Archive for September, 2009

Deliver my soul from a lying tongue.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This link is a short audio reflection on two verses in the "songs of Ascent" for Matins on Sunday, Tone 5.

"When I am filled with sorrow, I sing unto Thee like David, O my Saviour: Deliver my soul from a lying tongue"

"Let Thy right hand, which toucheth me, O Christ, preserve me from all deception"


The first verse recalls the Psalm verse: "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unjust lips, and from a deceitful tongue." (Psa 120:2 Brenton)


There is an important double meaning here that is very useful to understand.


My pastoral prayer for all my flock is that they wold understand this, and seek out ways to be free from their internal "lying tongue".









Parable Of The Wedding Feast. 14th Sunday. 2009. Audio Homily.

Sunday, September 13th, 2009


Matthew 22:1-14 1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

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A unified Russian Church is a great Spiritual Force

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia


Aug 30 / Sep 12 2009 14th Saturday after Pentecost


Metropolitan HILARION, Eastern America and New York Diocese,
FIRST HIERARCH of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.The following are excerpts from the recent interview our Metropolitan gave. The entire interview is fascinating and important, and I recommend that the reader go to the end of this post for links to it in Russian and English.


A few comments first. I thank God for our bishops and particularly, for Metropolitan Hilarion. He is a true monk, and a humble man. I trust him. He does not speak out publicly extremely often, but when he does so, he speaks with sobriety and charity.


We need more of this in all bishops. There is a huge breakdown of trust of the people for many of their bishops in America, and rightfully so. There are some good ones, but many have shown themselves to be indifferent, unreliable, capricious, cruel and unspiritual. There are very few who live as monastics. Many are “bachelors” who eat meat and do not inspire by the way they live, worship and speak.


We in ROCOR have many difficulties, caused no doubt by our own sins, but mistrust of our bishops is and scandal in our church is not one of them. There is no price or value that be ascribed to this.


Again, the entire interview is fantastic. These excerpts are particularly relevant to us living in the Americas.



The Editors-in-Chief of the magazine Tribuna russkoj mysli [Tribune of Russian Thought], Alexander Bondarev, and of the information agency Russkaja linija [Russian Line], Anataly Stepanov, interviewed His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.



– Vladyka, over two years have passed since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion. As we know, the process of reunification was complicated. A whole series of parishes of the Russian Church Abroad departed, refusing to accept this Act. Of course, you often travel throughout the parishes and dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. What has changed over this time? Are there any positive tendencies towards healing this schism, is their hope that those who fled will return? 

– In some parishes they are noticing that those who had left are gradually coming back.

True, these are generally not clergymen—it is more difficult for them to return—but the parishioners. They saw that no radical changes occurred in the Church, except for the joy stemming from the sense that we are a part of the great Russian Orthodox Church. I think that we must have a loving and understanding attitude towards those who left. They did not leave because they disagreed with Orthodox teaching, but because they had an erroneous concept of the danger of reconciliation today. They say that they are not opposed to, but in fact support, the unity of the Russian Church, but they have little trust right now. That is why I think we must treat them with patience and without condemnation. Of course, we must have canonical order. Maybe some left for personal reasons. But most of the people who left were simply confused. Especially the laypersons who for decades held certain beliefs, and the process of reconciliation happened fairly quickly, and so many were not prepared. But I would like to note that the number of people who left is not that significant. Of course, for the Church, every soul is a treasure, that is why we pray that the Lord grant them wisdom, that He give them the understanding that a unified Russian Church is a powerful spiritual force, that being together benefits us all. This work pleases God.   

– Vladyka, we know that you exert a great deal of effort towards returning those who left. You often meet with them, spend time with them. In your experience, what is the formal reason for leaving? What do they consider the main reason for leaving? 

– Those who spoke out in opposition mostly pointed to the membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches. This is the main reason. One priest in Australia said “what they call ‘Sergianism’ has long died out” but what worries him is the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC, he is even troubled by its mere formal membership. Now we see that the participation of the Russian Church in the WCC is almost non-existent today, it is almost meaningless. But many are still genuinely troubled by this.  

Another reason is that these are not very educated people, they are isolated, they know little of life in Russia and they think that communism might return. They are motivated not by any long-term views, but some sort of fear. 



– Vladyka, we know that there are conversations with the Orthodox Church in America now. What is the direction they will be taking? What decisions might we expect with regard to the relationship between ROCOR and the OCA? 

– Upon reconciliation between the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland, the question arose about our relationship with the Orthodox Church in America, which had received autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate.


At one time we were together, but divisions occurred twice. In 1924, Metropolitan Platon separated from the Russian bishops who were abroad, but in 1935, Metropolitan Theophilus, with the intercession of Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, made peace with ROCOR, and there was again one Russian Church in America. This continued until 1946, when there was not only a break with the Church Abroad, but with the Moscow Patriarchate. The Orthodox Metropoliate of America became, de facto, independent.  

We would like to improve relations with the Orthodox Church in America, so our Synod of Bishops appointed a commission comprised of several clergymen who, we hope, will meet with a similar commission representing the OCA in order to study our common history. We must determine why divisions occurred, how we can restore Eucharistic communion.


Nonetheless, we do not intend on merging with the Orthodox Church in America, only establish brotherly, prayerful relations. For many in our Church Abroad, the new calendar, which the OCA adopted, is unacceptable. This is a painful question, because many of our clergymen and laypersons would not wish to participate in a service where ecclesio-liturgical order is violated. So there are things that need to be discussed. 

We welcome the election of the new head of the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, who is known for his piety, he loves the old calendar, he loves order in the Church. So we hope that good relations with the Orthodox Church in America can be established.  

– Vladyka, many are now discussing the need for convening a Pan-Orthodox conference. For a great many unresolved problems have developed between the Orthodox Churches, which should be discussed together. At the same time, there are rumors among the people of the Church that this must be something like an 8th Ecumenical Council, that such an assembly would make decisions of a renovationist character: moving to the new calendar, etc. What is your view on the idea of convening a Pan-Orthodox conference, and the fears surrounding it? 

– There are many questions of a general nature in the life of the Local Orthodox Churches which need mutual resolutions, and the Churches must have such means of communication. We sometimes have controversies with the Constantinople Patriarchate, which views the diaspora differently than the Russian Orthodox Church does. The Ecumenical Patriarch, of course, must be honored for his historical place in the hierarchy of the Local Churches as first among equals, but there cannot be universal authority with only one bishop in the Orthodox Church. 

The universal character of the council is determined by the fullness of the Church only afterwards. As far as an 8th Ecumenical Council is concerned, I feel that one is necessary. Ecumenical Councils were always convened to defend the Church against all sorts of heresies which arose at one time or another. We must have a great deal of spiritual strength to preserve the pureness of the faith. In this regard, there can be no political reasons to gather such a council.  



The Church is where there is a bishop, divine services can only be performed by clergymen, but the Church is composed of the laity, upon whom much depends. What would you wish for our Orthodox laity, Orthodox journalists? We ask, Vladyka, to lend your guidance with us and our readers.  

– The most important thing in our faith is our inner life. If we pay attention only to the external, the “cover of the book,” and do not bring order to our souls, if we do not have a close relationship with the Lord, then all that is external will be of no use.  

Our goal is the salvation of souls, and everyone must tend to this first and foremost. If we pray more, if we struggle to obey the laws, then not only will we work towards our salvation and approach God, but our Church and our people will become stronger, will regain health. Everyone who comes to Christ cannot do this because it is fashionable, for appearance’s sake. If we conduct our spiritual podvig and prepare our souls for the grace of God, for communion with the Lord, if we pray together, then the entire country will heal. Every one of us must tend to our souls first of all. 


Entire interview:


“A unified Russian Church is a great Spiritual Force”, interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia


English  (





Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Abba Moses the Ethiopian. Icon, Sayings, and Life

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Abba Moses the Ethiopian

Aka Moses the Black

Aug 28 – Sep 10 2009  14th  Thursday after Pentecost


Troparion    Tone 5

Thou didst abandon the Egypt of passions/ and fervently ascend the mount of virtues,/ and didst take Christ’s Cross on thy shoulders./ Thou wast glorified in thy works/ and wast a model for monks,/ O Moses summit of the Fathers./ With them pray unceasingly that we may obtain great mercy.


Kontakion    Tone 3

Thou wast enriched with divine illumination, O Moses,/ and didst dispel the darkness of passions./ Thou didst quench the pride of the flesh by thy vigils and prayers/ and didst go forth to the heavenly citadel./ O holy Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Abba Moses the Black

Today we commemorate Abba Moses the Ethiopian, one of my favorites. His story is one of extreme change. I think that is why I relate to him so much. I want to have extreme change in my life too. I was never as evil as he was, but I cannot see how I could become as holy and humble as he was either. And, in my mind, I know this is theoretically possible, but what separated us mediocre ones from the saints is desire.


Here are some famous sayings of his, from the famous Migne text. (


My favorite is the first one. We would be saints if we only did this.








2. A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, ‘Come, for everyone is waiting’ for you.’ So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, ‘What is this, Father?’ The old man said to them, ‘My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.’ When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.


6. A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’


8. The magistrate heard about Abba Moses one day and he went to Scetis to see him. They told the old man. He got up and fled to the marsh. Some people met him and said to him, ‘Old man, tell us where the cell of Abba Moses is.’ He said to them, ‘What do you want with him? He is a fool.’ So the magistrate went back to the church and said to the ministers, ‘I heard people talk about Abba Moses and I went to see him, but there was an old man going into Egypt who crossed our path and we asked him where Abba Moses’ cell is, and he said to us, "What do you want with him? He is a fool."’ When they heard this, the clergy were offended and said, ‘What kind of an old man was it who spoke like that about the holy man to you?’ He said, ‘An old man wearing old clothes, a big black man.’ They said, ‘It was Abba Moses himself and it was in order not to meet you that he said that.’ The magistrate went away greatly edified.

Abba Moses the Ethiopian


Seven instructions which Abba Moses sent to Abba Poemen. He who puts them into practice will escape all punishment and will live in peace, whether he dwells in the desert or in the midst of brethren.


1. The monk must die to his neighbor and never judge him at all, in any way whatever.


2. The monk must die to everything before leaving the body, in order not to harm anyone.


3. If the monk does not think in his heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, ‘What does that mean, to think in his heart that he is a sinner?’ Then the old man said, ‘When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.’


4. If a man’s deeds are not in harmony with his prayer, he labors in vain. The brother said, ‘What is this harmony between practice and prayer?’ The old man said, ‘We should no longer do those things against which we pray. For when a man gives up his own will, then God is reconciled with him and accepts his prayers.’


The brother asked, ‘In all the affliction which the monk gives himself, what helps him?’ The old man said, ‘It is written, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."’ (Ps-46.i)


5. The old man was asked, ‘What is the good of the fasts and watchings which a man imposes on himself?’ and he replied, ‘They make the soul humble. For it is written, "Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins." (Ps.25.18) So if the soul gives itself all this hardship, God will have mercy on it.’


6. The old man was asked, ‘What should a man do in all the temptations and evil thoughts that come upon him?’ The old man said to him, ‘He should weep and implore the goodness of God to come to his aid, and he will obtain peace if he prays with discernment. For it is written, "With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?"’ (Ps. i 18.6)


7. A brother asked the old man, ‘Here is a man who beats his servant because of a fault he has committed; what will the servant say?’ The old man said, ‘If the servant is good, he should say, "Forgive me, I have sinned."’ The brother said to him, ‘Nothing else?’ The old man said, ‘No, for from the moment he takes upon himself responsibility for the affair and says, "I have sinned," immediately the Lord will have mercy on him.


The aim in all these things is not to judge one’s neighbor. For truly, when the hand of the Lord caused all the first-born in the land of Egypt to die, no house was without its dead.’


The brother said, ‘What does that mean?’ The old man said, ‘If we are on the watch to see our own faults, we shall not see those of our neighbor. It is folly for a man who has a dead person in his house to leave him there and go to weep over his neighbor’s dead.


To die to one’s neighbor is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil, do not put confidence in him who does wrong to his neighbor, do not rejoice with him who injures his neighbor. This is what dying to one’s neighbor means. Do not rail against anyone, but rather say, "God knows each one."


Do not agree with him who slanders, do not rejoice at his slander and do not hate him who slanders his neighbor. This is what it means not to judge. Do not have hostile feelings towards anyone and do not let dislike dominate your heart; do not hate him who hates his neighbor. This is what peace is: Encourage yourself with this thought, "Affliction lasts but a short time, while peace is for ever, by the grace of God the Word. Amen." ‘

The Monk Moses Murin the Black lived during the IV Century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called "Murin" (meaning "like an Ethiopian"). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined in with a band of robbers. Because of his mean streak and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses with his band of brigands did many an evil deed — both murders and robberies, so much so that people were afraid even at the mere mention of his name. Moses the brigand spent several years leading suchlike a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, leaving his band of robbers and going off to one of the wilderness monasteries. And here for a long time he wept, beseeching that they admit him amidst the number of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance; but the former robber was not to be driven away nor silenced, in demanding that they should accept him. In the monastery the Monk Moses was completely obedient to the hegumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many a tear, bewailing his sinful life. After a certain while the Monk Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest of fasting in a very austere lifestyle. One time 4 of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of the Monk Moses and he, not having lost his great physical strength, he tied them all up and taking them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked of the elders what to do with them. The elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, — they themselves followed his example: they repented and became monks. And later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of the Monk Moses, then they too gave up their brigandage and became fervent monks.




            The Monk Moses did not quickly become free from the passions. He went often to the monastery hegumen, Abba Isidor, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the elder taught him never to overeat of food, to be partly hungry whilst observing the strictest moderation. But the passions would not cease for the Monk Moses in his dreams. Then Abba Isidor taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, not being on bended knees so as not to drop off to sleep. From his prolonged struggles the Monk Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidor instead strengthened the resolve of his student. In a vision he showed him many a demon in the west, prepared for battle, and in the East a still greater quantity of holy Angels, likewise readied for fighting. Abba Isidor explained to the Monk Moses, that the power of the Angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.



            The Monk Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the elders, who lived far off from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. One time, kneeling over the well, the Monk Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled up. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the hegumen, that he would continue to asceticise. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidor blessed his student and said to him, that the profligate passions had already gone from him. The elder commanded him to commune the Holy Mysteries and in peace to go to his own cell. And from that time the Monk Moses received from the Lord the power over demons.



            Accounts about his exploits spread amongst the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. Having learned about this, the Monk Moses decided to hide away from any visitors and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met up with servants of the governor, who asked him, how to get to the cell of the wilderness-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: "Go on no further to this false and unworthy monk". The servants returned to the monastery, where the governor was waiting, and they conveyed to him the words of the elder they had chanced upon. The brethren, hearing a description of the elder’s appearance, all as one acknowledged that they had come upon the Monk Moses himself.



            Having spent many a year at monastic exploits, the Monk Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop attired him in white vesture and said: "Abba Moses is now entirely white". The saint answered: "Vladyka, what makes it purely white — the outer or the inner?" Through humility the saint reckoned himself unworthy to accept the dignity of deacon. One time the bishop decided to test him and he bid the clergy to drive him out of the altar, whilst reviling him for being an unworthy black-Ethiopian. With full humility the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained the monk to be presbyter. And in this dignity the Monk Moses asceticised for 15 years and gathered round himself 75 disciples.



            When the monk reached age 75, he forewarned his monks, that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave in good time, so as to avoid the violent death, His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave together with them, but he replied: "I many a year already have awaited the time, when upon me there should be fulfilled the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, did speak: "All, who take up the sword, shalt perish by the sword" (Mt. 26: 52). After this seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of these hid not far off during the coming of the robbers, The robbers killed the Monk Moses and the six monks that remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 400.


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Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Greetings to all our Natalias today! Building news

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Martyrs Adrian and Natalia

Pouring the Slab

Aug 26/ Sep 8 2009 14th Tuesday after Pentecost

Thou didst lay to heart the words of thy godly-minded spouse,/ O Adrian martyr of Christ./ Eagerly didst thou run to the tortures, and with thy wife receive a crown.

(Kontakion of Ss Adrian and Natalie, Tone 4)


Many years to our many Natasha’s today! This is the day we remember Martyrs Adrian and Natalia. First a few comments, then their story.


Greetings to our Natashas, hither and yon: Natalia “the black” (Natalia Hawthorne, with dark hair), Natalia the Red (Natalia Quillen), Natalia the short (boy am I in trouble for this, I guess I will see it she reads my stuff!  – Natalia Holland), Natalia the “Mishka” (Natalia Dudar), Natalia Hagler, Natalia Farris, and our long distance and former parishioners, Natalia the “white (Natalia Arzhantseva, from Belo Rus) and Natalia “the blonde”, and our former parishioner, our lone Adrian (Boariu). I probably missed a few – we have a lot of Natalias!


I am not feeling extremely literary today, so today’s thoughts will be in simple bullets.


·         We poured the concrete slab today. I saw it and Christina took pictures. We will put up the walls next week!


View towards the Hall


Our builder, Tim Bonner, assures Fr Seraphim that …



They are doing their “level best” on this project!


·         Our Thursday night molebens will be on the slab from now on, almost like being in the church. Remember, this Thursday we will have Vigil for the beheading of St John in the current facility, but starting next week, “Moleben on the slab” replaces “Moleben before the cross”.

·         Services this weekWed Vespers at 7, Thursday Liturgy at 9 am, and in a departure from our usual schedule, Thursday vigil at 7 PM for the Beheading of the Forerunner.

·         No services are scheduled for Friday Morning. I would like to serve liturgy for St John, if I can find a reader. Anybody? We can have Russian, Greek of Serbian melodies! I am sure you all know whom I am referring to.



The account of the martyrdom of Adrian and Natalia has much to teach us, if we listen.


They were a very young couple, with most of their “life’ ahead of them, but a life that is not lived according to the truth is death and a death because of the truth is life. They chose truth, at great cost. Their courage did not come of themselves, but by the grace of God, which was abundantly active in them because of their zeal. If they were worldly and prone to threats or flattery, grace would not have protected them. God’s grace is not a static thing that helps us – it either lives within us because of our choices, or it is far from us. All this happens invisibly to our eyes, but very visibly to those with spiritual sight.


We consider Natalia to be a martyr even though she was not actually killed. Since “martyr” means witness, I think her support of her husband qualifies, don’t you? We also count St Sophia, mother of Faith, Hope and Love to be a martyr, and like Natalia, she died shortly after the martyrdom of her loved ones.


We certainly think of the exploits of the martyrs when we read from Wisdom during the Vesper service:


But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.  (2)  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:  (3)  And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. (Wisdom 3:1-3)


The world does not understand the peace that is possible by loving God. We profess that the martyrs are at peace even during their martyrdom – but this is not something we can understand. Only the very holy can understand this peace. We can only stand in awe of their exploits and berate ourselves because our lackluster way of living does not measure up in any way to their love for God.


The world not only does not understand the peace of God, but is actually would consider the exploits of Natalia or St Sophia to be signs of mental illness or great evil. St Natalia showed true love for her young husband by assisting him to obtain his martyrdom. Would we do the same? Or would we shrink back in horror at the blood spectacle and not see the grace of God giving peace?


The Martyr Adrian converted because of witnessing the way other Christians faced death with dignity and without fear. He saw something in them.


Reading the lives of the Saints should be similar to reading the Scriptures. I have told you many times – it is ALWAYS about us. We do not read for amusement or knowledge – we read to be changed.  In reading this story, I always noetically put myself in the place of the Christian martyrs who preceded Adrian, and Adrian and Natalia. I wonder would I have been worthy of such a calling.


There is a longer account of their martyrdom somewhere – I have read it many times, but cannot find it at this moment. It is much more descriptive and moving than the account below. I think it was in Orthodox Life some years ago.



The Martyrs Adrian and Natalia were married in their youth for one year prior to their martyrdom. They lived in Bithynian Nicomedia during the time of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Having started his persecution, the emperor promised a reward to whomever would inform on Christians to bring them to trial.


There began the denunciations, and through one of these there were seized 23 Christians, hiding in a cave near Nicomedia. They were tortured, urged to worship idols, and then taken to the judgment palace, in order to record their names and responses.


Adrian, the head of the judgment palace, looking on as they brought in the people suffering with such courage for their faith, and how firmly and fearlessly they confessed Christ, asked: "What rewards do ye expect from your God for suffering?" The martyrs replied: "Such rewards, as we are not able to describe, nor thy mind comprehend". Inspired, Saint Adrian told the scribes: "Write me down also, that I be a Christian and with joy I do die for Christ God".


The scribes reported about this to the emperor, who summoned Saint Adrian and asked: "Really, hast thou gone mad, that thou dost want to die? Come, cross out thine name from the lists and offer sacrifice to the gods, asking their forgiveness".


Saint Adrian answered: "I am not mad, but the rather have been converted to health of mind". Maximian then ordered Adrian to be thrown into prison.


His wife, Saint Natalia, knowing that her husband was suffering for Christ, rejoiced, since she herself was secretly a Christian. She hastened to the prison and encouraged her husband saying: "Blest be thou, mine lord, in that thou hast believed on Christ, wherein thou hast obtained a great treasure. Regret not anything of earth, neither beauty, nor youth (Adrian was then 28 years of age), nor riches. Everything worldly — is dust and ashes. Only faith and good deeds be pleasing to God".


On the pledge of the other martyrs, they released Saint Adrian from prison to relate to his wife about the day of execution. Saint Natalia at first thought, that he had renounced Christ and thus had been set free, and she did not want to let him into the house. The saint persuaded his wife, that he had not fled martyrdom, but rather had come to give her the news of the day of his execution.


They tortured Saint Adrian cruelly. The emperor advised the saint to have pity on himself and call on the gods, but the martyr answered: "Let thine gods say, what blessings they promise me, and then I shalt worship them, but if they cannot speak thus, then why should I worship them?"


Saint Natalia did not cease to encourage her husband. She asked him also to convey for her a foremost prayer to God, that they would not compel her into a marriage with a pagan after his death. The executioner ordered the hands and the legs of the saints to be broken on the anvil. Saint Natalia, fearing that her husband would hesitate in seeing the sufferings of the other martyrs, besought the executioner to begin the execution with him and let her herself put his hands and legs on the anvil.


They wanted to burn the bodies of the saints, but a strong storm arose and the fire went out. Many of the executioners even were struck by lightning. Saint Natalia took the hand of her spouse and kept it at home. Soon an army commander asked the emperor’s approval to wed Saint Natalia, who was both young and rich. But she hid herself away in Byzantium. Here Saint Adrian appeared to her in a dream and said that she would soon be at rest in the Lord. The anemic martyress, worn down by her former sufferings, in fact soon expired to God. (From the Menologion program, ©  2000  by translator Fr. S. Janos.)



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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13th Sunday. Parable Of The Vineyard 2009. Anything about the Jews is about us too. Audio Homily.

Sunday, September 6th, 2009


Matthew 21:33-42 33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

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Parable of the Evil Husbandmen in the Vineyard, 13th Sunday after Pentecost. Homily

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Mat 21:33-44

 In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.[1]


Today is the 13th Sunday after Pentecost.  We hear the parable of the vineyard on this day.  It is also the Church New Year, being September 1.  Also on this day we commemorate St. Symeon the Stylite and his mother, Martha, so we have many feasts today.


All Scripture helps us to learn about God.  It gives us promises.  It teaches us how to live.  It teaches us how not to live by giving us the opposite example.  It also gives us a pattern and a role for living. 


Today, in this parable about the vineyard, we can see all these things.  On the surface, there is a strong rebuke of the Jews, because of their rejection of the Messiah.  Some of the Jews were the ones, of course, that were the husbandmen who killed the Householder’s servants and even His son.  The Jews understood this when He rebuked them.  Have no doubt about it.  This was one of the things that led them to plot to kill Him. 


We not only see the negative example of the Jews, but also a pattern for how to live.  If you look at how carefully God created the vineyard, and His continual entreating of the householders and what he required of them, you can see that this is, in microcosm, the Christian life. And you can see how to live and how not to live.  And then, with a little explanation, with an understanding of the mind of the Church of what fruits are and what some of the symbolism is, you can see how this parable doesn’t just apply to  the wicked Jews who killed the Savior.  It applies to us, who are wicked if we do not do the work that we are called to do in the vineyard. 


Now, there’s also a marvelous connection between this Gospel and the Gospel we say for St. Symeon who is a venerable Father[2].  We say this Gospel where at the end it says,


"My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden."[3]


There is a connection between these words, "Take My yoke upon you" and what God told the householders to do.  It’s quite simple.  God gave us everything we need for our salvation.  It is natural labor.  Not natural according to the natural man, but natural according to the heavenly man, which is who we are supposed to be becoming. 


Let’s see a little bit about this parable – it is rich in symbolism – and then see how it applies to us. 


"There was a certain householder which planted a vineyard and hedged it round about and digged a wine press in it and built a tower and let it out to husbandmen and went into a far country."[4] 


If you read from the Fathers you can see what these things mean.  The Church has understood them for many, many hundreds of years now.  The Householder, of course, is Jesus Christ.  The vineyard is the Jewish people, and by extension, the New Israel -Christians, the Christian Church.  Blessed Theophylact says that everything described is spiritual.  He created a vineyard with everything necessary for our sustenance and for our salvation.  A vineyard bears sweet and juicy grapes that are not only tasty for the palate, but are good for the body and, by extension, this vineyard is good for the soul. 


There is a hedge round about the vineyard.  What does a hedge do?  It protects from marauders, from thieves and from wild animals.  It keeps that which is undesirable, and even evil, out.  The vineyard is the Church.  And the hedge that goes round the Church is just like the sides of a boat, which is another image of the Church – the Ark. This is the Law, the Law of God.  This is our tradition.  Our Holy Tradition: our fasting, our services, which are so full of meaning and beauty, our way of thinking, confession, the grace of baptism – all of these things and many more are the hedge that goes round about the Church. 


The winepress is the altar.  Sacrifices are offered on this altar.  The Jews would have thought of the sacrifices of bullocks, but we think of the sacrifice that the God-Man has given to us and of the Body and Blood of Christ offered on this altar.  And the tower within the hedge is the temple. It is high, to be seen by all, and to be a light for all.  And the temple, or course, must be within the hedge because the True Faith is only within the Church.  And it is hedged round about keeping away heresy and unclear ways of thinking and acting, no matter what they are. 


There are two meanings regarding the husbandmen.  First of all, the Jewish teachers were the first husbandmen all throughout the ages.  And there were good husbandmen, but there were a remarkable amount of bad ones.  Later, Christian bishops, priests, deacons and indeed, all of us, because we are a holy priesthood, a holy nation, and peculiar people, so says the Apostle Peter.[5]  We are like husbandmen now because if you see, later in the parable, the vineyard was taken away from the first husbandmen.  They were not worthy of it.  And it was given to other husbandmen, that is the universal Church, through the calling of the Gentiles. Now we are of that vine and of that body, if we choose to live according to the way God has taught us.


Now, God, the householder, went into a far country.  What does this mean?  It means God’s long-suffering for us.  It means that He is slow to judge us and quick to hear our repentance.  He is not slack concerning our salvation, but He is patient with us,[6]  however, when a person goes on a long journey, they return from that journey eventually.  And when He returns that will be the end of the age.  That will be the judgement.  So God is patient.  And God might seem, occasionally, because of this patience, to be far away from us.  "He doesn’t see", so we sometimes lie to ourselves.  Indeed, He sees all, and He is patient.  But there will come a time of reckoning.


So we must not be slack concerning what we have been told to do just because He is not on top of us as a taskmaster with a whip, telling us every moment what to do.  We must indeed be mature in Christ and live according to the Gospel without compulsion.  Remember some of the other things that are in the Gospels.  The prodigal son went into a far country and came back.  In that case the country means something different.  Remember the foolish virgins.  Their master went away and He was late, so they thought, in coming and five of them let their oil go out.  They did not have works of mercy and of devoutness and of desire and they were left out when the Bridegroom came to the great feast.


Be careful, brothers and sisters.  Life has a sort of narcotic quality to it.  We’re so busy with living.  We’re so busy with the things we need to do (or think we need to do). We forget so often, God is merciful and allows us time. Time to become like Him.  Time to repent of our sins.  Time to grow in knowledge of Him.  Time to grow in perfection. This is the purpose of our life.  Not time to acquire anything, or for pleasures, or for entertainment, or all the other things that are craved in our industrial society.  We must watch.  Jesus said it to us.  He said to His apostles and to us, "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour the Lord shall come."[7] 


So, the Master of the house is in a far country.  But He still sees all.  And He is patient.  And that patience should spur us to action knowing that we have a little bit of time to work out our salvation.  It should make us zealous.


Let us think for a minute of this image of the vineyard.  The Master of the house has given us everything necessary and he has hedged it off so that all which is evil cannot get in.  As long as you are within the vineyard you are safe.  As long as you are within the Ark you are safe.  All the things in the vineyard are there for a purpose: the altar, the tower, the trellises, the land, and the crops. We are given these things in order to work.  What are householders to do in the vineyard?  Are they to lie in the sun?  Are they to daydream their days away?  There is work to be done in the vineyard!  There is honest labor and growth to be accomplished in the vineyard, and gradual growth in the knowledge of God.   And as we grow in the knowledge of God, we grow in becoming like God in morality. 


"And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. {35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another."[8]


In fact this happened twice, and then He sent his Son.  The "time of the fruit" is the years of the prophets, according to the Fathers.  They announced the coming of the fruit many, many times.  And God sent His servants to receive the fruits of the vineyard, that is our obedience and growth.  That is all we are asked to do, to tend the vineyard.  We’re given all the tools and everything necessary just to be obedient.  That is what we are asked to do and to grow in the knowledge of God.  God counts as His gain our gain and knowledge of Him. 


So these householders, these terrible wicked men, given all of these things for their salvation, thought of it as theirs instead and grasped it, and killed the prophets.  Isaiah was sawn in half.  Zachariah, father of St. John the Baptist, was killed between the temple and the altar.[9]  St Elias was hounded.  So many of the others were killed, tortured in various ways because the husbandmen would not be obedient to the Master of the house. 


"But last of all he sent unto them his son saying, ‘They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir.  Come let us kill him.  Let us seize on his inheritance.’  And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard and slew him."[10]


The coming of the son is the Incarnation.  God comes to His own vineyard, which He had created for us.  And when He was cast out of the vineyard, this was a prophecy of how He was to be killed because, indeed, He was killed outside the gates of Jerusalem, cast outside the vineyard.  Jerusalem is a metaphor for the Church, and He was also cast outside the guileless will of the people.  He was killed by the wicked householders outside of the Law, outside of the vineyard, which was hedged round about.


Now, there is an important question which asked, "When the Lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"[11]  He came looking for fruit, you know.  He came looking for obedience.  He came looking for someone who had used His gifts, the talents that He had given properly.  Some actively opposed Him, and perhaps there were other householders who were not so wicked, just misused the vineyard and did not work, but then again did not lift the hand to stop the killing of the prophets or of the Son of God.


The Jews hearing the parable did not yet that is was about was about them. We can see in St. Luke that they did understand eventually because they said,


"He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen which will render him the fruits in their seasons."[12] 


Then when Christ said something that made them understand, it was them – they said, "God forbid!"  Well, they had already said it.  They had prophesied what would happen to themselves and all those who do not labor in the vineyard with honest work. 


Let us look carefully at this phrase, "…render him the fruits in their seasons."  There is fruit to be rendered.  To be a Christian is to have an obligation.  You have accepted God’s grace, and baptism.  You must work now in the vineyard.  Our Christian life is labor. 


I’ve said it a thousand times and I will say it a thousand more times if I have breath.  The great heresy of our age is that one can have belief without labor.  It is not true.  The Christian who laments his sins knows that he must labor to cease doing them. The Christian that loves God and is thankful for what has been given desires to labor in the vineyard and picks up his spade and digs, and a hoe and hoes away the weeds from his soul so that it will be bright and shiny and will be able to grow. 


We have everything we need in this vineyard and it is hedged round about and yet we, in our foolishness, sometimes cut through the hedge.  That’s what we do when we sin, you know.  That’s what we do especially when we have incorrect attitudes about the Christian life, because from incorrect attitudes comes sinful behavior and we open the hedge.  And if we open it wide enough, marauders will come in.  This is happening in our beloved Church, even as we speak, these days.  And it is something that should make a Christian lament.  We currently see so many opening the hedge to marauders by false doctrines, false ways of life, false practices that are being touted as Orthodox and we know that they are not. 


The fruit that the Lord wants is the knowledge of Him in our souls.  And a necessity – if the knowledge comes then the action will come too.  A man fools himself if he thinks he knows something about God and he doesn’t live morally.  Do not mistake the time the Lord has given you for your own personal security. You must bear fruit.  It is a requirement.  Now, you need not bear fruit like St. Symeon did.  He would stand in prayer from sundown until the 9th hour (that’s 3 in the afternoon).  And then he would counsel people until sundown from that time. And he did this for 80 years on a pillar.  He had clairvoyance and humility and all manner of spiritual gifts.  He bore fruit abundantly.  We must have humility and realize we cannot reach such heights.  But we must stay in the hedge to bear the fruit that God desires and requires of us. 


How do we do this?  It’s simple.  The things I’ve told you over and over. And the things I tell myself over and over, because it is only possible to do spiritual works by making a beginning; keeping the fasts, accepting the Church’s authority over you, in the way you live, even in the way you think, the way you act, going to the services, fasting, praying, giving (alms-giving) what is God’s to God, and work in the vineyard. 


Know that your purpose is to know God.  It’s to become perfected.  It’s to ascend in knowledge and in action.  Those two swords, when Christ said it was enough, when someone said, ‘here are two swords’[13], knowledge and action.  Those are the necessities for salvation.  Anytime you sin you break down the hedge.  So you must rebuild it as rapidly as possible.


May God help you in staying within the vineyard and in working out your salvation.  Now remember, in the vineyard, there is a product of a vineyard and it is grapes, and fruit.  Now, if you are in the vineyard and you do not participate in producing fruit then you will be cast off.  Have you ever seen grapevines burn?  It is mentioned when they tried to burn the Three Holy Children.  The wood that comes from a vine, like grapes, when it dries out, burns incredibly rapidly and with great heat and intensity.  This is what will happen to those who cast themselves off the vine by not laboring.  So now we see.  We come to the end of the meaning of this parable.  Apply it to your life.  Work in the vineyard, brothers and sisters, and struggle for your salvation and understand that every moment God requires of you fruit.  May God help you to attain salvation.  Amen.


Matthew 21:33-44


Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: {34} And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. {35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. {36} Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. {37} But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. {38} But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. {39} And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. {40} When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? {41} They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. {42} Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? {43} Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. {44} And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.







Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] The following sermon was transcribed from one given Sept 1/14 1997, the 13th  Sunday after Pentecost, and also the  day of the commemoration of the Church /New Year St. Symeon the Stylite.


[2] The term "Venerable Father" is used in the Orthodox liturgical literature to denote a saintly monk.

[3] Matthew 11:30, 11:28 (The verses are in reversed order)

[4] Mat 21:33


[5] 1 Peter 2:9

[6] Cf. 2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


[7] Matthew 24:32

[8]  (Mat 21:34-35)

[9] Cf. Matthew 23:35

[10] Matthew 21:37-39

[11] Matthew 21:40

[12] Matthew 21:41

[13] Cf. Luke 22:38