LIKE A ROLLING STONE

“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?’ And having looked up, they saw that the stone was rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were greatly amazed (ἐξεθαμβήθησαν).” (Mk 16: 1-5) The “stone” that covered the door of the tomb rolled along a track, carved into the front of the tomb, and probably weighed abou

WITNESSES BOTH MALE AND FEMALE

“Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (Mk 16: 9-14) The Lord’s original “p

PEOPLE TALKING WITHOUT SPEAKING

“You search (ἐραυνᾶτε) the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (Jn 5: 39-40) So, it is possible to seek “life” in the written words we’ve received in Tradition, while forgetting the Author of these words. I can easily miss the point of the Word of God, if I turn it into some abstract philosophy or “system of moral values,” divorced from the lived experience of encountering Christ; of “coming to Him,” that I may truly have life. I think this approach is often a pitfall, – subtle and yet tragic, – of those of us who study theology. What’s “tragic” about this approach is t

A GOOD LISTENER

“I can do nothing on my own (ἀπ᾽ἐμαυτοῦ); as I hear (καθὼς ἀκούω), I judge; and my judgment is just (δικαία), because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” (Jn 5: 30) “I hear,” (ἀκούω) says the Lord. He doesn’t only hear, however. He listens, like nobody else. In His profound, divine capacity truly to listen, He is perfectly “obedient” (ὑπήκοος, from the verb “ὑπ-ακούω,” meaning “to listen, give ear”) even unto death on the cross (Phil 2: 8). And this is what makes Christ’s judgment just. As the God-Man reveals these awe-inspiring dynamics of divine “judgment” (κρίσις, literally, “crisis”), He is also teaching me something vital about our human “judgment,” discernme

WHY LOOK TO “THE SAINTS” FOR HELP?

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. A

THE LIMITATIONS OF DARKNESS

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to judge (ἵνα κρίνῃ) the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged (οὐ κρίνεται); he who does not believe is judged already (ἤδη κέκριται), because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment (ἡ κρίσις), that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed...” (Jn 3: 16-20)

DON’T BE CARRIED TO AND FRO

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not be of anxious mind (καὶ μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε)...“ (Lk 12: 29) The Greek expression used here for “do not be anxious of mind“ (μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε, me meteor-izesthe) literally means “do not float in mid-air,“ or be raised up and carried to and fro (like a meteor)! In other words, – Be grounded, Jesus is saying, in your here and now. It is a vital message for me in our Internet Age, when “virtual reality“ online carries me to and fro, from story to story. And can also distract me from my “vocation,“ which, among other things, brings me my “daily bread,“ or “what (I am) to eat and...to drink,“ in the sense of both physical and s

DIVINE MERCY vs. “GUILT”

“…And forgive us our debts/trespasses (τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, долги наша), as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us…” (Mt 6: 12, The Lord’s Prayer) The expression used in the original Greek of Mt 6: 12, “ὀφειλήματα” (from “ὀφείλω,” meaning “to owe, having to pay or account for”) means “debts.” So the Slavonic translation of the Our Father (долги наша), as well as the German one (unsere Schuld), have it right. I point this out because I think the term, “debts,” is key to understanding the human experience called “guilt.” It is the feeling that I “owe” someone or something; that I have not sufficiently “paid up.” Hence “guilt” means me carrying around with me an invisible, gaping h

THE BREAD OF LIFE

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life (ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς); he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out…” (Jn 6: 35-37) Today, on Bright Saturday, the special Easter “Bread” or “Artos,” which we see on a small table before the iconostasis in our churches all of Bright Week, is broken and distributed to the faithful. The “Artos” was first blessed on the night of Pascha, and carried around the church in processions throughout this week. It signifies, or points to, the presence of the Lord among us,

THOSE IN THE TOMBS (СУЩИЕ ВО ГРОБЕХ)

“Christ is risen from the dead, / trampling down death by death, / and upon those in the tombs (καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι, и сущим во гробех) / bestowing life!” (Byzantine Troparion-hymn of Pascha/Easter) So – who are “those in the tombs”? All of us, practically. “Those in the tombs” are those of us “buried,” either in our work or in a relationship, or in a “dead” indifference to work or a relationship (I realize that sounds paradoxical, but both those situations are “deadening”); or in some obsession or addiction, like an unhealthy dependency on a thing or person. But Christ “is risen” from all our darkness, having walked through it; having confronted all our weakness, anger, resentment, fea

SHINE, SHINE!

“Shine, shine (Φωτίζου, φωτίζου, Светися, светися), O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of Him to Whom you gave birth.” (Paschal Canon, Irmos of Ode 9) Here are some fun facts about this well-known hymn of our Paschal services. It begins by paraphrasing the words of Isaiah 60: 1, according to the Septuagint: “Shine, shine, O Jerusalem (Φωτίζου, φωτίζου, Ιερουσαλημ),” says Isaiah, “for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” The hymn is referring these words to the “new” Jerusalem or Sion, – the Church, – in other words, all of us. And finally the hymn addres

DEATH COULD NOT HOLD HIM

“’Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.’” (St. Peter’s speech on Pentecost, Acts 2: 22-24) Pentecost is still many weeks away, but I am already called to anticipate it in the above-quoted passage, read in our churches today. Here St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, is “making sense” of Christ’s death

A NEW DRINK

“Come, let us drink a new drink (Δεῦτε πόμα πίωμεν καινόν, Приидите пиво пием новое), / not one miraculously brought forth from a barren rock / but the Fountain of Incorruption, / springing forth from the tomb of Christ, // in Whom we are strengthened.“ (Paschal Canon, Irmos of Ode 3) The Lord’s resurrection changes things, including our “drinking habits.” That is to say, the new Life and new Strength “springing forth from the tomb” is offered to me as a new “Fountain,” to which I can come and quench my inner “thirst,” or the hole in my heart. It is not merely water “brought forth from a barren rock,” as Moses did for his people in the water-less desert (Numbers 20: 11). We “are strengthened

HE KNOWS MY NAME

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus sa

WHY DO YOU SEEK THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen...’” (Lk 24: 1-6) The two angels, the “two men in dazzling clothes” are not all that direct in delivering the news of the resurrection to these women. First, they allow the women to be “perplexed” for a bit, about the rolled-away

THE SILENCE OF HOLY SATURDAY

“When You did descend to death, O Life Immortal, / You did slay hell with the splendor of Your Godhead, / And when from the depths You did raise the dead, / All the Powers of Heaven cried out, / O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You!” (Troparion-hymn of Holy & Great Saturday) The great “silence” of Holy Saturday, when the God-Man lies in the tomb, is different for all those involved. For Joseph of Arimathea and the women who had seen “how his body was laid,” and now, on the Sabbath, “rested according to the commandment” (Lk 23: 56), it was a day of great mourning and buried hope. For us, however, today’s “silence” is more like the calm before a storm. Because we know that the Lord of

MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY…?

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Elo-i, Elo-i, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And some of the bystanders hearing it said, ‘Behold, he is calling Elijah.’ And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly

A NEW COVENANT

“And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the

JUDAS THE “SCROOGE”

“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing for me (εἰς ἐμέ). For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what

I HAVE NO GARMENT

”I see Your bridal chamber adorned, O my Saviour, and I have not the garment, to enter therein; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul, and save me.” (Exaposteilarion-Hymn of “Bridegroom Matins” on Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) Some of us have not fasted enough, or prayed enough, to be well-prepared for the upcoming celebration of Pascha. But in fact the hymns of this Holy and Great Week, like the one quoted above, speak of and for all of us, as ill-prepared for the ”bridal chamber” that is the upcoming celebration. – Like the man in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, who is found to have no “wedding garment,” and is thrown out for his impropriety (Mt 22: 1-14). But to

© 2020 Coffee with Sister Vassa Inc.

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