly. We did not have any significant incidents, and the police never came as has happened in some cities, but nonetheless, they illustrated that there is a lot of pain, anger and misinformation out there in the big cruel world. Here are some of the moments in time, over a long day, that gave me an education.

 

Planned Parenthood opens at noon on Tuesday. The only traffic in the little strip mall between 7 and 9 as for a “DONUT” place. It was a little bit surreal, and sweetly sad seeing so many parents with excited little children walking into the shop, experiencing a little piece of the beauty of life, when a few doors down there was a place that nobody walks into or out of excited and full of joy.

 

Around 8, a woman leaving the parking lot drove quickly to a position just adjacent to us, but still in the forbidden (for us) territory of the parking lot, and, without leaving her car, took two pictures of me while I was standing facing a stand, saying one of the Lenten hours. I stopped and attempted to make eye contact, and waved – I think this is important – and since she was looking at me through her camera, I am pretty sure she saw me. There was no acknowledgment, and she drove off, without ever looking at me directly. Pretty weird. I guess I am on Facebook somewhere. That is “Seraphim”, like an angel, with a “ph”, not an “f”.

 

There was a bit of Keystone Cops comedy in the morning. The wind blew my diptychs all over the parking lot (these are names of parishioners and others I pray for and commemorate), and I ran into the parking lot, a kind of “no man’s land” buffer zone (and a place, where we would be considered trespassers if we stood to pray there), to grab the papers. It took a little while, and I was acutely aware that a Planned Parenthood worker was watching me from the window. I wanted to be friendly and wave to her, but I was afraid my gesture would be taking as provocative, so I kept my head down and scurried around. I was pleasantly surprised to never see the Police arrive.

 

One cannot absolutely discern this rude person’s motives or emotional state, but the other occurrences with drivers were less ambiguous. One cannot, of course, know motives, but it is easy to discern anger. The tone of voice, twisting of the face, obscenity – they are unmistakable. There are some people out there that are REALLY ANGRY when they see people praying quietly outside abortion clinics.

 

One woman saw us from a nearby intersection, and “flipped the bird” for an extended period, as she was stopped at a light and then as she turned away from us and headed down the road. This was the first experience. I cannot say that I understand why she is so angry. She may believe the PC lies, or be post abortive, or whatever. I get angry about stuff too, but I feel no need to give a one fingered salute to strangers on the highway.

 

The incidents increased in intensity. With one notable exception, every negative encounter with a driver was obscene. The F word was  most popular, but the most amazing epithet was when a person screamed (in such a way that I felt chills) “you should have been abortions”.  Wow. 

 

The most intense interaction was from a man who did not swear and never raised his voice. He went out of his way to drive to close proximity to us (about where the camera lady was), and started talking to me. I do not know where he came from.

 

He started with the old “log in your own eye/ beam in someone else’s eye” bit. His tone was angry and pedantic, and he repeated himself several times, along these lines: ”I just want you people to know that before you start telling other people what to do, you had better make sure that there is nothing wrong in your life, and you are perfect”. The jist of it was that “you people” are judgmental Pharisees who try to force people to have do things against their will, according to your warped opinions.

 

After he went on a bit, and I became afraid that something very unpleasant was going to happen, because a few people were walking over to hear him, I agreed with him – “you are right, a person also must look to himself and his faults”, “But sir, I am not trying to tell anyone what to do today. I am only sitting here praying”. He did not like that simple answer, and started repeating himself, and I said: “Sir, right now the only person telling anybody what to do is you”. He repeated his accusation that we were hypocrites telling other people what to do, then drove off.

 

What was his motivation? What did he believe about us, and about me, since I was dressed as a priest? I felt like I had been assaulted by a hot dry wind. I don’t care about the things he said. He did not hurt me with his words, but my soul hurt because of his anger, and because I know that anger hurts his soul. I was very sad. I have learned that there is no reasonable response to the unreasonable., therefore, according to lessons I have learned much too late in life, I “prayed some ropes” for him, saying “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on ‘that guy’” I regretted that I did not know his name.

 

I did the same thing for the women who screamed that we should have been abortions.

 

The vast majority of interactions with motorists were positive – probably over 90%. Most honked and gave us a thumbs up, but not a few rolled down their windows to shout “God bless you”.

 

Our next day for Orthodox Christians to gather as a group for prayer is March 17, Saturday, form 7AM – 3 PM.

 

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-03-06-40-days-for-life-orthodox-day-planned-parenthood-mckinney.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-03-06-40-days-for-life-orthodox-day-planned-parenthood-mckinney.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-03-06-40-days-for-life-orthodox-day-planned-parenthood-mckinney.pdf

 

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] There was what the institution of slavery was called back in the day. Like abortion, there were all kinds of people making all kinds of apologies for it.

[4] This is absolutely not hyperbole.

[5] John8:36 KJV  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

 

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“Happiness (Salvation) is having our outside match our inside”

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012


I love to come up with little aphorisms, and collect others I hear and read. My little sayings come out of two main sources: my overall life experience as a flawed human striving for perfection, and as a pastor, trying to guide flawed humans to perfection.

Perfection

 

I will never tire of reminding myself first and everyone who will listen to me or is at least standing in the church that the purpose of our life is perfection. We just recently had a wonderful selection from the Apostle Paul that says this:

 

(The purpose of the church is for…) The perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 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 fulness of Christ”

 

I spoke about this in the between services homily on last Saturday, which was the Eve of the Sunday after Theophany, when it is absolutely appropriate to talk about the process of and importance of perfection, since baptism makes this process possible (The purpose of the church, and of baptism. (mp3 format)[1])

 

Basically everything I say pastorally is in order to pursue perfection, which the scripture understands as absolute completeness, without anything lacking, and holiness, without anything added.

 

It’s your thoughts, stupid![2]

 

Our major problem in life is how we think about things. When we think wrong, we do stuff that is wrong, whether the wrong remains privately within ourselves, in our thoughts, or is expressed in our actions and attitudes. Wrong thinking ALWAYS (ALWAYS, ALWAYS!) leads to disturbances within us, and destroys our inner peace. We think wrongly, but hide it maybe 99% of the time, but the thoughts, attitudes and bad priorities have their effects on us.  I think all soul destroying unhappiness is because of our wrong desires, which we either suppress with effort (and therefore turn the unhappiness into joy (over time! It is a process!), or give into outright (delaying and increasing unhappiness), or tepidly resist, causing us to be in a state where we are “neither fish nor fowl” – perhaps not appearing to do wrong, but inside a battle rages and tires us.

 

Salvation: When our outsides match our insides.

 

Here is another definition of salvation: When our outsides match our insides. This is the state of perfection, when we do not need to fake anybody (or ourselves) out – we love the Lord’s commandments, and the prophesy is fulfilled in us: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

 

When our outsides match our insides, there is no internal war within us, but instead, great peace, and holiness.

 

We must understand a little bit about evil to understand the aphorism. It is never possible, even for a very evil person, for their outsides to match their insides. They may never consciously have a Godly thought or action, but they remain a creature made in God’s image, and the voice of God will always be calling to them, leaving them without peace.  The only way for our inner disposition and our outer life and deeds to match is for us to hear and obey the voice of God calling us to holiness.

 

We have an epidemic of depression, anxiety, addiction, other mental illnesses[3], sexual promiscuity and perversity, and many other soul destroying and strength sapping practices, and all of these things are a way in which the outward man is not matching who the inward man should be. The mortal part of human life (our life here and now, on the earth) is a battle to have our outsides match our insides. The battle is long and bloody, but it is the only way to perfect peace. As we fight this long war with many skirmishes, we will have many moments when our insides tell us one thing, but our outside does not reflect this. If this is because of our inner battle to “do good and avoid evil”[4], this skirmish strengthens us, even if it appears to us to sap our strength. Here are some real world examples, gleaned from my experience as a confessor, and a flawed human.

 

Making our insides match our outsides – real world examples.

 

Somebody cuts us off in traffic. Inside, we have the thought to curse then, and perhaps we even “hear” the words, or to flash our lights, give them the finger, etc, BUT WE DO NOT DO IT! A great victory has been won, and over time, the insides WILL match our outsides – we will not have that flash of profane anger.

 

We see a sexually suggestive picture or provocatively dressed person, and we want to look more, and have a feeling that “just does not feel right” inside us, but, with effort, and maybe even with a delay, we look away, and utter the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. We did not come through the skirmish completely unscathed, but we have won the victory nonetheless. In time, we will be like the old man who could converse with the prostitute without any lust, (while his disciple, who was not as far along in the road to perfection, quite appropriately covered his head in his cowl, to avoid looking at her). Someday I will tell you that story – it is one of my absolute favorite ones from the monastic fathers (I do not know where it is, if one of the readers of this essay does know, please contact me).

 

We DO NOT LIKE somebody in our office, school, gym, family, etc. There may be good reasons for this, but whenever we see this person, there is a darkening in our soul, and we feel the cold fingers of anger, or disgust, or any of dozens of judgmental thoughts and feelings. We want to avoid even seeing them, much less speaking to them (especially if unpleasantness usually develops), but we master ourselves and say “Good morning”, or “I am about to get a cup of coffee, would you like one”, or something else that we do not feel inside (but we know we should).  This is not in ANY WAY hypocrisy! We are ordered to be kind to one another. It is bad if we are not kind “inside”, but we doubly sin if we show this unkindness outside too.

 

Another way to fight with these inside feelings is to do one thing every day, and not do another, ever. The thing we must do even if we do not feel good about this person “inside”, is to pray for them EVERY DAY, even if it is through gritted teeth. Keep it simple, and short. God knows what they need, and He does not need to be reminded of their faults. Write their name down, and every day, say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on (name)”. Ignore the thoughts that arise up within you. We are trying to be like the second son, here – the one who initially did not want to do the will of his father, but eventually did so[5]. We are like this son if our thoughts are bad, but our actions are good. What did God say about this son? He was the one who did the will of his Father, and over time, we will hear this too.

 

The thing we MUST NOT do is slander this person, or gossip about them. If you do this, discipline yourself by praying for them even more – instead of one little Jesus prayer, say 10 or a full prayer rope for them. You try this, and see if your feelings about a person do not moderate and you gain some peace regarding them.

 

Here is another example that I will speak about obliquely, since I do not know who will read this essay. If a person has a problem with impurity, especially with themselves alone, but perhaps because of fornication of any kind, and they feel bad about it, it is a bad thing to just sit there and feel terrible about what you did, again. Our reaction to sin can be more debilitating than the sin itself. Every time you fall into sin, PUSH against it. We have an excellent little book called “The Prayers for Purity”[6]. It is long, and not too easy, but then, getting rid of habitual sin, when our insides want to follow God’s perfect law, and our outside often do something else, is NOT EASY either. Note to self: order more of these books.

 

The Scripture tells us that “All men are liars[7]”, and this is in large part because we hide within ourselves thoughts, desires, attitudes and priorities which are not in keeping with who we say we are and the person we present to the world. May God help us to be “truth tellers”, that is, to have our insides match our outsides. Amen.

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-01-25+happiness-is-when-our-outsides-match-our-insides+thoughts-and-perfection.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2012-01-25+happiness-is-when-our-outsides-match-our-insides+thoughts-and-perfection.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)

 



[2] With apologies to the old campaign slogan “It’s the economy stupid”

[3] Yes, you read it correctly. I state categorically that depression and anxiety are mental illnesses. We are all on a continuum of mental health, and EVERYTHING that is not according to the will of God is a mental illness, according to the Christian understanding of the term. Lust, jealousy , anger, laziness, aimlessness, not having meaning in life, and about a billion more things that are part of our fallen lives are all illnesses of the mind. ?Here, I am not speaking about the brain, but the “nous”, which is the reasoning part of the soul. When our nous is completely in concord with the will of God, we will have ZERO mental illness.

[4] Psalm 34:14 Brenton  “Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

[5] Matthew 21.28-32 (read 10th Wed after Pentecost). Only in Matthew. Amazingly, even though I have mentioned this parable a zillion times in homilies, I have no homily of mine that I can refer you to that is about this passage.

[6] Here is a short version, online – http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/purityrule.aspx . Here is a link which has some of the prayers in this rule: http://www.saintgregoryoutreach.org/2010/01/prayers-for-purity.html. the booklet is $4.00, available at http://orthodoxpress.org/catalog/prayer_b.htm

[7] Psalm 116:11 Brenton “I said in my amazement: Every man is a liar.”. This Psalm is said in the Preparation prayers for Holy Communion.

 

 

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Some answers to prayer for people on our public prayer list.

Saturday, November 26th, 2011


Answers to prayer

 

We have a Public prayer list, (http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn ) which we use in our regular Monday Moleben, and also in special petitions in all Divine Liturgies we serve (on Sunday of course, and also each Thursday, at a minimum).

 

We receive requests, in our electronic age, via email, Facebook, Phone Texts, and even by the occasional personal *in person* request.

 

Some people we know personally, but many times we have never met them or they live far away. Many are Orthodox Christians, and these we also commemorate in the Proskimidie of the Divine Liturgy, and many are not. It does not matter: if someone asked, we pray.

 

This list is also used by some of our parishioners, and the pastor in daily commemorations, It is important to pray for others, because those who love will want the best for those they love, and those with faith will turn to God for all things, and therefore pray. We MUST do this if we are to overcome the selfishness that is deeply embedded within us.

 

Many times a person is on our prayer list for a long time and I have no idea how to contact them or find out how they are doing. Other times, I am able to “check in” and know something of how their life is turning out. This is always a great consolation – to see the object of our prayer doing well.

 

Here are some recent “answers” to prayer.

 

A man has found a job and place to live after being out of work for a long time. He thanks us for our prayers.

 

A person with cancer is out of the hospital after a long stay, undergoing chemo, and in good spirits.

 

A person with very serious cancer has had the unction service served for her, and is very sick. Treatments are being given, and there is hope that this very aggressive cancer will respond to it, but in the even that this person reposes, we are playing a small role in preparing them for a peaceful repose. It is reported that this person is facing the disease with courage and great faith.

 

A child with a serious medical problem has received treatment, and should be going home soon.

 

I suppose we all want to see some great miracle, but in waiting for this, we miss the great miracles that occur all around us. It is a great privilege to be a part of God’s economy, and care for His little ones, even as He cares for us little ones.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-11-26-answers-to-prayer.doc

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

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Let us not grieve when we make a slip, but when we become hardened by it

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Do not be afraid of sin, be afraid of not repenting.

Sayings of St Isaac the Syrian and poor emulators of him.

 St Isaac the Syraisn, with the saying <Let us not grieve when we make a slip, but when we become hardened by it> http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/isaac-the--syrian-with-saying.jpg

 

Here is a saying from Saint Isaac to show my flock that I do not make this stuff up! I have been known to say *often *:

 

"Do not be afraid of sin, but be afraid of not repenting."

 

This means essentially the same thing as St Isaac's words.

 

We differ from the demons in that even though we can do evil and even fall into evil repeatedly, we can repent of this evil and change.

 

I have been called to task about my saying because some think that it minimizes sin. If we have the correct understanding of sin, the saying does not minimize it. Because of our frail nature and weak will, the things we commonly call sins are inevitable, because we live under the condition of sin – brokenness, disease and ignorance. Even though as we journey as strangers in a strange land we continue to sin, as we fight against these sins and struggle to despise them, a wonderful miracle occurs – we are cleansed of our sin. This is not just being forgiven, mind you, but to become incorrupt, pure, peaceful and holy.

 

The Lord made it clear many times that we must exercise our will to follow Him. We should fear our will turning towards sin more than sin itself. If we turn away from the Lord, at some point we will be completely lost. No man knows when this point occurs, when our heart become hardened like Pharoah's, therefore the prudent man fears that he will not repent more than that he will sin.

 

Thank you to Priest Philip Kontos, Priest at St. Peter the Apostle Orthodox Mission, who posted this image on his Facebook Account

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-11-08+let-us-not-grieve-when-we-make-a-slip,-but-when-we-become-hardened-by-it+isaac-the-syrian.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-11-08+let-us-not-grieve-when-we-make-a-slip,-but-when-we-become-hardened-by-it+isaac-the-syrian.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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Words of wisdom from a 6 year old: Key to living a good life: You have to twy!!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011


From a personal letter, giving words of wisdom from my little Soaf a loaf:

 

Sophia landing after jumping off a swing. http://www.orthodox.net/photos/anna-emmy-sophy-lucy-on-swingset-at-library-park-oct-2011-0012.jpgIn your younger grandchildren's typical wide-eyed excited manner of telling things, with her precious childish lisp she said to them:

 

"I finally know de secwet to being good in chuwch! - twy!!  It's so much easier to be good when you twy!"

 

This afternoon I found myself in a situation where it was very hard to be good (and in fact I wasn't being very good. As I was praying and struggling to gain better self control, I thought of your little granddaughter's profound discovery and, inspired, I decided to "Twy!!!

 

I think Sophie is just expressing in a simple way the words she hears every weekend:

 

What man is there that desireth life, who loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 33:12-13, Sept “Boston” Psalter)



Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-11-08+key-to-living-a-good-life-you-have-to-twy.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-11-08+key-to-living-a-good-life-you-have-to-twy.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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Hieromartyr Lucian of Antioch, a living antiminsion

Friday, October 28th, 2011


“Made conformable unto his death”

His zeal for the Eucharist rebukes our lukewarm age.

Oct 15

 

“Saint Lucian died in prison from many terrible tortures and hunger. Before death, wanting to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ on the feast of Theophany, the priestmartyr — bound by chains to a box, was compelled

 

to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice upon his chest,

 

and all the Christians situated there in prison communed”

 

Today we celebrate Hieromartyr Lucian of Antioch. There are many interesting historical things about his life, and even a little theological controversy, but one event in his life shouts out at us, in our lukewarm age.  

 

A man who was weakened by torture, no doubt in great pain, and soon to die had such a thirst for the Eucharist that he served it with the Holy mysteries on his chest.

 

He celebrated using his chest as an altar in order to obey, in not literally the letter, but certainly, magnificently in spirit of the law – in the Orthodox Church, we ALWAYS celebrate the Holy mysteries literally upon the relics of the martyrs.

 

The antimins (antiminsion) is a piece of decorated cloth (usually with the scene from the taking down of the Lord from the Cross, and often with the 4 Evangelists in the corners, in which the relics of a martyrs(s) is sewn in (generally on the back side). In the Russian Church outside of Russia, I believe that all of our antimins have in them the relics of the Grand duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara.

 

Romanian Antimins from Oradea-Mare (Transylvania), 1890.[1]

 

This cloth always rests on the altar table[2] and is unfolded for the chalice and diskos to be placed upon it.

 

We literally serve the Eucharist on the relics of the martyrs, a the church is built upon the confession of

the martyrs, the blood of the martyrs.

 

 

Hieromoartyr Lucian of Antioch, who in prison served the Holy Eucharist upon his chest, commemerated Oct 15/28. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/lucian-presbyter-of-antioch01+10-15.jpgThe Holy Hieromartyr Lucian, having already many times over made his confession and witnessed to the unbelievers his faith in Christ (the word “martyr” manes “witness”), was already a martyr, although most of his blood still coursed through his veins and had not yet been spilled upon the ground.

 

We should be in awe of Holy Lucian’s zeal and love. We should be ashamed if we partake of the Eucharist infrequently, with very little preparation or the fear of God.

 

Here in Lucian’s life we see how important the Eucharist should be.

 

We have all heard about the hypothetical question: “What would you do if you know you were going to die today?”

 

For Lucian, this was not hypothetical, and his answer was to partake of the Eucharist, fulfilling the liturgical canon by using his own bloody body as an antimins, and feed and encourage all the Christians in the prison so they would have the strength to make their martyrdom – their witness.

 

Every priest wants his people to partake of the Eucharist often, and with good preparation[3]. Most of us are very disappointed, and in pain of soul beg the Lord to enkindle in our flocks the burning desire to partake of the “medicine of immortality”. Only God can change us from complacent to attentive, and this only happens with our positive reaction to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

Perhaps part of this change will occur as you read the exploits of the Hieromartyr Lucian, and compare them to the way you live your life, and the things you think are important.

 

Today’s epistle fits perfectly the life of St Lucian, who fulfilled it to the letter:

 

 

     8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ … 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,

 

being made conformable unto his death.  (Philippians 3:8-19)

 

Do we live our lives in such a way to be “conformable to His death”? Do we even know what this means? The Scripture is quite clear – if we do not die, we will not live. Measure yourself today, and decide if you are in any way being made conformable to His death, or as the Apostle Paul also has said “dying daily”[4], or as the Lord said: taking up (your) cross, and losing your life, so that you might save it[5].

 

We read the lives of the saints for instruction, exhortation, consolation, and even rebuke. The life of St Lucian should cause all of you to be lined up at the door of the church at 4 pm on Saturday for confession (or stay till after vigil or call me for an appointment!), with the intense desire to change your life and in taking the Eucharist and living “in Christ”  though its grace, becoming conformable to the death of Christ, and learning to fulfill the words of Paul also said in today’s epistle:

 

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom

I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung[6]

 

 

 

The Hieromartyr Lucian, Presbyter of Antioch, was born in the Syrian city of Samosata. At 12 years of age he was left orphaned. Lucian distributed his possessions to the poor, and went to the city of Edessa to the confessor Makarios, under the guidance of whom he diligently read Holy Scripture and learned the ascetic life. For his pious and zealous spreading of Christianity amongst the Jews and pagans, Lucian was made presbyter. At Antioch Saint Lucian opened a school, where there gathered many students whom he instructed in book wisdom. Saint Lucian occupied himself with teaching work, and he corrected the text of Holy Scripture, having been corrupted by copyists and heretics. (The entire Greek text of the Bible corrected by him was hidden away in a wall during the time of his confessor's deed, and it was found during the time of Saint Constantine the Great). During the persecution of Diocletian, Saint Lucian was arrested, having been informed on by heretics, and he was dispatched to prison in Nicomedia, where over the course of 9 years he encouraged Christians together with him in the confessor's deed, urging them not to fear tortures and death.

 

            Saint Lucian died in prison from many terrible tortures and hunger. Before death, wanting to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ on the feast of Theophany, the priestmartyr — bound by chains to a box, was compelled to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice upon his chest, and all the Christians situated there in prison communed. The body of the holy martyr was thrown into the sea, but after 30 days dolphins brought it to shore. Believers with reverence buried the body of the much-suffering Saint Lucian.[7]

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-10-28+hieromartyr-lucian-of-antioch+being-made-conformable-to-his-death.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-10-28+hieromartyr-lucian-of-antioch+being-made-conformable-to-his-death.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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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] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimins

[2] Antiminsion unfolded  on the altar table. Taken from http://www.holyascension.net/virtualchurch/altar.php

[3] I am by no means suggesting that everyone, every time should partake of the Eucharist. There is the unhealthy spectacle on some churches of most of the faithful communing, with only a remnant of these communicants having attended the preparation services on the night before and in the morning, and even arriving on time for the Divine Liturgy; many do not follow the rules of fasting, with no personal prayers of preparation for communion, and with extremely infrequent confession, or even without ever having confessed in a lifetime. Frequent communion is good and necessary, and it is given freely, but it is not “cheap”, and we must live a strenuous life in order to reap its benefits. If anyone has any questions they should talk to their priest. We are living in a temporary world for eternity. Effort in spiritual things is worth it.

[4] 1Cointhians 15:31 KJV  “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

[5] Luke 9:23-24 KJV  “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  (24)  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” See also Matthew10:38-39, Mark 8:34-38, John 12:25-26, Luke 14:27

[6] Philippians 3:8

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And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor man, a helper in times of well-being and in afflictions. (Psalm 9:8) Laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011


I try to read or listen to the Psalter daily. It is the church’s hymnal, and the depth of feeling, and combination of sadness and gladness always moves me. If we lived our life and prayed with the feeling that is in the Psalms, we would not be beset by the mediocrity we mostly settle for.

 

Today, one of the Kathismas I listened to was the second. Psalm 9 particularly caught my attention. I share some of my feelings about it, in the great hope that you would take up the Psalter and learn from it how to pray, and to live. Other than the Gospels, I think it is the most important book in Scripture – it teaches us about Christ, and life and death, and how to pray and think and live in any situation in life.

 

9:8  And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor man, a helper in times of well-being and in afflictions.

 

Remember: personalize! Who is the man who can read these words and not tremble!

 

As a priest, I well know the phenomenon of people who pray to the Lord only when a great affliction befalls them, or perhaps come to the church for the first time in years, perhaps to light a candle or ask prayers for a loved one who has died. This is not the measure of how much we believe. We must consider the Lord to be our helper at all times. It is shameful how little we remember the Lord when things are going well.

 

I learned recently that the basis of all the passions are this unholy trinity, “Laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance” I think the we must be blamed for all three as the cause of our failing to recognize viscerally that the Lord is our Helper at all Times.

 

We are lazy, and pray very little, and search the Scriptures very little. This laziness makes us sleepy and we forget to seek God for everything in our life (the Psalms are the epitome of seeking God in prayer, and that is one of the reasons we must read them regularly). If we are praying little, reading little, and seeking little, we remain ignorant of God’s economy in our life. We are proud in our own conceits[1], and not like the poor man, who is also described in the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”[2] This is a sad state of affairs.

 

Two of these passions are listed and the end result of them is described in the petition of St John Chrysostom in the Evening prayers:

 

O Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, faintheartedness, and stony insensibility.[3]

 

How do we fight this “stony insensibility”? First of all, we must know that it grows in us, like a poisonous  weed, in the manure of ignorance, forgetfulness and laziness and faintheartedness (I think in many ways the latter two passions are quite the same in their results, as a lazy man is always fearful when faced with something that should rouse him to action, because he is unaccustomed to labor).

 

Everything else will follow, if we are willing to labor.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-10-25-commentary-psalms-and-the-lord-is-become-a-refuge-for-the-poor-man,-a-helper-in-times-of-well-being-and-in-afflictions_psalm-9-8.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-10-25-commentary-psalms-and-the-lord-is-become-a-refuge-for-the-poor-man,-a-helper-in-times-of-well-being-and-in-afflictions_psalm-9-8.doc

 

 

 

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

 

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[1] The Scripture is not kind to those who are conceited and ignorant of their faults.

Proverbs 26:12  Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Proverbs 26:16  The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Proverbs 28:11  The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

There are many more examples.

[2] Matthew 5:3

[3] Prayers before sleep, Prayer VII, of St. John Chrysostom, in 24 verses for each hour of the day.

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Evil Ignorance vs. Ignorance pleasing to God Ilias the Presbyter, Gnomic Anthology

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

 

 

37. A haughty person is not aware of his faults, or a humble person of his good qualities. An evil ignorance blinds the first, and ignorance pleasing to God blinds the second. (Ilias the Presbyter, Gnomic Anthology I, The Philokalia, the Complete Text Volume 3)

 

The quality of ignorance, or forgetfulness pleasing to God was evident on last Sunday’s Gospel, about the Last Judgment[1]. The humility of the righteous made them “forget” their good works. May God help us to have this kind of humility.

 

Note the Scripture in BOLD, below.

 

Matthew 25:31-46 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

 

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

 

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-03-02-evil-ignorance-vs-ignorance-pleasing-to-god+ilias-the-presbyter-gnomic-anthology.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-03-02-evil-ignorance-vs-ignorance-pleasing-to-god+ilias-the-presbyter-gnomic-anthology.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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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] The Sunday of the Last Judgment, also known as “Meatfare” because this is the last day that we eat meat until Pascha. Is the second Sunday before the beginning of Lent. Many homilies on this Sunday are here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#Sunday_of_the_Last_Judgment_(Meatfare)

 

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