Archive for the ‘Pastoral Journal’ Category

Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer… The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer…

The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

29. Do not say, after spending a long time at prayer, that nothing has been gained, for you have already gained something. And what higher good is there than to cling the Lord and to persevere in unceasing union with Him?

The Ladder, John Climacus, Step, 28, Prayer

I have learned, slowly, to pray more, almost exclusively the Prayer of Jesus. There is an irrational feeling that this is not productive since I have many temporal things to do, and because of my passions and insensitivity, I do not feel God very much.

I am reminded of a phrase my friend, Fr Michael, rails against. He hates it when someone says, often apologetically, “At least I will pray for you”. This is the MOST we can do, and our actions are fruitless without prayer.

Try praying for those you are concerned about with lengthy sessions of the Jesus prayer. This is hard, but is the only work that will succeed; it gives wings to all our other work.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2014??? ?St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

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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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And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Eternal life, perfect freedom and joy explained – John16:22-24

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

6th Tuesday of Pascha, May 22/June 4 2013


"And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.  (23)  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  (24)  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John16:22-24)


How are you doing on your reading of John? We are finishing the 16th chapter today. We are headed to the end, on the leave-taking of Pascha (the day before Ascension, next week). I am not concerned if you are reading at a slower pace, but as your pastor I am very concerned of you are not reading at all or very haphazardly! We must read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels and the Psalter, and ponder them. They are the words of eternal life.


The Last supper, after which Jesus instructed His Disciples (John 16) the 16th chapter of John, Christ is preparing His disciples for is upcoming passion, on the very night of His arrest. Judas the betrayer of Christ did not hear these words. There is a great and deep well of theology here, a Christological treasure trove. It must be understood, and this happens over time and with repetition – of reading the Scripture texts and living the Christian life.


There is something else in this chapter that is too beautiful to talk about properly. It is so wondrous that we cannot explain it, because it promises things that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard"[1]. Our Lord describes our*end* state, the fruit of our labors. This is the entire and only goal of life – perfection in Christ.


In the next chapter, Our Lord will pray his high priestly prayer and give His definition of eternal life "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). I have quoted this verse more than any other, because it is a succinct summary of our only purpose in life, and the answer to that question that I ask so often (and re-ask myself often) – "What is the purpose of your life?"


In the selection above, Jesus describes our state of being in eternal life. The perfect man has no need to seek for anything, since he wants in nothing. Therefore, he has no need to pray to the Lord. Here we understand prayer in a narrow sense – to ask the Lord for things we need. Of course, perfect prayer actually leads to a state of no prayer – just the state of perfectly being in the presence of the Perfect One.


In this world, we are commanded to ask. The Scriptures are replete with these commands. We ask because we need. When we no longer need anything, we will have no reason to ask! therefore the Lord promises us that "in that day ye shall ask me nothing".


I yearn for that day. It seems impossible to my feeble mind that I can be totally perfect, without any lingering passions. There are many things in my life that I have conquered, in the sense that I do not do them, and am not even attracted to them, but I cannot say that I still am never tempted by them.


Jesus is describing the full restoration of the human will to the Edenic state. We are made in the image of God, and simplistically, that means that we are given the gift of free will. This is the ability to do what is good , always, and without labor (it is NOT the ability to do anything, good or bad, because doing bad destroys free will). We poor ones have learned to do good, but most of the time, it is with labor, and sometimes great and bitter labor. 


Never forget what you are laboring for! You are laboring to have joy that cannot be taken away from you; you are laboring to be free from labor. This is the only perfect freedom. Nothing else that man calls freedom is freedom.


In this world, we cannot have perfect joy, but we can labor for it, and God will give it to us, because He has promised. He will fully heal our suffering souls, and repair our will so that it is perfectly free, as His is. This is the outstanding promise of Christianity, and I never grow tired of talking about it or meditating on it. This is the reason I became an Orthodox Christian. For a time (a little over a year), I was someone who believed, in a typical sort of "Protestant Evangelical" way, but I never heard these things from my eager and honest peers, nor from any literature. I remember how excited I was when I understood that Christ promises perfection and not just forgiveness. As I have grown in the faith all these years, I have learned that the whole of our ascetical theology focuses on this reality.


It is notable that the Lord promises this perfect freedom and joy to His disciples (and to us), when they were experiencing great pain, sorrow and confusion. The next hours would bring about great sins within them, and their weak wills would crumble. So it is with us. We labor and work, and still our wills are weak and we fall, but as we progress in the Christian life, there are glimpses of the freedom and joy that Christ promises to us, and we are encouraged in our labors.


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

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[1] "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)



Keep Holy things from becoming common!

Saturday, June 1st, 2013


"Lord,  Thou hast accounted me worthy today,  but cast me not away  from Thy sight in that great and notable day when Thou wilt come again."


The Last supper prayer is a synthesis of the first and fourth prayers of Thanksgiving  after Holy Communion.


From the first:

"I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast vouchsafed me to be a communicant of Thy holy Things".

 From the fourth (the entire, short prayer):

"O Lord Jesus Christ our God, may Thy Holy Body, be unto me for life eternal, and Thy Precious Blood for the remission of sins; And may this Eucharist be to me for joy, health, and gladness. And at Thy dread Second Coming, vouchsafe me, a sinner, to stand at the right hand of Thy glory, through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother and of all Thy Saints".


Fr Zacharias[1] recommends that we say this prayer after liturgy to keep it from becoming common to us. This is a wonderful idea.  When I read it, I loved it, but to my shame, did not recognize  it as a synthesis of two prayers that I have said over three thousand times(!) (a footnote enlightened me).


We truly miss so much in everything we do because if our lack of attention. Every day,  the way we live is a travesty and tragedy. We are living out the life of the people if the Gergesenes[2], and the people of Chorazin! and Bethsaida[3], who saw the Lord and did not recognize Him.


I think about these things often. How many times do we do holy things in a common way? How many times do we zip through the Trisagion prayers, or Psalm 50? How many times does the Lord visit us, and we do not recognize Him, or treat Him as common?


I suffer from two maladies, one of which is because of my physical nature, and one because of my spiritual decadence.


The physical infirmity is not so important, and even though it is irksome, it will not condemn me[4]. I am easily disturbed and confused by noise and commotion, and therefore, the environment in which the prayers are read is not conducive to my mind processing what my ears hear. Added to that problem is that because I am a pastor, I must greet people as they kiss the cross, and the prayers become a drone in the background, especially is someone is saying them softly.


The other problem is much more significant and I have no excuses. I do not always pay complete attention. Even when I am focusing my attention on the prayers, my mind can drift in and out, like a weak radio signal.


Years ago, I would go home and say the Prayers of Thanksgiving after Communion alone, even though I had heard them read in church. This was in a different time, when I was a layman or deacon, and did not have so many responsibilities. Those were wonderful moments, and they helped to keep the miracle of the liturgy more appreciated. This practice was a kind of compensation for my maladies. We must creatively find ways to compensate for our spiritual depravity, and find ways to focus on the "holy things for the holy".


God help us! We treat as common that which is precious. We must prefer the common over the precious. We must do everything in our power to fight this deadly tendency. this seems impossible, but the Lord has promised us success with impossible things!


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


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[1] The Enlargement  of the Heart,  Archimandrite  Zacharias,  pg 93.

[2] The people of the Gergesenes kept swine and the Lord exorcized two demoniacs and allowed to the demons to enter the swine, and the swine went mad and ran down a cliff and were drowned in the sea below. the people went out to the Lord and asked Him to leave them; they should have been repenting and thanking Him for His visitation. They were blinded by their passions, as are wee. See Matthew 8:28-34

[3] Matthew 11:20-21  Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  (21)  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

[4] After all, if I cannot process the audible prayers, nobody except my poor sinful self is preventing me from inner silent prayer! I do this often when things are too chaotic for my sensitive ears, but not often enough!

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.



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

How to BECOME a child of God John 1:12-13

Monday, May 6th, 2013

"But as many as received Him, to them he gave power to become Children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were begotten not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God." [John 1:12-13]


[Our parish is being encouraged to read the Gospel of Jon during the Pentecostarion period. If we read 1/2 chapter a day plus the remainder (about 2 chapters) the day before Ascension, we will finish in forty days. On Bright Monday, the suggested reading is John 1:1-28, on Tuesday the rest of the chapter (through verse 51)]



The following is a prayerful meditation on some part of the first "assigned" reading. REMEMBER – read the scripture to apply it to yourself. This is all important. There may be parts you do not understand, but there will always be something that touches your heart if you read it prayerfully.


If you have comments about this verse or another in this selection (John 1:1-28), please add them in the comments, or email them to me.




In one sense we can  say we are not children of God,  but that we are becoming children of God. Of course, the Theologian explicitly states that we are given the power to "become". This implies we are not finished with the transition from being a child of the world (and the Devil) to a child of God. This is a continual, stepwise process.


So the question is at what point would we become fully children of God and what is this process. To be a child of God is to be *fully* human,  as Jesus Christ is human. This is a process,  and it takes place over our lifetime.  We are constantly *becoming*. This is not a foregone conclusion. We have the power,  give by Christ through baptism,  and we then must "take our bed and be walking".


If we "receive" Christ, we must obey Him. We also must learn about him ("take My yoke upon me and learn of me…"). This learning is not in the head, but in the heart. Our wonderful task is to become like the God-man Jesus Christ, and follow his example, which is well laid out in the Gospels and the lives of his beloved ones, the Saints.


The Theologian states that those born of God are not born of:


blood – I take this to mean by human birth.


the flesh – This may also be human birth, but I take it to mean that the ways of the flesh – our passions, bad priorities, and earthbound desires and practices will never lead us to heaven.


nor the will of man – I take this to mean that MY WILL will never lead me to God. I must give my will to God, and so His will if I am to become a child of God. My will does not work, it is unreliable, and dangerous. God's will is perfect, and leads to perfect peace.


May God grant that we receive Him in every way and become fully children of God!



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


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Comments on the 2013 Lenten Pastoral Retreat Diocese of Chicago and Middle America ROCOR Mar 20/April 2 – Mar 22/ April 3 2013

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Comments on the 2013 Lenten Pastoral Retreat

Diocese of Chicago and Middle America ROCOR

Mar 20/April 2 – Mar 22/ April 3 2013


It is our custom in our diocese for the clergy to gather around our bishop twice a year in the cathedral of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, Des Plaines, Il. One of these times is during Great Lent, and the other is for the Patronal feast of the Cathedral, in the Fall.


I hate to travel – I am a nervous and sometimes confused traveler, but I love having traveled and seeing my brothers again. I regret that Fr Nicholas could not come due to his work obligations. He would have loved it. He is in the same boat I was once in, having a young family and a full time job, and juggling time off to include important days such as Good Friday, and Holy Thursday, and trying to have a little bit left for his family time.


We are a poor diocese, but we are very rich. I have been around a little, especially because of the Internet, and I do not know of a more peaceful diocese anywhere. I truly enjoy being around my brother clergy, and it is always warms my soul to see how freely and easily we interact with our chief shepherd, Bishop Peter. We are truly free to say anything, in public or private, and there is a sense in our gatherings of acceptance, support and calm.


It is not like this all over the Orthodox landscape. I am always consciously aware of how grateful I am that we have this peace and unity amongst ourselves. Our small diocese is growing, and although poor, is quite healthy financially. It is a privilege to be a part of this growth.


This is not to say that we do not have opinions, and disagreements in our deliberations. We are a mix of shy and open, quiet and not so quiet, opinionated and taciturn, but our disagreements are always accomplished "agreeably". We all collaborated on an excellent Resolution, so to be published, which we will read to our parishes. We also had an important mutual pastoral concern, and came up with am important step towards addressing it. I think we did important work this week. May God's blessing descend upon our humble pastoral outreach, and have it be received in the same prayerful and pastoral spirit in which it was conceived.


Of course the focus of our gathering is our concelebrating of the Divine Liturgy together. We celebrated Vespers and Matins the evening before, with The usage of English and Slavonic split approximately 50% each. As an Anglophone, I much appreciate this, but in the beautiful candlelit cathedral, when the Slavonic was read quite beautifully by the parish Cantor (who is equally adept in Slavonic and English)  and others, I would usually look upon one of the icons and pray the Jesus prayer, and in some way, the moments felt very holy and pure. I do not want to insinuate that I prayed in a holy way or with much attention, because I am a jumble of sins and thoughts,  but I will boldly say that my soul was enlarged by the experience and I treasure these moments. One of the Fathers the following morning asked me if I wanted to stand in the cliros, which was full of clergy chanting and singing in English and Slavonic (when we had the 3rd, 6th and 9th hour and Typika before the Presanctified Liturgy), and I answered no, because it is rare for a priest to be able to stand in the church, and just pray. I appreciate those moments. Perhaps I take advantage, with good attention to 10% of these moments, but this is still a great blessing for my soul, and I hope, for those whom I remember during these holy times. My flock and my family may be assured that my heart is with you very much during these times.


Something always happens at some point during the Divine Liturgy, usually around the time of the Great Entrance. This is always the highlight of my trip, but talking about it cannot convey the experience. I become overwhelmed with a kind of certainty deep within my soul that we are surrounded by holiness, – the saints and the angels, and the Holy Spirit in all of us, and we are doing something holy – together, as brothers. It always seems to me that if I fully understood at that moment the enormity of our brotherly love, expressed by our solidarity and sobriety in gathering around our chief shepherd to partake of the Holy body and Blood Of our Lord together, I would fully understand love, and be able to love fully, and therefore to know God, and act as God. This is a comforting feeling, but always, in that peculiar way that we who are Orthodox, (if we love and understand our prayers) understand – it is distressing too. I am in the presence of holiness and I am barely aware of it, and yet, I am filled with the sure hope that my brothers and I, and those whom we touch in our pastoral administrations – will understand it fully, someday. I have heard the term "bright sadness" used to describe Great Lent, and it does, but it also describes these moments, an all moments of deep prayer, and, if we are not lazy and dissolute, every day of our lives.






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


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A way to pray for someone with the Jesus Prayer

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

An excellent way to pray for someone is to pray a short prayer for them, then say the Jesus prayer for the person, for a set number of times.

One may say "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on N", or, more inclusively, "on us".

After the Jesus prayers, one may repeat the short prayer, or use another one. Two suggested prayers are below.


Prayer in Way of the Pilgrim, for others:

Merciful Lord, may Thy will be done;

Thou desirest that all men come to the truth and be saved, have mercy and save Thy servant N.

  Receive this petition from me as a cry of love which Thou hast commanded


To pray for someone more diligently:

Save, O Lord, and have mercy on Thy servant(s) ________, [bow]

Deliver him (her, them) from every tribulation, wrath and need [bow],

From every sickness of soul and body, [bow]

Forgive him (her, them) every transgression, voluntary and involuntary, [bow]

And do whatever is profitable for our souls. [bow].       

From the Old Believer Prayer Book.