Archive for July, 2013

All things work to the good Crown them with glory and honor! Humble Pie

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

All things work to the good

Crown them with glory and honor!

Humble Pie

July 9/22 2013



Crowning of Mychael and Anastasia (Gloria) Enright. am full of joy for Mykael and Anastasia (Gloria), who were crowned (married) yesterday (Sunday afternoon, after having received communion[1]). I am profoundly disappointed that I could not be the celebrant, because of my Shingles outbreak and probability that I was contagious with the Chicken Pox virus (and Myke has never had Chicken Pox!). Thank God that Fr Gregory was available to serve the liturgy and the wedding. His kindness made all of this possible, and allowed me to keep my promise to Myke that he would be wed on this date, no matter what.


Certainly, our God works in mysterious ways. I baptized Myke many years ago, and catechized Anastasia and baptized her recently. She has been an apt and willing pupil, and I believe that she is fully into the process of having Orthodoxy completely in her heart (as we all should be!). I wanted to see this thing through to the end (which of course, as all our Sacraments are, is really another beginning), but God had other plans for me and my little flock.


Truly, in my absence, our  little parish stepped up to the plate for this wedding. Fr Nicholas catechized them over many sessions regarding Orthodox marriage, and I sat in a few times and learned some things! Deborah as usual devotedly worked on flowers for the wedding. Reader David and Gabrielle were the witnesses and sponsors (the so -called "best man" and "maid of honor"). Fr Gregory willingly served when I could not. Jenny and Natalie sang in the choir, a long day. Many provided food. I am thrilled that it all came together, and despite some of my health challenges, "All things work(ed) to the good"[2].


By the way, I did my part as best I could. I say the following in the hope of setting an example.


I did not eat or drink Sunday until after Liturgy would have likely been over (at noon). I also was very aware of the time, and prayed continuously to the best of my meager abilities, from 10am till noon. I tried to observe the resurrection, even though I was at home. You should do the same thing also, if you are home for an honorable reason (or, I suppose, a bad reason too) on a Sunday morning. We are all part of the church, and because our church is Catholic, the whole church is present with us when we liturgize. I joined myself to that great assembly by praying during the liturgy. I prayed simply – just the Jesus prayer, with a rope for one person and then another, or for my whole flock, or even for the whole world, and of course, several times for the bridal couple.


Kettlebells and chalk health is improving. I saw my ophthalmologist today regarding my left eye, which has been affected by the Shingles outbreak (it affected my Trigeminal nerve on the left side, which enervates the eyes). All my sores are crusted over now, and I was certified as non-infectious today. This will allow me to serve again, and also get back to work. My first episode of Shingles was relatively mild by Shingles standards. I have had some manageable pain, and itchiness, but mostly, my concern has been blurry vision in my left eye. My eye is almost back to normal. It may be weeks or months before everything is as it was. but I should not be limited in what I can do  (depending, of course on me not being an idiot). I even was able to work out today, and it felt real good!


My short illnesses have been very instructive to me. It is good to really feel one's mortality. I do not particularly like this lesson, even though I often seek to have it, because my soul needs to be reminded. It is pretty easy to seek a lesson theoretically, but quite another to experience it in actual life.  My illnesses started with pneumonia, which to my foolish mind seemed to be a Non Sequitur – how can a healthy guy like me, who does so much stuff get sick with pneumonia? This does not fit with my image of myself, which my heart knows is an unrealistic image, but my vanity fights against it. In theory, I know that I am a weak and insignificant sinner, and can do nothing without Christ.


I preach about human weakness and mortality all the time (since, as I have told my flock many times, my homilies are those of a sinner trying to help other sinners not to sin – they are from the heart and according to my own experience, and are basically autobiographical in spirit), and cultivate this feeling with the prayer and reading I do. I will continue to preach about this, because if we do not fully acknowledge our weaknesses, we will not fully reach out to God for help with them.


Theory is not practice however. I do not like to ask for help. I do not like to be unable to do something because my body will not let me. I do not like to actually feel weak, even though I readily admit that I am weak! These are not good things about my character – they are passions. In theory, it is easy to acknowledge these faults, but when reality shows me unmistakably that I am weak and need help, the lesson is truly learned. Humble pie is good for the soul.


Many people have told me that "stress" must have caused my illnesses. A pastor's life is filled with stress because, even if he is a sinner, as long as he is trying and praying for his flock, he feels the sadness and weakness and failures of many. I do not believe that any of this "stress" causes illness. It seems to me that self-reliance and lack of faith, when combined with "stress" can cause illness. I think by God's providence, my body was pleased to give me a strident lesson. Although I did not feel particularly "stressed", my body told me otherwise. I think if I prayed much more than I worried, there would be no debilitating stress.


During my illness, I have slept much more than usual, and allowed myself to waken naturally, instead of getting up early every day. I have read a lot of Scripture, and prayed a lot of the prayer (the Jesus prayer), and it seems to me that there is more clarity in my mind now. It is good to know that we are weak, and without Christ we can do nothing, and it is better to feel this viscerally, with one's entire heart. This feeling, if it was "100%", would ALWAYS lead us to deep prayer to God, and as  our spirit worked, our body would rest. I am not sure what my percentage is, but, thank God, it is a little higher now, than it was a scant 2 weeks before, when I could basically physically do anything I wanted to do.


My prayer for my flock is that you learn to depend on God completely, and not trust yourself in any way, and in so doing, to begin to be fully perfected in the Lord. This is a difficult thing to learn; let's learn together.


If you are not reading the Scripture daily, with expectation, you will never master this lesson.

If you are not praying regularly, and especially with attention and quiet, you will never master this lesson.

If you are no subjugating your body by fasting, you will never learn this lesson.

If the services are basically optional to you and attendance at them gets "bumped" for almost any reason, you will never learn this lesson.

Perhaps, for most of us, if we are not shown graphic evidence through sickness or the events of life  that we are weak and have no control over anything (except whether of not we turn to God for help in all things), we will never master this lesson.


 Many years to the newly crowned Mykael and Anastasia!


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


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[1] God being my helper, I will NEVER serve a wedding on that "sacred" wedding night for Americans and American Orthodox who do not know their faith, which is Saturday night. It is ridiculous for the couple to eschew the Vigil service, placing all emphasis on the worldly matters of "getting ready for the wedding", and then to skip the celebration of the Resurrection and the partaking of the Eucharist the following morning. This is a terrible trade of earthly things instead of heavenly things. This is a terrible way to ask God to bless a union, which is NOT primarily sexual, but is an image of the love of the church. The purpose of marriage is so that two people can become one, and mutually labor for the salvation of their souls. Sleeping in on Sunday, after a night of carnal relations, which would be blessed if they did not substitute for preparation for the Holy Mysteries, is not a good beginning.

[2] Romans 8:28  And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.

Monophysitism, an Orthodox explanation. Why is this stuff important? Enduring wrongs. Why? How? Sharia law and injustice. A letter to prisoners, June 26/ July 9, Apostles Fast 2013

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I am sorry, fellows, I chose not to come this Wednesday, 07/10/13. I am recovering from pneumonia, and feel pretty good, but I tire easily. Getting up at 3am and having a very long day, plus being in the hot 8 building may be too much. I have a lot of people warning me to take it easy, and, since I am a stubborn Irishman, I have ignored some of their advice, but truth to tell, the last couple nights I have been pretty exhausted. My antibiotics are almost finished, and I have not had fevers or anything since late Thursday, but at the beginning of last week I was pretty sick, with constant fever and night (and even day) chills. Barring any setback, and if I do not act too stupid, I should be good to go next week, and will see you in 2 weeks.


I will try to write about stuff we talked about (in both prisons). I think it is good to review stuff and maybe flesh things out a little. I will make no claim to being organized here, and some of this stuff may seem to be random (welcome to my brain!), but it is stuff that we talked about recently.


Monophysite – a heresy, which posits that Jesus Christ has ONE nature (Greek "monos" – only or single and "physis" – nature). Generally, adherents to this heresy would say that this one nature is divine, and would believe that the human nature of Christ was assumed into the His Divine Nature. The heresy as a whole is called "Monophysitism". To this day, there are still people who subscribe to this heresy, such as the Coptic Church. These brave people are being martyred for their faith in Christ, and we should revere them and pray for them, but this does not mean that we should gloss over their inaccurate understanding of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May God save them and count them as martyrs for their great struggles, which includes property destruction and theft, torture, murder and the extremely common raping of their women.


Sharia Law.


By the way, did you know that in order for a woman to prove she was raped in a Moslem country under Sharia law, she must have FOUR Moslem men (not women, and all other faiths are considered to be infidels, and not reliable witnesses), which testify that they have absolute proof that the rape occurred? This basically means that they saw it, and of course, this is an impossibly high standard of proof. If a women makes such an accusation, and does not have these witnesses, she will be convicted of fornication (since, by the twisted logic of the demonically inspired Sharia law, she will have "confessed" to having intercourse with someone other than her husband!) and be punished, sometimes very severely, or even executed, even though she was raped!


We as Christians must learn something from this. On the one hand, justice and truth must be in our hearts, and we should not depend on the world to hold to these Godly virtues. All things will be revealed in the last judgment, and until that time, there will be many depravities which are not exposed. There will come a time when all things will be revealed. This is a promise straight out of Scripture, and I hope you recognize it.


We should both weep and exalt because of this. We should weep because many will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (this latter phrase from the scripture is an indication that they will be sorry and ashamed, but have no opportunity to repent), and it is a terrible thing for a person who has been made in the image of God, to fail to obtain His likeness, and perish. We should exalt, with cries of great joy, because all those who have endured terrible things, and kept their faith in God, will be filled with joy forevermore, and like the mother who has just given birth, no longer remembers the pain they endured in this life.


Please remind yourself everyday that you have put your hand to the plow, and am approaching the Heavenly Jerusalem  in everything good that you do. Prison is a place where there are many petty and great annoyances and even times of great injustice. Most of those things cannot be changed, and none of it will matter in the next life if you have not allowed any of it to make you bitter or angry. You were made for eternity, and everything good you do brings you closer to it. Nobody can take that away from you.


Back to the Monophysite heresy.


Our Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. We confess Him as "Light of God, true God of true God". He is uncreated, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created all things. Before He was man, before there was anything, He was. He was the one who told Moses His name: "I AM", meaning, that as God, He exists – He is the only one Who has always existed, and all things have come into being through Him, and nothing has existence without Him. He is unchanging and perfect, and shares all knowledge and all "Godliness" with His Father and the Holy Spirit.


Because of man's terrible predicament – sin, He, of his own perfectly free will, and by His power, became man, without in anyway changing that He is God. Simple understanding of the Godhead proves the Monophysite heresy to be false. God does not change. Nothing can be added or taken away from the God nature, which we also call His essence. If Jesus Christ, who was God before becoming man, and therefore had a nature which was God, in becoming man, mixed His newly acquired human nature with his God nature, His God nature would change. This is a complete impossibility. We confess that Jesus Christ is God and man, with two distinct natures in one person, Divine and human, in complete cooperation and sharing the same purpose, but not commingled or joined in any way.


Why is this important? Because "God is the Lord and hath revealed Himself to us, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord". God has revealed Himself to us as He is, and we would be impudent and stupid, as the created, to make pronouncements which contradict the word of the Creator about Himself.


This is the main reason to reject Monophysitism. There are logical reasons too. The purpose of the incarnation was to heal human nature. We have a saying from the Holy Fathers: "What is not assumed is not healed." Jesus Christ took on our nature, and healed it. If Jesus did not posses our human nature, but His nature was some strange mix of human and divine – neither human nor Divine, He could not have healed our human nature.


How do we *really*, *fully* learn this stuff? Perhaps it seems like a war of words with you, having has little practical meaning. If we understand why we were created, and by Whom, and therefore how we will be completely healed and obtain our inheritance, we will understand why how we view God and the Son of God is important.


God is love, and created us because of love. All things can be understood by love, but only by the same love that God has for Himself, which is an eternal love, according the His knowledge of Who He is. God revealed Himself to us and continues to reveal Himself because of love. We grow in knowledge of Him and union with Him because of love. Love is always according to knowledge of the truth. Love without truth is not love (much of the heresies of our day, especially the sexual heresies, are based upon a false idea of love which rejects truth). All our problems, all of our sins, are because we love poorly; we do not love as God loves. All that we do must be to learn to love as God loves, and in so doing, we will become like God, and know God. It is unthinkable to love God as He is not; we must love Him as He is, and He has revealed certain things about Himself that we must therefore believe. Without perfect love, these things cannot be understood perfectly, or even poorly, but as love grows, so always does knowledge grow, and wisdom and understanding.


The best option in every case is to love. May God help us to love as He loved Himself, and loves us.


There are other heresies related to Monophysitism. All of them have the same basic misunderstanding – they reject that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, without either nature joining with the other.


"Monothelism" teaches that Jesus Christ has one will, even though He has two distinct natures. It is

basically an attempt to "compromise" the Monophysite heresy with the Orthodox dogma. It perhaps is a bit closer to the truth, but we do not treat the truth as something to be approached, like throwing a horseshoe or a hand grenade! This is not possible if He has two unmixed natures, since every nature has as one of its attributes, will.


The Divine will is infinitely stronger than any human will, although a perfect human will agrees with the Divine will perfectly in all things. Jesus became man to heal our will, and make it stronger. His incarnation healed the three attributes of human nature: the attributes of knowledge, desire (or appetite), and will (or irascibility). The Divine will is perfect and unchanging and in perfect cooperation at all times with the Divine knowledge and desire.  Our will must be brought into complete cooperation with our knowledge and desire – we must know the truth, desire to follow the truth, and have the ability by our will to live according to our knowledge and desire. At its perfection, this is theosis – union with God.


There are other terms related to the Monophysite heresy.  "Miaphytism" believes that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature" ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. This pretty much sounds like Monophysitism to me. Eutychianism holds that the human and divine natures of Christ were fused into one new single nature: His human nature was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea". ( It is so named for one of the chief protagonists of this heresy at the fourth ecumenical council (of Chalcedon). Eutyches is considered to be a saint by many who hold to the Monophysite heresy.


The important thing to remember is not the long and very technical Greek words. It is important to know that in the fullness of time, the uncreated Logos, Jesus Christ,


"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.  (9)  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  (10)  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  (11)  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " (Philippians 2:6-11)


He took on our nature, which was in every way like our nature except for sin ("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 (Hebrews 4:15)), and He purified it, strengthened it and healed it, so that, after the waters of baptism have flowed over us, we can be new creatures, and have all of our attributes completely united with one-another and with God.


You would all make me very happy if you marked in your bible some passages that illustrate Jesus' divine Nature and His human Nature. There are many of each, and you can find some in His own words, especially in the Gospel of John. I will bring a few next time. Hint – look around my favorite verse!


“All of our striving is concerned with acquiring the love commanded of us by Christ. When this spirit of Christ-like love enters within us our souls thirsts for the salvation of all people. We are appalled that by no means everyone wishes for himself what we ask for all in our prayers. Worse, we often meet with refusal, even hostility. How can people be saved when there is such perversion? We live in an age, the events of which make the tragedy of our fall more and more evident. To take my own life: for over half a century I have prayed, sometimes weeping bitter tears, sometimes in wild despair, for the peace of the whole world and the salvation, if it be possible, of all. And what do you suppose? To this hour, in my old age, I see every evil increasing in its dynamics. The close of mankind’s earthly history is scientifically thinkable and may become technically realizable tomorrow. We are nonplussed by the utterly irrational character of the happenings of our time. So what are we to do? Despair and reject the everlasting Gospel? And if we decide on rejection what else in the whole world is there to satisfy us? Positively nothing could separate us from Him, however bitter the trials that we must suffer. He has opened our eyes to infinity, and now we cannot close them and prefer the blindness of new-born puppies. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,’ said the Lord. And now we stand before the Living Absolute- which is exactly what, and only what, we are seeking.”  (Elder Sophrony of Essex, "We Shall See Him as He Is")


A Guardian Angel is given to each person at the moment of his baptism.  How should one guard the union of the soul with its Guardian Angel?  He carries out his activity through the conscience and the heart.  When a person cares for the salvation of his soul, guards his conscience, and avoids all manner of sin, then he senses his Guardian Angel.  The Guardian Angel instructs him in every good thing, sends him good thoughts, and warns him against evil.   We will see our Guardian Angel on the day of our departure from this life.  But what kind of meeting this will be will depend upon us and our deeds.  Will our Guardian Angel rejoice or will he sorrow at our careless life? …. Let us be attentive towards our Guardian Angel, let us prayerfully beg his help in all good deeds and for deliverance from every sin.  Let us entreat him to lead us persistently to the Lord, and let us not disgrace him by our actions.  (Elder Sebastian of Optina, "On Guardian Angels", Selections from the Sermons of Elder Sebastian, in Tatiana V. Torstensen,  Elder Sebastian of Optina, David Koubek (tr), Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1999, pp. 378-379.)


Truly the penitent is not one who laments over the evil he has committed, but one who laments over all the evil that he is capable of committing. A wise landowner not only cuts the thorn bush that has pricked him, but every thorn bush on the field that is waiting to prick him. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956) in "Prayers by the Lake")


"The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul. The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God. The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer. The more perfect the love, the holier the life." (St. Silouan)


Orthodoxy is neither a culture nor a political system, because it is concerned with our personal salvation ,with the salvation of our souls. … Orthodoxy is not even a religion. Orthodoxy is not a religion like all the other religions. … Orthodoxy is a therapeutic course of treatment that heals the human personality.


A genuine doctor concerns himself with the treatment of anyone who is sick, without exception and without discrimination. … [He] only notices whether or not the people who come to him are sick. And if they are sick, he … tries to treat them and heal their infirmities. In Orthodox tradition we have something similar to this, but even more so. … [If we wish to be healed] we must go to the Church … to competent people who … possess the curative method of the Orthodox tradition, then we must be obedient to them in order to find healing. (Protopresbyter John Romanides)




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


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