Archive for February, 2010

Havana Black Beans from Abby.

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

A recipe from our sisterhood. This is really good, and a bit hot. It was a massive hit at one of our trapezas.

There is no need to use the olive oil. I sautee things in water all the time. In almost any recipe, where oil is used to sautee onions or someting else, you can use water. Try it! You need not break the oil fast unless you want to.

For recipes see  the St Juliana Sisterhood blog or subscribe to the RSS Feed.

Havana Black Beans

1 T. olive oil
1/2 med onion, finely chopped
1/2 med red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 med green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (1/2 t.)
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried thyme, or 1 T. fresh
1 bay leaves
1 t. canned chipotle chilies minced with sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans cooked black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 c. water
1 c. coconut milk

1 t. lime juice
salt to taste

2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, and saute the onion for 3 minutes, until it is golden brown. Add the peppers and garlic; continue to saute for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, dried thyme, bay leaves, and chipotle chilies; combine well.

Add the black beans, water and coconut milk to the pot, and stir well. Simmer the beans for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and salt.

Ladle the beans into serving bowls, and top each bowl with the chopped scallions and cilantro.

Sour cream on top also helps cool, if it turns out too hot. Also serve with basmati rice if desired.

Beware: Chipotle peppers are VERY hot!

What is an Anathema? Bishop Theophan the Recluse

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Rarely does the Rite of Orthodoxy, which is now being performed, take place without censures and reproaches on somebody's part. And no matter how many sermons are given explaining that the Church here acts wisely for the salvation of her children — still the malcontents just keep repeating their line. Either they do not listen to the sermons, or these sermons do not strike home as regards the latters' perplexities, or perhaps they have formed their own conception of this rite and do not want to abandon it, no matter what you tell them.

To some people our anathemas seem inhumane, to others constricting. Such charges might be valid in other situations, but there is no way they can apply to our Rite of Orthodoxy. I will clarify for you briefly why the Church acts thus, and I think you yourselves will agree with me that in so doing, the Church acts wisely.

What is the holy Church? It is a society of believers, united among themselves by a unity of confession of divinely revealed truths, by a unity of sanctification by divinely established Mysteries, and by a unity of government and guidance by God-given shepherds. The oneness of confession, sanctification, and administration constitutes the rule of this society, which is obligatory for anyone who joins it. Membership in this society is contingent upon accepting this rule and agreeing with it; remaining in this society is contingent upon fulfilling it. Let us see how the holy Church grew and how it continues to grow. The preachers preach. Some of the listeners do not accept the preaching and leave; others accept it and as a result of accepting it are sanctified by the holy Mysteries, follow the guidance of the shepherds, and thus are incorporated into the holy Church — they are churched. That is how all the Church's members enter her. In entering her, they are mingled with all her members, they are united with them, and they remain in the Church only as long as they continue to be one with them all.

From this simple indication regarding how the Church is formed, you can see that as a society, the holy Church came to be and continues to exist just like any other society. And so regard it as you would any other, and do not deprive it of the rights belonging to any society. Let us take, for example, a temperance society. It has rules which every member must fulfill. And each of its members is a member precisely because he accepts and abides by its rules. Now suppose that some member not only refuses to abide by the rules but also holds many views completely opposed to those of the society and even rises up against its very goal. He not only does not himself observe temperance but even reviles temperance itself and disseminates notions which might tempt others and deflect them from temperance. What does the society ordinarily do with such people? First it admonishes them, and then it expels them. There you have an anathema! No one protests this, no one reproaches the society for being inhuman. Everyone acknowledges that the society is acting in a perfectly legitimate manner and that if it were to act otherwise, it could not exist.

So what is there to reproach the holy Church for when she acts likewise? After all, an anathema is precisely separation from the Church, or the exclusion from her midst of those who do not fulfill the conditions of unity with her and begin to think differently from the way she does, differently from the way they themselves promised to think upon joining her. Recollect how it happened! Arius appeared, who held impious opinions concerning Christ the Savior, so that with these notions he distorted the very act of our salvation. What was done with him? First he was admonished, and admonished many times by every persuasive and touching means possible. But since he stubbornly insisted upon his opinion, he was condemned and excommunicated from the Church — that is, he is expelled from our society. Beware, have no communion with him and those like him. Do not yourselves hold such opinions, and do not listen to or receive those who do. Thus did the holy Church do with Arius; thus has she done with all other heretics; and thus will she do now, too, if someone appears somewhere with impious opinions. So tell me, what is blameworthy here? What else could the holy Church do? And could she continue to exist if she did not employ such strictness and warn her children with such solicitude about those who might corrupt and destroy them?

Let us see — what false teachings and what false teachers are excommunicated? Those who deny the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, divine providence; those who do not confess the all-holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One God; those who do not acknowledge the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and our redemption by His death on the Cross; those who reject the grace of the Holy Spirit and the divine Mysteries which bestow it, and so forth. Do you see what manner of issues they touch upon? These are issues which are the very reason the holy Church is the Church, principles upon which she is founded and without which she could not be that which she is. Therefore those who rise up against such truths are to the Church what those who make attempts against our lives and our property are to us in our daily life. Robbers and thieves, after all, are nowhere permitted to carry on freely and go unpunished! And when they are bound and handed over to the law and to punishment, no one considers this to be inhumane or a violation of freedom. On the contrary, people see in this very thing both an act of love for man and a safeguard for freedom — with regard to all the members of society. If you judge thus here, judge thus also concerning the society of the Church. These false teachers, just like thieves and robbers, plunder the property of the holy Church and of God, corrupting her children and destroying them.

Does the holy Church really err in judging them, binding them, and casting them out? And would it really be love for man if she regarded the actions of such people with indifference and left them at liberty to destroy everyone else? Would a mother permit a snake to freely crawl up to and bite her little child, who does not understand the danger? If some immoral person were to gain access to your family and begin tempting your daughter, or your son — would you be able to regard their actions and their speeches with indifference? Fearing to gain a reputation for being inhumane and old- fashioned, would you tie your own hands? Would you not push such a person out the door and close it against them forever?! You should view the actions of the holy Church in the same way. She sees that individuals of corrupt mind appear, and corrupt others — and she rises up against them, drives them away, and calls out to all those who are her own: Beware — so-and-so and such-and-such people wish to destroy your souls. Do not listen to them; flee from them. Thus she fulfills the duty of motherly love, and therefore acts lovingly — or as you put it, humanely.

At the present time, we have a proliferation of nihilists, spiritists and other pernicious clever ones who are carried away with the false teachers of the West. Do you really think that our holy Church would keep silence and not raise her voice to condemn and anathematize them, if their destructive teachings were something new? By no means. A council would be held, and in council all of them with their teachings would be given over to anathema, and to the current Rite of Orthodoxy there would be appended an additional item: To Feyerbach, Buchner, and Renan, to the spiritists, and to all their followers — to the nihilists – – be anathema. But there is no need for such a council, and there is no need either for such an addition. Their false teachings have already all been anathematized in advance in those points where anathema is pronounced to those who deny the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, the teachings concerning the all-holy Trinity and concerning the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you not see with what wisdom and foresight the holy Church acts when she makes us perform the present proclamation and listen to it? And yet they say, "This is outdated." It is precisely now that it is relevant. Perhaps 100 years ago it was not relevant. But one must say concerning our time, that if a Rite of Orthodoxy did not as yet exist, it would be needful to introduce one, and to perform it not only in the capital cities but in all places and in all churches: in order to collect all the evil teachings opposed to the Word of God, and to make them known to all, in order that all might know what they need to beware of and what kind of teachings to avoid. Many are corrupted in mind solely due to ignorance, whereas a public condemnation of ruinous teachings would save them from perdition.

Thus, the Church excommunicates, expels from her midst (when it is said, "Anathema to so-and-so", that means the same thing as, "So-and-so: out of here"), or anathematizes for the same reason that any society does so. And she is obliged to do this in self-preservation and to preserve her children from destruction. Therefore there is nothing blameworthy or incomprehensible about this present Rite. If anyone fears the act of anathema, let him avoid the teachings which cause one to fall under it. If anyone fears it for others, let him restore him to sound teaching. If you are Orthodox and yet you are not well disposed toward this act, then you are found to be contradicting yourself. But if you have already abandoned sound doctrine, then what business is it of yours what is done in the Church by those who maintain it? By the very fact that you have conceived a different view of things than that which is maintained in the Church, you have already separated yourself from the Church. It is not inscription in the baptismal records which makes one a member of the Church, but the spirit and content of one's opinions. Whether your teaching and your name are pronounced as being under anathema or not, you already fall under it when your opinions are opposed to those of the Church, and when you persist in them. Fearful is the anathema. Leave off your evil opinions. Amen.

Translated from the Russian text published in Pravoslavnaya Rus, #4, 1974.

The Word “Anathema” and it’s meaning

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

by Saint John Maximovitch
from Orthodox Life, vol 27, Mar-April 1977, pp 18,19

The Greek word "anathema" consists of two words: "ana", which is a preposition indicating movement upwards and "thema", which means a separate part of some- thing. In military terminology, "thema" meant a detachment; in civil government "thema" meant a province. We currently use the word "theme", derived from "thema", to mean a specific topic of a written and intellectual work.

"Anathema" literally means the lifting up of something separate. In the Old Testament this expression was used both in relation to that which was alienated due to sinfulness and likewise to that which was dedicated to God.

In the New Testament, in the writing of the Apostle Paul it is used once in conjunction with "maranatha", meaning the coming of the Lord. The combination of these words means separation until the coming of the Lord; in other words – being handed over to Him (1 Cor 16:22).

The Apostle Paul uses "anathema" in another place without the addition of "maranatha" (Gal 1:8-9). Here "anathema" is proclaimed against the distortion of the Gospel of Christ as it was preached by the Apostle, no matter by whom this might be commited, whether by the Apostle himself or an angel from the heavens. In this same expression there is also implied: "let the Lord Himself pass judgement", for who else can pass judgement on the angels?

St John the Theologian in Revelation (22:3) says that in the New Jerusalem there will not be any anathema; this can be understood in two ways, giving the word anathema both meanings: 1) there will not be any lifting up to the judgement of God, for this judgement has already been accomplished; 2) there will not be any special dedication to God, for all things will be the Holy things of God, just as the light of God enlightens all (Rev 21:23).

In the acts of the Councils and the further course of the New Testament Church of Christ, the word "anathema" came to mean complete separation from the Church. "The Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes", "let him be anathema", "let it be anathema", means a complete tearing away from the church. While in cases of "separation from the communion of the Church" and other epitimia or penances laid on a person, the person remained a member of the Church, even though his participation in her grace filled life was limited, those given over to anathema were thus completely torn away from her until their repentance. Realizing that she is unable to do anything for their salvation, in view of their stubbornness and hardness of heart, the earthly church lifts them up to the judgement of God. That judgment is merciful unto repentant sinners, but fearsome for the stubborn enemies of God. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God … for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 10:31 ; 12:29).

Anathema is not final damnation: until death repentance is possible. "Anathema" is fearsome not because the Church wishes anyone evil or God seeks their damnation. They desire that all be saved. But it is fearsome to stand before the presence of God in the state of hardened evil: nothing is hidden from Him.

Links recently encountered and recommended. 02/20/2010

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Links recently encountered and recommended.

Clean Saturday 2010


A sometimes eclectic mix, reflecting the tastes of a voracious reader who cannot eat cereal without reading the box. If it is here, I have read (listened to) it or written it.


Great Lent


Fasting Abundantly

By Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora.  Fr Vasile is “one of our own” from the DFW area. He pastors St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Euless, Texas, and edits the Gladsome Light Dialogues blog

The idea that any Westerner has about fasting is strongly linked with renunciation, with giving-up, with sacrificing something for God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church however, fasting achieves a much richer meaning. Fasting is not only about giving up, but it is actually more about gaining, about being able to reach things that are possible only through this spiritual exercise. …


Repentance and Confession

By Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

For the Russian version go to

In order to understand what repentance is, one must first think about what sin is.  Most often, people liken sin to breaking God’s law or transgressing against God’s commandment.  Undoubtedly, such a characteristic of sin has its basis in the Old Testament.  But just like all Old Testament things, this is only a shadow or a symbol of that which has received a deeper meaning in the New Testament. …

On Humility

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 2 On Humility.from the blog Scholé


“The Rules of Fasting,”  from The Lenten Triodion, translated by Mother Mary and Bishop Kallistos (Ware).



2010 Great Lenten Clergy Retreat for the Diocese of Chicago and Middle America (ROCOR)

Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, Des Plaines, IL – March 7-9


Service Of Supplication For the Conversion of Those Who Have Departed into Error. To be sung on the Sunday of Orthodoxy and on other needful occasions

Other Formats: WORD Doc   PDF



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Archimandrite Zacharias on the theology of St. Silouan

Interview with Archimandrite Zacharias of the St. John the Baptist monastery in Essex, England. Fr. Zacharias explains the theology of St. Silouan the Athonite and Archimandrite Sophrony Saharov. The recording is made during his visit for the presentation of the Bulgarian edition of the book "St. Silouan".


This is incredible.



Fallen Man or Exiled Son? Inaugural lecture of Revd Professor Matthew Steenberg 

In an inaugural lecture on 31 October, Revd Professor Matthew Steenberg spoke to a large audience on the topic ‘Fallen Man or Exiled Son? Voices from Antiquity on “Original Sin” for the Twenty-first Century’.


Beginning with a reflection on the Confessions of St Augustine and the common view of humanity as ‘fallen’, Professor Steenberg went on to address a different paradigm for the human condition, drawn from the writings of early Christianity and the liturgical life of the Eastern Churches. Exploring the theme of ‘exile’ as found in the parable of the Prodigal Son, as well as a number of patristic and liturgical considerations of it, he reflected on the different nuances to human nature, development and potential bound up in this somewhat different approach to articulating the human condition. …


This is a video. I just listened to it. I rarely listen to things, because I am impatient, but this was an excellent lecture. One of these days I am going to write Fr Matthew and try to get a transcript.




Red Posole Recipe

From a great recipe blog “101 Cookbooks” Lots of vegan or close to fasting stuff. The writer is a vegetarian. I had Posole down in the Valley at the St George retreat in the Winter (I was one of the few still in the Nativity fast) and it was great. I have not tried this recipe yet, but her stuff is usually pretty good.




Homilies on the First Sunday of Great Lent – The Triumph of Orthodoxy. Audio and Text.

Friday, February 19th, 2010
1st Sunday of Great Lent (HTML format)
Triumph of Orthodoxy Come And See
Also in Word Doc Format.
1st Sunday of Great Lent (mp3 format)
Triumph Of Orthodoxy
1st Sunday of Great Lent (mp3 format)
Triumph of Orthodoxy
1st Sunday of Great Lent (mp3 format)
Triumph Of Orthodoxy

First Sunday Of Great Lent Sunday Of Orthodoxy – The Triumph of Orthodoxy

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Can any Good thing come out of Nazareth?

Come and See!


In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Today, brothers and sisters, is the first Sunday of the Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Church wants to tell us some things. Indeed we should come to Church always with the expectation that God will teach us something, whether it be something we learn with our mind and consciously understand, or something that penetrates the soul, and helps us in an unseen way.


A most important statement for a Christian to understand in this particular gospel reading, even after He has lived the Christian life for some quite some time is:

"Come and see".


Is not Great Lent always a period of time when, with all the fasting and the longer services and the time of the year being more intense, there more temptations?


Don't we sometimes have doubts?


Don’t we have difficulty?


I don't know a person who does not have them, and as a priest I can say this with sincerity, because I know so many of you so well … we all have doubts, we all have difficulties, we all have temptations.

The Lord says "Come and See". The Church says “Come and see”. What is She telling us to “come and see?”


The question which preceded this instruction (and more than this – also a promise, a pledge, and a rallying cry) by Nathaniel to Philip was:

"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"


Now this can be understood in a historical sense in that Nazareth was city of no account and unimportant; a backwater. Could anything good come out of Nazareth?

But the spiritual meaning of the text, is that Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of my Nazareth? Out of my Heart? Can I be changed? Can I be made whole?"


This is the question that He asks for us, because we ask it of ourselves.


Now I am talking only to Christians here, to those who have at least begun to believe, begun to lead the Christian life, or desire to follow the Christian life. Those who do not desire to follow it, to whom  Christian morality, Christian Commandments, the Incarnation of Christ are unimportant things — I am not speaking to those people. Such a person must be converted first, have something of a small spark of repentance in their heart. I am speaking to the Christian, the one who desires to know Christ, and has difficulties in life and doubts because of those difficulties.


This is a perfect time to speak of it because it is after the first week of Lent, which is often, in my experience as a pastor, very difficult for people, and a time when many temptations occur. The devil knows that if we do not make a good beginning, we will not make a good end. This is true in anything we do. We must struggle to make a strong start so that when we lag at the end so that as St. John Chrysostom says, "you will have momentum built up to carry you through those difficult times."


The Church is saying come and see.. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can I be changed? Can I really stop doing these things that I despise about myself? Can I really believe fully, in every way with every ounce of my being? Can I really become purified?

Yes indeed, you can. And why can we, and how can we? The Church tells us this, too. By faith we can have good come out of Nazareth.


Now this faith is explained to us. Examples have been given to us, very strident examples. Examples that make us feel enflamed with enthusiasm. We heard of the Saints of old (and this was even before the Promise, which we Christians enjoy!) stopping the mouth of lions, being sawn asunder, and wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute and afflicted. These were great heroes the Apostle Paul talks about, who conquered by faith.

The world did not think that they conquered. It thought they were defeated. But we understand what victory is. Victory is in the heart. Victory is when a man overcomes his own self with the help of God and becomes purified and becomes fire.


But also, besides those examples of ways of living and thinking, when St Paul speaks to us when He writes to the Hebrews, the Lord also is showing us something about faith in His Gospel that we must not forget.

There is nothing accidental in this story of Nathaniel meeting Christ.


First He was under the fig tree; Phillip comes to him and says to him that we have found the Messiah. Nathaniel says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" How can this be?


Remember the spiritual meaning … can anything good come out of me? Can I really be changed? Can I really appropriate Christ? I have so many weaknesses, every day I fall. I cannot seem to defeat this enemy. I seem to have circumstances that consistently cause me to fall. I continue to have difficulties, to have doubts, to be frightened. All these things are my Nazareth.


So Nathaniel comes with Phillip because Phillip says, "Come and see". Then He meets the Lord. And the Lord says: "Whence thou knowest me?" Nathaniel says to the Lord. "Verily when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee."


There is deep meaning here in these words, brothers and sisters. The Lord knows us. He understands us. He knows our deepest inner desires, He knows our motivations, and He knows our weaknesses. He knows how to help us. He knows our desires before we know them.


This is quite important for a Christian to remember. Moment by moment, truly we feel so often that we are alone. I only discovered after I was an adult that every teenager had the same doubts about themselves as I had. That I wasn’t good looking enough, my hair looked weird, being nervous with girls, all those things that every teenager goes through. The reason I mention this is because as priest I know that all of us go through doubts, go through uneasiness in our faith, even if our uncertainty is only about ourselves. The hours and the evening prayer of St. John speak about it:

deliver me from faintheartedness.

We have great faintheartedness. All of us suffer from this malady, this affliction of not being able to believe fully in the Resurrection. And we somehow believe that we are alone in our struggle. I previously thought this until I became a priest and saw that I am not alone. We tend to believe that our weaknesses are not applicable to the promise in some way. We say: yes if we had enough faith, yes if we did better in this or that, we believe that God can change us … But we don’t believe that we will be changed, because we feel alone.

I am convinced of this and that is why I speak on this kind of subject so often. I am convinced that our lack of faith is what holds us back from truly appropriating the love that God wants to shower upon us, wants us to feel – and actually He has already greatly blessed us – He wants us to feel it. He wants us to feel the warmth, to feel the embrace, but we are not capable until we are able to believe fully.

Now of course, if we are to believe, we must act. The Christian life is acting according to the Commandments as well as believing them and we must take them all seriously and lament if we do not follow them in their exactitude. We must also believe not such that we have to think it but so that it is part of our being.

We must believe that Jesus Christ knows all of our circumstances, all of our struggles, all of our deepest desires, even those we can not express or are afraid to say out loud. Does not the scripture tell us that ”For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”? (Heb 4:15)


He knows them all because He is God and also a man, and saw Nathaniel under the fig tree and He sees all of us. He sees our Nazareth. He knows how to defeat it. He knows that good will come out of it because He has placed his image in us and He desires to burnish that image, to polish it, to remove all the dross and mud from it so that it gleams and shines. And He will do this if only we allow Him to, if only we believe that He can do it.


Not for someone else, such as, for instance, the Saints or even those Christians we know and admire, but for ourselves we must believe this. Certainly we believe in the Resurrection, we believe in miracles, we believe that all these things that the Saints have done are true and holy and righteous, but we can’t see ourselves doing them.


If it’s for humility sake that we say that we are not worthy of such things, that is good. None are worthy, but all can be made capable. I am convinced that it is not humility that makes us believe that we cannot do righteous things; that we cannot change. It is weakness of faith.


Brothers and sisters, the Lord says to us today, "Come and see."


This is why you should struggle through the Great Lent, even if you are wondering, "Why am I fasting?” The purpose of fasting is to open the heart to God so that God will enlighten us and help us with things. Perhaps your thoughts also say “I am in a worse mood now than I was before! I am snapping more at my children, or at my wife, or at my coworkers. I am having more difficulty with thoughts than I had before. Or I still have trouble with this sin or that sin. What use is it to deprive myself of eating? What use is it to struggle till the end? I’ll just be tired on Pascha and I won’t feel the Lord. Not as much as I want to."


These are our doubts. Some of you express openly doubts about yourself. Others of you have not been able to express it openly, but I am convinced that we all have these kinds of doubts to a greater or lesser degree. That is why the Church is telling us today, as we have embarked now upon the first week of the Great Fast, "Come and  see."

Come and see that good things can come out of Nazareth. We can be completely changed. Everything that applies to the Saints applies to us, absolutely and positively. Jesus Christ came for us, for every man, He wants everyone to have fullness, completeness, regardless of how weak we are, regardless of what happens to us, He wants us to be completely changed. And we can be.

Indeed, as Christians, we must believe this, if we are to truly call ourselves Christians, we must truly believe that we can be changed.

Now the only way to be changed is through great effort. It takes great effort, make no mistake about it. The way to perdition is very wide, and very easy, and it is downhill. And the way to paradise is truly a narrow road and a difficult road. But it is not difficult because of our Lord; His burden is easy and His yoke is light. It’s difficult because of our own faithlessness and our weakness and because of our own predilection toward sin that beguiles us. And we play mind games with ourselves and find ourselves in snare after snare after snare.

Truly you must struggle if you are to be a Christian. Great Lent is a struggle; other fasting periods are a struggle. They are only an example of the Christian life. They are not in totality the struggle of the Christian life. If fasting is your greatest struggle, then indeed you have not struggled enough. Fasting should be an aide to you in the real struggle that God wants you to have. Perhaps for some that is a frightening thought, because fasting is so difficult. Even attending church services may be difficult. But indeed God wants to bring you beyond this struggle of fasting and services and prayer, and fill you with himself completely.


He wants to make you all fire.

And it will indeed happen, regardless of what kind of man or woman you are, if you have faith that you can be changed. And if you must struggle with that faith, and not give up even though you fall, and continue to struggle to live righteously, even if, for the moment, you are not righteous.

In our age what has happened is that sins have been re-codified, they have been renamed, reassigned. Things we understand to be sin, the world calls virtue, and these are. Many things, not just sexual sins that are obviously happening in the world today and being called virtuous, but all manner of other things. Why does the world, and even us, since the Psalmist has us beseeching the Lord each Vespers that we not "make excuse with excuses in sins", speak about sin so?

Because people struggle against these sins and they can’t make it, they can’t hack it. Instead of accepting this reality that they are weak and they need a Savior and they can be changed if only they believe the words "Come and see", and acknowledging (and more than this: embracing!) the struggle that comes with it, the sweat and the tears and the blood that comes with it, they redefine what a sin is.

We see these examples in secular life, but also we have these examples in our own life when we excuse ourselves from our sins. For the Christian excuses himself mostly because he cannot bear that he calls himself a Christian, but does not act as one. I say, Christian, admit boldly to the Lord, that I am a Christian but I don’t act as one. Or I desire to act as one. Be willing to say it, be willing to say it out loud. Be willing to admit that you fall short continually but have great hope that He can, and not just can but will, change you if you live by faith.

Look at the examples of many of the saints. They had many falls in their lives. And yet, they are righteous. How can this be? Because they were willing to come and see. They were willing to take the trip.

Now Nathaniel only walked a few paces to see Jesus. But this trip is indicative of our life.

The Lord says I will show you greater things than these. Not just that I know you are under a fig tree; not just that I know all your thoughts. I knew you yet while you were in the womb. Not just those things; Greater things than these will I show you. I will show you that you can be completely changed, completely made whole. Have no fear, have no sadness, have no doubts, have no sins, have no shame. Have no pain. I will show you greater things than just that I know you. I will show you that I will change you, this is what the Lord says to Nathaniel. And this is what the Lord is saying to us.


We appropriate this change by believing the words of the Lord.  By understanding their meaning.  He knows us and He will change us.  Good will come out of Nazareth, come out of the heart because of our faith.  Brothers and sisters — beg the Lord for faith, beg Him for faith, because this is the key.   Faith is just not belief.  Faith envelops the whole man and makes him fire, and makes him able to change.  This is what faith is.  Faith permeates our life.  We must appropriate the Lord’s promise with all the struggles and difficulties that the Christian life entails.  Because of the promise the Church asks us:


“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)


He has begun our journey with our baptism.  He was with us then, He’s with us now, and He will finish the course for us.  You must have faith that He who began a good work in you will complete it in Christ Jesus. 


Certainly a good thing will come out of Nazareth.


 May God grant you faith.  Amen.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2002.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Great Lent, the first week, Clean Friday. The Spoil of the Poor – Isaiah 3:1-14

Friday, February 19th, 2010

The Lord himself shall enter into judgment with the elders of the people, and with their rulers: but why have ye set my vineyard on fire, and why is the spoil of the poor in your houses?

Friday in the First Week – At the Sixth Hour – Is 3:1-14

Why is the spoil of the poor in your houses?


The Lord asks a question of the Jews through the prophet. Does this question apply to us?


The answer is quite simply, “Of course!” All that is written in the scripture applies to us – we are to answer the questions, test ourselves in relation to the examples, and take to heart all the admonitions.


It is too easy for us poor conceited ones to pass over such a stinging admonition as the prophet gives to the Jews of his time, with nary a shudder, nary a compunctionate thought. So much of what the prophet says is so extreme, and we confidently feel that his rebukes are about someone else.


May it be so that the prophet's rebukes do not apply to us! In order to be certain that we are exempt from his rebuke, we must read the scripture spiritually. We are not people of the prophet's time, and much of the historical context does not apply to us, but


“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16)


If we do not give alms,

the spoil of the poor is in our houses!


If we spend more on our own comfort than that of others,

the spoil of the poor is in our houses!


The poor are not only those lacking the means for the physical life, but also those who are ignorant, or lost, or staggering under any burden. If we have any strength, and do not reach out in compassion,

the spoil of the poor is in our houses!


If we are well, and do not visit the sick, then

the spoil of the poor is in our houses!


If we have been blessed, and do not bless, then

the spoil of the poor is in our houses!



Priest Seraphim Holland    St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas;1-14.html;1-14.doc


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Wisdom is a person. Proverbs: Trusting in ourselves. Clean Thursday.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Trust in God with all thine heart; and be not exalted in thine own wisdom. 6. In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her, that she may rightly direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, Thursday in the First Week At Vespers, Proverbs 3:1-18)


Man's wisdom is nothing; it is foolishness before God. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, that is, of fulfilling the injunction: “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with (wisdom).”


The Lord Jesus Christ is here called “wisdom”, it is one of His many titles. This is why we are told: “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her.” Wisdom is not an attribute, but a person; one becomes acquainted with a person.


It is not coincidental that we are told in one breath to “trust in God with all thine heart”, and then with the next, to “be not exalted in thine own wisdom”.


Man's wisdom does not trust the Lord with all its heart, it is “wise in its own conceit”. To trust someone is not just intellectually believing they are reliable; it is also willful submission to the person as a reliable guide and a strong protector. The flesh wants to go its own way; the proverb calls this “being exalted in (its) own wisdom.”


The way of life is not only belief; it is the forcing of oneself to trust in God. The adversary of trust in God is ourselves. We lie to ourselves if we say we trust God while also trusting ourselves.


How are we to trust in the Lord? It is from His revelation to us. No wisdom can come from ourselves, but knowledge grows in us as we cultivate a relationship with wisdom. This is the only way.


Trusting God takes effort and involves everything in our life! “In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her, that she may rightly direct thy paths. ”




1Co 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?


1Co 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


Psa 25:14 The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.


Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.


Pro 18:11 The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as ana high wall in his own conceit.


Pro 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.


Pro 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.


Pro 26:16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.


Pro 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.



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


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The Clergymen of the Haitian Orthodox Mission send a Letter of Gratitude

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

HAITI: February 16, 2010
Port au Prince 27 Jan/9 Feb 2010
Martyr Stephen

Fr Gregory, Bishop Michael, Fr Jean in St Moses chapel

Fr Gregoire Bishop Michael, Fr Jean in St Moses chapel, before the earthquake.

To His Eminence Vladika Hilarion
Of the Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia

Your Eminence Vladika Hilarion,

We ask your blessings while kissing your right hand. We salute you in the Name of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Three weeks after the violent earthquake that devastated Haiti and, according to the latest bulletin from the Haitian Government, caused 212,000 deaths and injured more than 194,000, 4,000 people have become amputees of one or more limbs and a million have become homeless. We of the Orthodox Mission in Haiti are expressing  our gratitude for your active solidarity to the victims of the earthquake on Jan 12, 2010.

We are sending our thanks to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and especially to Bishop Michael who was so worried about our lives and the lives of our flock. We also thank Father Victor and Matushka Maria; our administrator Father Daniel and Matushka Sophia; Father Raphael I Martinez Gonzalez of the delegation from the Dominican Republic.  Also Father Deacon Matthew Williams and his family; Martin Naef and all the priests, deacons, monks, nuns and laymen that sympathized with us. Thank you for your support.

Three million people find themselves in great difficulty in Haiti and need your help. In the three cities that are most devastated, Port au Prince, Jacmel, and Leogane, half of the homes of our parishioners were destroyed, the reader Vladimir perished in the ruble, and five of our parishioners are reported missing.  
The church parish, Our Lady of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and the Chapel of St. Moses the Ethiopian, are dangerously fissured, the Church of St. Peter and Paul is destroyed, the temporary Church of St. Augustine in Jacmel is in very bad condition. The School of Our Lady of the Little Ones, directed by Father Jean Chenier Dumais, was destroyed and the School "Home of Love in Haiti" for handicapped and retarded children is seriously damaged. These spaces are no longer usable and need reconstruction.

The needs are immense. We need help in rebuilding our churches, rebuilding our schools and a clinic, making temporary lodging for our flock with food, clothing, toiletries, medicines and financial assistance.
We continue to count on your spiritual help (liturgical books, vestments for clergy and acolytes, liturgical materials and icons) as well as the education of future clergy.
Vladika, we would like to find international financial organizations in Russia, in France, in Switzerland, and in the United States capable of organizing reconstruction and other projects with us. 

We seize this occasion to repeat our greetings and take this opportunity to again consecrate ourselves entirely to the spiritual and material well-being of all the parishioners of the Mission.
We count on your prayers Vladika.  We are so shaken, shocked, anguished, traumatized and beyond by the situation.  Pray for us.

In the love of Christ,
Pere Jean and Pere Gregoire


Previous articles about Haiti, all in the Haiti category

Just received from our Diocesan secretary regarding donations to Haiti.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Haiti Earthquake relief – Report and list of needs from Deacon Matthew Williams

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Haiti Earthquake relief – news from Deacon Matthew Williams

Monday, January 25th, 2010

ROCOR Sts. Peter & Paul parish in Leogane was totally destroyed in the earthquake.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Haiti Earthquake relief – Medical relief, FFA news

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Monies sent to the Fund for Assistance will go directly to the faithful (already, substantial cash has been entrusted to the clergy there). Questions? Contact Rev Victor Patapov, the unpaid Executive director of the FFA, or his assistant Alena Plavsic, (917-817-2925,


 The faithful can volunteer with the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) . I have filled out the paperwork, to be a Frontline Emergency response Volunteer, how about you? (Send it to the address below, or directly to Pascalis). A more general online form is at,

IOCC Contact information:

Pascalis Papouras, US Program Coordinator, International Orthodox Christian Charities

110 West Road, Suite 360, Baltimore, MD 21204, USA

Email: Phone: +1 410 243 9820 ; Fax: +1 410 243 9824






Lenten Epistle of Hilarion, Metropolitan Of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch Of The Russian Church Abroad

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

To the Archpastors, Pastors, Monastics and All the Faithful Children
of the Russian Church Abroad 

Dear archpastors, pastors, monastics, brethren, sisters and children, beloved in the Lord!

I congratulate all of you with the arrival of the salvific days of the Great Fast! If we turn to the sources, we see that, even as early as Old Testament times, fasting was one of the elements of the ascetic life. The prophets and teachers of Israel fasted; after His baptism, Christ began His public ministry by first withdrawing into the wilderness, where he spent forty days fasting; and the Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist, fasted strictly before going forth to preach. Kings and simple folk all fasted to achieve reconciliation with God, to show Him their love. 

The holy Forty-Day Fast is special, not only in the life of the Church, but in the life of each Christian, who often refer to it as the "springtime of repentance.” The divine services of the Great Fast begin with the penitent words of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete: "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!" and with the hymn, "Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Bestower of life," thereby affirming that without repentance there can be no salvation. Repentance is the greatest gift God gives a man: it is a second baptism in which, cleansed of sins, we again find the grace which was lost in the fall. But repentance is also a heavy, painstaking interior labor of purifying the heart of moral impurity, which means seeking out the sin within oneself—in one's thoughts, words, actions—becoming aware of it, hating it, and ultimately employing the Church's grace-filled means to root it out. The fruit of repentance is amendment, the transformation of one's life.

It is for this reason that the Church calls us during the holy days of the Forty-Day Fast to fast "an acceptable fast, well-pleasing to the Lord." This is why we add to bodily fasting a spiritual fast: prayer, the doing of good works, the reading of the sacred Scriptures, attendance at the divine services, the offering of sincere repentance, and the communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. This is what constitutes a true fast pleasing to God and saving for us all. The Holy Church calls us to examine our life during the time of the Fast, to test our conscience in the light of the truths of the Gospel. This means that we must not only call to mind our personal sins and sincerely repent of them, but by our personal life we must bring forth spiritual fruits worthy of repentance, such as "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, loving-kindness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23). The Fast is not a time for arguments or to look for others to blame. The meaning of the Fast lies in the perfecting of our love for God and our neighbor, because it is love that is the beginning of every virtue. Fasting is nothing, asceticism is nothing if love is absent, which is why it is written: "God is love” (I John 4:8), and "As ye will that others treat you, so ought ye to treat them' (Luke 6:31)," the Lord teaches us.

Fasting is liberation from everything extraneous that deprives us of precious energy and time, that distracts us from "the one thing needful" (Luke 10:42). This is a time when one should not only avoid excessive eating, but the purchase of luxury items; it is a time to restrict our access to vain information about this transitory life and open ourselves to the Word of God, the teachings of the holy Fathers and the history of the Church. 

What else should we be doing during the Fast? Private prayer, the examination of our conscience and of our life and works in the light of the Holy Gospel, contemplation of the sufferings and death our Savior endured for us, reconciliation with those close to us, conversation with pious people, charity, hospitality. 

Let us especially remember that the Great Fast is a time when one should attentively examine everything one says. Our words possess great power: either positive or negative, destructive or edifying. This is why we will be judged not only for our actions, but also for our words. "I say unto you that for every idle word that men utter, they will give answer on the day of judgment; for one is justified by one's words and one is condemned by one's words," said Christ the Savior. 

Let us remember, dear brethren and sisters, that our faith consists of two wings: fasting and prayer. A bird cannot fly with only one wing; and so also every believing Christian must also fast and pray. As you begin the Fast, fear pride, self-importance and self-love. Set as your principal goal the acquisition of humility and meekness. Patiently overcome temptations, humbling oneself again and again. Then the Lord will bless you to perceive a gracious influence of the Great Fast upon your soul and body. “Seest thou what fasting doeth?" writes the holy hierarch Athansius the Great; "It healeth sicknesses, driveth the demons away, banisheth evil thoughts, and maketh the heart pure." 

I prayerfully desire that all of you pass through the course of the forthcoming Great Fast and arrive at the holy Resurrection of Christ with a pure heart. May the Lord grant you the strength to accomplish this. May He increase within you faith, hope, love, humble-mindedness and patience. 

I invoke upon all the faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad the blessing of God. 

With love in the Lord and a request for your holy prayers,

Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad