Archive for May, 2013

By this all will know that you are My disciples…

Thursday, May 30th, 2013


"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

In a well-known first century text called the "Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus", the Christians of the time are described as follows:

"But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonoured, and yet they are glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life. War is waged against them as aliens by the Jews, and persecution is carried on against them by the Greeks, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility. In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world."

(Epistle to Diognetus, 5:4-6:1, tr. J.B. Lightfoot, online at

Many hate Christ because their hearts are darkened by sin, because they do not wish to come to the light. May God grant that we not be counted with that number!

At the same time, MANY at that time were converted because their hearts were open to the Lord. They were converted in part because they heard the word of Truth and saw it active in the lives of the Apostles and other Christians.

How many today whose hearts are opened never hear the word of Truth, the Good News of Christ, who has risen from the dead to save us all? And how many hear the word, but don't understand it because they don't see it active in the lives of Christians?

Brothers and sisters, where is our love? Do we differ at all from those around us? Do we give those whose hearts are open a reason to accept Jesus Christ in His Church and receive His salvation? Or does our life proclaim loudly that "there is nothing special here".

May God forgive us. Readings like this make me want to go out and spread the word, to bring others to the truth by my words and my life — but then I remember that my life is messy with sin… St. Peter was eager to follow our Lord Jesus Christ to the Cross, but Christ responded: “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times" (John 13:38). We are weak, and have offended many by our sins. Let us repent of this!

But let us also "tarry in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high". We will soon celebrate Pentecost, that marvelous descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Endued with this divine strength, St. Peter and the other Apostles then went out and converted the world.

And if we renew our spiritual efforts, studying the word of God, praying more often and receiving the Holy Mysteries with faith, we will be gradually renewed as well. And then — and only then — our light will begin to shine before men, unnoticed by us, and all men will know that we are His disciples. As St. Seraphim of Sarov used to say: "Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and thousands around you will be saved."

May God grant us this grace!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!


Distance Education in Orthodox Theology

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

As Orthodox Christians, we must strive to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (c.f. Luke 10:27) — in other words, with our entire being. 

The cultivation of the love of God in the mind consists in large part of studying the faith. We must immerse ourselves in the Holy Scriptures and in the teachings of the Holy Church. We must order our lives so that — if it is possible — the majority of the impressions that form our way of thinking come from our Lord's teaching, and not from the corrupt teachings of this world.

This is why it is so important to prayerfully read the Holy Scriptures under the guidance of the Church.

This is also why, for those who are academically minded, higher education in theology is valuable. This is not just for those who want to become priests; all of us can benefit from better knowing our faith. Through study we can be brought to love God more fully, and we can also be able to better answer the questions those around us who are starving for the enlightenment that only Jesus Christ can bring.

In the last 10 years, a number of distance education programs in Orthodox Theology have emerged, including three that are run by our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:

1. The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America is a ministry of our own diocese. It consists of online classes that include readings, discussions and examinations. There is a track for future priests and deacons and another track for those who wish simply to learn more about their faith. This year, the pastoral school is offering summer courses to all who are interested.

2. Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY offers a correspondence course leading to an accredited Certificate in Theological Studies (HEGIS 5623). Students are sent a reading list, and go to Jordanville for examinations twice each year.

3. The newly-formed St. Cyril and Athanasius Institute is a ministry of the Western American diocese. This is an innovative online program consisting of modules of study in an interactive online format.

Thoughts on John 13:1-20

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Today, we as a church family are reading the first half of the Gospel according to John the Theologian. (If you are not there yet, don't worry — the main thing is to keep reading!)

This selection tells of two things: Jesus' washing of His disciples feet and His knowledge of Judas' betrayal.

The Church, reading this selection on Great and Holy Thursday, consistently links these two themes:

"When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly one was stricken and darkened by the love of silver…" (Troparion for Holy Thursday and Friday).

The way of Jesus Christ and the way of the world are completely different. "“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28).

Our Lord is teaching this when He washes the disciples' feet: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15)."

The disciples are enlightened, but Judas is "stricken and darkened". An encounter with God does not leave us unchanged. We see this throughout St. John's Gospel, but especially here. When we meet God and see Who He Is, when He reveals Himself to us, then we either love Him or we reject Him. This is how it will be on the last day when He appears in the clouds with great glory. 

Will we love Him more than money, than our pride, than earthly glory or pleasure? It depends on the baby steps that we take now. He reveals Himself to us now in measure, a little bit here and a little bit there, just enough so that it is in our power to choose to accept Him and follow His way. And in that way, we can learn to love Him more.

So let us heed His injunction to wash one another's feet as He has shown us, that we might be stricken with the love of our Lord and God, rather than with the love of corruptible earthly things.

Christ is Risen!

“the Father is in Me, and I in Him”

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

In the second half of John 10, Jesus says:

"I and the Father are one."

"I am the Son of God."

"…the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

What do we mean when we say the Jesus is God, that He is the Only-Begotten Son of God, of one essence with the Father?

Blessed Theophylact, commenting on "the Father is in Me, and I in Him," summarizes the Church's explanation as follows:

" 'I have the same essence as the Father while remaining the Son; I differ from Him only in hypostasis (i.e. person). Likewise, the Father ever remains the Father and differs from Me only in hypostasis. He is identical to Me in essence and nature. Though we differ in hypostasis, Our hypostases are undivided and inseparable: the Father and the Son united without confusion.' It is not so with men. A human father exists separately from his son, although they are one in nature. But the divine hypostases are intermingled without confusion. We speak of "three men," for every human person is a separate entity. But the Holy Trinity is one God, not three, because of the unconfused interpenetration of the three hypostases without confusion, and their unity of counsel and will." (Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria, Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John, tr. Fr. Christopher Stade (St. Louis: Chrysostom Press,  2007), p. 174)

This is important.

Jesus Christ is GOD, the Creator of all that exists. He made us, He redeemed us, and in Him we have our life. He is not optional. He is not "one path up the mountain to God". Nobody can know the Father apart from Him, for the Father is in Him, and He in the Father. Let us worship Him and follow Him in everything.

The sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:1-5)

"The door" is the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Blessed Theophylact, following the interpretation of St. John Chrysostom, explains this to us.

Jesus Christ Himself, the Son and Word of God, is also "the door", as He tells us a few verses later. It is only by Him that we can enter and be saved.

He is also the Good Shepherd, who enters by "the door" of the Holy Scriptures, since they testify to Him. Indeed, the whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. Everybody else speaks of himself, and twists the Scriptures to fit his ideas.

So how is it that we can be saved, and "go in and out, and find pasture"? Through Jesus Christ.

And how is it that we will recognize Him? Because He will "call us by name," and if we will "know His voice". 

And how will we know His voice? Because we will have, throughout our lives, accustomed ourselves to hear and love His voice.

And how do we accustom ourselves to hear and love His voice? By reading the Holy Scriptures, by praying in the words of the saints, by attentively praying in the services of the Church, by frequently receiving the Holy Mysteries, and by striving to follow His directions about how to live, knowing that He will not lead us astray but will rather guide us into the good pasture.

Order of prayers. Resurrection, Compunction, Martyrs Rhythm of prayer. Monday of the Myrhhbearers

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013


Order of prayers.

Resurrection, Compunction, Martyrs

Rhythm of prayer.

Monday of the Myrhhbearers


Holy Myrhhbearers at the tomb with the angel. the order in which we pray also teaches us important things. Our services and prayer books are comprehensive and teach us every way we should approach God in prayer. They are full of dogmatic truths and compunctionate sayings and prayers to the martyrs,  especially in the weekday Matins services.


I was struck about even the order in which our prayers are said in Matins when I was singing (I am using the term loosely) the praises for Monday of the week of the Myrhhbearers. The first sticheron was about the resurrection,  the next was a compunctionate one,  and the next was an ode to the martyrs.


How sensible this is! Without the Resurrection we are nothing; our life is because of the Resurrection. Thinking of the Resurrection should also make us think of how we do not live according to the resurrection. Of course we should feel compunctionate about this.


I love how easily and naturally we mix thoughts and prayers of praise and dogmatic theology with compunction. We never get ahead of ourselves; we always remember what we are like even when we are not looking at a mirror[i]


Of course the ones who lived the resurrection to the fullest are those who died for it: the martyrs, and so we pray to the martyrs following the compunctionate sticheron.


If one prays the services of the church,  a rhythm is felt,  as natural and easy as breathing. In so doing,  our character is changed,  and we naturally think like God. Of course,  this is the process of salvation; we acquire the Mind of Christ[ii]. Every time I pray the services,  especially if I am alone in the quiet, I feel this mind and the excitement that in learning to pray,  I am acquiring it.


Save your pennies and buy the service books and pray with them. Our typicon and order of the services is complicated and daunting,  but so is sin. Praying them becomes second nature,  as they teach us to live in accordance with God's nature.


Of the resurrection: Every breath, all creation, glorifieth Thee, Lord, in that Thou didst  abolish death by Thy cross,  that Thou mightiest show the peoples  Thy resurrection from the dead, in that that Thou alone lovest mankind.


Of compunction:  Mindful of the unseemly sins I have committed, I flee to Thy compassions, imitating the publican, the harlot who wept, and the prodigal son; wherefore, I fall down before Thee O Merciful One, and say: before Thou condemnest me,  O God have pity and mercy upon me!


Martyricon: Ye suffered for Christ even unto death, O passion-bearers and martyrs. And though your souls are in the heavens, in the hand of God, your relics are venerated throughout the whole world. The priests and the people all bow down; and we cry out, be rejoicing: precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.


Praises,  Monday of the Myrhhbearers,  3rd Monday of Pascha,  Tone  2


PS. Did you notice the number of allusions to Scripture in these 3 hymns? I count at least 10. I would love to see them in the comments.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2103     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

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[i] James 1:23-24  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.


[ii] Concerning the mind of Christ:

1Corithians 2:16  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.


Ephesians 4:23-24  And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  (24)  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.


Philippians 2:5-8  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  (6)  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  (7)  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  (8)  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


1Peter 4:1  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;


Romans 8:26-29  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  (27)  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (28)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  (29)  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.


Romans 8:6-7  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  (7)  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.


Romans 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.


Romans 15:5-6  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:  (6)  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.



“Having become bold” What made Joseph, Nicodemus and the Myrrh‑Bearers bold? Myrrh‑Bearing Women Mark 15:43‑16:8 2012

Monday, May 20th, 2013


Myryhhbearers with the Angel at the empty tomb. the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Hristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!


I want to tell you, before I begin, about some people that I want you to remember during the Liturgy. There is an especially important time, right after the Epiklesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit[1], when we are to pray for those we especially care for or that have special needs. We also of course commemorate sometimes people that have special needs in the entrance, in the Great Entrance ‑‑ which will be coming up soon ‑‑ and also of course we have the custom of praying from a list, a public list, of people for just their general needs, travelers and among the sick.


Now, among the sick that I want you to remember, I want you to do this after the Epiklesis, now, because this is a holy responsibility of everyone. It is not only the responsibility of the clergy, absolutely not! Everyone should pour their heart out to God during the Divine Liturgy. And this time after the Epiklesis, is the time especially to pray with your heart for God.


[Several people and their needs were mentioned] Try to remember those names, and as a sacred trust during the Epiklesis pray for those people. It's very, very important. We are not passive in Liturgy. It's part of the reason why we stand and part of the reason why pews are such a terrible thing: Because they encourage passivity. You are participants in the Liturgy. The Liturgy means "the work of the people". It's not the work of Father Nicholas and myself. It's the work of the people. So pray for those people, okay? And you will hear them in the entrance and also hear them in the list of people that we pray for in the fervent Ektenia.


Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus off the cross. Among the most important words in today's Gospel that are truly amazing, that are too big to talk about or understand, are when it says that Joseph become bold. Remember, our Lord had just been crucified. The Jews were looking to kill everybody that was associated with Him. People were in terror. Everybody had run away. But Joseph became bold. This is a marvelous thing. It was dangerous to go and ask for the body of Jesus, who was a known felon, a criminal, a heretic. Boldness doesn't care about danger.


You know what boldness cares about? It is only one thing. True Christian boldness is based on one virtue. Love. Where there is love there is not fear. Now, I don't mean that you won't have emotional fear, but you won't be paralyzed with your fear.


Absolutely, Joseph was frightened when he did this, but he knew he had to do it. His heart told him he had to do it, and so he became bold and did it, and he went in to crave the body of Jesus and got it, and Nicodemus helped; St. John adds that detail. And they worked very quickly in order to be able to put Him in the grave in order to still abide by the Jewish Sabbath which was fast approaching.


This kind of boldness is what you and I need, brothers and sisters. It's the same boldness that the Myrrh‑Bearing Women had because they also were doing something extremely dangerous, and not only this; but they didn't even have any idea how they were going to accomplish it. There was a gigantic stone that had to be rolled with many men using a fulcrum to be able to get it in front of the tomb, and now the tomb was guarded by the best of the best, the centurions, hard men who wouldn't hesitate to kill someone. They weren't going to help roll away the stone.


They had no idea how they were going to accomplish their task, but they were bold. They had been frightened before but then they were bold. Where there is the love of God, perfect love casteth out fear. We have to aim to have this kind of love, brothers and sisters, and this kind of boldness.


We are now in an era where there are a lot of micro persecutions. There will be major ones soon enough. But there are micro persecutions now. Perhaps your management is coercing you to give to the United Way. The United Way gives to a lot of things that are completely un‑Christian. You hear people talk about different kinds of immorality and perhaps you feel afraid to say what you really feel.


I have noticed that there are Christians now, Orthodox Christians that are changing their opinions about things that God has always spoken of, because they're afraid. They see that most other people don't have this opinion; it seems like most of the world doesn't have this opinion.


You must beg the Lord to help you be bold. But this boldness comes from love, an all‑consuming love for the Lord. We must have this boldness.


Now, an interesting thing, a very important thing about the boldness of Joseph and Nicodemus and the Myrrh‑Bearing Women, is that what they were doing was because of a misunderstanding. Our Lord said He would rise again. He had made it very clear. In retrospect, they understood that it was clear. So what need would they have to anoint the body? None. Our hymns even say that: "Why do you seek for the living among the dead?". He is alive. But they thought He was dead. But their love for Him made them bold even though only shortly before they had been terrified and they didn't get it right. The Myrrh‑Bearers were going on an errand for someone Who was not there. But they didn't know that. And so with what they knew, with their feeble understanding, they acted out of love.


And if you act out of love, God will always make a good come out of it. Always, without fail. You might not see the good. There might be bad things that happen to you. But always, always God's Word will not fail to return back to Him. And the love that we give to God will always be good, always cause our Lord to work in some merciful and unseen way that will be for our salvation and the salvation of others. Every time, without exception.


So the fact that the Myrrh‑Bearers were doing something that showed that they did not understand what the Lord had been talking about for the past three years, is not important. And you must apply this to your life. I have learned now, being a priest for so many years, there's so much ignorance. Oftentimes I feel like I don't know anything and yet I do. Based upon whatever knowledge I have and the small amount of love that I have for God, I do. And then I see things happen that are completely unrelated to what I thought was going to happen.


It should be that way with you, too. Ignorance is no excuse. You still have to act on what you know with boldness. Don't be afraid. Act on what you know because of love for God. You will have many opportunities, today, tomorrow, the rest of your life, always to act with boldness and love for God. And your ignorance God will enlighten. But only those who love God will He enlighten. So we must follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers and of Joseph and Nicodemus and be bold.


Now, boldness comes out of a deep longing to be with God, a deep love for Him. You don't have to be smart. You don't have to be theologically astute, but you do have to desire to know the things of God. I would say it's not possible to be bold if we don't cultivate our love for God through our prayer, through fasting, through reading of holy things, through the Services. Otherwise, our hearts are cold. We might know a few things. But we will be making compromises in our lives and we won't even realize that. Many times. Or when we do realize, then we will have dug ourselves a hole; we will be afraid to speak the truth at that point.


Cultivate your love for God, and realize that you are a soldier; you're called to service. The Scripture says the Kingdom of Heaven is being won by violence. That violence is our boldness to do what is right because of love for God, no matter what the consequences.


So let us follow the example of these Myrrh‑Bearers, of Joseph and Nicodemus who acted in boldness. That boldness was given to them by God. They didn't possess it on their own. It was given to them because of their love for Him, not because of their knowledge, because they were wrong; they were administering to a dead man and He wasn't dead.


Let us be like these holy saints. Cultivate your love for God, brothers and sisters, and look for opportunities to be bold. And when you're not bold, when you're afraid to make the Sign of the Cross in front of a bunch of people you don't know or your family or at your business meeting, or when you're afraid to speak out when people are saying things that are wrong, or when you do not feel moral authority because of your own sins, force yourself to be bold. This latter obstacle is probably the major source where we are not bold, where we need to correct someone whom we love, but we look at ourselves and we think I'm such a terrible person, I have no right at all, no strength to be able to talk to this person. That's not humility acting. That's cowardice. You have no right to not do something good because you think you are bad!


If you have boldness before God, it is because of love for God and even in the midst of knowing your sins, God will tell you, call your name; and you must be like Samuel and say, "Here am I." Then, no matter what it is, do it. There's many things all of us need to do. But it starts with loving God, and the love for God will wash away our ignorance and our timidity. May God grant it. Amen.


Transcribed by Helen, May the Lord save her and her loved ones.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2012


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[1] The Epiclesis occurs during the Anaphora, which is the time when the gifts of bread and wine are offered up, and the celebrant begs the Holy Spirit to transform them into the body and blood of Christ. The Greek word "Epiclesis" means "invocation" or "calling down from on high", and is the part of the Liturgy that occurs when the people are singing slowly: "We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God".


You can know that it has ended when a hymn to the Theotokos is sung. Here is an edited transcript of what occurs in the liturgy during this time:


The Priest says aloud:


Take, eat: this is my Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.




Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.




Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all, and for all.


At this point in the liturgy is another good time to offer up your secret prayers for the people that matter the most to you. This is been suggested by certain modern fathers, and it is good advice. I always pause for a moment and remember the people that are on my heart at this time as well as at the end.


The people are singing:


We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God.


During this time the priest is invoking the Holy Spirit and begging that He change the gifts offered, the bread and wine, into the body and blood of Christ.


At the end, the priest exclaims aloud:


Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.


At this time, in most liturgies served during the year, the following hymn is sung:


It is truly meet to bless thee, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most blameless, and mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the Very Theotokos: thee do we magnify.


This is the time referred to in this homily, a holy time to put forth your most deep desires to the Lord. It is good to have a list if you have trouble remembering, and pray simply, and forcefully: "Lord have mercy on ____". This is a holy moment; DON'T miss it!



Faith and works. John 5:28-29 2nd Wednesday of Pascha, 2013

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,  (29)  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." [1] [John 5:28-29]




We who are true Christians know that the way we live shows what we believe. The greatest heresy (meaning the most egregious to the soul) of our age is a relatively new one – that salvation is by faith alone. Those who espouse this heresy do not understand what faith is, and who its always present companion is. It is plain as day in the Scripture, as the Holy Apostle and brother of the Lord James says:


"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  (23)  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  (25)  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  (26)  If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:22-26  )





"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?(James 2:14)




"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  (18)  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  (19)  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  (20)  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-20)


If we understand faith to mean that we believe and live according to what we believe, and that faith and works cannot be separated, than I will agree that we can be saved by faith alone. However, The Holy Apostle makes a distinction between "faith" – that is – to espouse a belief in something, and "works" – to live according to faith.


Many modern Christians essentially believe that only believing in God saves, since of course:


"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9)  Not of works, lest any man should boast."  (Ephesians 2:8-9)


We who are Orthodox read *all* of Scripture. The very next words the Holy Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians are:


"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)


Christians have always understood the faith to be believing in God, and acting upon that belief. Only at the time of the Reformation was the terrible heresy of "Faith by works alone" concocted by the mind of Satan and distributed to those who value human reason too highly. This is a terrible tragedy for the soul, and I have seen people lost to the church because they could not grok this concept.


It matters what you believe and it matters what you do! Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, always with confidence that God will fill our infirm vessel with grace, and magnify our feeble but sincere efforts.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

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Kermit Gosnell and the culture of sexualism and death. On the date of the guilty verdicts in his trial.

Monday, May 13th, 2013
April 30/May 13 (civil calendar) 2013 Second Monday of Pascha


Today in Philadelphia, the jury, after 10 days of deliberation, delivered several guilt verdicts in the trial of the  abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell. He will face the death penalty in some of these convictions.


Most people do not know who this man is, since he is the real face of abortion in this country. The mainstream media and too many politicians are totally enslaved to the sins of this age, and since abortion is an important pillar of these sins, they strive to protect it as often as they can, even by censoring news about obscene acts of evil. This is why there is very little information available on mainstream sources about Kermit Gosnell. His trial reads like the script of a horror movie.


Am I happy today? NO.


I do not want to see Kermit Gosnell be punished in eternity, or even in this world. I want him to see the gravity of his sin, repent and gain peace in his soul.


The man decapitated babies and joked about it; he kept trophies. He showed a callous disregard for human life, whether it was the late term babies he illegally aborted, or the mostly poor minority women he worked on (one cannot say "served", since his abortuary was infested with cat feces and urine, and sometimes rotting fetal remains,  with dirty instruments and tables). His medicine was shoddy and illegal; if he were a veterinarian he would have been disciplined and possibly jailed long ago, but because he worked in the industry deemed sacred by our sexualized culture of death, he worked with impunity (the state of Pennsylvania, enslaved to this culture in its politics, did not investigate claims against the Dr for many years, or ignored them, and in general left abortion facilities alone to do what they did in secrecy), and would have continued if he had not been suspected of running illegal drugs out of his facility.


Many reading this will not believe it; they will disregard it as the ranting of some right winger. That is funny, since I am not right wing, or even a Republican. I describe my politics as "It is always about morality". I am a Christian pastor, and must try to warn my people and anybody else that God causes to cross my path that the culture of the religion of "sexualism" (as a friend, Subdeacon Peter has written about[1]), and the culture of death, and self-indulgence and meaningless that pervades our society will kill the soul.


Kermit Gosnell is a ghoul, but a ghoul with a human soul that needs healing. I am not happy that he is going to be punished in this world, although I consider this a necessary evil. I pray that he will be free in the next. He has a long way to go, since he has been immersed in evil for over 40 years. I am very sad that many that call themselves Christian will rejoice about this day. This is a day of sorrow, not joy.


We should pray for Kermit Gosnell, and any politician that supports, subsidizes and advertises for the culture of death and religion of "sexualism" which our society is addicted to, starting with our president,. Barack Obama.  We should include those who profit from this culture, such as the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. All we need say is "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy" for each person. We should not desire that they be punished in this life or in the next. Perhaps, if we pray, God will spare us some of the inevitable results of this culture, which is and will continue to be massive human suffering (particularly of women and children, they are always the ones to suffer the most).


God help us.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2013     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

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[1] " It is a battle of the religions. On one side there is Christianity, and on the other is Sexualism. In the Sexualism religion, sex is a worshiped and lauded thing. It is not uncommon to sacrifice ones own child on the altar of the Sexualism god. People who explore their Sexualism beliefs, like Jason Collins (a professional basketball player, who is the first to have "come out" and stated he is a homosexual [priest seraphim]), are applauded as heroes for their bravery. There are several sects of Sexualism believers, the most popular now are the Homosexual sect. Homage is paid to the Sexualism religion in popular music, television shows, magazines, web sites, and movies. There are books on how to better embrace the Sexualism religion more fully. It is a very competitive religion too: if you speak about any other religion, or judge the Sexualism religion by the rules of another faith, you'd better beware! The Sexualism leaders will work tirelessly to disavow you and keep you silent." – comment in a Facebook conversation, May 9, 2013

Thomas is just like us in at least one way; it must be in two ways if we are to be saved.

Monday, May 13th, 2013

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Synopsis: The Apostle Thomas is a perfect example of how we are, deep inside. We have doubts, problems, unresolved issues. We must follow his example to resolve all these problems. We also talk about the closing of the doors in the altar on Bright Saturday night, and what it means. It is VERY related to the story of Thomas, which must become our story if we are to be saved.

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John 20:19-31 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

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