Archive for the ‘Gospel:Matthew’ Category

The Sign of Jonas – Baptism, resurrection, repentance and obedience.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The Sign of Jonas – Baptism, resurrection, repentance and obedience.
5th Wednesday after Pentecost

Matthew 12:38-45


The Prophet Jonas (Jonah) In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I wanted to speak for just a moment about this reading on the Fifth Wednesday after Pentecost, about the time that the Lord was asked by the Pharisees to give a sign. He said that,

“An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. And there shall be no sign given to it except the sign of Jonas.”

Everyone knows the sign of Jonas. He was three days in the fish, and then he came out. It’s a type of the Resurrection.

But the Lord shows from the context that the sign of Jonas is much more than the Resurrection.

The Resurrection, out of context, gives life to no one. Only if the Resurrection is lived, only if the Commandments are followed, does the Resurrection give life.  

So the sign of Jonas is about life, (that is, how to live) not just about that the Lord was going to be resurrected.

It speaks of our resurrection and also our baptism because, after all, Jonas came out of the water – so it’s a type of baptism also.

The Lord judged those people of that generation because they were not going to listen to this sign. They already were judging Him, trying to put Him to death. Many of them, after the Resurrection, would make up false stories about it.

The sign of Jonas is the Resurrection, and also repentance and obedience, because, He says,

“The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas. And behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”

Now, what happened in the life of Jonas, if you want to summarize it really quickly? He was disobedient. He was told to do something by the Lord. He didn’t want to do it, and he saw that it was dangerous to not do the Lord’s will. He fell into great peril, and was saved by the Lord. Then He repented.

What happened afterwards is as important as the resurrection – that is – Jonas obeyed. Now, as we see in the story, he obeyed although he still had his rough spots. He still was not perfect in his obedience — We don’t call him the doubting prophet for nothing. But he obeyed.

Obedience is a process.

It is not something that happens instantaneously. It’s not something we do perfectly and completely every single day. It’s something that we strive for and make an effort towards. So Jonas obeyed after he was resurrected — or, shall we say, since he was in the water — after he was baptized.

Now, the Lord makes it very clear that He is talking about baptism when He speaks about the demon. He says,

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.”

He is cast out by baptism. And what happens? The house of the man is garnished and swept. But the demon, after being out for a while, says: I’m going to return to the house from whence I came out. When he comes, he finds it empty, swept and garnished.

Swept and garnished is a good thing. Baptism should clean us and baptism should make us beautiful. But if our soul is empty, the demon will come back in; the passions will come back in.

So the sign of Jonas is not just Resurrection. It is baptism and it is repentance after baptism. It is changing our way of life after baptism.

And the Jews that were listening to the Lord, many of them were not about to change their way of life. And that is why the Lord said, this is the sign that you will get, the sign of Jonas. Not just that He is pointing to the Resurrection, but also pointing to what we should do after baptism, which is our resurrection, isn’t it? Isn’t it what makes us capable of being resurrected?

So what we should do after our baptism, our resurrection, is live a life of repentance. That’s the sign of Jonas.

May God help us to live according to this sign of Jonas. Since we have been baptized, let us take care that our soul remains swept and garnished but never empty. Our soul should always be filled with the Holy Spirit and then the evil spirit, when he comes anywhere near us, will be filled with fear and will not be able to enter us. Amen.

Transcribed by the hand of Helen


Matthew 12:38-45 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2008.    


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2nd Sun after Pentecost. 3 Necessary Things. Audio Homily 2010

Monday, June 7th, 2010


This Sunday's readings are continuous, near the beginning of Matthew. They should be read as a whole and contain important instructions in three things that are absolutely necessary to be saved. We must decide to follow Christ, leave our nets, and climb to top of the Mountain, (the only place) where Christ is. Without simple resolutions on our part, we cannot ever understand the truth about the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Personal request: I am always interested in improving the message. I thought my homily was one of my best, but when I asked for some feedback, I was told I rambled a bit and treid to say too much, and that it was too long. I would appreciate honest critical comments. This subject is at the core of what I try to teach my flock, and I want to do it well.

Matthew 4:18-23, 4:25-5:12 18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. … 25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. 1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

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Why do we read from the beginning of John on the night of Pascha? Pascha Homily 2010

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

To live in the resurrection, we must know Jesus Christ.

Pascha 2010

John 1:1-17


The Descent into Hell.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Christ is risen!  TRULY HE IS RISEN


Christos Anesti! ALITHOS ANESTI!


Christos Voskrese!  VOISTINU VOSKRESE!


Brothers and sisters, on this bright day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we read from the beginning of the Gospel of John, which does not say anything about resurrection. There are many passages in the Gospels that speak about the resurrection; we read eleven of them in a cycle throughout the year in matins, but we did not read this time about the resurrection. We read about it this morning, but not this evening.


Now why is this, that on the very day when we most extravagantly celebrate the resurrection we read from the beginning of John and not a resurrection story?


Well, we certainly know about the resurrection, but have we lived it yet? Who is the resurrection? – Jesus Christ. Saint John, preeminently, of all the Apostles and Evangelists, shows us Who Jesus Christ is. In order for the resurrection to be actualized in our life, we must know Jesus Christ. So it is apropos that from this day forward, during the cycle of Pascha, for fort days an onwards – forty days after Pascha is the Ascension and fifty days after is Pentecost – we read from the Gospel of John because we are to learn of Jesus Christ, the One who is meek and lowly, the One Who came to save us from our sins.


Just knowing this does not make it happen – we must live according to Who Jesus Christ is. The joy of the resurrection is that we can become completely alive, completely human, as we are meant to be. Right now, brothers and sisters, we are in a state that is between human and not human. God created us to know Him perfectly and intimately. Since we do not, we are not quite what we should be. But the joy of the resurrection is that we can become this.


Jesus Christ became like us in all things except for sin. And He lived on this earth as a man and also fully as God, having two natures, not intermixed, but cooperating with one-another. And His human nature is as ours should be. It was as ours in all things except sin, even to the point that it would die, because we know that our Lord dies on the cross.


But then a wondrous thing happened. Of His own power, of His Divinity – the hymns of Holy Saturday especially sing of it – the one Who created the universe, Who laid dead in tomb, became alive of His own power.


And He imbued humanity with the ability to be alive too. This is what we are celebrating, brothers and sisters! We are not celebrating merely the event of Christ rising from the dead; we are celebrating that reality that WE can rise from the dead.


And make no mistake – this is not a future event for us. The Lord made that perfectly clear, when He began preaching and said that “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”


So right now, brothers and sisters, we should live according to the resurrection, in everything. And as we live in this light, we become light; we become peaceful.


Now let’s be honest with ourselves: there is a lot in us that is not peaceful; there is a lot in us that is not light. But God came so that we could be ALL LIGHT. That is what we are celebrating today. He resurrected Himself so that we could become resurrected. For Him it happened in a flash, in a moment. For us it happens in a lifetime, with struggle, with difficulties, with happiness, with sadness, with holiness and with depravity – all the things that are mixed up in our complex nature.


But I tell you, God’s nature is not complex – He is only good. And that is what we are to become – simple and only good. And our Lord Jesus Christ, although he was man, was simple, because He was only good as man, and only good as God. And He made us capable of becoming good, and fully human.


This is what we celebrate today, and this is why we start reading the Gospel of John today – because you cannot know the resurrection unless you know Jesus Christ. It is not possible. And there is only one way to know Jesus Christ – to become like Him. That is what we are called to do. And the great joy is that it is possible – God came so we could become like Him. This is what we celebrate today, bothers and sisters.


Anything that you do in your life, no matter what it is, no matter how small or how large, no matter how long it takes, or if it is just for a moment — if it is according to the resurrection, then it will bring you light. Anything that you do that is not according to the resurrection only brings darkness.


It really is that simple.


Certainly we live in a complex life, with complex decisions to make about things and difficulties that we are perplexed about – this is true. But basically life is – choose good and avoid evil. Not becomes the Lord commands, but because it is the only way to have life. So we celebrate today that we can have life.


Brothers and sisters, this life is in knowing our Lord Jesus Christ; that is why we read the Gospel of John.


After a feast, the church will have hymns that discuss the feast in a deeper way. You will see this all throughout the whole period of Pascha. All the Gospels for Sunday are about the gradual enlightenment of man, because the resurrection occurs in us bit by bit. You can see it how it happened to the women, to the apostles. At first they could not believe, at first they were afraid. At first the Apostles thought that the words of the women who announced the resurrection were nonsense. Thomas could not believe for eight days. Peter could not have the joy of the resurrection until the risen Lord had them go fishing and then He restored him after they caught many fish.


This is the way life is, brothers and sisters. It takes time to be enlightened; it takes effort to be enlightened. And the church will speak of it over the next forty and fifty days. So the Gospel of John is sort of the prelude to all that.


The church IS Jesus Christ. All truth is Jesus Christ. The truth is not an abstract concept; truth is a person – Jesus Christ. So when you say that you live according to the truth that means that you are becoming like Christ. The Gospel of John teaches us preeminently Who Jesus Christ is, but it cannot be learned just by reading – it can only be learned by … becoming


So let us celebrate today that we can become like as God; we can become light, with no darkness in us at all; we can become arisen, with no death in us at all. This is what we were created for, and this is what we celebrate.


Christ is risen!  TRULY HE IS RISEN


Christos Anesti! ALITHOS ANESTI!


Christos Voskrese!  VOISTINU VOSKRESE!


May God bless you and help you to live in the light of the resurrection.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Questions about the Genealogy of Christ (Mat 1:1-17) part 2

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

On the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we remember the Holy Fathers (the ancestors of Christ) and read the genealogy of Christ, from the Gospel of Matthew. There are many lessons in this genealogy, which may be gleaned by looking at it as a whole, and also examining the individuals mentioned.  





"And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;" (Matthew 1:3)

What was Judas and Thamar’s relationship? Tell the circumstances of the conception. The even more important and marvelous circumstances of the birth of Phares and Zara are discussed in the next question.


Judas was the father in law of Thamar. He had a son, Er, who was Thamar’s first husband: "And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Thamar." (Gen. 38:6)

There were no children out of this union, as: "…Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him." (Gen. 38:7)

Thamar was then married to Onan, whose sin of selfish self-gratification has much to teach us:

"And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. {38:9} And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. {38:10} And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also." (Gen. 38:8-10)

Poor Thamar was now twice a widow, and had not "raised up seed for Israel". Judah told her to wait until his younger son Shelah was grown, and in the meantime, live in his house as a chaste widow:

"Then said Judah to Thamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Thamar went and dwelt in her father’s house." (Gen. "38:11)

In time, Judah’s wife Shuah died. Judah, perhaps not thinking clearly, went away with his shepherds, and did not mate Thamar with his son Selah, even though he was grown. This arrangement sets the stage for Thamar’s deception, and sin with Judah. The scripture tells the tale very clearly:

"And it was told Thamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. {14} And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. {15} When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. {16} And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? {17} And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? {18} And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him." (Gen. 38:13-18)

Later, Judah became aware that Thamar was pregnant, not knowing that he had lain with her. He hypocritically wanted to punish her, but her craftiness (when she asked for a pledge before her harlotry) saved her, and was very instructive to Judah.

"And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Thamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. {25} When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. {26} And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more." (Gen. 38:24-26)

Marvelous are the works of God. Out of a sinful, incestual union is raised up the Son of God. The blood of harlots and fornicators beats in his heart. He has truly taken on all of our sins, and made everything clean, as even his genealogy shows.



"And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;" (Matt 1:3)

Tell the story of Phares and Zara. How were they conceived? What is the theological significance of the way they were born?



Phares and Zara were born of harlotry, described in the question above. Their names are very significant, and are descriptive of the birth process, and the economy of God, and the salvation of man.

Zara, who was the first born, means "East", or "brightness". Phares, who was the second born, although he preceded his brother completely out of the womb, means "division" or "rupture" or "interruption", as Blessed Theofylact has it. Here is the story of the birth:

"And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. {28} And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. {29} And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? This breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Phares. {30} And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zara." (Gen. 38:27-30)

This story has great theological significance. If we were to read the scriptures in isolation, and try to glean meaning with little understanding, we would miss much of the significant meaning in passages such as this. Fortunately, we, who are not holy, have the holy Fathers, who have expressed wondrously the mind of the church, and helped illuminate the sometimes dark sayings of holy writ.

Phares was aptly named, as he interfered with the natural order. The babe who put his hand out of the womb first should have been born first. Zara first showed his hand and then withdrew it, and so to did the life of Christ appear in the holy ones who lived before the circumcision (such men as Adam, and Seth, and Enoch, and Noah, Job, Melchisedec, and the rest). When the law came, this way of life receded. Later, with the coming of Christ, it blossomed forth again, through the blood of Christ, which was prophesied by the scarlet thread.



"And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;" (Matthew 1:5)

What sort of woman was Rachab? Tell the important story associated with her.



Rachab was a harlot, who dwelt in the pagan land of Canaan, in the city of Jericho. When Joshua, the son of Nun wished to conquer Jericho, he sent spies into the city to gather military intelligence. These spies stayed with Rachab.

"And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rachab, and lodged there." (Josh 2:1)

The king of the city became aware of their incursion, and Rachab put herself at great risk by protecting the men:

"And the king of Jericho sent unto Rachab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. {4} And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: {5} And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. {6} But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof." (Josh 2:3-6)

Rachab was a wise woman, who knew of the exploits of the Jews; this knowledge found a fertile place in her heart, and she, a pagan, believed in the true God.

"And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. {10} For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. {11} And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." (Josh 2:9-11)

She therefore begged mercy of the two men, and they covenanted with her to save she and her household:

"Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: {13} And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. {14} And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee." (Josh 2:12-14)

They arranged a signal, using a scarlet thread:

"Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. {19} And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. {20} And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. {21} And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window." (Josh 2:18-21)

When the city was taken, only Rachab and her family were saved:

"And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. {17} And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rachab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent." (Josh 6:16-17)

The scarlet thread points to the blood of Christ, which saves us from all sin, and protects all households that cleave unto Him. Rachab was a harlot who was made clean. Boaz took her to wife, indicating in a mystical way how Christ makes all things clean, and renews human nature. Of course, the holy Chrysostom says it best:

"Seest thou that it was not for few nor small causes that he brought to our remembrance the whole history concerning Judah? For this end he hath mentioned Ruth also and Rachab, the one an alien, the other an harlot, that thou mayest learn that He came to do away with all our ills. For He hath come as a Physician, not as a Judge. Therefore in like manner as those of old took harlots for wives, even so God too espoused unto Himself the nature which had played the harlot…" (Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, Homily 5, section 5)



"And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;" (Matthew 1:5)

Who was Ruth? Tell of her life previous to meeting Boaz. What might we glean from her marriage to Boaz?



Ruth was a foreigner, from land of Moab, a pagan land. She was the daughter in law of Naomi, whose son she had married, and was left a widow at a young age. Naomi and her two daughters in law, Ruth and Oprah, journeyed from Moab into the land of Judah. Naomi, who was an Israelite, asked her daughters in law to return back to their land:

"And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. {9} The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept." (Ruth 1:8-9)

They with one voice demurred, but Naomi persisted, and broke the resolve of Oprah, who went to return to her own people in Moab:

"And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. {11} And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? {12} Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; {13} Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. {14} And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her." (Ruth 1:10-14)

Ruth was steadfast in her resolve, amazing Naomi. Ruth passionately declared her belief in the true God, and her fidelity to him. Do not her words stir the blood, even now?

"And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. {16} And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: {17} Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:15-17)

Ruth and Naomi went to Jerusalem, where they were so poor they needed to glean the leftover wheat from the fields. God rewarded her steadfast faith, expressed not only in words, but also deeds, and found the stranger and pilgrim Ruth a husband.

"And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter." (Ruth 2:2)

Boaz saw her, and was kind to her.

"Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? {6} And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: {7} And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. {8} Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: {9} Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. {10} Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? {11} And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. {12} The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." (Ruth 2:5-12)

To make a long and compellingly beautiful story a little shorter, Boaz took Ruth to wife, and out of this union, born of fidelity and honor, and kindness, came forth Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David the king:

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. {14} And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. {15} And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. {16} And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. {17} And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:13-17)

Although the answer is again become long, we cannot leave off the inspired words of the Holy Chrysostom, who aids us in marveling at the economy of God:

"See, for instance, what befell Ruth, how like it is to the things which belong to us. For she was both of a strange race, and reduced to the utmost poverty, yet Boaz when he saw her neither despised her poverty nor abhorred her mean birth, as Christ having received the Church, being both an alien and in much poverty, took her to be partaker of the great blessings. But even as Ruth, if she had not before left her father, and renounced household and race, country and kindred, would not have attained unto this alliance; so the Church too, having forsaken the customs which men had received from their fathers, then, and not before, became lovely to the Bridegroom. Of this therefore the prophet discourses unto her, and saith, "Forget thy people, and thy father’s house, so shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty." This Ruth did too, and because of this she became a mother of kings, even as the Church did likewise. For of her David himself sprung. So then to shame them by all these things, and to prevail on them not to be high-minded, he hath both composed the genealogy, and brought forward these women." (Homilies on Matthew, Homily 3, Section 5)



"And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;" (Matthew 1:6)

Who was the former wife of Urias? Why did she conceive a son by David?



The former wife of Urias was Bathsheba. She was a beautiful women, whom David saw bathing, while he was reclining in idleness. He lusted for her, and committed adultery, and was so taken with her that he arranged for her husband Urias, who was in battle, to be put at the front, so that he was killed. Thus was David guilty of both adultery and murder. Eventually, out of their union came Solomon, who continued the line of Christ.

How inscrutable are God’s ways! How great is his condescension! The God-man counts as his ancestors harlots and strangers, and adulterers and murderers. Can there be any doubt that there is no sin too great for His mercy to cover?


Questions about the Genealogy of Christ (Mat 1:1-17) part 1

Monday, January 4th, 2010

On the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we remember the Holy Fathers (the ancestors of Christ) and read the genealogy of Christ, from the Gospel of Matthew. There are many lessons in this genealogy, which may be gleaned by looking at it as a whole, and also examining the individuals mentioned.  



Why is the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew of Joseph, since he was only the foster father of Christ? Or, as St John Chrysostom puts it:

"But whence is it manifest that He is of David?" one may say. For if He was not sprung of a man, but from a woman only, and the Virgin hath not her genealogy traced, how shall we know that He was of David’s race? Thus, there are two things inquired; both why His mother’s genealogy is not recited, and wherefore it can be that Joseph is mentioned by them, who hath no part in the birth: since the latter seems to be superfluous, and the former a defect." (Chrysostom – Homilies on Matthew, Homily 2. Section 7)



"Of which then is it necessary to speak first? How the Virgin is of David. How then shall we know that she is of David? Hearken unto God, telling Gabriel to go unto "a virgin betrothed to a man (whose name was Joseph), of the house and lineage of David." What now wouldest thou have plainer than this, when thou hast heard that the Virgin was of the house and lineage of David?"

"Now that the Virgin was of the race of David is indeed from these things evident; but wherefore he gave not her genealogy, but Joseph’s, requires explanation. For what cause was it then? It was not the law among the Jews that the genealogy of women should be traced. In order then that he might keep the custom, and not seem to be making alterations from the beginning, and yet might make the Virgin known to us, for this cause he hath passed over her ancestors in silence, and traced the genealogy of Joseph. For if he had done this with respect to the Virgin, he would have seemed to be introducing novelties; and if he had passed over Joseph in silence, we should not have known the Virgin’s forefathers. In order therefore that we might learn, touching Mary, who she was, and of what origin, and that the laws might remain undisturbed, he hath traced the genealogy of her espoused husband, and shown him to be of the house of David. For when this hath been clearly proved, that other fact is demonstrated with it, namely, that the Virgin likewise is sprung from thence, by reason that this righteous man, even as I have already said, would not have endured to take a wife from another race."(Chrysostom – Homilies on Matthew, Homily 2)



"Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren" (Matthew 1:2)
Who was the mother of Isaac? Why was Isaac so named?



Sarah was the mother of Isaac. He is so named because Abraham and Sarah both initially disbelieved when they heard that she would bear a child, and laughed. Isaac means laughter. Sarah was great in years, and had been barren, and according to all worldly wisdom, having a child was impossible. This is why they laughed.

"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." (Gen. 17:1-2)

"And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. {16} And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. {17} Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? " (Gen. 17:15-17)

Later, when the three angels appeared to Abraham, it was Sarah’s turn to laugh.

"And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. {10} And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. {11} Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. {12} Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? {13} And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? {14} Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. {15} Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. " (Gen. 18:9-15)

If God has raised a great nation out of barrenness, is this not a sign to us, that he will raise our barren souls up to the knowledge of Himself? This story is not merely a quaint tale, but a spiritual reality. We can indeed be raised up, and all that is barren in us can become fruitful, if only we truly believe, and struggle with ourselves.



What is Isaac a "type" of?



A "type" is a foreshadowing of something to come. For example, when Moses stuck his staff three times in the bitter waters of Marah, and they became sweet, this was a foreshadowing, or "type": of baptism. The burning bush, which burnt, but was not consumed, was a "type" of the Theotokos, who, being a mortal, bore divinity in her womb, and was not consumed. There are hundreds of "types" in the Old Testament.

Isaac is a type of Christ. Remember when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac? Since Abraham was to be the father of many nations, so too was Isaac, as his progeny. So too is Christ the "Author and finisher of our faith" (Heb 12:2), and He sacrificed Himself for our sake. Our tradition tells us that Isaac did not resist his father, and would have gone willingly to his death, if the angel had not intervened.

"And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? {8} And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. {9} And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. {10} And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. {11} And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. {12} And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. {13} And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." (Gen. 22:7-13)



"Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren" (Matthew 1:2)
Who is the mother of Jacob? Who were Jacob’s wives? How did he obtain them?

The Great canon of St Andrew of Crete attaches an important symbolic meaning to Jacobs’s two wives. What do they represent?



The mother of Jacob was Rebecca.

Jacob had two wives. They were both daughters of Laban, under whom Jacob whom Jacob worked for seven years, in order to marry the youngest, Rachel, whom he loved. The eldest was Leah. After Jacob did his service, on the wedding day, Laban tricked Jacob by substituting Leah for Rachel. This was possible because of veils! Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel also, after contracting for another seven years of service.

"And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. {17} Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored. {18} And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. {19} And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. {20} And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. {21} And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. {22} And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. {23} And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. {24} And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. {25} And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? {26} And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. {27} Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. {28} And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also." (Gen. 29:16-28)

There is a mystical meaning to the two wives of Jacob. Leah had many children, and Rachel was barren for a long while. One must read the full story to see the mystical meaning. St Andrew of Crete, in his Great Canon (read during Great Lent), hymns:

Because of his crying need the Patriarch endured the scorching heat of the day, and he bore the frost of the night, daily making gains, shepherding, struggling, slaving, in order to make 2 wives.

By the two wives understand action and direct knowledge in contemplation; Leah as action, for she had many children, and Rachel as knowledge, which is obtained by much labor. For without labors, my soul, neither action nor contemplation will achieve success.

(The Great Canon of St Andrew for Monday, Ode 4)



"Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren" (Matthew 1:2)

Who was the mother of Judas (or Judah)(who is on the line of Christ?)

Who was the second to the youngest of Judah‘s brethren? He is also an important "type".



Leah bore the first many sons of Jacob, including Judah. Altogether, she bore six of the twelve patriarchs.

"And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. {32} And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. {33} And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. {34} And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. {35} And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing." (Gen. 29:31-35)

The penultimate son of Jacob, and the second youngest brother of Judas, was Joseph.

"And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. {23} And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: {24} And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son." (Gen. 30:22-24)



Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle

Another glimpse into his remarkable life.


Nov 12/25 2009 25th Wednesday after Pentecost



Patriarch Pavle reposed recently and was buried last week. You can find video of his funeral on the Internet if you want, but I am more concerned with descriptions of the man, who was a rare man in our day, a bishop who was humble, and holy, and a pastor.


Here is another short description of his life (from a note circulated by Fr. Victor Potapov, emphasis not in original)


Dear Fr. Victor please bless!

With your blessing, I wanted to send out the following email to the parishioners as this is the third day of the repose of His Holiness Pavle of Serbia.


Dear Brothers and Sisters of Saint John’s,


Greetings from Cyprus! I am writing because today is the third day of the repose of His Holiness Patriarch (Archbishop of Pec) Pavle of Serbia and I would like to ask for your prayers for his soul. Most Serbs revered His Holiness as a living saint not only for his exceptional piety and gifts but because he stood as a living example of one who forgave his enemies and blessed those that cursed him.


His Holiness saw many of those dear to him (including many of his own family) murdered during the trials and conflicts of Kosovo–apart from witnessing the legions of shrines destroyed in Kosovo during his time as bishop there. Nonetheless, he evidently fought those who objected to him offering prayers during the Liturgy for both Serbs and their physical enemies–the Croats, the Albanians and even the Americans–stressing that only by forgiving and loving our enemies will these trials of the Serbs come to have any value before God.


Such an application of Christ’s Commandments, particularly in such extreme conditions, is hard for me to contemplate as an American or as a Westerner since I have never felt the threat of my people being extinguished merely because of what they believe. However, as an Orthodox, the threat that has faced (and still faces the Serbs) is clear since, if we remain strong in our beliefs, we too shall face it. Thus, His Holiness always taught that we should cling to our beliefs and to our cultural identity as though they are the only things that matter in this world–because they are.


There are scores of examples where His Holiness demonstrated that he was truly worthy of that title, not just as archbishop but as a person. He was so humble that he relocated the Liturgy he once served daily at the Patriarchate to the cafeteria across the street simply because others in the office complained. He then served coffee to the worshippers after conducting the Liturgy: during which he had used a curtain for a makeshift prothesis. In other examples, he healed, inspired and soothed simply by his prayers, homilies and mere presence.


In my own case, after praying to Sts. Savas and Vassileos (of Ostrog) for the opportunity, I was blessed to meet His Holiness just earlier this year while on a business trip to Belgrade. I sought his prayers for my two, sick children. Meeting him itself was remarkable: upon arriving to his hospital floor, the whole place smelled of myrrh. The priest who escorted me said, "I know, I know, that is just his smell"! After receiving his blessing, both my children have had remarkable and almost complete recoveries, despite initially more modest prognoses.


I am sure that in the days that follow many will come forward with remarkable stories about His Holiness Pavle. However, in focusing on this particular day–the third day of his repose–I wanted to share some of what I know of his life so that you might pray for him as you would for one of my friends or relatives, as that is how I see him. I know that he constantly prayed for all of us so this would seem to be the least that we could do.


Yours in Christ, Chrysostomos



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


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4th Sun after Pentecost 2009. Examining the faith of the centurion. Audio Homily.

Monday, July 6th, 2009


Matthew 8:5-13 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

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Sun of All Saints 2009. Audio Homily. I want you to be ready.

Sunday, June 14th, 2009


Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.


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Sunday after Theophany 2009: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Sunday, January 25th, 2009


Matthew 4:12-17 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

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Homily on the Day of Theophany: LISTEN NOW

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

Sunday, January 11th, 2009


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

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