COME, LET US REASON TOGETHER

“Hear, O heaven, and hearken, O earth: for the Lord has spoken, saying, I have begotten and reared up children, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel does not know me, and the people has not regarded me… Your fasting, and rest from work, your new moons also, and your feasts my soul hates: you have become loathsome to me; I will no more pardon your sins. When you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and though you make many supplications, I will not hearken to you; for your hands are full of blood. Wash you, be clean; remove your iniquities from your souls before my eyes; cease from your iniquities; learn t

GOD-FOCUSED FASTING

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show people (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις) that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear as fasting to people (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις), but to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, th

FORGIVENESS SUNDAY

Deacon: “Let us love one another that with oneness of mind we may confess:” People/Choir: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Trinity, one in essence and undivided.” (Byzantine Divine Liturgy, just before the exchange of the Kiss of Peace) Tomorrow is “Forgiveness Sunday,” when in our churches we have a special, pre-Lenten Rite of Forgiveness (asking forgiveness of, and forgiving, one another). But of course we have a Rite of Forgiveness at Divine Liturgy every Sunday as described above, just before we proclaim our common faith in the Creed and begin the central, Eucharistic Prayer. This “Rite of Forgiveness” often goes unnoticed, since it is only the celebrating clergy who actually exchange the

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

“…Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is taken by force (βιά

PERPLEXED, BUT NOT IN DESPAIR

“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are hard pressed in every way, but not crushed; perplexed (ἀπορούμενοι), but not in despair (ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐξαπορούμενοι); persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Cor 4: 5-9) Is this a weak “leadership style”? I mean, one might think it was

RETURN TO THE LORD, EVEN NOW

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing…Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples,‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2: 12-13, 17) This passage strikes me as painfully relevant to us today. It is one of our Church’s readings for this Wednesday of Cheesefare-Week

LENTEN RENEWAL

“…Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in my inward parts. Cast me not away from your presence; and remove not your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation: establish me with your governing Spirit. I will teach transgressors your ways; and the ungodly shall turn to you.” (Ps 50/51: 9-13, Septuagint-translation) I do not need to “get all good,” if that were even possible, to have communion with God. His life-giving Spirit gives me life even in my sin. But He opens to me a fuller life, a more useful, renewed life, when I turn away from that sin, just as God is willing to “turn His face

A NEW INTIMACY, A NEW INTERCESSOR

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (ὑμᾶς, you in the plural), that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you (περὶ σοῦ, you in the singular) that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.’” (Lk 22: 31-34) This passage is similar, yet different, from the mind-boggling instance in the Old Testament, when Satan came forth before God, along with “the sons of God” (Job 1: 6), and asked God “to put forth His hand” on the righteous Job “and touch

CHANGE vs. FLIGHT

“He (John the Baptist) said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath/anger to come (ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς)? Bear fruits that befit repentance…’” (Lk 3: 7-8a) Today, on Meatfare Sunday, when we commemorate The Last Judgment, I’m thinking about St. John the Baptist’s approach to “the wrath/anger to come.” He’s asking, Who told you to “flee” from it? You can’t do that, because you can’t flee from your own selves, and from the “wrath” or “anger” you carry and multiply within yourselves, as a “brood of vipers.” What you can do is make a change, in “repentance” (a change of mind), and turn away from self-centered

PRAYING FOR THE DECEASED

“Love does not insist on its own way (οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, does not seek its own things); it is not irritable or resentful... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13: 5b, 7-8a) I’m thinking about this passage today, on the “Memorial Saturday” one week before Lent when we pray for the deceased, because I think it explains a lot about the whole business of praying for the deceased. It is natural, if we love them. Just as it is natural for a believing person to pray for the beloved living, particularly if we have been separated from them physically or geographically, for whatever reason, so is it natural for such a person to p

THE DOORS OF REPENTANCE

“Open to me the doors/gates (πύλας) of repentance, O Giver of Life: for early in the morning my spirit seeks Your holy temple, bearing a temple of the body all defiled. But in Your compassion cleanse it by Your loving-kindness and mercy.” (Byzantine Hymn at Sunday Matins before and during Lent) This pre-Lenten (and Lenten) hymn reminds me of “doors” that are presently closed. Otherwise I would not be asking for them to be opened. The fact is, I have closed the way leading to change, or “change of mind” (“metanoia” or repentance), having stagnated in certain, habitual patterns that “defile” (from “defouler,” to trample down) or “trample down” my growth in God, the Giver of Life. And I need he

"CALLS TO ACTION" AT LITURGY

People/Choir (as the celebrants enter the sanctuary at the Small Entrance): "Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ. Save us, O Son of God, risen from the dead (or Who are wondrous in Your saints), we sing to You, Alleluia." This Entrance-Verse, sung as the celebrating clergy enter the sanctuary through its Holy Doors, calls us not only to ”worship” spiritually, but also to ”bow down” physically. We make the sign of the cross and then bow down, together, before Christ. Let me not underestimate the importance of the concerted, synchronized physical actions, to which we are repeatedly called throughout liturgical celebrations (e.g., “Come, let us…bow down,” and “Stand aright!,” and “L

SIMEON LOOKS FORWARD

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Now you are dismissing your servant in peace, O Master, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentile

LOVE vs. KNOWLEDGE

“…And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing… Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

Priest (usually, silently): “Master and Lord our God, You have established in heaven the orders and hosts of angels and archangels for liturgical service (εἰς λειτουργίαν) to Your glory. Make our entrance be the entrance of the holy angels, concelebrating with us (συλλειτουργούντων ἡμῖν) and co-glorifying Your goodness.” (Prayer of Small Entrance, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) Liturgy is one of the ways that we, as Church, bridge the gap between heaven and earth. We are the ones who create that gap in the first place, whenever we go off on our own and “miss the point“ of our God-centered existence through “sin.“ But we are also given the opportunity, the gift, of participating in bridging that g

GOD MEETS US WHERE WE ARE

“…Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for hi

ON WEDDING RINGS

“…So he (the prodigal son) got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Lk 15: 20-24) The Parable of the Prodigal Son rem

GOD MATTERS IN FINANCIAL MATTERS

“Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need…” (Lk 15: 11-14) This young man proved incapable of spending his money wisely, outside his father’s home. Because it was not, in fact, just “his” money. It was a “share” of a common “estate,” and meant to be shared in that context of the father’s home. In self-isolation and in “a

HUMILITY MAKES MY WORLD BIGGER

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy; and according to your abundant compassions blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.” (Ps 50/51: 1-3) Is it really healthy, to make myself so “small” before God? Doesn’t my world also become small when I concentrate on “negative” things, like having “my sin ever before me,” rather than asking for more “positive” things, like more success and more pleasure? Well, no. Humility actually makes my world bigger, by making me and my needs smaller. Because God’s great mercy tends to surprise me, when I feel least “entitled” to it. “Humi

BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows in its midst we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and those who carried us away, a hymn, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land (ἐπὶ γῆς ἀλλοτρίας)? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!“ (Ps 136/137: 1-5, Septuagint-translation) We all find ourselves in “a foreign land.” And not only because of the strangeness of our present-day politics. :/ As the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebr 13: 14) As children of God and citizens of His

© 2020 Coffee with Sister Vassa Inc.

  • Odnoklassniki Social Icon
  • YouTube Reflection
  • Facebook Reflection
  • Vkontakte App Icon
  • Twitter Reflection
  • Google+ Reflection