Monophysitism, an Orthodox explanation. Why is this stuff important? Enduring wrongs. Why? How? Sharia law and injustice. A letter to prisoners, June 26/ July 9, Apostles Fast 2013

July 9th, 2013

I am sorry, fellows, I chose not to come this Wednesday, 07/10/13. I am recovering from pneumonia, and feel pretty good, but I tire easily. Getting up at 3am and having a very long day, plus being in the hot 8 building may be too much. I have a lot of people warning me to take it easy, and, since I am a stubborn Irishman, I have ignored some of their advice, but truth to tell, the last couple nights I have been pretty exhausted. My antibiotics are almost finished, and I have not had fevers or anything since late Thursday, but at the beginning of last week I was pretty sick, with constant fever and night (and even day) chills. Barring any setback, and if I do not act too stupid, I should be good to go next week, and will see you in 2 weeks.


I will try to write about stuff we talked about (in both prisons). I think it is good to review stuff and maybe flesh things out a little. I will make no claim to being organized here, and some of this stuff may seem to be random (welcome to my brain!), but it is stuff that we talked about recently.


Monophysite – a heresy, which posits that Jesus Christ has ONE nature (Greek "monos" – only or single and "physis" – nature). Generally, adherents to this heresy would say that this one nature is divine, and would believe that the human nature of Christ was assumed into the His Divine Nature. The heresy as a whole is called "Monophysitism". To this day, there are still people who subscribe to this heresy, such as the Coptic Church. These brave people are being martyred for their faith in Christ, and we should revere them and pray for them, but this does not mean that we should gloss over their inaccurate understanding of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May God save them and count them as martyrs for their great struggles, which includes property destruction and theft, torture, murder and the extremely common raping of their women.


Sharia Law.


By the way, did you know that in order for a woman to prove she was raped in a Moslem country under Sharia law, she must have FOUR Moslem men (not women, and all other faiths are considered to be infidels, and not reliable witnesses), which testify that they have absolute proof that the rape occurred? This basically means that they saw it, and of course, this is an impossibly high standard of proof. If a women makes such an accusation, and does not have these witnesses, she will be convicted of fornication (since, by the twisted logic of the demonically inspired Sharia law, she will have "confessed" to having intercourse with someone other than her husband!) and be punished, sometimes very severely, or even executed, even though she was raped!


We as Christians must learn something from this. On the one hand, justice and truth must be in our hearts, and we should not depend on the world to hold to these Godly virtues. All things will be revealed in the last judgment, and until that time, there will be many depravities which are not exposed. There will come a time when all things will be revealed. This is a promise straight out of Scripture, and I hope you recognize it.


We should both weep and exalt because of this. We should weep because many will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (this latter phrase from the scripture is an indication that they will be sorry and ashamed, but have no opportunity to repent), and it is a terrible thing for a person who has been made in the image of God, to fail to obtain His likeness, and perish. We should exalt, with cries of great joy, because all those who have endured terrible things, and kept their faith in God, will be filled with joy forevermore, and like the mother who has just given birth, no longer remembers the pain they endured in this life.


Please remind yourself everyday that you have put your hand to the plow, and am approaching the Heavenly Jerusalem  in everything good that you do. Prison is a place where there are many petty and great annoyances and even times of great injustice. Most of those things cannot be changed, and none of it will matter in the next life if you have not allowed any of it to make you bitter or angry. You were made for eternity, and everything good you do brings you closer to it. Nobody can take that away from you.


Back to the Monophysite heresy.


Our Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. We confess Him as "Light of God, true God of true God". He is uncreated, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created all things. Before He was man, before there was anything, He was. He was the one who told Moses His name: "I AM", meaning, that as God, He exists – He is the only one Who has always existed, and all things have come into being through Him, and nothing has existence without Him. He is unchanging and perfect, and shares all knowledge and all "Godliness" with His Father and the Holy Spirit.


Because of man's terrible predicament – sin, He, of his own perfectly free will, and by His power, became man, without in anyway changing that He is God. Simple understanding of the Godhead proves the Monophysite heresy to be false. God does not change. Nothing can be added or taken away from the God nature, which we also call His essence. If Jesus Christ, who was God before becoming man, and therefore had a nature which was God, in becoming man, mixed His newly acquired human nature with his God nature, His God nature would change. This is a complete impossibility. We confess that Jesus Christ is God and man, with two distinct natures in one person, Divine and human, in complete cooperation and sharing the same purpose, but not commingled or joined in any way.


Why is this important? Because "God is the Lord and hath revealed Himself to us, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord". God has revealed Himself to us as He is, and we would be impudent and stupid, as the created, to make pronouncements which contradict the word of the Creator about Himself.


This is the main reason to reject Monophysitism. There are logical reasons too. The purpose of the incarnation was to heal human nature. We have a saying from the Holy Fathers: "What is not assumed is not healed." Jesus Christ took on our nature, and healed it. If Jesus did not posses our human nature, but His nature was some strange mix of human and divine – neither human nor Divine, He could not have healed our human nature.


How do we *really*, *fully* learn this stuff? Perhaps it seems like a war of words with you, having has little practical meaning. If we understand why we were created, and by Whom, and therefore how we will be completely healed and obtain our inheritance, we will understand why how we view God and the Son of God is important.


God is love, and created us because of love. All things can be understood by love, but only by the same love that God has for Himself, which is an eternal love, according the His knowledge of Who He is. God revealed Himself to us and continues to reveal Himself because of love. We grow in knowledge of Him and union with Him because of love. Love is always according to knowledge of the truth. Love without truth is not love (much of the heresies of our day, especially the sexual heresies, are based upon a false idea of love which rejects truth). All our problems, all of our sins, are because we love poorly; we do not love as God loves. All that we do must be to learn to love as God loves, and in so doing, we will become like God, and know God. It is unthinkable to love God as He is not; we must love Him as He is, and He has revealed certain things about Himself that we must therefore believe. Without perfect love, these things cannot be understood perfectly, or even poorly, but as love grows, so always does knowledge grow, and wisdom and understanding.


The best option in every case is to love. May God help us to love as He loved Himself, and loves us.


There are other heresies related to Monophysitism. All of them have the same basic misunderstanding – they reject that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, without either nature joining with the other.


"Monothelism" teaches that Jesus Christ has one will, even though He has two distinct natures. It is

basically an attempt to "compromise" the Monophysite heresy with the Orthodox dogma. It perhaps is a bit closer to the truth, but we do not treat the truth as something to be approached, like throwing a horseshoe or a hand grenade! This is not possible if He has two unmixed natures, since every nature has as one of its attributes, will.


The Divine will is infinitely stronger than any human will, although a perfect human will agrees with the Divine will perfectly in all things. Jesus became man to heal our will, and make it stronger. His incarnation healed the three attributes of human nature: the attributes of knowledge, desire (or appetite), and will (or irascibility). The Divine will is perfect and unchanging and in perfect cooperation at all times with the Divine knowledge and desire.  Our will must be brought into complete cooperation with our knowledge and desire – we must know the truth, desire to follow the truth, and have the ability by our will to live according to our knowledge and desire. At its perfection, this is theosis – union with God.


There are other terms related to the Monophysite heresy.  "Miaphytism" believes that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature" ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. This pretty much sounds like Monophysitism to me. Eutychianism holds that the human and divine natures of Christ were fused into one new single nature: His human nature was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea". ( It is so named for one of the chief protagonists of this heresy at the fourth ecumenical council (of Chalcedon). Eutyches is considered to be a saint by many who hold to the Monophysite heresy.


The important thing to remember is not the long and very technical Greek words. It is important to know that in the fullness of time, the uncreated Logos, Jesus Christ,


"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  (7)  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  (8)  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  (9)  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  (10)  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  (11)  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " (Philippians 2:6-11)


He took on our nature, which was in every way like our nature except for sin ("For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15)), and He purified it, strengthened it and healed it, so that, after the waters of baptism have flowed over us, we can be new creatures, and have all of our attributes completely united with one-another and with God.


You would all make me very happy if you marked in your bible some passages that illustrate Jesus' divine Nature and His human Nature. There are many of each, and you can find some in His own words, especially in the Gospel of John. I will bring a few next time. Hint – look around my favorite verse!


“All of our striving is concerned with acquiring the love commanded of us by Christ. When this spirit of Christ-like love enters within us our souls thirsts for the salvation of all people. We are appalled that by no means everyone wishes for himself what we ask for all in our prayers. Worse, we often meet with refusal, even hostility. How can people be saved when there is such perversion? We live in an age, the events of which make the tragedy of our fall more and more evident. To take my own life: for over half a century I have prayed, sometimes weeping bitter tears, sometimes in wild despair, for the peace of the whole world and the salvation, if it be possible, of all. And what do you suppose? To this hour, in my old age, I see every evil increasing in its dynamics. The close of mankind’s earthly history is scientifically thinkable and may become technically realizable tomorrow. We are nonplussed by the utterly irrational character of the happenings of our time. So what are we to do? Despair and reject the everlasting Gospel? And if we decide on rejection what else in the whole world is there to satisfy us? Positively nothing could separate us from Him, however bitter the trials that we must suffer. He has opened our eyes to infinity, and now we cannot close them and prefer the blindness of new-born puppies. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,’ said the Lord. And now we stand before the Living Absolute- which is exactly what, and only what, we are seeking.”  (Elder Sophrony of Essex, "We Shall See Him as He Is")


A Guardian Angel is given to each person at the moment of his baptism.  How should one guard the union of the soul with its Guardian Angel?  He carries out his activity through the conscience and the heart.  When a person cares for the salvation of his soul, guards his conscience, and avoids all manner of sin, then he senses his Guardian Angel.  The Guardian Angel instructs him in every good thing, sends him good thoughts, and warns him against evil.   We will see our Guardian Angel on the day of our departure from this life.  But what kind of meeting this will be will depend upon us and our deeds.  Will our Guardian Angel rejoice or will he sorrow at our careless life? …. Let us be attentive towards our Guardian Angel, let us prayerfully beg his help in all good deeds and for deliverance from every sin.  Let us entreat him to lead us persistently to the Lord, and let us not disgrace him by our actions.  (Elder Sebastian of Optina, "On Guardian Angels", Selections from the Sermons of Elder Sebastian, in Tatiana V. Torstensen,  Elder Sebastian of Optina, David Koubek (tr), Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1999, pp. 378-379.)


Truly the penitent is not one who laments over the evil he has committed, but one who laments over all the evil that he is capable of committing. A wise landowner not only cuts the thorn bush that has pricked him, but every thorn bush on the field that is waiting to prick him. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956) in "Prayers by the Lake")


"The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul. The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God. The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer. The more perfect the love, the holier the life." (St. Silouan)


Orthodoxy is neither a culture nor a political system, because it is concerned with our personal salvation ,with the salvation of our souls. … Orthodoxy is not even a religion. Orthodoxy is not a religion like all the other religions. … Orthodoxy is a therapeutic course of treatment that heals the human personality.


A genuine doctor concerns himself with the treatment of anyone who is sick, without exception and without discrimination. … [He] only notices whether or not the people who come to him are sick. And if they are sick, he … tries to treat them and heal their infirmities. In Orthodox tradition we have something similar to this, but even more so. … [If we wish to be healed] we must go to the Church … to competent people who … possess the curative method of the Orthodox tradition, then we must be obedient to them in order to find healing. (Protopresbyter John Romanides)




Priest Seraphim Holland 2103     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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John 17:11 No unity with God without unity with our neighbor

June 5th, 2013

"Holy Father, keep in Thy name those whom Thou hast given me, in order that they may be one, even as We." John 17:11

The reality of the Trinity, in which the persons of God live in perfect oneness, is not a dry, dogmatic fact. Here Christ ***defines salvation***; to be one with each other and God, even as God is one with Himself. 
This should put loving our neighbor, and being peacemakers, not judging etc – anything that promotes unity with our neighbor – in an important perspective. 
There is a profound external difference between the unity of God with Himself and our unity with our neighbor, but it is unimportant. God is in perfect unity with Himself; each person gives and receives love exactly identically. It is not like this in human relations, even among those who love each other, because of our lamentable and individually variable tendency to prise, vanity, and self-centeredness. 
God loves the good and the evil equally, and herein is the key to perfect unity with Him. 
Let us keep in mind that the Golden rule is to act towards our neighbor as we would *want* to be treated, not *AS* we are treated! 
Every interaction with our neighbor leads us into deeper unity with God (the only purpose of our life!) or estranges us from Him. This is a stark reality that we rarely acknowledge, but those who are holy know well. May God heal us of our preoccupation with ourselves and help us to love our brother, having only one expectation: to be one with God, even as He is. 

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

June 4th, 2013

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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[1] "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)



A feastday for all us Samaritans. Do you hear the conversation? Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, John 4:5-42

June 3rd, 2013

the Woman at the Well

Synopsis: The conversation and conversion of the Samaritan woman by the well, recorded only in John, is the conversation of Christ with the soul. This is good news for us, as the future Equal to the Apostles Photini (Svetlana) was not a good woman – she had many sins – and we are not good either, however, she listened to the Lord, even as He sternly corrected her false beliefs and immoral lifestyle. The same conversation is happening to us, every day. Are you listening? Do you know how to listen? St Photini teaches us.


More homilies on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman are HERE

John 4:5-42 5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. 31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his own word; 42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

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Keep Holy things from becoming common!

June 1st, 2013


"Lord,  Thou hast accounted me worthy today,  but cast me not away  from Thy sight in that great and notable day when Thou wilt come again."


The Last supper prayer is a synthesis of the first and fourth prayers of Thanksgiving  after Holy Communion.


From the first:

"I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast vouchsafed me to be a communicant of Thy holy Things".

 From the fourth (the entire, short prayer):

"O Lord Jesus Christ our God, may Thy Holy Body, be unto me for life eternal, and Thy Precious Blood for the remission of sins; And may this Eucharist be to me for joy, health, and gladness. And at Thy dread Second Coming, vouchsafe me, a sinner, to stand at the right hand of Thy glory, through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother and of all Thy Saints".


Fr Zacharias[1] recommends that we say this prayer after liturgy to keep it from becoming common to us. This is a wonderful idea.  When I read it, I loved it, but to my shame, did not recognize  it as a synthesis of two prayers that I have said over three thousand times(!) (a footnote enlightened me).


We truly miss so much in everything we do because if our lack of attention. Every day,  the way we live is a travesty and tragedy. We are living out the life of the people if the Gergesenes[2], and the people of Chorazin! and Bethsaida[3], who saw the Lord and did not recognize Him.


I think about these things often. How many times do we do holy things in a common way? How many times do we zip through the Trisagion prayers, or Psalm 50? How many times does the Lord visit us, and we do not recognize Him, or treat Him as common?


I suffer from two maladies, one of which is because of my physical nature, and one because of my spiritual decadence.


The physical infirmity is not so important, and even though it is irksome, it will not condemn me[4]. I am easily disturbed and confused by noise and commotion, and therefore, the environment in which the prayers are read is not conducive to my mind processing what my ears hear. Added to that problem is that because I am a pastor, I must greet people as they kiss the cross, and the prayers become a drone in the background, especially is someone is saying them softly.


The other problem is much more significant and I have no excuses. I do not always pay complete attention. Even when I am focusing my attention on the prayers, my mind can drift in and out, like a weak radio signal.


Years ago, I would go home and say the Prayers of Thanksgiving after Communion alone, even though I had heard them read in church. This was in a different time, when I was a layman or deacon, and did not have so many responsibilities. Those were wonderful moments, and they helped to keep the miracle of the liturgy more appreciated. This practice was a kind of compensation for my maladies. We must creatively find ways to compensate for our spiritual depravity, and find ways to focus on the "holy things for the holy".


God help us! We treat as common that which is precious. We must prefer the common over the precious. We must do everything in our power to fight this deadly tendency. this seems impossible, but the Lord has promised us success with impossible things!


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


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[1] The Enlargement  of the Heart,  Archimandrite  Zacharias,  pg 93.

[2] The people of the Gergesenes kept swine and the Lord exorcized two demoniacs and allowed to the demons to enter the swine, and the swine went mad and ran down a cliff and were drowned in the sea below. the people went out to the Lord and asked Him to leave them; they should have been repenting and thanking Him for His visitation. They were blinded by their passions, as are wee. See Matthew 8:28-34

[3] Matthew 11:20-21  Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  (21)  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

[4] After all, if I cannot process the audible prayers, nobody except my poor sinful self is preventing me from inner silent prayer! I do this often when things are too chaotic for my sensitive ears, but not often enough!

By this all will know that you are My disciples…

May 30th, 2013


"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

In a well-known first century text called the "Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus", the Christians of the time are described as follows:

"But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonoured, and yet they are glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life. War is waged against them as aliens by the Jews, and persecution is carried on against them by the Greeks, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility. In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world."

(Epistle to Diognetus, 5:4-6:1, tr. J.B. Lightfoot, online at

Many hate Christ because their hearts are darkened by sin, because they do not wish to come to the light. May God grant that we not be counted with that number!

At the same time, MANY at that time were converted because their hearts were open to the Lord. They were converted in part because they heard the word of Truth and saw it active in the lives of the Apostles and other Christians.

How many today whose hearts are opened never hear the word of Truth, the Good News of Christ, who has risen from the dead to save us all? And how many hear the word, but don't understand it because they don't see it active in the lives of Christians?

Brothers and sisters, where is our love? Do we differ at all from those around us? Do we give those whose hearts are open a reason to accept Jesus Christ in His Church and receive His salvation? Or does our life proclaim loudly that "there is nothing special here".

May God forgive us. Readings like this make me want to go out and spread the word, to bring others to the truth by my words and my life — but then I remember that my life is messy with sin… St. Peter was eager to follow our Lord Jesus Christ to the Cross, but Christ responded: “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times" (John 13:38). We are weak, and have offended many by our sins. Let us repent of this!

But let us also "tarry in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high". We will soon celebrate Pentecost, that marvelous descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Endued with this divine strength, St. Peter and the other Apostles then went out and converted the world.

And if we renew our spiritual efforts, studying the word of God, praying more often and receiving the Holy Mysteries with faith, we will be gradually renewed as well. And then — and only then — our light will begin to shine before men, unnoticed by us, and all men will know that we are His disciples. As St. Seraphim of Sarov used to say: "Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and thousands around you will be saved."

May God grant us this grace!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!


Distance Education in Orthodox Theology

May 30th, 2013

As Orthodox Christians, we must strive to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (c.f. Luke 10:27) — in other words, with our entire being. 

The cultivation of the love of God in the mind consists in large part of studying the faith. We must immerse ourselves in the Holy Scriptures and in the teachings of the Holy Church. We must order our lives so that — if it is possible — the majority of the impressions that form our way of thinking come from our Lord's teaching, and not from the corrupt teachings of this world.

This is why it is so important to prayerfully read the Holy Scriptures under the guidance of the Church.

This is also why, for those who are academically minded, higher education in theology is valuable. This is not just for those who want to become priests; all of us can benefit from better knowing our faith. Through study we can be brought to love God more fully, and we can also be able to better answer the questions those around us who are starving for the enlightenment that only Jesus Christ can bring.

In the last 10 years, a number of distance education programs in Orthodox Theology have emerged, including three that are run by our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:

1. The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America is a ministry of our own diocese. It consists of online classes that include readings, discussions and examinations. There is a track for future priests and deacons and another track for those who wish simply to learn more about their faith. This year, the pastoral school is offering summer courses to all who are interested.

2. Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY offers a correspondence course leading to an accredited Certificate in Theological Studies (HEGIS 5623). Students are sent a reading list, and go to Jordanville for examinations twice each year.

3. The newly-formed St. Cyril and Athanasius Institute is a ministry of the Western American diocese. This is an innovative online program consisting of modules of study in an interactive online format.

Thoughts on John 13:1-20

May 29th, 2013

Today, we as a church family are reading the first half of the Gospel according to John the Theologian. (If you are not there yet, don't worry — the main thing is to keep reading!)

This selection tells of two things: Jesus' washing of His disciples feet and His knowledge of Judas' betrayal.

The Church, reading this selection on Great and Holy Thursday, consistently links these two themes:

"When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly one was stricken and darkened by the love of silver…" (Troparion for Holy Thursday and Friday).

The way of Jesus Christ and the way of the world are completely different. "“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28).

Our Lord is teaching this when He washes the disciples' feet: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15)."

The disciples are enlightened, but Judas is "stricken and darkened". An encounter with God does not leave us unchanged. We see this throughout St. John's Gospel, but especially here. When we meet God and see Who He Is, when He reveals Himself to us, then we either love Him or we reject Him. This is how it will be on the last day when He appears in the clouds with great glory. 

Will we love Him more than money, than our pride, than earthly glory or pleasure? It depends on the baby steps that we take now. He reveals Himself to us now in measure, a little bit here and a little bit there, just enough so that it is in our power to choose to accept Him and follow His way. And in that way, we can learn to love Him more.

So let us heed His injunction to wash one another's feet as He has shown us, that we might be stricken with the love of our Lord and God, rather than with the love of corruptible earthly things.

Christ is Risen!

“the Father is in Me, and I in Him”

May 25th, 2013

In the second half of John 10, Jesus says:

"I and the Father are one."

"I am the Son of God."

"…the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

What do we mean when we say the Jesus is God, that He is the Only-Begotten Son of God, of one essence with the Father?

Blessed Theophylact, commenting on "the Father is in Me, and I in Him," summarizes the Church's explanation as follows:

" 'I have the same essence as the Father while remaining the Son; I differ from Him only in hypostasis (i.e. person). Likewise, the Father ever remains the Father and differs from Me only in hypostasis. He is identical to Me in essence and nature. Though we differ in hypostasis, Our hypostases are undivided and inseparable: the Father and the Son united without confusion.' It is not so with men. A human father exists separately from his son, although they are one in nature. But the divine hypostases are intermingled without confusion. We speak of "three men," for every human person is a separate entity. But the Holy Trinity is one God, not three, because of the unconfused interpenetration of the three hypostases without confusion, and their unity of counsel and will." (Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria, Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John, tr. Fr. Christopher Stade (St. Louis: Chrysostom Press,  2007), p. 174)

This is important.

Jesus Christ is GOD, the Creator of all that exists. He made us, He redeemed us, and in Him we have our life. He is not optional. He is not "one path up the mountain to God". Nobody can know the Father apart from Him, for the Father is in Him, and He in the Father. Let us worship Him and follow Him in everything.

The sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

May 24th, 2013

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:1-5)

"The door" is the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Blessed Theophylact, following the interpretation of St. John Chrysostom, explains this to us.

Jesus Christ Himself, the Son and Word of God, is also "the door", as He tells us a few verses later. It is only by Him that we can enter and be saved.

He is also the Good Shepherd, who enters by "the door" of the Holy Scriptures, since they testify to Him. Indeed, the whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. Everybody else speaks of himself, and twists the Scriptures to fit his ideas.

So how is it that we can be saved, and "go in and out, and find pasture"? Through Jesus Christ.

And how is it that we will recognize Him? Because He will "call us by name," and if we will "know His voice". 

And how will we know His voice? Because we will have, throughout our lives, accustomed ourselves to hear and love His voice.

And how do we accustom ourselves to hear and love His voice? By reading the Holy Scriptures, by praying in the words of the saints, by attentively praying in the services of the Church, by frequently receiving the Holy Mysteries, and by striving to follow His directions about how to live, knowing that He will not lead us astray but will rather guide us into the good pasture.