PRAYING IN “HOPELESS” SITUATIONS

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ And he went with him. (…) While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’ But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’” (Mk 4: 22-24, 35-36) These people say to Jairus, “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” It’s over. Also in our “hopeless” situations, when it appears that the absolute-worst has happened,

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

“Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be (ἁγιασθήτω) Thy name…” (Mt 6: 9) Indeed, “hallowed be Thy name,” despite the latest wave of very public sex-scandals in our Christian world. God’s “good name” can be tarnished by us, who have been baptised (e.g., “immersed”) or consecrated/ordained in His name. If we, who are supposed to be dedicated to, and ministering in, His name, are actually self-serving; serving our own “name,” or perhaps many “others,” whose name is “legion” (cf. Mk 5: 9), then the light and goodness of God’s “name” does not shine forth from us. It rather becomes obscured, or even confused with the darkness and evil of His enemies. As St. Paul writes, “God’s name is blasphem

MISTAKING JESUS FOR A PROPHET

”…King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ’It is Elijah.’ And others said, ’It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it he said, ’John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. For John said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” (Mk 6: 14-18) When Herod hears of “Jesus’ name,” the guilt-plagued king thinks it is John, whom he beheaded “for the sake of Herodi

THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING

“Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear; and forget your own people and your father’s house. And the king shall greatly desire your beauty, for he himself is your Lord, and you shall worship him. And him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat your countenance (τὸ πρόσωπόν σου λιτανεύσουσιν, лицу твоему помолятся). All the glory of the daughter of the king is within, with goldfringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colors... I shall commemorate your name in every generation and generation.“ (Ps 44: 9-12, 16, Septuagint-translation) Today, as those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Dormition of t

GOD’S LITTLE SECRET

“’…But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.’” (Mk 4: 20-22) As those of us on the Older Calendar prepare to celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos this Tuesday, I’m thinking about the once-“hidden” virtue of Mary, a poor Jewish girl from Nazareth. She “heard the word and accepted it” quietly, in a private conversation with an Archangel, and then “bore fruit” incalculably more th

WHAT IS “MYSTERY”?

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God, in mystery, and (which was) hidden, and which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor 2: 6-8) The “wisdom of God,” spoken by the Apostles and their successors “in mystery,” was indeed once “hidden” from all, “before the ages.” But it is not un-knowable, nor does it remain “hidden,” in the era of the Church, having been revealed (and continuing to be revealed) in the Person of Jesus Christ, to anyo

LISTEN!

“And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Mk

REPLACING FEAR WITH FAITH

“By night I pondered in my heart, and my spirit asked: Will the Lord reject forever, and will he be favorable no more? Or will he cut off his mercy unto the end? Has he brought an end to his word from generation to generation? Or will the Lord forget to be merciful? Or in his wrath will he shut up his compassions? And (then) I said: Now have I begun; this change is of the right hand of the Most High. I remembered the works of the Lord; for I will remember your wonders from the beginning…” (Ps 76: 6-11, Septuagint-translation) The above-listed questions or fears sometimes kept the Psalmist up at night; fears based on the uncertainty of the future. But then he would re-focus and re-affirm his

CHRIST & CONTROVERSY

“The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.” (Mk 3: 6-10) As His “haters,” the Pharisees and Herodians, were busy plotting “how to destroy him,” our Lord simply “withdrew to the sea” and continued His sa

TRANSFIGURATION & SELF-OFFERING

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is a good thing that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’ And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any

WHEN SORROW ISN’T A BAD THING

“And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the

FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT

“When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” (Lk 9: 51-53) As we consistently refresh the living memory of the Church known as “Tradition,” we “remember” not only the things the incarnate Lord said and did, but also what He looked like, what His “face” looked like, as He said and did those things. Because face-to-face contact with Him, made possible for us in the Incarnation, and the “memory” of which is handed down to us in holy icons, is an essential part of

THE MOTHER OF LIFE

“Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, / Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. / For being the Mother of Life, / She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her ever-virginal womb.” (Kontakion-hymn of the Dormition of the Theotokos) Just as St. Peter said about the Source of Life, our risen Lord, that “it was impossible” that He should be “held” by death (Acts 2: 24), we sing in the above-quoted hymn that death “could not hold” the Mother of Life. As one with a unique role in Salvation History, the Mother of God also has a unique, personal “salvation history”: She experienced Pentecost “before” anyone else, at the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1: 35,

BLESSED IS THE WOMB THAT BORE YOU

“As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (Lk 11: 27-28) The unnamed “woman in the crowd” who raised her voice and blessed Mary, the most-holy Theotokos, is pointing out the unique, inimitable part of Mary’s vocation, which was giving birth to our Lord Jesus Christ, in the flesh. But none of us share that specific vocation with the one-and-only Mother of God, so we can’t “relate” to it, really, – and by “really” I mean that we can not, nor are we called to, follow the Holy Virgin in that vocation, unique in all of

“NEWSWORTHY” CONVERSATIONS

“…And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her. In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ’Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?...” (Lk 1: 38-43) As those of us on the “New” Calendar prepare for the upcoming feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Mt 6: 31-34) If you’re feeling extra-anxious about your material “success,” whether it’s with regard to your finances, or your outer appearance, – I once heard a wise person say, – then intensify your spiritual “program,” and re-connect with God, because He gr

FORGIVENESS

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fe

BE READY

“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mt 24: 42-44) I need to be ready today, to receive the Lord into the “house” He has entrusted to me, which is my heart. My “readiness,” “watchfulness,” or “awokenness” to God is not just a Sunday thing; it’s an every day thing, as the Lord reminds me here. So my primary focus, as far as my connection with God goes, needs always to be on “today,” on any given day o

IT’S NOT ABOUT “US”

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Le

BLINDED BY SECONDARY ISSUES

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Mt 23: 23-24) Here the Lord is warning me about focusing on secondary issues, while losing sight of the whole point of God’s law, or “the weightier matters” that are “justice and mercy and faith.” It’s easy to slip into this; to become very meticulous about some aspect of living our Tradition, say, of reading all the preparatory prayers before Holy Communion, or all the morning and evening prayers on

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