LOSING ONE’S HOME

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’” (Mt 2: 13-15) I also know some people, in my today, who have been uprooted from their homes and their homelands, like the family of Syrian refugees that came over to Coffee-HQ for a Christmas-dinner just a few days ago. And I kn

THE “SEA” OF FORGIVENESS

“’Watch yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’ The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” (Lk 17: 3-6) The apostles think they don’t have enough faith, to forgive so many times a day. So they appeal to the Lord: “Increase our faith!” And He responds with this perplexing lesson about a mustard-seed-sized faith, which can uproot “this sycamine tree,” (a f

THE LAW OF LIBERTY

“…For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’ If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (κατακαυχᾶται ἔλεος κρίσεως).” (James 2: 10-13) The word “ἔλεος,” translated into English as “mercy,” means a lot more than just “a withholding of punishment.” It is the overflowing of God’s goodness upon us and the whole world; it’s His way of being and doing in our world, and of sharing

TODAY THE VIRGIN GIVES BIRTH

“Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, / And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! / Angels with shepherds glorify Him! / The wise men journey with a star! / Since for our sake the Eternal God is born as a Little Child!” (Byzantine Kontakion-hymn, Feast of the Nativity of our Lord) Today is not just any other day. Today, the earthly gives birth to the not-earthly, and the Earth offers hospitality to the One not-of-this-world. Today, the very down-to-earth shepherds glorify God with the heavenly angels, and the “wise men” of this world allow themselves to be led by a “star”! Because Christmas is a feast of unity; of all of God’s creation, both visible and invisibl

LED BY A LITTLE CHILD

“And the wolf shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the young calf and bull and lion shall feed together; and a little child shall lead them. And the ox and bear shall feed together; and their young shall be together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And an infant shall put his hand on the holes of asps, and on the nest of young asps. And they shall not hurt, nor shall they at all be able to destroy any one on my holy mountain: for the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as much water covers the seas. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trus

THE THEOTOKOS, A “LAMB” OF GOD

”Rejoice, Bethlehem! Prepare yourself, O Ephratha! / The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb. / The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice, beholding Him, / and with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.” (Kontakion-Hymn, Forefeast of the Nativity) We don’t often think of the Most Holy Virgin Mary as of “The Lamb” (that is led to the slaughter). Because Isaiah was talking about her Son, when he prophesied, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Is 53: 7) But this “lamb-likeness” the Theotoko

PREPARING OUR “BETHLEHEM”

“Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all! / Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave! / Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit: / If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam. / Christ is coming/being born (γεννᾶται) to restore (ἀναστήσων) the image/icon (εἰκόνα) which He made in the beginning!” (Troparion-hymn, Forefeast of Nativity) Christ comes into our world to turn things around; to transfigure the previously death-bringing into the life-bringing. He comes and creates in us a new “spiritual paradise,” gifting us a new kind of productivity, by His grace, in which His word “blossoms fo

I WILL PUT MY LAWS ON THEIR HEARTS

“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.’” (Hebr 10: 15-17) As those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate St. Nicholas “the Wonderworker” today, I thank God for the “wonder” we continue to experience, as Church, at the presence and works of saints in our lives. It is a dignifying and even transfiguring kind of “wonder.” As we celebrate the unique tender-heartedness, compassion and helpfulness of our beloved St. Nicholas, who allowed God’s laws to be “

THE "REFORMATION" OF CHRIST

“…By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent/tabernacle is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the worshiper in regard to conscience, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation/setting right (μέχρι καιροῦ διορθώσεως). But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the bl

THE THREE HOLY CHILDREN

“You did not worship the image circumscribed by hands (χειρόγραφον εἰκόνα), / O thrice-blessed ones, / but armed with the uncircumscribed Essence (ἀγράφῳ οὐσίᾳ), / you were glorified in a trial by fire. / From the midst of unbearable flames you called on God, crying: / Hasten, O compassionate One! / Speedily come to our aid, / for You are merciful and able to do as You will.” (Sunday of the Forefathers, Kontakion-Hymn) The “thrice-blessed ones” are the Three Holy Children, Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego, kinsmen of the Prophet Daniel in the tribe of Judah, led away together with him and other Jews into Babylonian Captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had the three youths thrown into a fiery furnace

THE “SPIRITUALITY” OF FASTING

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen 3: 1-3) As the Nativity Fast continues, I’m thinking about the “place” of concrete, physical food within the “spirituality” of our Church’s tradition of fasting. Because sometimes one hears the opinion that it isn’t, or shouldn’t be, “really,” about food, but about “more spiritual” considerati

CHURCH-POLITICAL DISPUTES

“And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, ‘If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’ John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus sai

EVERYBODY'S GOT A HUNGRY HEART

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say (this), and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What are you looking for (Τί ζητεῖτε)?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which meansTeacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” (Jn 1: 35-40) I’m looking at this passage today, when those of us on the Older Calendar ce

THE EASIER, SOFTER WAY

“And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly/openly (παρρησίᾳ). And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you do not have in mind (οὐ φρονεῖς) the things of God, but the things of men.’ And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Mk 8: 31-34) And He said this “plainly.” Both the thing about His suffering, bein

STRIVE TO ENTER THAT “REST”

“…again he sets a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, ‘Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest (αὐτοὺς κατέπαυσεν), God would not speak later of another day. So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest (εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ) also ceases from his labors as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts

SIGNS FROM HEAVEN

“The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.” (Mk 8: 11-13) Was there any lack of “signs from heaven” at that time, when the ultimate Sign From Heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ, was on His earthly mission? No. But the Pharisees had lost the ability to “see God” and His “signs,” because they were not “pure in heart” (Mt 5: 8). They were not open to God’s surprises, but stuck in their own ideas about “signs,” based o

THE “POWER” OF DARKNESS

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1: 11-14) The “power” of darkness is no power at all, when I surrender to, or let myself be “transferred” to, the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. He has “qualified us,” or made us capable of, sharing in Light. We can do that. – We don’t have to, but we can, if we want to. Today I want to do that, and hand myself over to God

JUST A LITTLE FAITH

“He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’” (Lk 13: 18-19) How subtle is the “Man,” the God-Man Jesus Christ, Who has “sown” just a tiny “mustard seed” of faith in our little hearts. But it is enough, even to provide “nests” for others, nay, even to move mountains (Lk 17: 6), – if only we don’t obstruct its growth in our “gardens.” So let me not be discouraged today, by the “smallness” of my faith. Because the Sower Who has gifted it to me takes care of its growth, by His light and His “rai

TO THE PURE ALL THINGS ARE PURE

“…Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth. To the pure all things are pure (Πάντα καθαρὰ τοῖς καθαροῖς), but to the corrupt/defiled (μεμιαμμένοις) and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted/defiled (μεμίανται).” (Titus 1: 13b – 15) God did not create anything “impure” or “unclean.” We did slip away from our God-given, natural “purity” and introduced “impurity,” by choosing to believe a false promise of “godliness,” outside of God (Gen 3: 5-6). But when we turn away from false promises and embrace Truth, “putting on” Christ in Holy Baptism, we are

LOOK UP

“’…Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ And he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’” (Lk 21: 28-33) Sometimes, when things are falling apart, the Lord is telling me here, it’s time to “look up” and realize that “redemption is drawing near.” He’s challenging

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