Redeeming the Time

St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas TX

Rector: Priest Seraphim Holland 972-529-2754 cell:972 658-5433 seraphim@orthodox.net

St Nicholas Web Site: http://www.orthodox.net

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephes.5:16)

December 2007

A Word from the rector

Brothers and sisters, we are in the midst of the Nativity fast. I have sent the fasting guidelines to the parish mailing list, and repeat them briefly here. On all days, we do not eat any meat, eggs or dairy products. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the strictest fast days, when we also should not eat oil or wine. On Tuesday and Thursday the fast is a little relaxed, and we can have oil and wine. On Saturday and Sunday, the fast is the most relaxed and we may have oil, wine and fish. Please check your calendar for variations to these general guidelines.

If there are any questions about fasting, and especially if you have difficulty keeping this rule, please contact me as soon as you can. Although the Lord tells us to fast in secret, we never should fast “alone”. Fasting is something you and your confessor should struggle together with. If you struggle with fasting, please do not do it “alone”. Talk with me, and let’s together work something out that is spiritually profitable for you.

The rules of fasting are beneficial to us only if we also struggle to follow them along with increasing our prayer, reading of scripture, and overall “effort” in the Christian life. May God help us in this.

PLEASE NOTE: We have Vespers and a teaching about the Church’s prayers every Tuesday at 6:30 PM. This would be an excellent commitment to make on your part during the Nativity Fast.

I am no longer working, and plan to concentrate exclusively on pastoral work for at least the next six months. I am therefore more available during most parts of the day, and want to be seeing more of you all (and not only in church!) We hope to have our new facility built within 6 months, and I will be working on that, in conjunction with many others of you who are giving your talents and effort to our community. I also will be writing and teaching a lot more, and you can expect to see more things in your email. Please call or email me at any time for any reason.

I am currently updating my records. Please, everyone who can, send me all your contact information (address, phone, email). I have most of your email addresses, but am missing a few. I am also missing many home addresses and some phone numbers.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR EACH OTHER EVERY DAY. I assure you of my unworthy, yet expectant prayers. We will grow as a parish family by caring for each other. Prayer for each other is the most important manifestation of this care. If you need lists of parishioners names, please contact me.

unworthy Priest Seraphim, who prays for you daily and asks for your daily prayers.

News and Announcements

  • By God’s mercy, we are preparing to build a hall and chapel on our land in McKinney, but we still need money to finance the building process! Please consider making an extraordinary donation to the building fund as you are able.
  • We are instituting a group bible reading program. Fr. Seraphim asks thay everyone would try to read each week’s readings, according to the church calendar. We will discuss these on occasion, provide commentaries when possible, and provide a list of these readings each week. In addition, you can find the readings each day at these web sites:

Name Days this month

  • Dec 19th: Nicholas Quillen, Nicholas Quillen Jr., Nikolai Slavine THIS IS OUR PATRONAL FEAST!
  • Dec 26th: Lucy Park

Principles of the Orthodox Faith

by Bishop Alexander (continued from November Edition)

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We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father’s Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ’s teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.

We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.

We believe that in the sacrament of Baptism the believer is forgiven all sins. The believer becomes a member of the Church. Access to the other sacraments of salvation becomes available to him at this time. In the sacrament of Chrismation the believer receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Confession or Repentance, sins are forgiven. In Holy Communion, offered at the Divine Liturgy, the believer receives the very Body and Blood of Christ. In the sacrament of Matrimony, an inseparable union is created between a man and a woman. In the sacrament of Ordination Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are ordained to serve the Church. In Holy Unction, the healing of physical and spiritual illness is offered.

We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.

With the one word “Amen” we witness to the fact that we accept and acknowledge with our whole heart this Creed which we confess to be true.

The Creed is read by a Catechumen (one about to receive Baptism) during the sacrament of Baptism. During the Baptism of an infant, the Creed is read by the Sponsor. The Creed is sung at the Liturgy and should be read daily at Morning Prayers. An attentive reading of the Creed greatly strengthens our faith. This happens because the Creed is not just a formal statement of belief but a prayer. When we say “I believe” in a spirit of prayer, along with the other words of the Creed, we enliven and strengthen our Faith in God and in all those truths which are contained in the Creed. This is why it is so important for the Orthodox Christian to recite the Creed daily or at least regularly.

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The Home as a Little Church:

The Vision of St. John Chrysostom

by Dr. David C. Ford

(continued from November edition)

. . . . One of the most important dimensions of St. John Chrysostom’s exalted vision of the Christian life is his emphasis on Christ-filled marriage and family life. May I ask, how many of you are aware of his emphasis on marriage, and his very high view of Christian marriage? He believed that it is the calling of every Christian married couple to make their home a little church, and he preached with all his heart to inspire the married people in his flock, to fill them with this vision, this ideal, this goal, and to instruct them in how to bring this vision to pass in their own homes.

Let’s look now at some of the most important characteristics of the home as a little church that can be found in St. John Chrysostom’s preaching and writing. I believe six such characteristics stand out: First, we see a great emphasis on the need, indeed the requirement, that husbands love their wives with Christ-like, self-sacrificial love. . . .The second characteristic of the home as a little church is a pattern of order and discipline in the family, with the husband as the servant-head of the family, and his wife as second-in-command, and their children in obedience under them. . . .

    Thirdly, such a godly home is characterized by careful, attentive, heartfelt

instruction and training of the children by the parents. Chrysostom strongly exhorts parents to train their children carefully and diligently in the ways of the Lord. Not to teach them virtue, not to call them to account for their actions, is, as he says, “to trample upon the noble nature of the soul” (Homily III on Philemon; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 557; my emphasis). Concerning those who may become leaders in the Church, he asks, “For he who does not instruct his own children, how should he be the teacher of others?” (Homily II on Titus; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 524-525).

For Chrysostom, the Christian training of a child begins with the very name he or she is given by the parents:

    Let none of us hasten to call his child after his forebears – his father or mother or grandfather or great-grandfather, but rather after the righteous – martyrs, bishops, apostles. Let this be an incentive to the children. Let one be called Peter, another John; and let another bear the name of one of the other saints.

As we know, this is a strong Orthodox tradition to this day – to give the new child the name of a Saint, and thus to make sure he or she has a patron Saint. Chrysostom believes that this will bring great benefit not only to the children, but also to the parents. As he goes on to say:

    So let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James. For, if the name be given with forethought . . ., and we emphasize our kinship with the righteous rather than [or, at least, more than] with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children (An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, in M. L. W. Laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1951], pp. 107-109; modified translation; my emphasis).

In this same remarkable essay, St. John tells parents, “thou art raising a philosopher, an athlete, a citizen of Heaven” (p. 102), and he speaks of parents shaping their children into “wondrous statues for God”:

    To each of you fathers and mothers I say, just as we see artists fashioning their paintings and statues with great precision, so we must care for these wondrous statues of ours. Painters, when they have set the canvas on the easel, paint on it day by day to accomplish their purpose. Sculptors, too, working in marble, proceed in a similar manner; they remove what is superfluous and add what is lacking. Even so you must proceed. Like the creators of statues, give all your leisure to fashioning these wondrous statues for God (On Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children; Laistner, p. 96; my emphasis).

Chrysostom goes on in this essay to compare the soul of a child to a city, indwelt by good and bad citizens (i.e., good and bad thoughts, dispositions, and habits). He exhorts parents, “Regard yourself as a king ruling over a city which is the soul of your son [or daughter].” And referring to the necessity for the parents to set firm boundaries and guidelines for their children concerning what kind of behavior is proper and what is unacceptable, he says,

    Draw up laws for this city and its citizens, laws that inspire fear and are strong, and uphold them if they are being transgressed; for it is useless to draw up laws, if their enforcement does not follow. Draw up laws, and pay close attention, for our legislation is for the world, and today we are founding a city” (Ibid., pp. 97-98; modified translation).

Then he addresses in quite some detail the five gates of this city which is the child’s soul – the tongue, hearing, sight, the sense of smell, and the sense of touch – all of which must be carefully guarded lest unwelcome intruders make their way into the child’s mind and heart. If in his day Chrysostom had to strongly warn parents to carefully supervise what things their children were seeing and hearing in the world around them, how much more is this necessary in our own age of radio, TV, movies, MTV, and the Internet?!

If children are given such diligent care and attention in child-raising, St. John is quite confident that they will turn out well:

    For it is not possible, indeed it is not, that one should turn out badly who is brought up with so much care, and has received great attention. Sins are not so prevalent, so deeply rooted, by nature as to overcome so much previous care (Homily II on Titus; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 524-525).

A fourth characteristic of the home as a little church is regular Scripture study, spiritual discussions, and prayer. Concerning the reading of the Holy Scriptures, in one notable passage Chrysostom suggests that families need this more than monastics do:

    The solitaries do not need the consolation and the help of the Holy Scriptures as much as do those who are in the midst of the whirl of a distracting existence . . . [By the way, is this a pretty good description of how most of us live? – “in the midst of the whirl of a distracting existence”?] The hermits sit far from the struggle; therefore they are not often wounded. But you [speaking to his urban-dwelling parishioners] stand always in the front rank of battle (Homily III on Lazarus; PG 48.992C; Women and Men, p. 88; my emphasis).

So he advises:

    Hearken, I entreat you, all who are involved with the things of this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. . . . get at least from the New Testament the Acts and the Gospels to be your constant teachers (Homily IX on Colossians, PG 62.361D; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 300-301; Women and Men, p. 88, n. 46; my emphasis).

We may notice here how this passage implies that copies of at least these portions of the New Testament must have been quite readily available to the average parishioners of Chrysostom’s day, at least in the big cities.

Specifically concerning instructing children, he exhorts, “Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures” (Homily XXI on Ephesians; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 154; Women and Men, p. 88, n. 46; my emphasis). He urges fathers to teach their children the Psalms, including memorizing certain ones, and then to lead them to study the Hymns of the Church:

    Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of the love of wisdom . . . When in these you have led him on from childhood, little by little you will lead him forward even to higher things. The Psalms contain all things, but the Hymns have nothing human. When he has been instructed out of the Psalms, he will then understand that the Hymns are even more divine (Homily IX on Colossians; NPNF 1, XIII, p. 301; modified translation).

The Scripture text for this homily is Colossians 3:16-17, which includes the words “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Don’t these striking words about the Hymns make you wonder which Hymns he was referring to? Perhaps mostly they were the hymns from his own Divine Liturgy, such as the Cherubic Hymn.

St. John goes on in this homily to give a whole list of things to be learned from particular verses from the Psalms. And in his An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, he takes five pages to explain in detail how parents should relate Bible stories to their children, and how to reinforce them so that the children get them virtually memorized. As examples, he uses the story of Cain and Abel, and also the story of Jacob and Esau; and he even gives the specific paraphrasing that the parents should use! (Laistner, pp. 102-107).

We can easily see St. John Chrysostom’s fervent love for the Holy Scriptures shining through all his preaching. On one occasion he cries out:

    If we order our lives in this way and diligently study the Scriptures, we will find the lessons to guide us in everything we need! (Homily 20 on Ephesians; Roth, p. 64; my emphasis).

Concerning fostering spiritual discussions in the home, Chrysostom recommends that the father at the family dinner table repeat, and promote discussion about, the instruction given at the Church:

    When you go home from here, lay out with your meal a spiritual meal as well. The father of the family might repeat something of what was said here; his wife could then hear it, the children too could learn something, and even the servants might be instructed. In short, the household might become a church, so that the devil is driven off and that evil spirit, the enemy of our salvation, takes to flight; the grace of the Holy Spirit would rest there instead, and all peace and harmony would surround the inhabitants (Homily 2 on Genesis.13; Fathers of the Church, vol. 74, Robert C. Hill, trans., p. 37; my emphasis).

(Notice how this passage implies that the father is attending church by himself. We know that Chrysostom often preached every day, such as during Great Lent, either in the morning before people went to work, or in the evenings on their way home from work.)

Chrysostom also says on this point:

    Let us guide the conversation to the kingdom of heaven and to those men of old, pagan or Christian, who were illustrious for their self-restraint (On Vainglory; Laistner, p. 118; my emphasis).

Notice how he freely recognizes (in the spirit of Philippians 4:8) that pagan men (or women) of old can be good examples for Christians too, if they lived virtuously.

Concerning prayer in the Christian home, Chrysostom exclaims,

    Here indeed my discourse is for both men and women. Bend your knees, send forth groans, beseech your Master to be merciful. He is more moved by prayers in the night, when you make the time for rest a time for grieving [for your sins]. . . . Do this, you men, and not the women only. Let the house be a Church, consisting of men and women. For do not think that because you are the only man, or because your wife is the only woman there, that this is any hindrance. ‘For where two,’ He says, ‘are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18:20). Where Christ is in the midst, there is a great multitude. Where Christ is, Angels also must be there, and Archangels and the other heavenly Powers. So then you are not alone, seeing you have Him Who is Lord of all. Hear again the prophet also saying, ‘Better is one who does the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors’ (cf. Ecclus. 16:3). . . . Nothing is stronger than one man who lives according to the law of God.

    If you have children, wake them up also, and let your house altogether become a Church through the night.

If I may ask at this point, does this sound quite extreme? St. John’s ideal was that the home would really become like a monastery. Once he even said he wished the whole city would become like a monastery (Homily XXVI on Romans; PG 60.644A; NPNF 1, XI, p. 533; Women and Men, pp. 44-45). But now, to continue with this quotation, we’ll see his pastor’s heart come in, and his compassionate understanding of the practical realities of life:

    But if they are young, and cannot endure the watching, let them stay for the first or second prayer, and then send them to rest. Only stir up yourself; establish yourself in the habit. Nothing is better than the storehouse which receives such prayers as these. . . . Believe me, there is no fire as effectual to burn off rust as night prayer to remove the rust of our sins. . . . [Pray] in your closet, or in your bedroom; bend your knees, and entreat the Lord (Homily XXVI on Acts; NPNF 1, XI, pp. 172-173; modified translation; my emphasis).

While in this passage he has in mind, ideally, midnight vigils, in a later sermon in this same series (on the Acts of the Apostles), he says, with pastoral moderation and compassion,

    I have both before discoursed to you on this, and now repeat it: let us arouse ourselves during the night. And if you do not say many prayers, say one with real attentiveness, and it is enough – I ask no more; and if not at midnight, at any rate at the first light of dawn (Homily XXXVI on Acts; NPNF 1, XI, p. 227; modified translation).

In a similar vein he says elsewhere,

    Thus I would have you always [to be in prayer]; and if not always, at least very often; and if not very often, at least now and then, at least in the morning, at least in the evening prayers (Homily XXII on Hebrews; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 468).

And concerning the power of prayer, he assures his people:

    Let every man and woman among us, whether meeting together at church, or remaining at home, call upon God with much earnestness, and He will doubtless accede to these petitions (Homily III on the Statues; NPNF 1, IX, p. 356; my emphasis).

Not only should the children be included in daily family prayers, but they should also be taught to pray regularly on their own:

    Let the boy be trained to pray with much contrition and to keep vigils as much as he is able, and let the stamp of a saintly man be impressed on the boy in every way (On Vainglory; Laistner, p. 119).

And wives also, if they are able to stay at home during the day – which St. John would certainly strongly favor in our day and age, if this is at all possible – can, in his opinion, use the quiet of the home to foster much spiritual growth for themselves and their families:

    But the woman who sits in her house as in some school of true wisdom, and collects her thoughts within herself, will be enabled to devote herself to prayers, and readings, and other heavenly wisdom (Homily LXI on St. John; PG 59.340C; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 225; Women and Men, p. 187; my emphasis).

Do you ladies think this is possible? Is it at least more possible than your husband making his workplace a “school of true wisdom”?

(to be concluded in the January edition)

Regular Service Schedule

  • Tuesday 6:30 PM – Vespers followed by a discussion about the spiritual/dogmatic content of various prayers in the church services.
  • Saturday 4:00 pm – Confession
  • Saturday 5:00 pm – Vigil
  • Sunday 10:00 am – Divine Liturgy, Trapeza and Church School

Regular Announcements

  • Please use our bookstore. We have books, icons, CD’s, Pascha and Nativity cards, souveniers and other items. To make a purchase, please put the following into the donation box, together with the payment: the item name and the dollar ($) amount of the payment. There are pads for your use for this purpose in the bookstore.
  • We also have a library of books and CDs for your use. When you borrow from the library, please write the name of the book or CD on the clipboard, and return the items within four weeks. If you have materials to donate to the library, please speak to Natalia Hawthorne or email to stnatalia (at) hotmail (dot) com
  • The sisterhood is always open to new members! To join, please speak to Raisa Dudar.
  • We welcome new choir members! To join, please speak to Genevieve (Jenny) Park or email her at parknj (at) basicisp (dot) net
  • Please remember to support the parish financially.
  • Our building fund is our means of financing our land and building efforts. This fund currently contains $70,000, and is growing slowly. To make a contribution, make out a check to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, and write in the memo line, “Building Fund.”

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