THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Provide yourselves with (ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς) purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Lk 12: 33-34) Another kind of purse, that does “grow old,” is a self-seeking and self-centered one. When my heart is in the wrong “place,” I go about my day in neediness, trying to fill my “purse” with expectations of others and asking unhealthy questions, like: Why did he or she not do this for me, or listen to me, or say hello, or reply to my text immediately, etc.? This “place” can be very disappointing, even dangerous, fo

ST. PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH

“And to keep me from being too elated (ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι, so that I do not exalt myself) by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, to keep me from being too elated (ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι, so that I do not exalt myself). Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12: 7-9) We are not told what, exactly, St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. A chronic physical malady, perhaps migraines or inflammation of the eyes? A

DEALING WITH “LONELINESS”

“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I am left alone (κἀγὼ ὑπελείφθην μόνος), and they seek my life.’ But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Ba′al.’ So too at the present time there is a remnant (λεῖμμα), chosen by grace (κατ᾽ἐκλογὴν χάριτος, according to the choice of grace). But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Rom 11: 2-6) As far as Elijah could see, he was “left alone.” But Go

WISDOM’S MANY FORMS

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her children.’ Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.” (Mt 11: 16-20) True, divine “wisdom” can speak to me in various, sometimes unexpected forms and styles. It could be, for example, in musi

THE COMING ONE

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the Coming One (ὁ ἐρχόμενος), or shall we look for (προσδοκῶμεν) another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense (σκανδαλισθῇ) at me.’” (Mt 11: 2-6) Our Lord is, indeed, the “Coming One.” Unlike “other” lords or god-surrogates I may periodically choose to serve or “look for,” my true Lord is One Who “comes,” and is there for me, again and again, whene

KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is simple/single (ἁπλοῦς, i.e., not mixed, not complex), your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is evil (πονηρὸς), your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mt 6:22-23) An “evil” eye or perspective is devoid of God’s simplicity, or His stabilizing, ever-merciful perspective. When I spend too much time with my own thoughts and without prayer, I tend to get overwhelmed by my own “overthinking” of things. Or I misuse my thinking capacities (the “lamp” of my body) to speculate about the future or past, in pointless “what ifs.” In faith and through faith, I find tha

THE PRIEST’S APPROACH TO THE THRONE

(As the people/choir complete the singing of the Trisagion-Hymn, the priest and deacon proceed, from the front of the altar-table to the space behind it, where there is a “kathedra,“ throne or “High Place,“ along with a seat or seats next to it. In current Russian Orthodox practice, only a bishop may sit in the central “High Place,“ while a priest sits in a seat next to that. As they approach, they say the following): Priest: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Deacon: "Master, bless the throne on high." Priest: "Blessed are You upon the throne of the glory of Your kingdom, enthroned upon the Cherubim always, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen." Most of us will

ENEMIES IN OUR OWN HOUSE

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to divide (διχάσαι, to divide in two) a man against/regarding his father (κατὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ), and a daughter against/regarding her mother, and a daughter-in-law against/regarding her mother-in-law; and one’s foes (ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) are those of one’s own household (οἱ οἰκιακοὶ αὐτοῦ). He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Mt 10: 34-37) What “sword” does Christ bring between us and those of our own “house”? Himself. In faith, I learn that no relationship with another human bein

THE LAND OF SODOM & GOMORRAH

“…And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable (ἀνεκτότερον) on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Mt 10: 14-15) Today many of us think of “the land of Sodom and Gomorrah” as the very-worst of immoral, sinful places. But, according to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that “place” is “more tolerable” to God’s vision or judgment, than our unwillingness to “receive” or “listen to” His words. And let me add, if I might, the plain fact that most of us, including me, often dismiss or ignore God’s word in our lives, on a dail

WE MOVE HIM TO COMPASSION

“When he saw the crowds, he was moved to compassion (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) for them, because they were harassed/wearied (ἐσκυλμένοι) and helpless/cast away (ἐρριμένοι), like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Mt 9: 36-38) So, the whole bunch of us, like the “crowds” that Christ saw back then, are “harassed/wearied,” or, as we could say in contemporary terms, “stressed out.” We are also “helpless” or “cast away,” in our modern-day, disorienting and painful sense of not really “belonging” to any one identity and community, tossed to and fro in the

THE PRAYER OF THE TRISAGION HYMN

"O Holy God, Who is resting among the holy ones, praised by the Seraphim with the thrice-holy voice, glorified by the Cherubim, and worshiped by every celestial power, You have brought all things into being out of nothing. You have created man according to Your image and likeness and adorned him with all the gifts of Your grace. You give wisdom and understanding to the one who asks, and You overlook not the sinner, but have set repentance as the way of salvation. You have granted us, Your humble and unworthy servants, to stand even at this hour before the glory of Your holy Altar of sacrifice and to offer to You due worship and praise. Master, accept the Trisagion Hymn also from the lips of

THINKING ABOUT "FAITH" vs. "WORKS"

“…But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3: 21-26) …Say what

FASTING & MOURNING IN LOVE

“Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into new wineskins, and so both are preserved.’” (Mt 9: 14-17) As we complete the first week of the Apostles Fast, I’m think

IS OUR FATHER JUST “IN HEAVEN”?

“Our Father who art in heaven (ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς), hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (ἐν οὐρανῷ)…” (Mt 6: 9-10) Is God, our “Father,” distant from us, because He is “in heaven,” as in some “galaxy far, far away,” while we are all down here, on earth? No. He did, perhaps, seem distant in the Old Testament, but He more clearly revealed His closeness to us, when His only-begotten Son, the God-Man, walked among us, and prayed with us to our common Father, revealing to us God’s kingdom and will, on earth “as it is in heaven.” So, God’s presence, in His kingship and will, unites heaven and earth in the Person of His Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.

FORGIVENESS & SELF-FORGIVENESS

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Mt 6: 12) Are we making a “deal” with God here, as with One unwilling to grant us what we want, without some sacrifice from our side? No. He is more than willing to “forgive” us already, before we even ask for forgiveness. He’s not “mad” at us, because God never changes, and His undying love for us never changes. He doesn’t transform from being a “good God” into being a “mad God,” because of our behaviour. He’s God, after all, and does not change in His attitude toward us, nor do our prayers somehow change Him. What actually changes, when I pray in the way our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, in the Our Father, is me. I learn, in sa

HOW IS THE CHURCH "APOSTOLIC"?

“For the Lord’s sake be in subjection (ὑποτάγητε) to every human institution / creation (πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει), whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the fellowship of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Pet 2: 13-17) Is it harder for us, in our Information Age, than it was for St. Peter, to honor civil authorities, when we know so much about them, in 24-hour news coverage? I don’t think so. B

LIKE SPARKS THROUGH THE STUBBLE

”But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them… For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.” (Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1, 4-8) So who are “the righteous” being described here? Are they perfect? No. Otherwis

BE MY WITNESSES

“Be my witnesses/martyrs (γένεσθέ μοι μάρτυρες), and I too am a witness/martyr (κἀγὼ μάρτυς), says the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know, and believe, and understand that I am he: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none. I am God; and beside me there is no Saviour. I have declared, and have saved; I have reproached, and there was no strange god among you: you are my witnesses/martyrs, and I too am a witness/martyr…” (Is 43: 10-13, Septuagint-translation) The above-quoted passage is one of the readings at Vespers tonight, on the eve of the Sunday of All Saints. As I read this passage, the following question immediately pops into my mind:

HIS TRUTH vs. OUR OATHS

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool... Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Mt 5: 33-37) When I saw that this passage is part of our Church’s reading for this Friday, I first thought, Let me reflect on some other passage. This one is too problematic. Because we do, after all, “swear,” for example, in a court of law, “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” Somewhat differently, a

A NEW KIND OF COMFORT

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” (Lk 9: 57-60) A daily decision to follow Christ “wherever He goes” is not always “comfortable,” in the merely-human sense of that word. There is another kind of “comfort” we find in the Spirit of God, the Comforter, when we place our will and our life in His hands and let Him lea

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