Archive for February, 2008

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee – Luke 18:10-14 – Two Ways

Monday, February 18th, 2008


Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

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Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee – Luke 18:10-14 – The rest of the story, How was the publican justified?

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. It is a formal beginning to our preparation for the Holy Fast, and is the first day we read anything from the Triodion this year. We are now in a period of time to prepare ourselves – 4 more weeks. Next week follows the Prodigal Son, then the Sunday of the Last Judgment, then the last Sunday before the Holy Fast begins – the Sunday of Forgiveness. There is not much more time, and this time is given for us to reflect upon what it is that we need to do to improve ourselves.

The church gives us some help here. The Sunday before this day is always the Sunday of Zacchaeus, who was a publican. Today, we read about another publican, just a nameless person in a parable. This event never actually occurred; it is a parable our Lord used to teach us. However, it has extra meaning when we think of it in light of the story of Zacchaeus, and in our mind’s eye, equate the publican in this parable with Zacchaeus.

In this parable we see two kinds of humility – or rather, humility and its evil opposite, pride – and two kinds of knowledge. We see the pride of the Pharisee, and the church in its hymnology points out the differences between his pride and the humility of the publican. In order to fully understand the lesson we must see that the Pharisee was not completely wrong and the publican was not completely virtuous, and yet, one of them was justified and the other was not.

The Pharisee was not condemned for keeping the fasts. He was not condemned for doing righteous good works. The publican was not praised for the life of sin that he had led. Rather, the Pharisee was condemned for judging another man, for using a measure in measuring that he was not capable of truly fulfilling himself. He was condemned because he was either unaware or did not care about the hidden sins that he had in his life, and how he truly was impure before God. He should have been in his demeanor just as the publican.

And the publican – why was he justified? He was justified because of his humility, but there is a very interesting aspect to his humility that we must know. He certainly did not judge another man, but he was well aware of his sin. There is something I see over and over again in our society and even in those who are Orthodox in our world as well, since we breathe poisoned air and hear poisoned ideas and we have some of that poison accumulate in us. I see this problem constantly. That is, that people, because of their sins, even though they know that they are wrong, and they want to do better, and have an inner conviction that something is wrong and unholy – instead of struggling against them, because they fail so often – they find a way to avoid being continually pricked by their conscience and being made aware of their sin.

This happens among profligate people. Why do you thing that people drink, or find themselves lost in promiscuity or other debauchery? This is to lose themselves from the reality of who they are and how far they are away from virtue. Everyone knows internally what virtue is – it is built into our hearts; it is built into our character. The Apostle Paul talks about it in Romans, and it is very evident that all men know what is right. But when he falls so far short of virtue he is afraid to really tackle the problem, as it is a very difficult one. So, in extreme cases, he falls away through debauchery, disbelief, falling into extremely wrong doctrines and ideologies and ways of life. And if we get into this state (and it is easy to fall into it: beware!) we deny and deny and deny the reality of who we are, and Who God is. Because generally someone must be blamed, and you can bet that we do not like to blame ourselves very often.

Another thing that people do when they are aware of their sins and wish to do better and continually fail – they fall into despondency. This is not so much where they blame someone else, or fall into impure activities without any heedfulness at all, but their despondency eats them alive. Truly, despondency kills more than any other sin.

Let us imagine now that the publican of today’s parable IS Zacchaeus. One of the fathers I read quite often, the Blessed Archbishop Andrei, draws this parallel and it is a striking one. Imagine the life of Zacchaeus before he was enlightened by Christ. He was the chief among the publicans. He was the biggest sinner. This meant that he had been guilty of murder and of defrauding widows and orphans. Howso murder? He may not have killed a man with his own hands, but he caused people to starve, widows and orphans with no money, who had no means to live, and they starved or became sick and died. Their murder was on his head. And of course, he was a thief, and a man in his situation, with so much abundance, would fall into every kind of sin. Certainly he had his pick of any wealthy courtesan he wanted, who feigned affection towards him because of his money, and he certainly ate the finest of foods, and drank great quantities of the finest of wines. There was much that he did that was wicked and abased. We can probably truly say, without being guilty of a sin, that we are not as bad as that!

What happened to this bad man? He was enlightened by God in a way that was wondrous and miraculous and totally outside of what he expected. Therefore, he in his zeal said, “I will restore fourfold to anyone I have defrauded, and I will give half of my goods to the poor”, and he had great warmth in his heart when he was in the presence of Christ, and he wanted to do better.

And then came tomorrow, the next day. He fell back into his bad habits. He still had avarice, and he still had lust, and he still had a desire for wine. He still had a weakness for all the things that he wished to get away from, so certainly he would have fallen, again and again and again. Look at the life of St Mary of Egypt. Can any one of us say we were as bad as she was? I don’t think so. Look what happened to her. When she realized how evil she had been and she desired to change, she went into the desert and for 18 years (if you read her story, you can see this) – EIGHTEEN YEARS! – she spent these years struggling with lustful imaginations and hearing songs that she used to hear when she was in drunken orgies, again and again in her head, and desiring to have flesh meats and wine which she used to drink in abundance. Eighteen years! So many of us, if we had to spend only a year struggling against lust and being unsuccessful – we would just throw in the towel, and go back across our Jordan, back to the former life we had been living, because we were not “cuttin” it. She spent 18 years doing this, till finally God removed from her this lust and this depravity which she had so carefully cultivated from the time she was a maiden. It took 18 years. Very few of us in this room have been Orthodox 18 years, much less struggled 18 years against our passions.

Why did she do such a thing, and why did the publican Zacchaeus (shall we say), struggle so, and go into the temple and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner?” Why didn’t he just give up? That’s the most likely thing to happen in this world: most people give up. The reason they give up is because they do not have salvific knowledge of Who God is and what He has done, and what He will do. I said this so many times – our life is spent in learning TWO pieces of knowledge that are critical to our salvation. And they must be done in parallel and a little bit at a time. Too much of one or two much of the other will cause our death. The pieces of knowledge are of ourselves and of God. As a man grows in knowledge of God he learns how great God is and he develops confidence, and he develops this overwhelming desire to become holy. As he grows in knowledge of himself he sees those areas in his life that are not in keeping with Who God is, and he desires to change them.

But if a man learns of himself outside of learning about God, you can see in our society what happens. You can see the depravity of people. You can see their angst and anguish over their life’s situation for it is outside of God. Many very poetic things are said by people in music or literature that are TRUE, but they do not give the solution; they only know (and this just partially) the problem! If they do not know the solution, they cannot gain salvation. And the solution is the God-man Jesus Christ, Who has enlightened us and come to all of us, unworthy ones. He came not to the worthy, but the unworthy. Not to the pure, but to the impure! And as we grow in knowledge of that, then we will become pure.

The problem with sin in Christians is not so much that they just want to do it and don’t care. The problem is that they don’t understand really truly Who God is. The knowledge of God cannot be learned from a book or listening to preaching or teaching – it is learned from within. All these things help – the services of the church, preaching in the context of the services, keeping the fasts. They are all essential, absolutely. I have said this before, and I suppose I should learn to stop saying it, since it scares some people, but I believe that if a man does not fast, and if he does not value the services, it is very unlikely that he will be saved. Not because of the sin of not fasting or of missing the services because of frivolous reasons or laziness, but because you won’t know God if you eschew these things, because this is how God reveals Himself to us. And if you don’t know Him, then when there is a sin that you have trouble with – it will devour you. You will have no chance against it whatsoever, because you will not know how to fight it.

This publican UNDERSTOOD God. He also knew himself. This man was guilty of murder, of theft, of lying, of cheating, of every kind of debauchery and sin, but he wanted to change. So he went to the temple knowing that he was unworthy, but at the same time knowing Who God is, and since he knew who God is, there was hope in his breast, and he knew that God could change him. That is why he came into the temple and that is why he did not think about anything else except his own sin, and that is why he looked at the ground and did not care about the virtues or the vices of anyone else. He was too consumed with his own pressing problem. And he was justified, because of his faith. Because he had faith in God – in a true Being, not in some phantom or fantasy. Because he was living according to Who God is. Was he failing? Was he still falling into lust, and even debauchery? Most probably. Did he still have the lust of avarice in his heart? Oh yes! It takes a long time to divulge yourself of your passions. It is a hard lesson to learn. When I became Orthodox I thought some things I had difficulty with… well, I would not have trouble with them any more. And even now I struggle against them.

But I know that God can save and God will save. That was his purpose for becoming incarnate, to save sinners, like me, and like you. And the only way to know this in your heart is to live according to it. Christian knowledge is not static. It is not words on a page; it is life. Salvation is to be had in living, in living according to God is.

This is what the publican did. He knew who God is, and he knew himself, and the thought of who he was sickened him and made him sad, but he still went to the temple even though he could not look up to heaven because he could not behold the brightness of God because of his impurity. Even though he was in fear and trembling, he had confidence in God’s mercy, because of making even a small effort. That is where you gain knowledge of God, brothers and sisters. That is where you gain confidence that you can be saved. It is by making an effort. I did not say – being successful in your effort – because if that was the criteria, then we all indeed should fall into deep despondency because none of us would be saved.

It is not how good we are at change by which God judges, but is us how good we are at making an effort to repent. And it is a miraculous thing – we will change, but we not see ourselves change. Things happen so quickly. Consider our children. One moment they are just laying in the crib and making incomprehensible noises, and the next moment, they are young adults and saying things that touch our souls in ways that we never knew that they could be touched. It happens overnight. That is how it happens with our souls. We think we are muddy and filthy and unclean, and we struggle and we think that we are making no progress whatsoever, but unknown to us, although sometimes known to those who love us, we make changes, and we come closer and closer to God. And there will be a day when we have sweet release from those things that beset us.

If I did not believe that, then I would have no reason to live – none whatsoever. And that is why so many people blow their heads off – they have no reason – no hope at all. If all that life is, is this life, then it is a cruel joke, and a cruel comedy. But we know we are Christians. We know that God lives in us, and even if we sin, God will hear our repentance and receive us time and time again. And if you are not sure of that fact than you have not learned enough of Who God is. And you had best study this very important subject – it is called Theology – to study God, to learn of God, the science of sciences. And the laboratory in which you learn is your own life! Live life in Christ. That is what this publican was doing. The Pharisee, although he had great knowledge, (but knowledge without humility just puffeth up), he did not have the feelings that we should often have, of feeling incredibly unworthy. He lived in an externally righteous way and thought himself righteous, but he was even more depraved than a man who visits a brothel every night, because he had not real fear of God in his eyes.

Do you see the contrast? Do you see what made the Pharisee fall away and what made the publican cleave to Christ? And why are we considering them now? Why is this reading today? Well, we are going to be speaking of the last judgment soon, and we will also consider another repentance – that of the prodigal son. These are hard subjects. The church is trying to prepare us so we can look inside ourselves and learn of ourselves and learn of God during the great fast, by struggling as much as we are able, and even BEYOND what we are able. In fact, the Christian life is continually living beyond what we are capable of. God said unto us, “be ye perfect for I am perfect.” And through the Apostle He says, “pray without ceasing,” and He says, “turn the other cheek” when someone smites us, and, “if our enemy has us go with him one mile, to go with him two.” He tells us impossible things – things that cannot be accomplished and yet they WILL be accomplished because He lives in us.

If you have any doubts whatsoever those doubts are because you are not living with enough effort, and if you make the effort – I tell you – that you will become absolutely sure that God lives in you and He will save even you, a sinner. You know your sins better than anyone else does, and if you have sensitivity, they hurt. They make us very sad, but despondency does not belong in a Christian’s character. And if is in your life, this just means that you have not learned enough of God. So you must study Him more. Study Him in keeping the fasts. Study Him in the services. Study him in pulling your mind back to prayer after it has wandered away into the ravine and onto the mountainsides. If you have one minute of prayer in a three-hour vigil service, then you have accomplished something great that day. It’s true.

God help us to be like this publican in his virtue. Yea, I say his virtue. It is a great virtue when a man knows himself and when he knows God. I tell you, when those two pieces of knowledge are in a man, he WILL be saved. Amen.

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Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee – Luke 18:10-14 – "Zacchaeus" is saved by his humility

Saturday, February 16th, 2008


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Thoughts on the Scriptures – 38th (33nd) Saturday after Pentecost

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord tells us a parable about the importance of continual, persistent prayer. We saw this same lesson in action in the few Sunday Gospels, when both the blind man and the woman of Canaan persistently cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” despite all manner of reproofs. Now, we hear the same lesson directly from the mouth of our Lord.

How are we to understand this parable? Are we to think of God as an unjust judge who hearkens unto us only because we trouble him? Certainly not – rather, our Lord is using an earthly example to teach us a lesson about God. We cannot understand God’s perspective, so we are presented with a human perspective. And truly, if even the unjust judge avenged the widow eventually, “shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” We may not understand God’s actions in our lives, and we may not be able to see the answers to our prayers because our eyes are clouded by sin – but we know by faith that God does hear our prayers, and that prayer itself unites us closer to him. For this reason, we must cling to prayer, praying persistently in season and out. St. James tells us, “Draw near unto God, and He will draw near unto you,” and instructs that we pray to God always – giving thanks and glory to him in good times, and beseeching his help in bad times. And we know that he will hear us.

Tomorrow’s Gospel reading, about the publican and the pharisee, will tell us more about prayer – it will show us how to pray. Remarkably, the first words in the Lenten Triodion – the book of hymns and prayers for Great Lent – are “brethren, let us not pray….” They go on, of course: “Brethren, let us not pray as the pharisee.” (We will sing these words at tonight’s Vigil Service.) In other words, let us not pray in a prideful manner, giving thanks for our supposed virtues, but let us rather emulate the humility of the publican, the blind man, and the Canaanite woman, crying out, “Lord, have mercy!”

Luke 18:2-8

2 There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

The Demon of Noonday and the Sixth Hour

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

The hours are 10 minute prayer services appointed by the Church for certain hours of the day. While most of us do not generally have time to pray these prayers regularly, they are a valuable resource for reflection and prayer.

The sixth hour is the prayer appointed for noontime. This is a time when many of us may be able to set aside five minutes for reflection, reading and prayer. It is also a time when we can be prone to despondency or depression, which the fathers call “the demon of noonday.” In the morning, we may have awoken with high hopes for the day. Reading our morning prayers, we gave glory to God for a new day and asked to be guided on the path of his commandments. But since then we have been exposed to numerous temptations, and are probably conscious of a number of sins. The prayers of the sixth hour reflect this struggle, and they also remind us that the answer, the solution, is to hope in God. In the words of Psalm 90, “thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Nor for the thing that walketh in darkness, nor for the mishap and demon of noonday.”

We also read the sixth hour in church just before the Divine Liturgy every Sunday. We also read the third hour (the church’s mid-morning prayer) at that time.

I’ve included below several of the prayers of the sixth hour, any of which could be an excellent resource for us in the middle of a difficult day.

Psalm 54

Give ear, O God, unto my prayer, and disdain not my supplication; attend unto me, and hear me. I was grieved in my meditation, and I was troubled at the voice of the enemy and at the oppression of the sinner; Because they have turned iniquity upon me, and with wrath were they angry against me. My heart is troubled within me, and the terror of death is fallen upon me. Fear and trembling are come upon me, and darkness hath covered me. And I said: Who will give me wings like a dove? And I will fly, and be at rest. Lo, I have fled afar off and have dwelt in the wilderness. I waited for God that saveth me from faintheartedness and from tempest. Plunge them into the depths, O Lord, and divide their tongues, for I have seen iniquity and gainsaying in the city. Day and night they go round about her upon her walls; iniquity and toil and unrighteousness are in the midst of her. And usury and deceit have not departed from her streets. For if mine enemy had reviled me, I might have endured it. And if he that hateth me had spoken boastful words against me, I might have hid myself from him. But thou it was, O man of like soul with me, my guide and my familiar friend, Thou who together with me didst sweeten my repasts; in the house of God I walked with thee in oneness of mind. Let death come upon such ones, and let them go down alive into hades. For wickedness is in their dwellings, and in the midst of them. As for me, unto God have I cried, and the Lord hearkened unto me. Evening, morning, and noonday will I tell of it and will declare it, and He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from them that draw nigh unto me, for they among many were with me. God will hear, and He will humble them, He that is before the ages. For to them there is no requital, because they have not feared God; He hath stretched forth His hand in retribution. They have defiled His covenant; they were scattered by the wrath of His countenance, and their hearts have convened. Their words were smoother than oil, and yet they are darts. Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He will nourish thee; He will never permit the righteous to be shaken. But Thou, O God, shalt bring those men down into the pit of destruction. Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but as for me, O Lord, I will hope in Thee.

Psalm 90

He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say unto the Lord: Thou art my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I will hope in Him. For He shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters and from every troubling word. With His shoulders shall He overshadow thee, and under His wings shalt thou have hope. With a shield will His truth encompass thee; thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Nor for the thing that walketh in darkness, nor for the mishap and demon of noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousands at thy right hand, but unto thee shall it not come nigh. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and thou shalt see the reward of sinners. For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; No evils shall come nigh unto thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. For he hath set his hope on Me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known my name. He shall cry unto me, and I will hearken unto him. I am with him in affliction, and I will rescue him and glorify him. With length of days will I satisfy him, and I will show him My salvation.

Seeing that we have no boldness on account of our many sins, do thou beseech Him that was born of thee, O Virgin Theotokos for the supplication of a mother availeth much to win the Master’s favor. Disdain not the prayers of sinners, O all-pure one, for merciful and mighty to save is He Who deigned also to suffer for our sake.

Let Thy compassions quickly go before us, O Lord, for we are become exceedingly poor. Help us, O God our Savior, for the sake of the glory of Thy name. O Lord, deliver us and be gracious unto our sins for Thy name’s sake.

Prayer of the 6th Hour, by St. Basil the Great

O God and Lord of Hosts, and Maker of all Creation, Who by the tender compassion of Thy mercy which transcendeth comprehension, didst send down Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of our race, and by His precious Cross didst tear asunder the handwriting of our sins, and thereby didst triumph over the principalities and powers of darkness: Do Thou Thyself, O Master, Lover of mankind, accept also from us sinners these prayers of thanksgiving and entreaty, and deliver us from every destructive and dark transgression, and from all enemies, both visible and invisible, that seek to do us evil. Nail down our flesh with the fear of Thee, and incline not our hearts unto words or thoughts of evil, but pierce our souls with longing for Thee, so that ever looking to Thee, and being guided by Thy Light as we behold Thee, the unapproachable and everlasting Light, we may send up unceasing praise and thanksgiving unto Thee, the Unoriginate Father, with Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thine All-holy and good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The entire text can be found here:

St John Cassian talks about the demon of noonday:

see also While we are not a desert dweller, many of us know this demon too well.

Meeting of the Lord

Friday, February 15th, 2008

We have just finished the Vigil Service for the Meeting of the Lord. This is an event in our Lord’s life that should truly inspire our awe and wonder. The following selections from the service say more than any of my own words could:

O Thou Who didst hallow the Virgin’s womb by Thy birth and didst bless the hands of Symeon as was meet, by anticipation Thou hast even now saved us, O Christ God. But in the midst of battle grant peace to Thy community, and strengthen the Orthodox Christians whom Thou hast loved, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind.

Let the gates of heaven be opened today; for the unoriginate Word of the Father, receiving a beginning under time, without abandoning His divinity, is of His own will borne by His Virgin Mother into the temple of the law as a babe forty days old. And Symeon taketh Him in his arms, crying: “Let Thy servant depart, O Master, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation! O Lord Who hast come into the world to save the human race, glory be to Thee!”

He Who loveth mankind, fulfilling the law of the Scriptures, is now borne into the temple; and the elder Symeon receiveth Him in his arms, crying: “Now Thou lettest me depart to Thy blessedness, for today I have seen clad in mortal flesh Him Who hath dominion over life and mastery over death!”

Without being separated from the bosom of the Father in Thy divinity, incarnate, as Thou didst so will, Thou wast held in the embrace of the Ever-virgin, and wast given into the arms of Symeon the God-receiver, O Thou Who holdest all things in Thy hands. Wherefore, he cried aloud with joy: “Now Thou lettest me, Thy servant, depart in peace, for I have seen Thee, O Master!”

Divine Liturgy will be at 8am tomorrow!

Redeeming the Time – February 2008

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Redeeming the Time

St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas TX

Rector: Priest Seraphim Holland 972-529-2754 cell:972 658-5433

St Nicholas Web Site:

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

February 2008

A Word from the rector

Brothers and sisters:

I am pleased with the response to our Wednesday liturgies and Tuesday evening Vespers and catechetical talks. Let me share with you some more thoughts about our prayer services, because they are at the core of who we are and what we will become.

Christianity is all about “becoming”. Salvation is the untouchable being touched, the invisible being seen, the incomprehensible being comprehended, the impossible being accomplished. But we are straw, and will burn when we touch the fire, and our eyes are too weak to see God, our minds too dull to understand him, and we are so full of infirmities that we can barely do one good thing an hour and yet we are called to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

What to do? Pray! Pray in our closets, pray together, support one another in public and private prayer, talk about prayer, aid one another in our daily lives so we are more able to pray. Without prayer, we as a parish will accomplish nothing, and no person can advance in the spiritual life without fervent prayer.

Our problem, our shared human condition, is that we, individually and collectively are weak, ineffectual and inconsistent at prayer. The very thing we need the most we barely know how to do!

Here is where our faith must drive us. Let us be like Nathanael , and “come and see” what the fruits of prayer will be for our community, and ourselves.

We have many needs as a community. Our income is low (and increasing a little since our last journal, by the grace of God and your attention), we have a thousand obstacles to building our new temple, we do not yet have the “critical mass’ necessary for our community to have a continuing legacy for ourselves and or children’s children. We all have our own personal struggles, and we get tired.

I see only one solution to my personal struggles, and yours, and those of our community. It is prayer and the more effectual living of the spiritual life. I cannot figure out almost any of this on my own, and neither can you. We are all too weak apart from one-another, but together, we gather strength.

Do you believe this? I do, and that is why I have instituted Wednesday liturgies.

We cannot fathom the grace that God gives to those who beseech His mercy as one. At the Wednesday liturgies, I mention by name all those in the parish three times. Twice all names are mentioned aloud in the Fervent Ectenia right after the Gospel is read, and I read all names before the altar immediately after the Epiclesis.

I count it a great privilege to pray for all of you before the altar, and in my daily private prayers also. I believe with all my heart that at those moments when I pray for others, I am closest to God, and my soul is warmed and strengthened for the struggle. It is the same with all of you. Don’t you agree that when we pray for another person we are acting without the self-interest that so plagues us in our daily lives in almost every other act during the day? Our prayers for one another help those we pray for and ourselves in invisible, mystical ways.

I beg each one of you to increase your participation in our parish life in any way you can. Some ideas:

  • Select 1 Wednesday liturgy a month to attend faithfully, and pray with us.

  • Attend the Tuesday Vespers and catechetical talks.

  • Confess more often, and receive communion more often.

  • Come to the Saturday Vigil more often, or start coming if you are not in the habit.

  • Print off our parish diptychs, which I previously sent. Pray for portion of the names daily, simple saying “Lord have mercy on ____”

  • ESPECIALLY! Come to church on time. It is disruptive to have people filter in, even after the Gospel has been read. I will be perfectly honest with you – it discourages greatly me to see our church less than half full as Divine Liturgy begins, with the other half arriving sometime before the end of liturgy. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

Lent is soon approaching. Please see the schedule; there are lots of services. I will be sending some things about fasting and the Lenten services on the BLOG and mailing list soon.

PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND THE FORGIVENESS VESPERS. This service marks our entry into Great Lent. As a community, we must ask forgiveness of one another and stand in solidarity in prayer before the great fast begins. Forgiveness Sunday is Feb 25/Mar 09. After liturgy, we will enjoy blini, then gather for Vespers at 1 PM.

We will have a moleben and erect a cross on the Land on the Sunday of the Precious Cross (third Sunday in Great Lent). We will go to the land after Trapeza.

May God bless you and help you in all things.

Priest Seraphim, who prays for you and needs your prayers.

Name Days this month

We are not aware of any name days this month. If we have missed you, let us know!


Already three weeks before Great Lent begins, a call to repentance sounds, both in the Sunday Gospel readings and in the texts of the Divine Services. We encounter the examples of Zacchaeus and the publican, men who came to recognize the utter baseness of their lives. We hear of the father who joyously forgives and receives the prodigal son, returned from a distant land to his father’s home. During these days, in the church we hear the prayer which begins with the words “Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life…” What are these doors? Why, in the sermon which begins with the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…” (Matthew 4:17), does Christ specifically choose to begin with a call to repentance?

The Greek word metanoia, rendered in Church Slavonic and Russian as pokayanie and in English as “repentance,” literally means “change of mind.” Its sense lies in the fact that our mind and our will move along a faithless, ruinous path toward a false goal, and that we should change their direction and move along the correct, saving path.

No less profound are the Russian words pokayanie or raskayanie. Like the word okayanstvo [being cursed], these concepts are linked to the name of the murderer Cain, of whom we read near the beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. Not only did he, like his parents Adam and Eve, disobey the will of God and violate His injunction, but he fell even farther, defiling both his conscience and the earth itself by shedding the blood of his brother Abel. Thus, repentance, pokayanie, means one’s personal rejection of the example of Cain, one’s removal of the mark of Cain from one’s heart.

Repentance begins with a clear recognition of the chasm which we, of our own will, have established between our conscience and the perfect radiant truth of God. Until we have come to that recognition, it is possible to utterly fail to recognize our sinfulness, and to be completely imprisoned by it. In this state, man’s soul is as if wrapped in a deep sleep, like unto death; if the soul does not awaken from this bondage, it becomes actual spiritual death. In his pagan blindness, and not wanting to recognize sin in himself, man hates even the very idea of sin and, when he hears the term, is filled with irritation. There is no escape, however, from the evil and untruth which lie within us. We can force ourselves to forget them for a time, but sooner or later our conscience reminds us of them, and the unhealed wound of the spirit leads to new, ever-heavier forms of spiritual illness.

Healing begins when within our darkened soul there begins to burn a light, a light through which man both simultaneously sees himself before the judgment of God’s truth and feels the mercy of God directed to all of us. God sees us through our conscience and bears witness to Himself through the voice of our conscience. The Apostle Paul states that this enormous gift, this capacity to hear the voice of the conscience, is given to each person, not only to the Christian, but also to the pagans. When man ceases to be complacent, that complacency is replaced with shame, embarrassment, and even fear at what has been revealed to him about himself. All experienced teachers of spiritual life talk about this first step as a dangerous one, the hour before the dawn. In it a person may encounter feelings of deep despair, loss of faith in man’s capacity to correct himself and become different from what he had been. Awareness of one’s own sin, without acting upon that awareness, is not yet repentance. In His call to repentance, Christ also indicates the goal to which we are called, and because of which we have been called to move forward, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In the Gospel according to Mark, we find this same call, expressed in different terms: “Repent and believe on the Gospel.”

Man can truly repent, change, and receive liberation from the burden of sin, if he hears the Word of God, and sees before him the image of incarnate truth and perfect love which was revealed to us in Christ. One cannot help but love that image. It proclaims to the soul of men that will to rebirth which is the true repentance, liberation from the mark of Cain. That is the emanation of the glorious energy of the soul for which no obstacle is insurmountable. Archpriest Victor Potapov. February, 2000.

Gleanings for the Fathers on Repentance

Someone asked Abba Poemen to explain what repentance means exactly? “Not to commit the same sin again in the future,” the Elder replied. Sayings of the Desert Fathers

It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again’ (Prov. 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. ‘For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient,’says St. Paul, ‘…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us’ (Tit. 3:3,5). St. Peter of Damaskos.

…it is impossible for a man to be freed from the habit of sin before he hates it, just as it is impossible to receive forgiveness before confessing his trespasses… Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 28, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 199)

Repentance signifies regret, change of mind. The distinguishing marks of repentance are contrition, tears, aversion towards sin, and love of the good. “Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina”, Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts., 1981., pp. 154-187

One must condescend to the soul in its infirmities and imperfections, and bear its defects as we bear those of others; one must not, however, become lazy, but should spur oneself to do better. Perhaps one has eaten too much, or done something similar to this which is natural to human weakness – do not be disturbed at this, and do not add injury to injury; but bestir yourself to correction and at the same time strive to preserve peace of soul, according to the word of the Apostle: ‘Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth’ (Rom. 14:22). St. Seraphim of Sarov, Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 1

Regular Announcements

  • Fr. Seraphim asks that 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. Keep an eye on the BLOG, because many of these readings are discussed there. In addition, you can find the readings each day at these web sites:

  • 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 $95,790. This is insufficient to pay for our land and building, but our goals are in reach if we put our trust in the Lord and give generously. To make a contribution, make out a check to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, and write in the memo line, “Building Fund.”

Audio talk on: Prayers of the church, O Come Let Us Worship

Thursday, February 14th, 2008


O come let us worship God our King.

O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God.

O come, let us worship and fall down before the very Christ, our King and our God.

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Audio talk on: Prayers of the church, Vigil,`Glory To The Holy, And Consubstantial, And Life Creating Trinity

Thursday, February 14th, 2008


“Glory to the Holy and Consubstantial, and Life-creating, and Indivisible Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages”

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Lenten prayer of Nersess the Gracious

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The following is a wonderful, richly domatic and edifying prayer. Although it is called a “Lenten prayer”, it may be said anytime on one’s private prayers.

1. I confess with faith and adore , Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, uncreated and immortal essence, creator of angels, of humans, and of all that exists. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

2. I confess with faith and adore Thee, O Light indivisible, consubstantial Holy Trinity and one Godhead, creator of light and dispeller of darkness. Dispel from my soul the darkness of sin and ignorance, and at this hour enlighten my mind, that I may pray to Thee according to Thy will, and receive from Thee the fulfillment of my supplications. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

3. Heavenly Father, true God, who sent Thy beloved Son to seek the wandering sheep, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; receive me like the Prodigal Son, and clothe me with the garment of innocence, of which I was deprived by sin. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

4. Son of God, true God, who descended from the bosom of the Father, and took flesh of the Holy Virgin Mary for our salvation, who was crucified and buried, and rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee; remember me like the robber, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

5. Spirit of God, true God, who descended into the Jordan and into the upper chamber, and who enlightened me by baptism in the holy font, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee; cleanse me with Thy divine fire as Thou didst purify the holy Apostles with fiery tongues. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

6. Uncreated Essence, I have sinned against Thee in mind, soul and body; do not remember my former sins for the sake of Thy Holy name. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

7. Beholder of all, I have sinned against Thee, in thought, word and deed; erase the record of my offences, and write my name in the Book of Life. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

8. Searcher of secrets, I have sinned against Thee willingly and unwillingly, knowingly and unknowingly, grant me —a great sinner— forgiveness, for since I was born of the holy font until this day I have sinned before Thee, by my senses, and by all the members of my body. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

9. All provident Lord, place Thy holy fear as a guard before my eyes so they may not look lustfully; before my ears so that they may not delight in hearing evil words; before my mouth so that it may not speak any falsehoods; before my heart so that it may not think evil; before my hands so that they may not do injustice; before my feet, that they may not walk in the paths of injustice; but so direct them, that they may always be according to all Thy commandments. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

10. Christ, who are the Living Fire, inflame my soul with the fire of Thy love, which Thou didst send forth upon the earth, that it may burn the stains of my soul, sanctify my conscience, purge the sins of my body, and kindle in my heart the light of Thy knowledge. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

11. Jesus, wisdom of the Father, grant me wisdom, that I may always think, speak, and do that which is good in Thy sight; save me from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

12. Lord, who wills that which is good, and are the director of the will, let me not follow the inclinations of my heart, but lead me to live always according to Thy good will. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

13. Heavenly King, grant me Thy kingdom, which Thou hast promised to Thy beloved; strengthen my heart to hate sin, and to love Thee alone, and to do Thy will. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

14. Protector of Thy creatures, by the sign of Thy cross keep my soul and body from the allurements of sin, from the temptations of the devil and unjust people, and from all perils of soul and body. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

15. Christ, the guardian of all, let Thy Right Hand guard and shelter me by day and by night, while at home and while away, while sleeping and while awake, that I may never fall. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

16. my God, who opens Thy hand and fills all things living with Thy bounty, to Thee I commit my soul; do care for me and provide for the needs of my body and soul forever. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

17. Thou who didst bring back the wanderers, turn me from my evil ways to good ones and imprint upon my soul the recollection of the dreadful day of death, the fear of hell and the love of Thy Kingdom that I may repent of my sins and do righteousness. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

18. Fountain of immortality, make the tears of repentance flow from my heart, like those of the adulteress, that I may wash away the sins of my soul before I depart from this world. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

19. Bestower of mercy, grant that I may come to Thee with true faith, with good works and by the communion of Thy Holy Body and Blood. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

20. Beneficent Lord, commit me to a good angel, that I may deliver up my spirit in peace; convey it undisturbed by the malice of evil spirits that are under the heavens. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

21. Christ, True Light, make my soul worthy to behold with joy the light of Thy glory, in that day when Thou callest me and to rest in the hope of good things in the mansions of the just until the day of Thy glorious coming. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

22. Righteous Judge, when Thou comest in the glory of the Father to judge the living and the dead, enter not into judgement with Thy servant, but deliver me from the eternal fire, and make me worthy to hear the blissful call of the just to Thy heavenly kingdom. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

23. All-merciful Lord, have mercy upon all Thy faithful, on those who are mine and on those who are strangers; on those whom I know and on those whom I know not; on the living and on the dead; and forgive all my enemies, and those who hate me, the trespasses that they have committed against me; turn them from the malice which they bear towards me, that they may be worthy of Thy mercy. Have mercy upon Thy Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

24. Glorified Lord, accept the supplications of Thy servant, and graciously fulfill my petitions, through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, John the Baptist, the first martyr St. Stephen, St. Gregory our Illuminator, the Holy Apostles, Prophets, Divines, Martyrs, Patriarchs, Hermits, Virgins and all Thy saints in Heaven and on Earth. And unto Thee, O indivisible Holy Trinity, be glory and worship forever and ever. Amen.

Nersess the Gracious (1100-1173) is revered by the Armenian Orthodox Church as a saint.

This prayer was taken from a post on a discussion list: 01-03-2007, 07:46 PM
( It may also be found at

This is an extremely edifying and richly dogmatic prayer, suitable for all Orthodox Christians. The publication of this prayer on this website does not constitute any acknowledgment or denial of the sanctity of “Nersess the Gracious”.

of-nersess-the-gracious-a-lenten-prayer.rtf, at