Archive for the ‘Pastoral Journal’ Category

Divine Liturgy – the one thing needful. Any other time is like dying. Very Personal reflections.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
The best two days of the week are Thursday and Sunday. I believe I am most alive, and doing my most important work on this earth on those two days – when I celebrate the liturgy. 

I am finding that I have much more anticipation of the liturgy then I had earlier in my ministry. I am not sure why that it, but I think several things have contributed.

 

I have seen God’s grace move through our parish after we started celebrating at least one weekday liturgy – we have been doing this for over two years. We have built a temple that we could not afford (and a rational, worldly man would say we cannot afford it even now), and I have noticed subtle, invisible things in my soul. I am not a better person, but I pray more, and the liturgy is an incredible consolation.

 

Building was tense, and keeping the building has its moments too. I should not be anxious! I am a Christian! But, the fact remains, that due to weak faith, I do get anxious. This anxiety is obliterated by the liturgy. Of course, it comes back, but the feeling (that is not the right word – I do not think there is a word) I had during the Liturgy remains.

 

I am a priest, and must pray for my flock, and anyone who “crosses my path”. This I do, but prayer alone is very difficult. There are the inevitable “mind games”. I know that the “effective prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, but I am not righteous, and I “hear” the whispers of “Do not trouble the Master” (because I am sinful). Of course, through all of this I still pray, but I do not pray well. I have the great privilege to be a priest of the Most High God and when I serve the liturgy, I have great confidence in my prayers before the altar, God receives the prayers of his priests. I know that the wine and bread become the body and blood of Christ through my ministrations, and not in any way because of my virtue, not any bit less than if St John Chrysostom was serving, and also know that in the same way (but I think, somewhat less), my pastoral supplications before the altar are received by God because He receives the prayers of his priests.

 

I have been reading books about and by Fr Silouan, Archimandrite Sophrony and Archimandrite Zacharias (three generations!). and have been deeply affected by many things in these books. Some time I will find the quote, but I believe Fr Sophrony said that he only felt truly alive when he was celebrating the liturgy, and outside of the liturgy, he felt like he was dying. Fr Zacharias has described Fr Sophrony’s zeal for the liturgy – a zeal much great than my own – and this has also made a deep impression on me. I in my own sinful way, I have  started thinking this way. So much of what I do daily is “dead” – mind wandering, wasting time, useless and stupid emotions of irritation, anxiety, anger, etc – and even my prayer “in my closet” can often have little warmth, but during the liturgy I am in the presence of life and truly alive, and my prayer has life in it.

 

A pastor's life is filled with problems. Any psychological approach to them inevitably causes fatigue, fear, anxiety, confusion. Celebrating the liturgy is not a psychological solution, but a spiritual one (the idea of turning a psychological feeling into a spiritual one I have gleaned from Archimandrite Zacharias – and it deserves much attention). I am not confused when I celebrate the liturgy. I do not forget the problems, and for many of them, I still have no idea what to do, or remembering them causes a great emotional “sting” in my heart, but at no other time am I so sure that God will help me in all things, and help those I love and care for. I am never so happy as when I am praying for my loved ones during the liturgy!

 

So much of my time is wasted! I do not always pray well in the liturgy, but it is never a waste of time.

 

 

These are just a few of the reasons I can think of off the top of my head about what the liturgy means to me. At the beginning of the liturgy the priest announces the Kingdom (Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!) , and we enter it. What better place can we be or more important activity can we do?

 

I am convinced that I was born to serve the liturgy. I do not know why, and I do not do it well, but I am intensely grateful for the great blessing to do so.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-12-02+divine-liturgy+the-one-thing-needful.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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The Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Orthodox and Heterodoxy during the Season of Advent

The Holy Spirit outside the church

Why baptism? Why the Church? Why “Right Worship”?

The Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God

 I [1] have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the Orthodox and their non-Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ.  I have witnessed, experienced and read countless accounts of the abundant grace of God, the transforming power and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit outside of the walls of the Orthodox Church.  Even in the midst of much error, ignorance and confusion, Christ is clearly present.  Just as God poured out the Holy Spirit on Gentiles not long after Pentecost, sometimes even before they were baptized, so He pours out His Holy Spirit on all who call on his name and desire pure hearts.

So what then is the necessity of the Orthodox, of Orthodox baptism and worship, some might ask?

 

I think the Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ. 

 

Looking at the structure of our temple has led me to think about these things.  Before Christ, the temple was the place where the children of God gathered to pray to the Lord–and their prayers sustained the world.  In the outer area, the children of Israel gathered to worship and pray. Then there was the altar where the Levites served and priests offered sacrifices for the people – and the Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter. 

 

Today, it is the followers of Christ who are God's people.  All can stand in the narthex to pray and worship our God and pray for the world, just as the children of Israel once did in the courtyard of the temple.  The Orthodox in the nave then represent the priests, standing in the altar, offering up our sacrifice of prayer and fasting, keepers of the sacred tradition handed to us by Christ.  The altar where the Orthodox priest enters on our behalf is, of course, the new Holy of Holies. 

Like monastics, the Orthodox pray, fast and asceticize more than other Christians. 

 

They are the intercessors before the Lord and His saints on behalf of their brothers and sisters that live more in the world. 

 

Without the mighty prayers of those who answered the monastic call of God, the Church would likely have failed. 

 

Without the Orthodox having preserved the fullness of the teachings of Christ and of His Church, Christianity would not have survived, either. 

 

The rest of Christendom, along with the whole world, survives off of the intercession and labor of the Orthodox Church of Christ on their behalf.

So at Christmastime, while some celebrate Christmas as a time of feasting and exchanging gifts, others withdraw into the cell of their souls to pray and fast.  Even the Enemy's attempt to spoil the beautiful picture with his garish threads of commercialism and dark threads of secularism cannot diminish this picture—the glory of the world preparing to receive her King.

 

It will be a beautiful and wonderful thing when all the people of God, all those that love Christ, all those to whom and through whom the Lord is ministering, are one – when all who love and follow Him are finally 'Orthodox', is another way of putting it – even if this is not until after His return . 

 

For now, for whatever reasons the Lord has allowed it to be, I find beauty in what is.  Aside from the crass commercialism,  I thoroughly enjoy the metaphor of the world's happy, noisy preparations and celebration of the Savior's birth on December 25th — followed 13 days later by the joyous, but quieter, less noticed (in our culture, anyway), more sacred welcome of the Christ Child on January 7.

 

To these words, I add some things, which I thought of when I read my email.

I have a theory – the less monastic and "struggling" a church is, and therefore the more secular – the more the lines are blurred between where the church is and where it is not.

 

We see this secularism in drastically reduced and omitted services, either very infrequent communion, or frequent communion with no preparation, a hatred and distrust of monasticism or even little or no knowledge of it, bishops who do not live openly ascetical, monastic lives, and other symptoms.

 

I believe that one of the worst things the calendar change did was bring many Orthodox closer to secular Christianity (an oxymoron, really), and decreased their spiritual life in numerous ways.

 

Of course, not everyone following the Pope’s calendar are secular, and many who follow the Julian calendar are barely Christian, but, at least in this country, in many places the church has lost its way. We need more asceticism – not less, and this must be personal asceticism, where we fast and pray, and give alms, and look to the mind of the church and not secular life for inspiration. We also need bishops who truly live and act as bishops – that is, inspirations to the faithful, because they live a sober and monastic life. We have too many administrators and not enough spiritual men.

I wonder sometimes -  what am I doing! – when I finish a vigil with myself and one or two other people present – but I always know in my heart that I cannot be what I am not, and I cannot be other than what I am. I am a sinner, but also a Christian priest, and my service, whether almost alone, or in a crowded church, (especially my service outside of Sunday, which seems to be the only “traditional” day when the majority of Orthodox Christians think they should go to church) is part of what was written above: Orthodox are the priests and monastics of the people of God, as well as the preservers of the fullness of the Church given to us by Christ.

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-12-01+orthodox-and-heterodoxy-advent+-holy-spirit-outside-the-church+-orthodox-are-the-priests-and-monastics-of-the-people-of-god.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 



[1] A recent email from a correspondent to Priest Seraphim, posted with permission, and a few editorial changes. I have added the Headers.

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O Good Physician… A prayer inspired by St Ephrem the Syrian Monasticism applied to everyone! The Modern Illness in Orthodoxy

Friday, November 19th, 2010

O Good Physician,

Thou callest me, demanding no payment, nor spilling my blood, 

But my slothfulness prevents me from going to Thee.

Thou dost therefore come Thyself to heal me,
but Thou always findest me engaged in acts that prevent Thy remedies from rendering me their healing power.

O Lord, enlighten and sober me.

Cure me and I will be cured.

 

St Ephrem the syrian http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/ephrem-the-syrian.jpg, taken from the Facebook group "OrthodoxSpirituality" - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104730379594846

"The good Physician calls me and demands no payment, nor does he spill my blood. But my slothfulness prevents me from going to Him. He comes Himself to heal me, but always finds me engaged in acts that prevent His remedies from rendering me their healing power. O Lord, enlighten and sober me. Cure me and I will be cured." St Ephraim the Syrian

 

Quote taken from Facebook group "OrthodoxSpirituality"

 

A key to progress in the Christian life is honest self-appraisal and self-condemnation. The rain falls on the evil and the good, but it only soaks into “good ground” that has been carefully prepared. Our laziness prevents us from preparing our ground as we should. The major reason for our troubles is ourselves! How can God be responsible? He wills that all men be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.

 

The world, and also worldly Orthodox do not understand this. This is the Christian way; it is the royal path; it is recognition of reality. Do not listen to the siren song from the world about “self-esteem” and all the rest. The happy Christian recognizes that he is nothing, and yet, because of God, he can be holy in everything.

 

If only Orthodox Christians would have a healthy understanding of monasticism, which teaches us how to think! In the parish it is not about some kind of foolish obedience to sinful and inexperienced guides, but a reordering of our priorities, according to the exploits and example of our Holy Fathers who inspire us.

 

So many of our political, cultural and moral problems in Orthodoxy today are directly because too many in our church, (including many bishops!) have abandoned the monastic perspective on life, and the monastic rigor.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-11-18-o-good-physician+saint-ephrem-the-syrian+monastacism+modern-orthodox-illness.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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The Good Turkish Judge. From the Life of the Elder Ieronymos of Aegina (+1966)

Saturday, October 9th, 2010


Elder Ieronymos of Aegina http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/ieronymos-elder-of-aegina.jpg Shortly before World War I, a Turk visited Fr. Iieronymos' humble hermitage. The Turk told the elder that his master, a judge, had sent him to invite the elder to his house.

The elder became a little worried. He was not accustomed to receiving invitations to "social receptions" and his mind began to suspect that he might experience some evil or temptation. However, he prayed to God and followed the Turkish servant.

On their arrival at the judge's large home, the judge himself welcomed him – with much warmth, as a matter of fact. They sat on a great divan and the judge began the conversation:

"Efendi papa, I am a Turk, a Moslem. From the salary I receive, I keep whatever is necessary for my family's support, and the rest I spend on alms. I help widows, orphans, the poor; I provide dowries for impoverished young women so that they can get married, I help the sick. I keep the fasts with exactness, I pray and, in general, I try to live a life consistent with my faith. Also, when I sit in judgment, I strive to be just, and never take a person's position into account, no matter how great he is. What do you say? Are all these things that I do sufficient for me to gain that Paradise that you Christians talk about?

The elder was impressed by all that the Turkish judge told him, and he immediately brought to mind the Roman centurion Cornelius mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. In the Turkish judge and the Roman centurion he perceived two similar lives. He understood that the judge was a just man of noble sentiments. "Perhaps," thought the elder, "my mission is like that of the Apostle Peter, who instructed the Roman centurion." The elder determined, therefore, that he would bear witness to his Faith.

"Tell me, efendi cadi[1], do you have children?"

"Yes, I do."

"Do you have servants?"

"I have servants also."

"Which of the two carry out your orders better – your children or your servants?"

"Assuredly, my servants, because my children – with the familiarity that they have toward me — often disobey me and do whatever they wish, whereas my servants always do whatever I tell them."

"Tell me, I pray thee, efendi, when you die, who will inherit your wealth – your servants, who executed your wishes faithfully, or your children who disobey you?"

"Well, my children, of course. Only they have rights of inheritance, whereas the servants do not."

"Well then, efendi, what you do is good, but the only thing your good works can is place you in the category of those that are good servants. If, however, you desire to inherit Paradise, the Kingdom of the Heavens, then you have to become a son. And that can be accomplished only through Baptism."

The Turkish judge was greatly impressed by the elder's parable. They spoke for a long time after this, and at the end he asked the elder to catechize him and baptize him. And thus, after a little while, the good judge was baptized and became a Christian.



 

Translated from "The Elder Hieronymos, the Hesychast of Aegina," by Peter Botsis, Athens, 1991[2].

Taken from The Orthodox Christian Witness, Pages 5 – 6, Vol. XXV, No. 45 (1991) and the mailing list OrthodoxInfo@yahoogroups.com

 

A little about the Elder’s life may be found here: http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?3750-Life-of-Elder-Ieronymos and a little more here: http://te-in.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=14021636889&topic=4346

 

 

 

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/the-good-turkish-judge+from-the-life-of-the-elder-hieronymos-of-aegina.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/the-good-turkish-judge+from-the-life-of-the-elder-hieronymos-of-aegina.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] Cadi is the Turkish word for "judge."

[2] See: http://www.orthodoxpress.org/catalog/lives_i.htm: “Father Ieronymos the Cappadocia, the renowned Elder of the isle of Aegina in Greece, was an exceedingly compassionate healer of souls, a clairvoyant Father-confessor who saw the secret thoughts hidden in the heart, and a may of unceasing prayer who attained to the heights of the vision of God. Those who knew him exclaimed that they had met another Saint Isaac the Syrian. He reposed in 1966.  Along with many personal accounts, the book contains miracles worked by the Elder, numerous illustrations and a service composed in his honor.”  351pp. $22.00  An interesting flier about this book is here: http://www.thehtm.org/catalog/pdfs/b046-elder-ieronymos-flier.pdf?osCsid=9d27e5161ae8eb7d7b05d5bb8fa76688

 

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Apostle Titus of the Seventy. His life epitomizes two virtues we must have.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Apostle Titus of the Seventy

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Sin makes you stupid.

Ya gotta know what you are not to become what you should be!

Commemorated Aug 25/ Sep 7

 titus-apostle-of-the-seventy-bishop-of-crete-01

 

Today we remember the Holy Apostle Titus. He was one the Seventy [1], and an eyewitness of the preaching of Jesus Christ, a close friend and disciple of the Apostle Paul (accompanying him of his missionary journeys)  and eventual Bishop of Crete.

 

His life is extraordinary, because it shows clearly a two virtues we must have in order to be saved. The Holy Titus possessed a longing for purity and humility in abundance.

 

You can read his life below (taken from the excellent Menologion program), but at in all lives of the Saints, there should be some things that are extraordinary that stand out.

 

The Holy Apostle Titus was born a pagan. Unlike the rest of his society, which valued sensual pleasure above all things, Titus preserved his virginity. This was as extraordinary then as it is now. When an entire society does not value purity, it is hard to remain pure. Our young people have a difficult task ahead of them. Almost everything in society gives no credence to the virtue of abstinence, and virginity. They now, as Titus was then, are immersed in a culture which values pleasure and not morality.

 

The value of maintaining sexual purity is not immediately apparent, but there will be enormous fruit which blossoms from a chaste tree. In the case of Titus, his good heart sought after truth, even as a pagan. He was prepared to accept the truth when he encountered it. This was a DIRECT RESULT of his inner morality and sexual purity in the midst of an immoral and licentious society.

 

Titus illustrates a very important principle which is almost forgotten in our day: wisdom and understanding is only possible if we strive to live a pure life. Any less pristine but absolutely true and maybe a little bit “catchy” way to express the same truth is: “SIN MAKES YOU STUPID”.

 

At the tender age of twenty, the virgin pagan Titus had a dream that suggested to him that he abandon Hellenic wisdom. He started reading the Holy Prophets, starting with Isaiah. By God’s providence, he opened to the 47th chapter and saw himself in the prophet’s words. His vita does not give an indication of which verses most resonated with him, but perhaps they were these:

 

Come down, sit on the ground, O virgin daughter of Babylon: sit on the ground, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and luxurious.  (2)  Take a millstone, grind meal: remove thy veil, uncover thy white hairs, make bare the leg, pass through the rivers.  (3)   Thy shame shall be uncovered, thy reproaches shall be brought to light: I will exact of thee due vengeance, I will no longer deliver thee to men.  (4)   Thy deliverer is the Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel is his name.  (5)   Sit thou down pierced with woe, go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: thou shalt no more be called the strength of a kingdom.” (Isa 47:1-5 Brenton  )

 

Babylon was also a pagan culture, and Titus has the incredible humility to apply these words to himself, a pagan. This is a rare virtue. This would not have been possible for him if he were not living a pure life.  So many of our young people (and older ones too) do not understand this simple truth!

 

 

The Disciple from the Seventy Titus was a native of the island of Crete, the son of an illustrious pagan. In his youthful years he studied attentively at Hellenistic philosophy and the ancient poets. Preoccupied by the sciences, Titus led a virtuous life, not devoting himself to the vices and passions characteristic of the majority of pagans. He preserved his virginity, as the Priest-martyr Ignatios the God-bearer (comm. 20 December) testified about him.

 

For such a manner of life the Lord did not leave him without His help.At age twenty in a dream Saint Titus heard a voice, suggesting to him to abandon the Hellenistic wisdom, not providing salvation for his soul, but rather to seek out that which would save him. After this dream Saint Titus waited still another year, since it was not actually like a command, but it guided him to familiarize himself with the teachings of the prophets of God. The first that he happened to read was the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Having opened it to the 47th Chapter, he was struck by the words, speaking as it were about his own spiritual condition.

 

            When news reached Crete about the appearance in Palestine of a Great Prophet, and about the great miracles worked by Him, the governor of the island of Crete, an uncle of Titus by birth, sent him there. This Prophet was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, incarnated of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and having come into the world for the redemption of the race of mankind from its oppression of the original sin.

 

At Jerusalem Saint Titus beheld the Lord; he heard His preaching and believed in Him. He was a witness of the suffering on the Cross and death of the Savior, His glorious Resurrection and Ascent to Heaven. On the day of Pentecost the future disciple heard, standing in the crowd, how the 12 Apostles, — after the descent upon them of the Holy Spirit, spoke in various languages among which was the Cretan language (Acts 2: 11).

 

Saint Titus accepted Baptism from the Apostle Paul and became his closest disciple. He accompanied the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, time and again he fulfilled entrusted tasks, was involved in the establishing of new churches, and was with him in Jerusalem. Saint Titus was numbered among the 70 Disciples and was ordained by the Apostle Paul as bishop of Crete.

 

Around the year 65, not long before the second imprisonment, the Apostle Paul dispatched a pastoral epistle to his selected one (Tit. 1-3). When the Apostle Paul was taken like a criminal to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, Saint Titus for a time left his flock in Crete and went to Rome to be of service to his spiritual father. After the death by martyrdom of the Apostle Paul, the Disciple Titus returned to the chief city of Crete — Gortyn.

           

The Disciple Titus peacefully guided his flock and toiled at enlightening the pagans with the light of faith in Christ. He was granted by the Lord the gift of wonderworking.

 

During a time of one of the pagan feasts in honor of the goddess Diana, Titus preached to a gathered crowd of pagans. When he saw, that they would not listen to him, he prayed to the Lord, so that the Lord Himself would show to the mistaken people the non-entity of idols. By the prayer of the Disciple Titus, the idol of Diana fell down and shattered before the eyes of all. Another time the Disciple Titus prayed, that the Lord would not permit the completion of a temple under construction raised up to Zeus, and it collapsed.

 

By such miracles the Disciple Titus brought many to faith in Christ. Having enlightened with the light of faith the surrounding regions, the Disciple Titus died peacefully in the extreme old age of 97. At death his face shone like the sun.

 

A great article on the Holy Apostle Titus with some very unique and beautiful icons is here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/holy-apostle-titus.html

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-09-07+apostle-titus-of-the-seventy+purity+virginity+humility.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-09-07+apostle-titus-of-the-seventy+purity+virginity+humility.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)

 



[1] The ‘Seventy Apostles” were those who had been with the Lord Jesus Christ for His entire earthly ministry, but were not of the twelve Apostles. Some of the better know apostles of the Seventy are, Titus, James The Brother Of The Lord; Mark And Luke, Evangelists; Cleopas; Simeon; Barnabas; Josiah (Justus); Thaddeus; Ananias; Stephen The Archdeacon And First-Martyr. They are commemorated individually throughout the year, and their “sobor”, or “gathering”  (when all are commemorated at once), is January 4/17.

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To feel good, you must do good. Thursday molebens Prison Ministry It is always about morality Designer churches.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

To feel good, you must do good.

Thursday molebens

Prison Ministry

It is always about morality

Designer churches.

10 Things [1]

July 10/23. 9th Friday after Pentecost.

 

1. Here I go. Man, my little brain has a bunch of stuff rolling around in it. I must have 3 dozen things happen every day that I want to capture, for the benefit of my flock. Unfortunately, in the very short list of my strengths and virtues, organization is not one of them. And perfectionism, mixed with laziness (reminds me of jumbo shrimp and army intelligence!) is. Here is part of my raging against perfectionism and laziness. My new mantra J; just get it written down! So maybe I will continue making lists of ten things, with some stuff no doubt being incredibly inspiring, and some mundane, and some being “Greek Jokes” [2]

 

Some stuff that I start I keep doing, like weekday liturgies (for over two years now), Thursday night Molebens, carrying around the parish dyptichs and praying for my flock when I am in the truck, and lifting heavy odd objects, and other stuff I start and stop, like keeping my room clean, correspondence, and gardening. I guess time will tell on my ten things.

 

2.

 

Last night I served a Moleben with Akathist to St Nicholas, our patron, as I have for over 2 years nowRaising the cross http://www.orthodox.net/photos/raising-the-cross.jpg . We started in front of the big wooden cross which we erected on our land, when we had NO IDEA when or how we were going to afford to build a temple.

 

We served Molebens every outside Thursday, with a dog barking next door most of the time, rain or shine.  

 

Eventually the cross was taken down because of construction, and we served “in” the church, whether it was

 

 

A Thursday molben on the ground that would become our temple - August 9, 2009 http://www.orthodox.net/photos/parish/2009-08-09_moleben-on-the-land+during-moleben.jpg

just bulldozed ground,

 

 

Thursday night moleben, 11-07-2009 http://www.orthodox.net/photos/parish/2009-11-05_construction+moleben-01.jpg a concrete slab, or walls with no roof, or in any other phase of construction.


 

“We” was always me and a small group of people, or nobody at all. I think this service is one of the most important things I have ever done. It has often been very hard to do – I am tired, it is hot, and I am alone.

 

Actually, I have been alone maybe a half dozen or a dozen times. Fr Nicholas and Jenny have been very faithful praying in this service. They have full busy lives, and 4 wonderful, young and time intensive children, so sometimes one of them cannot make it. Sometimes my wife is late coming back from work, or is exhausted because of being on her feet for twelve hours. Sometimes Christina is at work or school.

 

Those are my “regulars”, and sometimes they cannot come. Occasionally a few others come, but for the most part, if somebody related to me is not there, it is just me, myself and I. On very rare occasion, I have been unable to some, and Fr Nicholas or Jenny has faithfully served.

 

3. I really believe that if you want to feel good you must do good.

 

I say it all the time, and I live by it. It is actually not perfectly accurate, because the time frame of “feeling good” is not specified. It is really: “You will eventually feel good if you do good”.

 

We are not patient people. We want it now. That is not the way Christianity works. We have so much dark stuff inside us. A sensitive soul feels this darkness, and clings to Christ to get rid of it. It takes a lot of time to get rid of it all.

 

Christianity is not like those stupid postcards that everybody gets advertising some “designer church”, with its handsome husband/.pastor, pretty wife/often co-pastor, and two perfect, smiling children (a boy and a girl, of course), with perfect teeth. Ain’t no average  people in that church, no sir!

 

Christianity is praying when you do not want to pray, and not being alone when you feel alone, because you are actually with God and his angels.

 

I feel a great consolation when I pray alone, but no sir, not a good emotional feeling. I just know that I am doing the right thing, and the Lord knows, I do a lot of wrong things, so whenever I get the opportunity to get it right and I do, it is a great thing!

 

4. Above, I mentioned that we started these Thursday molebens before we had any idea when we would build, or how we could afford it. Well, the first question has been answered, and we have a beautiful temple, that I pray every day we will be worthy to have, to the glory of God. As for the second, well, I have no idea. We could not afford it, and yet, here a temple stands!

 

The two most important reasons why our temple was built are: our Thursday molebens and weekday liturgies. In each, we pray for all the parish members by name, and also others from our public prayer list (http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn).

 

 

5. I went to a prison yesterday. I have not seen these guys for over two months, because it is as hard to get into a prison as it is to get out of one! I try to go once a month to one prison, and twice a month to another. But there is always something that gets in the way. Usually, the prison is locked down, or they have a staffing shortage. I get “bumped” all the time.

 

Yesterday, a new volunteer came with me. John is from a parish in Tyler, and will come with me and instead of me so these men can have more sessions.

 

This is exciting. I need volunteers so these men can have more than one (or none!) Orthodox service a month.

 

6. At the Michael unit, there are four guys who show up regularly. There were five, but One was released today, and will be heading to a monastery. The initial time outside of a prison is very difficult, in a million ways. I would like to tell you his name. I will try to remember to ask all the men if I can release all their first names, so others can pray for them. In general, I guard their identities carefully. A priest has so many secrets, that he tells almost nobody anything, just in case.

 

Two of the men are Orthodox. One was baptized in the prison though the Antiochian prison ministry. Two are inquirers. And one is very sure that he wants to be baptized.

 

Here is my plan. I go over the creed, great detail, emphasizing the moral aspects of it, because “IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT MORALITY”. I will ask him if he believed everything, and if he does, make him a catechumen. In time, I will baptize him, with an adult baptismal font, that, so far, has been in every Texas prison I have been in (God bless the Baptists!)

 

7. We have started a Prison Ministry Account. With our recent parish poverty, travel and stamps, etc is on my nickel. Previously, the parish subsidized the ministry, but the times, they are a changin. If I could remember the pin number, I could even use the debit card to buy gas!

 

If anybody wants to support our Prison Ministry, here is a page describing it, and giving an opportunity to donate through PayPal: http:///www.orthodox.net/ministries/orthodox-prison-ministry.html

 

8. Although some molebens have been hard, a ton have been a lot of fun, especially when the “babies” are there. I remember them with fondness.

 

Kids posing where the apse will be after an August 8, 2009 moleben http://www.orthodox.net/photos/parish/2009-08-09_moleben-on-the-land+kids-posing.jpg       After a Thursday moleben, hanging out in a southern window http://www.orthodox.net/photos/parish/2009-10-1-construction+papa-and-s-and-e-in-south-window.jpg

 

l-r: Kids posing where the apse will be after an August 8, 2009 moleben, After a Thursday Moleben, 10/1/2009, hanging out in a southern window

The deaconesses in the apse after a moleben. 10/1/2009 http://www.orthodox.net/photos/parish/2009-10-1-construction+deaconesses-in-altar-apse.jpg

The deaconesses in the apse after a moleben. 10/1/2009

 

9. Here is something I always emphasize about the Symbol of Faith. All we really need to know is the very beginning: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…”

 

This is a dogmatic and MORAL statement. We are not God’s children by nature, but by adoption. If we are sons by adoption, we should act like sons! To say God is my Father is to say a fantastic thing, and to make a solemn promise. We promise to become good, as God our Father is good. Christianity is not primarily about forgiveness; it is about moral perfection, because of our adoption by grace, and our zeal and aided desire to be worthy sons of the Most High.

 

 

10. Another one of my pet sayings: “a forgiven sinner is still a sinner”. Even forgiven sin still leaves its mark and causes pain. Jesus Christ became incarnate so they we could be free from sin, and not just forgiven.

 

 

 

From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texaswww.orthodox.net

 

This document is at http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-07-23_to-feel-good-you-must-do-good+thursday-molebens+prison-ministry+it-is-always-about-morality-+designer-churches.doc

 

And on our blog

 

New 10 things” entries, sermons, journal entries , scripture commentary & more are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Archive of “10 things”: http://www.orthodox.net/10things

 

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!



[1] This document is a list of ten (more or less) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called  “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

[2] My family still does not understand a lot of my jokes or the things I find humorous after all these years. It turns out that my father in law also tall jokes that others “don’t get”.  He is Greek, so those jokes are called “Greek jokes”, and my jokes have many times also been labeled in the same way. Here is one example. I love this joke, every time, but if I tell it again at the table, I may get bitten: “Did you hear about the atheist dyslexic? He did not believe in a dog!”

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Kingdom parables Children’s liturgy, Children’s sermon Prayers in the mother tongue Prayer and doing things prayerfully.

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010


Wednesday, July 8/21 St Procopius

Kingdom parables

Children’s liturgy, Children’s sermon

Prayers in the mother tongue

Prayer and doing things prayerfully.

10 Things[i]

 

1. I served children’s liturgy today. I love to sit on the step of the solea and give the children’s sermon, with the children seated around me. I think the adults like it too. Although the content is simple, I ALWAYS learn something from what I say, so I figure the adults learn too.  

 

2. One of the Gospels readings today was about the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16, 9th Wed after Pentecost). It is one of the “Kingdom parables”. I asked the children what a parable was, and got a pretty good answer – a story that is told to explain something important. I added that the Lord taught many parables, but they were by no means only in the Gospel – for instance ‘Jack and the beanstalk and Cinderella are also parables.

 

3. I explained that the “Kingdom parables” all begin in this way “The kingdom of heaven is like…”, much like many fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time”. These parables are not describing heaven as much as they are describing the way we must live to get to heaven. Although this is a “child friendly” explanation, it is still true.

 

4. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” This is the 15th verse in the reading. This parable is about jealousy. I do not think any one of us can answer this question in the negative. Our pride shackles us, and makes us jealous in little and great ways, and not matter how little or great, any jealousy puts us far away from God.

 

5. In the parable, the “householder” is God, and the workers of the vineyard are all of us.

 

6. I have so much stuff to say, and not enough time to say it. Perhaps writing “ten things” once in a while will get some of it “said”.

 

7. I was offering counsel recently, and I counseled myself. This happens frequently. I unofficially think this is one of the consolations of the priesthood.

 

8. What do we want when we pray? Fundamentally, we want union with God. What fundamentally interferes with our union with God? Our sins, or more properly, our sinful condition. Prayer can illuminate the heart, but obedience can too. Doing things that seemingly interfere with our prayer can be more effective than prayer, if we do them – prayerfully.

 

9. I was at a friend’s house today in the afternoon and saw a book he had recently purchased. He has a great library with a comfortable couch, and we sit there and drink coffee. The book is “The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica”, from St Herman of Alaska press. This book is a keeper. I may get it, or just read it in segments.

I read the introduction and was, as they say, “blown away!” He emphasizes something that I have learned the hard way, but still have not been able to control – our thoughts determine how we experience our life.

 

10. Had lunch with a friend today. He posted on his Facebook that he had a “lunch date with Fr Seraphim” and some of his friends were fascinated that he would have lunch with a priest. I guess they think we are so heavenly that we do not eat! I posted later that he actually had lunch with a long haired nurse in a black dress. All of this is true!



[i] This document is a list of ten (more or less) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called  “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

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Leavetaking of Pascha, Ascension, Aceticism,Disappointment, A/C progress, moving plans, Schedule change.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Ascention, Archimandrite Zinon, Pskov-Pechery http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/Pskov/PskovPecheryAscensionIcon.jpg

Dear Brothers and sisters of our parish family:

Leavetaking of Pascha

We leave behind using the greeting "Christ is risen!" today (unless of course, we are holy, and live totally in the resurrection, as did my patron, St Seraphim). The leave-taking of Pascha was today, and we served a joyous, short liturgy, just like on Pascha and Bright week. Now I can put away the trikiri with cross for next year.

Ascension.


Ascension is tomorrow. This is a critical part of our salvation, and contains within it many important dogmatic truths that can only be understood if they are experienced. The major part of this experience is the living of the life in Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but our learning must also begin with and continually involve the worship of the church, as we are always like the Ethiopian eunuch, who told the Apostle Philip that he could not understand the scriptures unless he had someone to explain them to him. The explanation, par-excellence that we have access to is the holy services, when we stand, and sing or listen with attention and expectation.

I have taught this to you many times, throughout the whole of my ministry and still, many of you do not understand. I can gauge your understanding by observing over time your actions, and zeal to attend the services and confess and commune.

You only have one opportunity to stand and pray with the entire church, triumphant and militant, about the Ascension this year. There is enlightenment awaiting you, and substantial invisible change that you will experience, whether you understand it or not. I want this change for you, and grieve when the evening services are so poorly attended. I serve them for you, and also for myself, since, like Peter, I must say that I am a man just like you, and therefore am subject to passions, ignorance and weakness. I have discovered a beautiful pearl, and I endeavor several times a week to show it to you, but for the most part, in shines in obscurity.

Ascension vigil 7 PM tonight.
Ascension liturgy 8 AM tomorrow.

Asceticism

I will continue to exhort you to be ascetical in your life, the only one you have. Time is short. Your asceticism must consist of mastering yourself, obeying the commandments, and doing many times what you do not want to do, because it is the way of God.

How can you accomplish these things? There is not a mystery to this.

God helps us, but not when we are on our couch, literally and/or figuratively . We must pray at home, fast, struggle to live as Christians,. read the scriptures, confess and commune frequently,. and pray in the corporate services of the church with zeal and expectation.

Will you join me tonight and  expect something?

Ascension vigil 7 PM tonight.
Ascension liturgy 8 AM tomorrow.

Disappointment, and our place in the parish family

Since I am human, like you, I get disappointed and sad about things. just like you. I was very sad sad last night, when only two people not related to me came to the Paschal Vespers to pray, after I had asked you all to come and pray as a community.

We are in perilous and difficult times, and we should bear these burdens together. No matter what else we do, we must pray together, especially when your pastor specifically asks you to because of a special reason. I know some could not come, but mostly likely some just did not come. 

As a community, a family of believers, we had a great loss last night. I know all about inconveniences and traffic, and being tired, and all the rest. As I said, I am just like you.

My daily prayer and hope as a pastor is that each of you would understand your pivotal role in the health of our parish family, and value our gathering together more. I believe that we have taken so long to build because our community has not valued prayer together enough. I have set an example, as a layman and as a pastor, and all I can do is pray, and occasionally exhort, with the hope that I am not "tuned out". I am doing this now.

A/C progress, moving plans

We have received an anonymous donation for replacing the stolen A/C units. Their cost is covered. I am not sure if this alms-giver will also pay for the additional security measures. They will cost around $1000.

The city of McKinney, required an approval process for the A/C unit cage, has slowed things up a lot. We anticipate having the cage design approved this week, and installed Monday or Tuesday. The new units will be installed after that. We could have an inspection and temp occupancy permit by Wednesday or Thursday next week. We will hopefully move next week, and be in the new temple NEXT weekend

Ascension services, and this weekend's services will be in DALLAS.

We may need to be out of the old place next week no matter what. I will get verification about this on Saturday.

Schedule change.

My son has a play tomorrow night, a kind of "dinner theatre" I want to go. I cannot go on Friday because of an important pastoral commitment. I will therefore not serve a moleben tomorrow. If anyone wants to come to the new temple and sing the akathist to St Nicholas, you have my blessing and encouragement.

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A metaphor: cactus, a priest and a little church

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Cactus buds from prickly pear pads taken from the Valley in the Winter

I am way too proud of these little cactus buds. They are new growth from prickly pear pads taken from the yard of St George in the Valley (Pharr, Texas) when I was there for the first of hopefully many Winter Service Retreats.

 

All three of the pads I took have new growth. I planted them in containers in December, and put them outside when it was warm enough. Sometimes I would forget to take them in and it would freeze overnight, and other times we would have YET ANOTHER torrential Winter rainstorm which, in addition to slowing down the new construction of our temple by at least three months, filled the containers with water. Now, cacti don't like a lot of water,but my little ones did just fine.

I think if I could pick a plant to be it would be a cactus. This is the perfect plant fror a priest to be.

Now metaphors cannot be taken to the extreme – I do not want to be prickly. Priests go for long periods without water, and sometimes have too much (now what do you think water is in this metaphor?) They survive when it is difficult. They do not ask for much. They just live and grow. I want to be tougher spiritually, emotionally, like a cactus.

Our little church is like a cactus. We have not had good conditions for growth – ridiculous delays, huge expenses, our little size, not much money  – to name a few. We are not, as they say "out of the woods yet". But we are going to get a new temple built. We will sing "Christ is risen" in its first liturgy. We will afford it eventually.

I love spring, and new life. I must get my tomatoes in soon, which I will as soon as somebody adds another day to the week! I also need to plant these cacti in their permanent home (which they have had a lot of trouble finding – another metaphor for our little church, which searched for a new home for 14 years). I get ridiculously happy just looking at them on the walkway.

Oh yes, I have other new growth on my mind. If we do not get the money for a bunch of trees required by the city, our little cactus will remain in its container for a very long time. Even cacti cannot survive for too long in such a cramped space.

We need help affording our trees. Unlike a real cactus, we can ask for help, and we would be very grateful if you would help us get over our last great hurdle. See our "Sponsor a Tree" Paschal appeal

As always, we will pray for our benefactors perpetually.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

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Snow in Texas. Hope in the soul.

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Saturday before the Sunday of Forgiveness, Jan 31/Feb 13 2020


It has snowed about 12 inches in Dallas Texas! I went to a nearby heavily wooded park with my dog and walked through gigantic fields, expanses of shining whiteness.

 

Snow makes me think of purity. It makes me hopeful. It just feels good to walk in the midst of it.

 

As is usually the case when I am somewhere in an introspective mood, I begin to think in metaphors and feel this welling up in my soul, a desire for change.

 

Just as snow can cover everything and make it look clean and beautiful, so can my repentance make me clean and beautiful.

 

There is something deeply spiritual about walking through the woods and fields and thinking that I was made to be beautiful, pure, like the snow.

 

When I started to cross the first virgin field of snow, I feel an intense excitement, an expectation.

 

I guess I am wired a little different than others – it made me immediately think of the beginning of Divine liturgy, or when I start to say the Jesus prayer for my family and flock, or when vigil begins, or when Great :Lent is about to begin. These are also times of new beginnings, exciting times. It is during these times that hope springs up within me – I can pray and become holy! I can intercede for those I love, some of whom I am consumed with worry for (and worry always has a hint of hopelessness to it, and wherever hopelessness is, God is not – it is a dark and cold place). I can pay attention to every prayer, and my breath can be joined to the breath of the Holy Spirit, and I can get better.

 

I live for those moments, because I really want to get better. I really want my loved ones (as a father and pastor I have many) to get better. I battle thoughts every day that my day to day behaviors show I am not getting better or at least am getting better hardly at all, but when I begin to pray, there is always a certainty before me that I am changing and those whom I love will change.

 

It does not last long, just as snow in Texas become a muddy mess sometimes even on the day it falls, and just as my mind is distracted and sometimes even intensely saddened and tempted during prayer – but I remember these moments. They are like snow, which covers everything, and even after if melts, I remember how beautiful it was.

 

God promised it, and I believe it: someday that snow which sometimes covers my heart and makes me pure will not melt, and all will be serene, and peaceful and white.  I beg of the Lord that all in my flock will believe this, and order their lives according to this dogma.

 

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa 1:18)

 

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:  (11)  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  (12)  For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  (13)  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (Isa 55:10-13)

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-13-snow-in-texas-hope-in-the-soul

 

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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)

 

 

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