THREE TIPS FOR DAILY PEACE

“Let my prayer arise (Κατευθυνθήτω, Да исправится) as incense before You, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of enclosure around my lips. Incline not my heart unto words of evil, to make/allege excuses (προφασίζεσθαι προφάσεις, непщевати вины) for sins...“ (Ps 140: 2-4, Septuagint-translation) These verses of the evening-psalm 140 (141) are sung in a special, Lenten melody today and Friday, and on all Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays, at a beautiful Vespers-service connected with the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. The three Psalm-verses offer me three, basic “tips“ for daily living in a peaceful, God-focused manner: 1. To live e

LOVE OF POWER

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power (φιλαρχίας), and idle talk (ἀργολογίας).” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 1) It is not sane to “love“ power or authority over others, although it is vital that some people exercise it, as their God-given vocation, – either as parents, or as political, military, or Church-leaders, or as teachers/professors, or as business-managers or executives. As St. Paul reminds us, “there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.“ (Rom 13: 1) The response-ability (or “ability to respond“ to the call/vocation) of power is humblin

CLOTHED & FED BY GOD

“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen 3: 21-24) The Lord God lovingly made for us our very first clothing, made of “skins,” after sin had made us uncomfortable in our own skin. Much

THE PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM

"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power, and idle talk (ἀργολογίας). But give rather the spirit of whole-mindedness (σωφροσύνης), humility, patience, and love to Your servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen." (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem) One of the great paradoxes of the cross-carrying journey, (the cross itself being the greatest paradox, as something that brings victory through defeat), is that I learn to embrace God’s Spirit, of whole-mindedness, humility, patience, and love, through being confronted with, and

HUMILITY LIBERATES

“The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols He shall utterly abolish.” (Is 2: 17-18) This refreshing passage is part of today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, whose prophecies are read on Lenten weekdays at the service of the Sixth Hour. Isaiah is talking about “that day,” of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His Spirit, according to the loving will of the Father, into our lives. – And into my life, again and again, on any given day when I allow Him to do that, allowing myself to be “bowed down” in the liberating grace of humility. I let “that day” be today, on this fourth day of

THE LIGHT OF CHRIST

“…Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you…” (Prov 2: 3-11) This

AND GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1: 14-18) On Lenten weekdays, we have three Scriptural readings daily, not from the New Testam

HOW SHALL I BEGIN LENT?

”Where shall I begin to weep over the deeds of my wretched life? How shall I begin, O Christ, to relieve my present tears? But as You are deeply compassionate, grant me forgiveness of sins.” (Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete) Why is this first day of Lent called “Clean Monday”? Because yesterday, on Forgiveness Sunday, we cleaned our plates of all resentments and grudges, letting go of the burdens of any masks or self-justification. Now I approach God with nothing, as did the tax-collector with his nothing, so I can freely, cathartically weep before His mercy: “God, have mercy on me, the sinner!” The questions posed at the very beginning of the Great Canon, chanted tonight in our churches

LET IT GO, BEFORE LENT

“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who ea

“GOD-BEARING” FATHERS

“All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11: 27-30) The reading quoted above is for this Saturday preceding Lent, the Saturday of All the “God-Bearing” (θεο-φόροι, бого-носные) Fathers, i.e., the great ascetics who came to “bear” or to carry God within themselves, dedicating their lives entirely to God-focused

WE WILL GO WITH YOU, THROUGH LENT

“Thus says the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. Thus says the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts; In those days ten men from every

THE MEETING OF THE LORD

“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, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, 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 Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Lk 2: 27-32) Today, on the great feast of the Meeting of the Lord (OC), we’re celebrating an encounter of the Lord with an old man, Simeon, who allowed himself to be “guided by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit guided him to “come into the temple” and

ASH WEDNESDAY

“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.” (Joel 2: 12-13) Yes, I do know that it is “not” Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, for us Orthodox Christians today. Nonetheless, the above-quoted passage is, indeed, part of our Church’s reading for today, Cheesefare Wednesday. Because this week, or Cheesefare Week (Maslenitsa in Russian), the week preceding Lent, is liturgically already preparing us for the season of fasting and “return to the Lord

BLINDFOLDED AND BEATEN

“Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.” (Lk 22: 63-65) Does it do us any good, to know the heartbreaking details of certain violent crimes, like the ones described above? They blindfolded Him, beat Him, mocked Him, and apparently they enjoyed it. You can’t “un-know” that; it stays with you, like stories that pop up in the news about various forms of human cruelty. How can I “process” this information, so that it does not make me cynical about humanity in general? I can “process” it in the light of the dark story quoted above, of God’

THE LORD’S ANONYMOUS HELPERS

“When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, Why are you untying it? you shall say this, The Lord has need of it.’ So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.” (Lk 19: 29-35) We see these nameless followers of the Lo

GOD’S JUDGMENT & OURS

“…Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, b

THE DIALOGUE AFTER THE GREAT ENTRANCE

Priest: Pray for me, brother and concelebrant (ἀδελφὲ καὶ συλλειτουργέ). Deacon (Lk 1: 35): The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Priest: The same Spirit will concelebrate with us (συλλειτουργήσει ἡμῖν) all the days of our life. (Dialogue after the Great Entrance, Russian Orthodox “Sluzhebnik,” Moscow 2005) At this point in the Divine Liturgy, in response to the priest’s request for prayers, the deacon responds (according to the proper version of this dialogue, corrected in modern-day editions of the Russian Orthodox Church) with the words of the Archangel, said to the Holy Virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…” Why these words? Be

CHOOSING CHRIST OVER BARABBAS

”Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. And he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?’ And they cried out again, ‘Crucify him.’ And Pilate said to them, ‘

ON SEX & POWER

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women (τὰς τοιαύτας). What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning wit

WATCH AND PRAY

“And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I pray.’ And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temp

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