Priest: “Your own of Your own (Τὰ σὰ ἐκ τῶν σῶν, Твоя от твоих) we offer to You (σοὶ προσφέρομεν, тебе приносяще), in all and for all (κατὰ πάντα καὶ διὰ πάντα, о всех и за вся).“ (Eucharistic Prayer, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) What we “offer“ to God in the Eucharist was already His, in the first place. We offer, or re-present to Him, 1. The gifts of bread and wine, and by them “all“ the material world; and 2. Ourselves and “all“ others in the Church, both living and departed. Again and again, at every Eucharist, we surrender to God entirely, “in all and for all,“ lest we forget God’s loving dominion over it all. And then, after we thus hand ourselves and everything over to God, He “re-turns“


“Priest: Let us lift up our hearts. (Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας. Горé имеим сердца.)People/Choir: We have them (lifted up) to the Lord. (Ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν Κύριον. Имамы ко Господу.)“ (Eucharistic Prayer, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) The Eucharistic Prayer is not only a text, read (mostly) by our priest. It is also an action and an event, “done“ by the entire Church, all of us, as we gather by invitation of the Host of this event, our Lord Jesus Christ. And the “place“ where we get to meet our Host, if we suit up and show up to this event, is “above,“ in the Presence of God. This is an “above“ that becomes accessible to us, in our (down) here and now, as we “let ourselves“ be lifted up into communion


“And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all.” (Lk 6: 17-19) This is what our church-existence still looks like: We are still this troubled “crowd,” seeking to touch Him, because we know that “power comes forth” from Him and “heals” us all. Christ still “comes down with us,” to the “level place” that is the sacramental reality of the Church. In th


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1: 1-5) Today, as those of us on the Older Calendar prepare for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and those of us on the “New” calendar celebrate the day of St. John the Theologian, I’m thinking about the fundamental, primary truth St. John reveals to us about our cross-carrying Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Namely, St. John identifies Him as the Source of L


“…So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. (…) And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Gen 3: 6-7, 21) Right after “The Fall”; after our decision to grasp “the knowledge of good and evil” from the tree, and not God’s way, we immediately felt the need to protect ourselves from “the elements” of God’s created world, by covering ou


“…And Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’ And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remain


“As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb, and he took it and ate before them.” (Lk 24: 36-43) There were many reasons, from the merely-human perspective of the disciples, why they should be “troub


“Your Nativity, O Virgin Theotokos, / Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! / The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, / Has shone from You! / Having annulled the curse (λύσας τὴν κατάραν), / He bestowed blessing. / Having destroyed death (καταργήσας τὸν θάνατον), He has granted us eternal Life.” (Troparion-hymn of the feast of The Nativity of the Theotokos) The birth of a baby-girl to an elderly and heretofore childless, Jewish couple, Joachim and Anna, over 2,000 years ago in a small village called Nazareth, did “proclaim” joy “to the whole universe.” But at the time it happened, few people heard about it. Nor did those few who did hear about it, at that time, understand what a univer


“And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the humility of his maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For he who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is his name…’” (Lk 1: 46-49) As those of us on the Older Calendar prepare to celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos tomorrow, I am thinking about the “Song of Mary.” It’s an outpouring of gratitude from the depths of a young woman’s soul, even though her life had just become extra-“complicated.” Having received unexpected news of the most problematic kind, – specifically, of an unexpected pregnancy…, – the Holy V


“…and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph 1: 22 – 2: 2) Is St. Paul alleging that we, members of “the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all,” no longer “sin” or “trespass,” – hence we are “alive”? No, the Apostle knows that we are still works-in-progress, who still “sin” and “trespass” on occasion, fall


“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Mt 24: 36-39) “The coming of the Son of Man” sounds like a “bad” thing, doesn’t it, when our Lord compares it to the coming of the flood, which “swept them all away”? Well, no, because it only swept “them” all away, who hadn’t entered the ark. But it didn’t sweep those away


“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’” (Jn 19: 14-19) …But the


“Above all, love one another deeply/fervently (ἐκτενῆ), because love covers over/conceals (καλύπτει) a multitude of sins.“ (1 Pet 4: 8) My “fervent“ love for another “covers over“ not only his/her “sins,“ but also mine. I often find that I am “rewarded“ with love, not “because“ of who or how I am, warts and all, but just because I also love, in return. Because oftentimes everything “else“ about us, like our backgrounds, characters, political views/affiliations, or habits (like speaking out about those political views/affiliations at the dinner-table with the in-laws; or snoring; or leaving the dishes unwashed overnight, or the dirty socks on the floor, or the bed unmade), is something that c


”When he had called all the multitude to himself, he said to them, ‘Hear me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!’ When he had entered a house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. So he said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?’ And he said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from w


“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offence/scandal of the cross (τὸ σκάνδαλον τοῦ σταυροῦ) has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you (about circumcision) would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty 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 one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” (Mt 22: 35-40) …So let me put first things first today, and let myself love God, my neighbor, and myself, “before” I worry about “all the law and the prophets.” It’s easy, even if it isn’t simple. It’s “easy” to love God, Who loves me unconditionally, having created me, and Who continue


“By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin, / Joachim and Anna are freed from the reproach of childlessness (ὀνειδισμοῦ ἀτεκνίας); / Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death. / And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: / The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!” (Kontakion-hymn of the Nativity of the Theotokos) As those of us on the “New” Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos this Saturday, our attention is drawn to the whole topic of the “reproach of childlessness,” endured for decades by the Holy Virgin’s parents, Joachim and Anna. They were liberated from this “shame,” just as we were freed from


“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” (Eph 4: 25-27) “Be angry, and do not sin,” says the Apostle, on the one hand, (quoting the Septuagint-version of Ps 4: 5). But then he tells us to keep this anger short, and “not let the sun go down on” our “wrath.” So, anger, which is not the same thing as hostility, is something we can engage productively, albeit briefly. Why, and how? Anger is not a sin per se, but rather a God-given “spark,” attributed also to the Lord (e.g., Mk 3: 5). It is not to be abused to ignite (se


“And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.’ And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see t


“I believe in God, the Father almighty…” (Beginning of the Apostles’ Creed) I recently learned, from reading an interview with John McCain, the just-deceased American senator from Arizona, that these seven words, at the beginning of “The Apostles’ Creed,” were written by him on a wall of his tiny cell in Vietnam, where he was imprisoned and tortured for over five years. These words, this profession of faith in “God, the Father almighty,” were an important part of what kept him going, in a life-threatening situation. How many of us really “pray” the Creed, – either this one, or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan one, more commonly used in our Orthodox Church, – and recognize its life-sustaining po

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