Order of prayers. Resurrection, Compunction, Martyrs Rhythm of prayer. Monday of the Myrhhbearers

May 21st, 2013

 

Order of prayers.

Resurrection, Compunction, Martyrs

Rhythm of prayer.

Monday of the Myrhhbearers

 

Holy Myrhhbearers at the tomb with the angel. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/myrhhbearers-04.jpgSometimes the order in which we pray also teaches us important things. Our services and prayer books are comprehensive and teach us every way we should approach God in prayer. They are full of dogmatic truths and compunctionate sayings and prayers to the martyrs,  especially in the weekday Matins services.

 

I was struck about even the order in which our prayers are said in Matins when I was singing (I am using the term loosely) the praises for Monday of the week of the Myrhhbearers. The first sticheron was about the resurrection,  the next was a compunctionate one,  and the next was an ode to the martyrs.

 

How sensible this is! Without the Resurrection we are nothing; our life is because of the Resurrection. Thinking of the Resurrection should also make us think of how we do not live according to the resurrection. Of course we should feel compunctionate about this.

 

I love how easily and naturally we mix thoughts and prayers of praise and dogmatic theology with compunction. We never get ahead of ourselves; we always remember what we are like even when we are not looking at a mirror[i]

 

Of course the ones who lived the resurrection to the fullest are those who died for it: the martyrs, and so we pray to the martyrs following the compunctionate sticheron.

 

If one prays the services of the church,  a rhythm is felt,  as natural and easy as breathing. In so doing,  our character is changed,  and we naturally think like God. Of course,  this is the process of salvation; we acquire the Mind of Christ[ii]. Every time I pray the services,  especially if I am alone in the quiet, I feel this mind and the excitement that in learning to pray,  I am acquiring it.

 

Save your pennies and buy the service books and pray with them. Our typicon and order of the services is complicated and daunting,  but so is sin. Praying them becomes second nature,  as they teach us to live in accordance with God's nature.

 



Of the resurrection: Every breath, all creation, glorifieth Thee, Lord, in that Thou didst  abolish death by Thy cross,  that Thou mightiest show the peoples  Thy resurrection from the dead, in that that Thou alone lovest mankind.

 

Of compunction:  Mindful of the unseemly sins I have committed, I flee to Thy compassions, imitating the publican, the harlot who wept, and the prodigal son; wherefore, I fall down before Thee O Merciful One, and say: before Thou condemnest me,  O God have pity and mercy upon me!

 

Martyricon: Ye suffered for Christ even unto death, O passion-bearers and martyrs. And though your souls are in the heavens, in the hand of God, your relics are venerated throughout the whole world. The priests and the people all bow down; and we cry out, be rejoicing: precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

 

Praises,  Monday of the Myrhhbearers,  3rd Monday of Pascha,  Tone  2

 

PS. Did you notice the number of allusions to Scripture in these 3 hymns? I count at least 10. I would love to see them in the comments.

 

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

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[i] James 1:23-24  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 

[ii] Concerning the mind of Christ:

1Corithians 2:16  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

 

Ephesians 4:23-24  And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  (24)  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

 

Philippians 2:5-8  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  (6)  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.

 

1Peter 4:1  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

 

Romans 8:26-29  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  (27)  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (28)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  (29)  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

 

Romans 8:6-7  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  (7)  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

 

Romans 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 

Romans 15:5-6  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:  (6)  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

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“Having become bold” What made Joseph, Nicodemus and the Myrrh‑Bearers bold? Myrrh‑Bearing Women Mark 15:43‑16:8 2012

May 20th, 2013

 

Myryhhbearers with the Angel at the empty tomb. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/myrhhbearers-02.jpgIn the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Hristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!

 

I want to tell you, before I begin, about some people that I want you to remember during the Liturgy. There is an especially important time, right after the Epiklesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit[1], when we are to pray for those we especially care for or that have special needs. We also of course commemorate sometimes people that have special needs in the entrance, in the Great Entrance ‑‑ which will be coming up soon ‑‑ and also of course we have the custom of praying from a list, a public list, of people for just their general needs, travelers and among the sick.

 

Now, among the sick that I want you to remember, I want you to do this after the Epiklesis, now, because this is a holy responsibility of everyone. It is not only the responsibility of the clergy, absolutely not! Everyone should pour their heart out to God during the Divine Liturgy. And this time after the Epiklesis, is the time especially to pray with your heart for God.

 

[Several people and their needs were mentioned] Try to remember those names, and as a sacred trust during the Epiklesis pray for those people. It's very, very important. We are not passive in Liturgy. It's part of the reason why we stand and part of the reason why pews are such a terrible thing: Because they encourage passivity. You are participants in the Liturgy. The Liturgy means "the work of the people". It's not the work of Father Nicholas and myself. It's the work of the people. So pray for those people, okay? And you will hear them in the entrance and also hear them in the list of people that we pray for in the fervent Ektenia.

 

Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus off the cross. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/cross-joseph-and-nicodemus-01.jpg Among the most important words in today's Gospel that are truly amazing, that are too big to talk about or understand, are when it says that Joseph become bold. Remember, our Lord had just been crucified. The Jews were looking to kill everybody that was associated with Him. People were in terror. Everybody had run away. But Joseph became bold. This is a marvelous thing. It was dangerous to go and ask for the body of Jesus, who was a known felon, a criminal, a heretic. Boldness doesn't care about danger.

 

You know what boldness cares about? It is only one thing. True Christian boldness is based on one virtue. Love. Where there is love there is not fear. Now, I don't mean that you won't have emotional fear, but you won't be paralyzed with your fear.

 

Absolutely, Joseph was frightened when he did this, but he knew he had to do it. His heart told him he had to do it, and so he became bold and did it, and he went in to crave the body of Jesus and got it, and Nicodemus helped; St. John adds that detail. And they worked very quickly in order to be able to put Him in the grave in order to still abide by the Jewish Sabbath which was fast approaching.

 

This kind of boldness is what you and I need, brothers and sisters. It's the same boldness that the Myrrh‑Bearing Women had because they also were doing something extremely dangerous, and not only this; but they didn't even have any idea how they were going to accomplish it. There was a gigantic stone that had to be rolled with many men using a fulcrum to be able to get it in front of the tomb, and now the tomb was guarded by the best of the best, the centurions, hard men who wouldn't hesitate to kill someone. They weren't going to help roll away the stone.

 

They had no idea how they were going to accomplish their task, but they were bold. They had been frightened before but then they were bold. Where there is the love of God, perfect love casteth out fear. We have to aim to have this kind of love, brothers and sisters, and this kind of boldness.

 

We are now in an era where there are a lot of micro persecutions. There will be major ones soon enough. But there are micro persecutions now. Perhaps your management is coercing you to give to the United Way. The United Way gives to a lot of things that are completely un‑Christian. You hear people talk about different kinds of immorality and perhaps you feel afraid to say what you really feel.

 

I have noticed that there are Christians now, Orthodox Christians that are changing their opinions about things that God has always spoken of, because they're afraid. They see that most other people don't have this opinion; it seems like most of the world doesn't have this opinion.

 

You must beg the Lord to help you be bold. But this boldness comes from love, an all‑consuming love for the Lord. We must have this boldness.

 

Now, an interesting thing, a very important thing about the boldness of Joseph and Nicodemus and the Myrrh‑Bearing Women, is that what they were doing was because of a misunderstanding. Our Lord said He would rise again. He had made it very clear. In retrospect, they understood that it was clear. So what need would they have to anoint the body? None. Our hymns even say that: "Why do you seek for the living among the dead?". He is alive. But they thought He was dead. But their love for Him made them bold even though only shortly before they had been terrified and they didn't get it right. The Myrrh‑Bearers were going on an errand for someone Who was not there. But they didn't know that. And so with what they knew, with their feeble understanding, they acted out of love.

 

And if you act out of love, God will always make a good come out of it. Always, without fail. You might not see the good. There might be bad things that happen to you. But always, always God's Word will not fail to return back to Him. And the love that we give to God will always be good, always cause our Lord to work in some merciful and unseen way that will be for our salvation and the salvation of others. Every time, without exception.

 

So the fact that the Myrrh‑Bearers were doing something that showed that they did not understand what the Lord had been talking about for the past three years, is not important. And you must apply this to your life. I have learned now, being a priest for so many years, there's so much ignorance. Oftentimes I feel like I don't know anything and yet I do. Based upon whatever knowledge I have and the small amount of love that I have for God, I do. And then I see things happen that are completely unrelated to what I thought was going to happen.

 

It should be that way with you, too. Ignorance is no excuse. You still have to act on what you know with boldness. Don't be afraid. Act on what you know because of love for God. You will have many opportunities, today, tomorrow, the rest of your life, always to act with boldness and love for God. And your ignorance God will enlighten. But only those who love God will He enlighten. So we must follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers and of Joseph and Nicodemus and be bold.

 

Now, boldness comes out of a deep longing to be with God, a deep love for Him. You don't have to be smart. You don't have to be theologically astute, but you do have to desire to know the things of God. I would say it's not possible to be bold if we don't cultivate our love for God through our prayer, through fasting, through reading of holy things, through the Services. Otherwise, our hearts are cold. We might know a few things. But we will be making compromises in our lives and we won't even realize that. Many times. Or when we do realize, then we will have dug ourselves a hole; we will be afraid to speak the truth at that point.

 

Cultivate your love for God, and realize that you are a soldier; you're called to service. The Scripture says the Kingdom of Heaven is being won by violence. That violence is our boldness to do what is right because of love for God, no matter what the consequences.

 

So let us follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers, of Joseph and Nicodemus who acted in boldness. That boldness was given to them by God. They didn't possess it on their own. It was given to them because of their love for Him, not because of their knowledge, because they were wrong; they were administering to a dead man and He wasn't dead.

 

Let us be like these holy saints. Cultivate your love for God, brothers and sisters, and look for opportunities to be bold. And when you're not bold, when you're afraid to make the Sign of the Cross in front of a bunch of people you don't know or your family or at your business meeting, or when you're afraid to speak out when people are saying things that are wrong, or when you do not feel moral authority because of your own sins, force yourself to be bold. This latter obstacle is probably the major source where we are not bold, where we need to correct someone whom we love, but we look at ourselves and we think I'm such a terrible person, I have no right at all, no strength to be able to talk to this person. That's not humility acting. That's cowardice. You have no right to not do something good because you think you are bad!

 

If you have boldness before God, it is because of love for God and even in the midst of knowing your sins, God will tell you, call your name; and you must be like Samuel and say, "Here am I." Then, no matter what it is, do it. There's many things all of us need to do. But it starts with loving God, and the love for God will wash away our ignorance and our timidity. May God grant it. Amen.

 

Transcribed by Helen, May the Lord save her and her loved ones.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2012

 

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[1] The Epiclesis occurs during the Anaphora, which is the time when the gifts of bread and wine are offered up, and the celebrant begs the Holy Spirit to transform them into the body and blood of Christ. The Greek word "Epiclesis" means "invocation" or "calling down from on high", and is the part of the Liturgy that occurs when the people are singing slowly: "We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God".

 

You can know that it has ended when a hymn to the Theotokos is sung. Here is an edited transcript of what occurs in the liturgy during this time:

 

The Priest says aloud:

 

Take, eat: this is my Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.

 

and

 

Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.

 

and

 

Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all, and for all.

 

At this point in the liturgy is another good time to offer up your secret prayers for the people that matter the most to you. This is been suggested by certain modern fathers, and it is good advice. I always pause for a moment and remember the people that are on my heart at this time as well as at the end.

 

The people are singing:

 

We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God.

 

During this time the priest is invoking the Holy Spirit and begging that He change the gifts offered, the bread and wine, into the body and blood of Christ.

 

At the end, the priest exclaims aloud:

 

Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

 

At this time, in most liturgies served during the year, the following hymn is sung:

 

It is truly meet to bless thee, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most blameless, and mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the Very Theotokos: thee do we magnify.

 

This is the time referred to in this homily, a holy time to put forth your most deep desires to the Lord. It is good to have a list if you have trouble remembering, and pray simply, and forcefully: "Lord have mercy on ____". This is a holy moment; DON'T miss it!

 

 

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

May 15th, 2013

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

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

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

 

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

 

AND

 

 

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

 

AND

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

This article is at:

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Kermit Gosnell and the culture of sexualism and death. On the date of the guilty verdicts in his trial.

May 13th, 2013
April 30/May 13 (civil calendar) 2013 Second Monday of Pascha

 

Today in Philadelphia, the jury, after 10 days of deliberation, delivered several guilt verdicts in the trial of the  abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell. He will face the death penalty in some of these convictions.

 

Most people do not know who this man is, since he is the real face of abortion in this country. The mainstream media and too many politicians are totally enslaved to the sins of this age, and since abortion is an important pillar of these sins, they strive to protect it as often as they can, even by censoring news about obscene acts of evil. This is why there is very little information available on mainstream sources about Kermit Gosnell. His trial reads like the script of a horror movie.

 

Am I happy today? NO.

 

I do not want to see Kermit Gosnell be punished in eternity, or even in this world. I want him to see the gravity of his sin, repent and gain peace in his soul.

 

The man decapitated babies and joked about it; he kept trophies. He showed a callous disregard for human life, whether it was the late term babies he illegally aborted, or the mostly poor minority women he worked on (one cannot say "served", since his abortuary was infested with cat feces and urine, and sometimes rotting fetal remains,  with dirty instruments and tables). His medicine was shoddy and illegal; if he were a veterinarian he would have been disciplined and possibly jailed long ago, but because he worked in the industry deemed sacred by our sexualized culture of death, he worked with impunity (the state of Pennsylvania, enslaved to this culture in its politics, did not investigate claims against the Dr for many years, or ignored them, and in general left abortion facilities alone to do what they did in secrecy), and would have continued if he had not been suspected of running illegal drugs out of his facility.

 

Many reading this will not believe it; they will disregard it as the ranting of some right winger. That is funny, since I am not right wing, or even a Republican. I describe my politics as "It is always about morality". I am a Christian pastor, and must try to warn my people and anybody else that God causes to cross my path that the culture of the religion of "sexualism" (as a friend, Subdeacon Peter has written about[1]), and the culture of death, and self-indulgence and meaningless that pervades our society will kill the soul.

 

Kermit Gosnell is a ghoul, but a ghoul with a human soul that needs healing. I am not happy that he is going to be punished in this world, although I consider this a necessary evil. I pray that he will be free in the next. He has a long way to go, since he has been immersed in evil for over 40 years. I am very sad that many that call themselves Christian will rejoice about this day. This is a day of sorrow, not joy.

 

We should pray for Kermit Gosnell, and any politician that supports, subsidizes and advertises for the culture of death and religion of "sexualism" which our society is addicted to, starting with our president,. Barack Obama.  We should include those who profit from this culture, such as the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. All we need say is "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy" for each person. We should not desire that they be punished in this life or in the next. Perhaps, if we pray, God will spare us some of the inevitable results of this culture, which is and will continue to be massive human suffering (particularly of women and children, they are always the ones to suffer the most).

 

God help us.

 

 

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

This article is at:

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[1] " It is a battle of the religions. On one side there is Christianity, and on the other is Sexualism. In the Sexualism religion, sex is a worshiped and lauded thing. It is not uncommon to sacrifice ones own child on the altar of the Sexualism god. People who explore their Sexualism beliefs, like Jason Collins (a professional basketball player, who is the first to have "come out" and stated he is a homosexual [priest seraphim]), are applauded as heroes for their bravery. There are several sects of Sexualism believers, the most popular now are the Homosexual sect. Homage is paid to the Sexualism religion in popular music, television shows, magazines, web sites, and movies. There are books on how to better embrace the Sexualism religion more fully. It is a very competitive religion too: if you speak about any other religion, or judge the Sexualism religion by the rules of another faith, you'd better beware! The Sexualism leaders will work tirelessly to disavow you and keep you silent." – comment in a Facebook conversation, May 9, 2013

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Thomas is just like us in at least one way; it must be in two ways if we are to be saved.

May 13th, 2013

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Synopsis: The Apostle Thomas is a perfect example of how we are, deep inside. We have doubts, problems, unresolved issues. We must follow his example to resolve all these problems. We also talk about the closing of the doors in the altar on Bright Saturday night, and what it means. It is VERY related to the story of Thomas, which must become our story if we are to be saved.

More homilies on the Thomas Sunday are HERE

John 20:19-31 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-02_2013-05-12+thomas-sunday+thomas-is-just-like-us_john20-19-31.m3u

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RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

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Heavenly things are hard to learn John 3:7-12 Bright Friday 2013

May 11th, 2013
 

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  (8)  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.  (9)  Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?  (10)  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?  (11)  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  (12)  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"[1] [John 3:7-12]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

Learning holy things is hard. the mind must be changed; we do not naturally think about heavenly things or reason in spiritual ways. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14)

 

Nicodemus was a good man, and very pious and learned. He proved his mettle near three years after his first encounter with Christ by having the courage, even though he was a secret disciple, to attempt to stay the blood lust of the Jewish leaders by reasoning with them, and then by helping to tend to our Lord's body after the crucifixion[2]. Both incidents who great courage and discretion. Even though he was such a man, he could not understand what the Lord was telling him, and was even rebuked about it.[3]

 

Many stories we read from the Gospels during the Paschal season drive home this point[4]understanding heavenly things is hard. Let's just flat out admit it – we are not spiritual people, and our spiritual understanding is limited, and our soul's senses are dull. If we do not work to understand the things of God, we will always be poor.

 

St Seraphim of Sarov, praying on a rock http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/seraphim-of-sarov-rock-01.gifPraying haphazardly, and rarely reading the Scriptures just won't cut it. Watching more TV than we read, pray or attend services (COMBINED!) just won't cut it. If my patron[5] spent 1000 days kneeling on a rock praying with tears, "Lord enlighten my darkness", why are we so haphazard and lackadaisical in living according to our professed faith?

 

Our life must be a quest to become spiritual, and understand things that are only "spiritually discerned".

 

This season should be a time of feasting and spiritual joy, but this DOES NOT eliminate an ESSENTIAL part of what should be in our character – a profound dissatisfaction with who we are, what we know, and how we act. This is the key to spiritual progress – for a man to know himself, measure himself (against Christ[6]), and find himself lacking. God will help us with what we lack, but we must labor with effort, and faith, and repentance and expectation. If we do this, we will have the "joyful sorrow" that is a profound part of true Christian spirituality.

 

Do you understand this? If you don't, then don't despair, nor pass off my words as idle tales, or legalistic, or only for monks, or whatever slander the Evil One tries to plant in your understanding. work! Read the Gospels, pray more, keep the fasts as they are prescribed, strive to be spiritual! God will help you.

 

 

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

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-09+john3-7-12+heavenly-things-are-hard-to-learn.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-09+john3-7-12+heavenly-things-are-hard-to-learn.doc

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

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

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

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

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

 


[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days.

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] When the Sanhedrin were Hell bent (literally) on killing Jesus in any way they could (this they wanted to do almost form the beginning of Jesus' ministry), Nicodemus showed incredible courage here: Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?  (46)  The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.  (47)  Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?  (48)  Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?  (49)  But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.  (50)  Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)  (51)  Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?  (52)  They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." (John 7:45-52). After the crucifixion, he showed even greater courage here, as to be associated with the disgraced and crucified Christ was to become a target for assassination: "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.  (39)  And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.  (40)  Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  (41)  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  (42)  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (John19:38-42)

[3] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  (12)  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12)

[4] This is a consistent theme in my homilies for good reason.  some many stories illustrate this – the doubting of Thomas, the Myrhhbearing women, the Samaritan woman, the healing of the man born blind, to name a few.

[5] St Seraphim of Sarov spent 100 days kneeling on a rock in the Forest, with this prayer being the only one on his lips.

[6] "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…" (Ephesians 4:13)

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“…What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” [John 2:18] The Greatest signs are in the heart Bright Thursday 2013

May 9th, 2013

 "… What sign showest Thou to us, seeing that Thou doest these things?"[1] [John 2:18]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

an Orthodox girl receiving communion , http://www.orthodox.net/photos/communion-girl.jpg This question the Jewish leaders  asked Jesus after he routed the money changers out of the temple. It is  a stupid question. They shouldn't be asking "what sign", instead they should be asking for forgiveness! The Lord had showed them a very personal sign, much like He would later do to the people of the Gergesenes[2]. Their greed blinded  them  to the blessing the Lord gave them; He exposed their sin and gave them an opportunity to repent.  This was the sign!

 

Sins blind us to the signs the Lord is continually  showing us. We also look  for external  signs,  but the truest and most reliable signs are those that the Lord reveals to the heart. The rulers of Jesus' day truly are the fulfillment of the prophesy (an ongoing one, continually being fulfilled): "And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse."[3] The Lord appeared to them to be a questionable person because or their personal perverseness – their pride, avarice and ambition. such sins, and all the rest of the vast panoply of human perverseness blinds us to the signs that God desires to reveal to the human heart.

 

If a myrrh streaming icon comes to the church, people who have not darkened the church door for a year or more will stream to it, with tears and supplications, and even be in a kind of ecstasy. After the icon travels to another place, they will go on to the rest of their mundane lives, missing the signs that God would give to them every Liturgy in the Eucharist, if they would bother to prepare themselves with expectation.

 

The greatest miracle and sign in our daily lives is the Eucharist, and it is of course, powerful because of the greatest external sign, the sign of Jonah[4]. This is all we need, if we are living real Christian lives.

 

Only a pure heart can see such signs. How many signs did we miss today?

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-18+what-sign-showest-thou-to-us.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-18+what-sign-showest-thou-to-us.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 
 



[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Wednesday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-12, & Bright Thursday the rest of Chapter 2

 

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] In the region of the Gergesenes, the Lord expelled the demons form the two demoniacs and allowed them to go into a herd of swine (an animal considered unclean by  the Jews), and they all rushed down a cliff into the sea and were drowned. Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39

[3] Psalm  17:26, Septuagint, Boston Psalter. I also love the way the KJV renders it, with that marvelous word "froward" – "With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."

[4] The sign of Jonas is the resurrection: " Mat 12:38-40  Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  (39)  But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  (40)  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

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“…Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it ” [John 2:5] Bright Wednesday 2013

May 8th, 2013

"…Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it " [John 2:5]

Bright Wednesday 2013

 

 

"… Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it"[1] [John 2:5]

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-wedding-feast-of-cana-01.jpg

 

This is is advice that we need to follow closely. It was given by the Holy Theotokos, to the servants at the Wedding Feast in Cana, when there was no more wine at the feast. Our Lord told the servants to fill 6 waterpots with water (an inexplicable command), and draw some off and bring it to the ruler of the feast, and the water turned into wine.

 

Our will is unreliable since it is tainted by the passions. We often get things wrong. God's will is always GOOD.

 

 Sometimes we know and understand why God is telling us to do a certain thing  such as  that we should love our enemies or we should we should do good to those who do evil into us. That is the easy  stuff (to understand, but not always to do!).

 

The hard part is the following God's will when we do not understand why or perhaps we don't even understand exactly what it is we are to do or what the result is supposed to be.

 

This happened to Peter when he was told by the Lord very early in His ministry to let down the nets for a draught[2].  He has been fishing all night and caught nothing, and experienced fishermen of that time knew that the best time to catch fish was at night and therefore it made no sense from an earthly or worldly perspective to let down the nets in the middle of the day; it was a fool's errand. Peter even stated as much to the Lord, but he obeyed him, perhaps not expecting anything, and of course they caught a great catch a fish

 

I tell myself and my flock many times  things that some do not seem to understand or accept – for instance –  come to the services regularly, confess and commune regularly, fast, pray often for some difficult thing to be resolved. The problem is that although all these things cause grace to abound in the heart it happens most of the time in an invisible and even imperceptible way and it takes much time for us to overcome our passions and the difficulties in life that we experience.

 

All we need to do is obey the Lord, and things will always "work to the good[3]". I have a saying which I say often: "It is always right to do the right thing", and its corollary, "It is  always wrong to do the wrong thing". It is really that simple.

 

The part that it is not simple is that sometimes we don't know what the right thing is that we should do. In the wedding at Cana the Lord gave clear instructions; just go fill some water pots with water. In our lives things are much more gray and we often do not have full or even significant understanding, but the Lord will reveal Himself to us and things will "make sense" if we seek Him.

 

If you often don't know what to do or you are confused by the moral choices that life presents to you then I submit to you that you're not seeking the Lord enough. Something in your life is clouding your understanding[4]. Life is about becoming like God;  if we become like God then we think like Him and  we acquire his mind. If we acquire His mind then we are not confused by anything.

 

To summarize: this simple statement – "… Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" seems to me to have two important meanings and commands. The first of course is readily apparent: we must obey the Lord every time in every place and in every situation. The second is more subtle and is inferred by the first: we must learn what it is Lord wants us to do, and knowing this takes effort and dedication.

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-5+whatsoever-he-saith-to-you-do-it.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-08+john2-5+whatsoever-he-saith-to-you-do-it.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 



[1] Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of John during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Wednesday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-12, & Bright Thursday the rest of Chapter 2

 

This small essay is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 2:1-12), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

[2] Luke 5:4-6  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.  (5)  And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.  (6)  And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

 

 

[3] Romans_8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

[4] Often this is sin, since "Sin makes you stupid".

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“Come and see” – It applies to everything. John 1:46 Bright Tuesday 2013

May 7th, 2013

"And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." [John 1:46]

 

[Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of Jon during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Monday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-28, on Tuesday the rest of the chapter (John 1:29-51)]

 

 

The following is a prayerful meditation on some part of the "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 1:29-51), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

 

"Come and see." This is the way to live your life,  always with obedience and expectation. Our faith is one of experience. We "come and see" by the way we live and the Lord shows us. There are two ways to "Come and See": one is the way of the unbeliever and the other that of the Christian. The unbeliever does something to change his unbelief into belief – he is not sure what he will "see". The Christian knows that God always will act with grace in his life, and that he will always see this, as long as his sins and passions (and not because God has "failed" to act) do not obscure his vision.

 

How many times have our sins,  passions,  doubts kept us from "Coming and seeing"?

 

There are a lot of demoralizing  things that happen in the pastoral ministry (if the pastor is a sinful man). Many times I have been spiritually tired and not wanted to do something,  and not as many times,  but still a large number of times  I have done it anyway,  and I have expected something to happen that would be good for my soul or of some benefit to someone. This is to "come and see".

 

I apply this dictum to prayer for others. Sometimes I see no results for an extended period of time. The Lord expects me to expect results, and continue to pray (there are all kinds of Scripture that state this, do you know some of them?) – this is to "come and see". Do you pray daily (and not just one little "Lord have mercy") for your loved ones and those whom your heart breaks when you think of them?  A good practical way to accomplish this is to pray the Jesus prayer a set number of times (like 10, 50 or 100 – whatever is convenient for your prayer rope) for them every day: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Seraphim". Do not listen to the distracting or even negative and sad thoughts. To listen to them is to not come and to never see.

 

I always (well probably  not always!) had this attitude in regard to the services. Sometimes I am tired and want to "be a parishioner" (not go to church[1])  but of course I go and on most days I go with expectation,  and I have never been disappointed. Something ALWAYS happens.

 

I am convinced that every encounter in our life will teach us something,  strengthen us,  open us up to receiving  and keeping close to our soul grace,  if we always encounter everything  with an attitude  of "Come and see."

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-07+john1-46+come-and-see+it-applies-to-everything.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-07+john1-46+come-and-see+it-applies-to-everything.doc

 

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

 

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.

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How to BECOME a child of God John 1:12-13

May 6th, 2013

"But as many as received Him, to them he gave power to become Children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were begotten not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God." [John 1:12-13]

 

[Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of Jon during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Monday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-28, on Tuesday the rest of the chapter (through verse 51)]

 

 

The following is a prayerful meditation on some part of the first "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.

 

If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 1:1-28), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.

 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

In one sense we can  say we are not children of God,  but that we are becoming children of God. Of course, the Theologian explicitly states that we are given the power to "become". This implies we are not finished with the transition from being a child of the world (and the Devil) to a child of God. This is a continual, stepwise process.

 

So the question is at what point would we become fully children of God and what is this process. To be a child of God is to be *fully* human,  as Jesus Christ is human. This is a process,  and it takes place over our lifetime.  We are constantly *becoming*. This is not a foregone conclusion. We have the power,  give by Christ through baptism,  and we then must "take our bed and be walking".

 

If we "receive" Christ, we must obey Him. We also must learn about him ("take My yoke upon me and learn of me…"). This learning is not in the head, but in the heart. Our wonderful task is to become like the God-man Jesus Christ, and follow his example, which is well laid out in the Gospels and the lives of his beloved ones, the Saints.

 

The Theologian states that those born of God are not born of:

 

blood – I take this to mean by human birth.

 

the flesh – This may also be human birth, but I take it to mean that the ways of the flesh – our passions, bad priorities, and earthbound desires and practices will never lead us to heaven.

 

nor the will of man – I take this to mean that MY WILL will never lead me to God. I must give my will to God, and so His will if I am to become a child of God. My will does not work, it is unreliable, and dangerous. God's will is perfect, and leads to perfect peace.

 

May God grant that we receive Him in every way and become fully children of God!

 

 

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

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-06+john-1-12-13+how-to-become-a-child-of-god.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2013-05-06+john-1-12-13+how-to-become-a-child-of-god.doc

 

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

 

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

 

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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