“And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith he said, ‘Man (Ἄνθρωπε), your sins are forgiven you (ἀφέωταί σοι).’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?’ When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But tha


“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of/because of the Son of man (ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Lk 6: 22-23) How can we know when we’re “hated” or “excluded” or rejected in some other way, specifically “because of the Son of man,” and not for some other reason? We know this is happening “because of the Son of man” when we are rejected specifically for being ourselves, according to our “vocation”; I mean, according to our response to Christ’s call to us personally, to be and to act an


“We bow down before Your Cross, O Master, and Your holy Resurrection we glorify!“ (Byzantine Hymn, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross) Why the cross? Why would God choose a “cross,“ of all signs, as the sign of His (and our) victory; as the instrument by which He trampled, and we, in Him, continue to trample, death and darkness? For one thing, when I make the sign of the cross, I become bigger than myself. Because the cross branches out, extending beyond me. As Chesterton noted in his brilliant comparison of the (Buddhist) circle and (Christian) cross: “The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.“ Inde


“And we have come to know and believe (ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν) the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness (παρρησίαν) in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear (φόβος) in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves/has torment (κόλασιν ἔχει). But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4: 16-19) It is one thing, merely to say, “God is love.” It is quite a different thing, to “come to know” and also to come to “believe,” that God truly loves “us,” specif


“And you, who were dead (ὄντας νεκροὺς) in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath/anger (τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς), just as the others, – God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ (συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ), even when we were dead in trespasses. By grace you have been saved…” (Eph 2: 1-5) Here St. Paul is telling us about


“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?’” (Lk 24: 13-17) These two disciples “are sad,” and walking to Emmaus, “that same day.” What day is that? It’s that very Sunday two millennia ago, on which the women discovered the Tomb empty, and were told, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Lk 2


“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’” (Lk 1: 13-17) Th


“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself (προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ), that for the dispensation (εἰς οἰκονομίαν) of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ (ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, that all things might be headed in Christ), both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in him.” (Eph 1: 7-10) What a complicated passage, even more complicated in English translation. But there is a profoundly simple message her


“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh (εἰς τὴν σάρκα ἑαυτοῦ) will of the flesh reap corruption (φθοράν), but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal 6: 7-9) Here the word “flesh” does not mean my body. It means my lower, carnal self, in body, soul and mind. And by “lower” I mean the self, isolated from its “higher” meaning and purpose, communion with God. This “flesh” is an entirely subjective principle, or entirely our “own” soil, ultimately infertile. Because on its own, in


“For you, brethren, have been called to/for freedom (ἐπ᾽ελευθερίᾳ); only do not use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Gal 5: 13-17) This passage is all about the bondage of self-seeking “lust,” which can deprive me of the freedom


“I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. I also believe that this is truly Your pure Body and that this is truly Your precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to You, have mercy upon me, and forgive my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and deed, in knowledge and in ignorance. And make me worthy/proper (ἀξίωσόν με), without condemnation, to partake of Your pure mysteries for the remission of sins and for eternal life...“ (Byzantine Liturgy, Pre-Communion Prayer) Now, you may disagree with me, but I find the English word “worthy,“ in the context of receiving Holy Communion,


“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified,


“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not troubled; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pains (ὠδίνων). Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures/has patience (ὑπομείνας) t


“Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Ex 15: 22-25a) This passage is from the first reading at Vespers on the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated this Thursday (NC). What does this passage have to do with the feast? The “tree” that Moses throws into bitter wate


“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers (μέτοχοι) in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the Αpostle and High Priest of our confession. He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in his house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.” (Hebr 3: 1-4) Here’s a simple, but liberating, thought. As we go about our vocations, as “partakers in a heavenly call,” we participate in the building of our own “house,” in light of God’s life-giving word. We go about our daily responsibilities, trying to do the next right thing, growi


“He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works (δυνάμεις τοιαῦται) are done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ And he could do no mighty work (οὐδεμίαν δύναμιν) there, except that he laid his hands up


“Glory to You, Who has shown us the light! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among people. We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You. We give thanks unto You for Your great glory…” (The Great Doxology, Byzantine Matins) Traditionally this is the way we greet the first light of the rising sun, every morning at matins, by praising God for “showing us the light.” This traditional, light-embracing approach to a new day is particularly helpful to me this morning, on September 11, when difficult memories fill my heart, not only as a native New-Yorker, but also as an Orthodox Christian on the Older Calendar, commemorating the Beheading of St. John the Bapt


“…Then he (the king) said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, b


“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Mt 10: 40-42) By “these little ones” Christ means anyone who happens to come to Him, or be brought to Him by others, – even little children, who may not even understand that they are being brought to Him, or Who He is, or what He is all about (cf. Mt 18:


“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him…” (Mk 5: 1-6) By the end of this well-known narrative, which is too long to quote in its entirety, our Lord wil

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