Archive for January, 2009

Children’s liturgies

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I normally do not post something that is "parish specific" on this blog because I want it to be a resource for everyone. The following is slightly modified from a post to our parish mailing list (anyone can join). I thought I would post in the hope of getting constructive comments, help and resources.


A little background.

We have several children under 5, and a few pre-teens that may be able to come to these liturgies.

<2  1 girl

2-3 5 girls, 1 boy

4-5 1 girl

4th-4th grade age – 1 girl.

I hope I did not miss any!


Dear Brothers and sisters:


This Thursday will be the 1st of, God willing, many Thursday liturgies for and with the children. I have high hopes for them, and for our young ones, whom we will be "training in the way they should go" by our example and teachings. I want at least one a month, and suggest two: the 1st and 3rd Thursdays.


I wish to discuss these liturgies with you, and perhaps we can toss around some ideas.


1. Schedule for this Thursday.

+ 9 AM liturgy (short and snappy)

+about 10 AM – breakfast

+during breakfast, spiritual discussion with everyone. I think I will talk about the sign of the cross. I anticipate this being short, and interactive. I am better with older children (so I think) so I will take cues from you the parents. I hope all of us can contribute to this discussion.

+after breakfast I want to read a part of a wonderful book about St Seraphim (or paraphrase, or talk about) with the children.

I anticipate wrapping up by 11.


2. Topics

These depend on the ages of the children (we may have 2 or more distinct groups), my organizational skills and your input. I anticipate them being somewhat tied to the church year. I want to have some physical stuff – how to make a prostration, what to do when entering the church, singing, etc. I will need a lot of help with the younger children, since I think I run the risk of getting too "deep" for them.


3. Plays.

I think short plays that we make up would be very good. We could even do it this Thursday. This is my namesday, and we could make a play about St Seraphim and the bear "Misha" (now just who might be the bear? 🙂 ). We could present these little short plays at church on Sunday. The kids will get the attention they crave (like all of us, really), and get it doing something holy. This is great for their development.


4. My namesday.

I think it is good for the children to identify closely with the priest as "their priest", and know him well. Making a cake and "surprising" me would be fun for them. In general, I think we should make a bigger deal about namesdays, with a cake or something simple. We could do this on every Thursday that has a namesday near. I think it would be awesome to sing the troparion, and maybe something else. The more children are involved, the better.


5. Participation of the children.

I think even the little ones can participate. We need to organize this a little. We could have the older ones sing the troparia, and direct the younger ones to sing "Lord have mercy". The older ones could read the Epistle. Musical literacy is a great gift to have. We have talented musicians among us, who also happen to be moms and good with kids. We can do something Thursday, or just talk about it.


6. Homeschool.

Many of you homeschool. I want the church to be an important resource for this, and hope that our Thursdays will grow into an organized cooperative where we have religious and other teaching. I think choir is very important, and bible study. We have many talents, and could pool them. The kids would have a peer group to identify with, who do not think that celebrating Nativity in January or fasting is weird. Marina has taught Anatomy and Physiology. I can teach math. We could have Russian language instruction. I do not know where this will go, but I very much want it to go somewhere.


7. Expectations.

I have no personal expectations for anyone, except the fervent hope that those who can will attend the liturgies. The amount of involvement is up to you and your personal inclinations, time and resources. I am thinking out loud here, and do not want anyone to be scared off because they think they cannot make a commitment they think I am asking them to make. We will see where this goes.


8. Homeschool resources.

For those who homeschool, I would like to see our resources, knowledge and experiences pooled in some way. Maybe we should have a mailing list, web page of links, resources, curriculum, etc. I am not saying this needs to be a huge big deal. Anybody have any ideas?


9. All Thursday liturgies are for the parish.

I commemorate all the parish members in the Great Ectenia at all Thursday liturgies. This is very important. I have stated many times that it is the single most important change in our parish life in the last year. The "children’s liturgies" will not be "children only" liturgies!


Any comments? Is anybody excited?


By faith… / ?????…

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. … 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6).


“ 1???? ?? ???? ????????????? ?????????? ? ??????????? ? ?????????. 2? ??? ????????????????? ???????. 3????? ???????, ??? ???? ???????? ?????? ??????, ??? ??? ?? ?????????? ????????? ???????. … 6? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ??????????; ??? ???????, ????? ?????????? ? ???? ???????, ??? ?? ????, ? ?????? ??? ???????.” (? ?????? 11:1-3,6)


            “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” Dear brothers and sisters, let us not pass over these words too casually! This is the crux of the matter: do we really believe that God exists? Do we believe that he watches over every moment of our lives, that each and every moment we are in his presence, that each of our actions brings us either closer to him or further from him? Do we believe that he made the world, and that ultimately the world cannot hurt us if he is our protector? Do we believe this firmly enough to choose to do his will in every situation, even when this seems foolish from a wordly perspective? If not, let us meditate on the examples the Apostle sets before us: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua (among many others), who by their firm faith in God’s providence “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:33-34).

            If you don’t know these stories, they can be found in the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Joshua. For a shorter version of these and many other old testament stories, you can also look in The Law of God (???????)


Today’s Reading:


 “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:17-31)


“17????? ??????, ?????? ????????, ?????? ? ?????? ?????? ?, ???? ??????????, ?????? ????????????, 18? ??????? ???? ???????: ? ?????? ????????? ???? ????. 19??? ?? ?????, ??? ??? ????? ? ?? ??????? ??????????, ?????? ? ??????? ??? ? ????????????????. 20????? ? ??????? ????? ??????????? ?????? ? ?????. 21????? ?????, ??????, ??????????? ??????? ???? ???????? ? ?????????? ?? ???? ????? ??????. 22????? ?????, ??? ???????, ????????? ?? ?????? ????? ?????????? ? ??????? ? ?????? ?????. 23????? ?????? ?? ???????? ??? ?????? ???????? ??? ?????????? ??????, ??? ?????? ???, ??? ???? ?????????, ? ?? ??????????? ???????? ?????????. 24????? ??????, ????? ? ???????, ????????? ?????????? ????? ?????? ??????????, 25? ????? ??????? ???????? ? ??????? ??????, ?????? ????? ????????? ????????? ???????????, 26? ????????? ???????? ????? ??????? ??? ???? ??????????, ?????? ?????????? ?????????; ??? ?? ?????? ?? ?????????. 27????? ??????? ?? ??????, ?? ????????? ????? ????????, ??? ??, ??? ?? ???? ??????????, ??? ?????. 28????? ???????? ?? ????? ? ???????? ?????, ???? ??????????? ????????? ?? ???????? ??. 29????? ??????? ??? ??????? ????, ??? ?? ????, –?? ??? ???????????, ???????? ????????. 30????? ???? ????? ???????????, ?? ??????????? ??????????. 31????? ???? ????????, ? ????? ?????? ??????????? (? ???????? ?? ?????? ?????), ?? ??????? ? ?????????.” (? ?????? 11:17-31)

Sunday after Nativity 2009. Things are not as they seem!

Sunday, January 11th, 2009


Matthew 2:13-23 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

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Let us then make our soul a Heaven

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Let us then make our soul a Heaven. The heaven is naturally bright; for not even in a storm does it become black, for it does not itself change its appearance, but the clouds run together and cover it. Heaven has the Sun; we also have the Sun of Righteousness. I said it is possible to become a Heaven; and I see that it is possible to become even better than Heaven. How? When we have the Lord of the Sun. Heaven is throughout pure and without spot; it changes not either in a storm or in the night. Neither let us then be so influenced either by tribulations or by “the wiles of the devil” ( Eph. vi. 11 ), but let us continue spotless and pure. Heaven is high and far from the earth. Let us also effect this [as regards ourselves]; let us withdraw ourselves from the earth, and exalt ourselves to that height, and remove ourselves far from the earth. Heaven is higher than the rains and the storms, and is reached by none of them. This we also can do, if we will.


It does appear to be, but is not really so affected. Neither then let us be affected, even if we appear to be so. For as in a storm, most men know not the beauty of [heaven,] but think that it is changed, while philosophers know that it is not affected at all, so with regard to ourselves also in afflictions; most men think that we are changed with them, and that affliction has touched our very heart, but philosophers know that it has not touched us.


Let us then become heaven, let us mount up to that height, and so we shall see men differing nothing from ants. I do not speak of the poor only, nor the many, but even if there be a general there, even if the emperor be there, we shall not distinguish the emperor, nor the private person. We shall not know what is gold, or what is silver, or what is silken or purple raiment: we shall see all things as if they were flies, if we be seated in that height. There is no tumult there, no disturbance, nor clamor.


Saint John Chrysostom: Homily XVI, on Hebrews ix. 15–18


I wanted to share with you part of the text I read today related to today’s epistle readings. St John always applies the scripture to our moral lives, because, as you may have heard before, IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT MORALITY.


Here, he gives us a revolutionary perspective. Let us be a heaven! This is thouroughly scriptural and Orthodox, and is one of the most unique features of our faith related to others who also believe in Christ. We really believe we can become a heaven. One can call this "theosis"; it is the same thing.


I am very much in favor of  utilizing the scriptures and writings of the fathers as a sort of "mnemonic device". Certain concepts and turns of phrase affect me more deeply than others; I am sure this is true with you too.


St John brilliantly asks us to consider our perspective if we were in "heaven", which we think of as high above the earth. What an idea! How insignificant everything looks when we are high above the earth! We cannot see the rich or poor, or anything which seems so important to us when we are on the earth.


All of the Christian life is fought, and won or lost, with the mind, and thought. As we think, so we are. The reason why we value those things which have no value is because of how we think about them. How different we would view material things, and petty arguments and annoyances if we viewed them from heaven.



Sun before Nativity 2009. The Geneology of Christ.

Sunday, January 4th, 2009


Matthew 1:1-25 1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

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New Year’s Resolutions.

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Warning, this post may ramble a little bit


It seems to be an American custom to have resolutions at the New Year: I will lose weight, I will quit smoking, I will exercise “more”, etc. Most of the time these are all good things to try to do, and may even be within the realm of possibility of accomplishment.


I, being a stubborn and a little bit odd person who always seems to be different than everyone else in so many things in life, have never placed much stock in New Year’s resolutions. From the time I was a young boy, I hated temporary things. My heart always told me that it was not supposed to be this way. Resolutions always had a temporary, ephemeral feel to them. The weight loss plan would end by the end of January, exercise habits would not change for very long, and life would go on. This never seemed right to me. I wanted everything I did to be eternal and permanent. The very acts of making resolutions every year just underscored that we are in an impermanent and fallen world, of which I was fully a part, an unwilling and willing participant.


In college, I pursued a path to take me to medical school, in order to become a surgeon. I knew Dr Christian Bernard had some limited success in transplanting hearts, and I thought that if I became a heart surgeon, I could do something good – help a person to live instead of die. However, if I were to extend a man’s life a few years, then he would die. In less than a hundred years, all those who loved him would be dead. In five hundred years, perhaps nobody would even remember that he had lived. This realization was heavy on my soul, causing a great existential sadness.


When, by the grace of God, I found the church, my soul felt the possibility of permanence for the first time. As part of the church, I learned that EVERYTHING I would do should be, and can be, permanent. Good deeds would be forgotten, those I helped would suffer from something else later, and would die, but in some tangible way, everything I would do in the name of Christ would be permanent. It is not the actions that are permanent. The results are not permanent. I learned that what I become is permanent, and if, I had the privilege of helping, enlightening, cajoling, praying for, rebuking, encouraging – anyone else in such a way that they became something permanent, I would be literally being part of the economy of God. I would be, so to say, “speaking” His words, which would never pass away.


This revelation and revolution in my soul has always been a great comfort to me. It has guided everything I have done that is good. It is the reason I became a priest. It has been a distinct privilege to attempt to educate, encourage and help people to learn of, desire, and do those things which really matter – which are permanent.


I have always felt, however, the intense impermanence of my flesh, my tendency towards doing things and expending energy on things that will not last. As I have gotten older, I have become slightly more efficient, and I daresay more that I do today is permanent compared to how I was as a young energetic (and entropic) man in his twenties. I have learned that the major source of impermanence in the world, for me, is precisely me.


It is not what we do that is permanent; it is how we “do” that makes us become permanent. I think this is well expressed by our Lord’s promise:   


“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41), “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Mat 10:42)


It is a daunting task to do everything, for every “little one”, in the name of the Lord. How can this be accomplished? There is only one way, and let this be our only abiding and continual resolution, to, in the words of St Herman:


Let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!" (



I wish to tell my flock that this is all that I want for you, this is the reason I do everything as a pastor for you. If in any way, any one of you loves God and strives to do His holy will, and my poor ministrations have played some small role in helping you attain this state, then at least that part of my life will not have been lived in vain.