THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

”For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1: 23-27) St. James warns us against limiting our self-

HE MADE US, NOT WE OURSELVES

“Shout with jubilation unto God, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with rejoicing. Know that the Lord himself is our God; it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with hymns; give thanks unto him. Praise his name, for the Lord is good; his mercy endures forever, and his truth unto generation and generation.” (Ps 99/100, Septuagint-translation) We didn’t make ourselves, – Someone Else went to that trouble. Someone very good, Whose mercy and truth endure, unchangeably and forever. Someone Who invites us, day after day, and from generation to genera

BEING CALLED “CHRISTIAN” vs. BEING CALLED “ORTHODOX”

“Only pray…that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans 3). Today, when NC-people celebrate the Translation of the Relics of St. Ignatius of Antioch (+AD 107), I’m departing from my usual reflections on Scripture-passages, and am reflecting on the words of this Apostolic Father instead. It is remarkable that, as bishop of the city of Antioch, where disciples of Christ “were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11: 26), St. Ignatius feels he needs prayers, that he “not only be called a Christian, but also be found one.” He doesn’t feel entitled to be called by the name “Christian,” – even though he is Bishop of Antio

SINGING A NEW SONG

“Rejoice in the Lord, O righteous ones; praise is meet for the upright (τοῖς εὐθέσι πρέπει αἴνεσις). Give praise to the Lord with the harp, chant unto him with the ten-stringed psaltery. Sing unto him a new song, chant well unto him with jubilation. For the word of the Lord is true, and all his works are in faithfulness.“ (Ps 32: 1-4) I’m going to stand upright today, and give praise where praise is due: to the Lord, for all His works in my life up until this very moment. I could find things to grumble about this Monday morning, as I often do when I read the Monday-morning news. But the psalm quoted above offers me “a new song,“ which broadens my perspective, celebrating the Lord’s word and

THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS

“…He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You ‘knew’ that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from h

IN DEFENSE OF “MILLENNIALS”

“But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age.” (Wisdom of Solomon 4: 7-9) The “young” adults of today, known as “millennials,” (defined by an online-dictionary as “people reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century”), often, although not always, get a bad rap from us older folks. They are, as far as the negative stereotype goes, self-entitled narcissists, overly-dependent on their parents, delaying the “adulthood” of marriage or starting a career, and focused more on “image” and social media than on hard work and

“THE GRACE…BE WITH YOU” vs. “THE LORD BE WITH YOU”

Priest/Bishop: The grace of “our” Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God “and Father”, and the communion of the Holy Spirit “be (εἴη)” with you all.People/Choir: And with your spirit. (Beginning of the Anaphora, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) The Byzantine “Anaphora,” or central Eucharistic Prayer, begins with this Trinitarian “opening greeting” of the main celebrant, which is a slightly-expounded version of St. Paul’s apostolic greeting in 2 Cor 13: 14. (The “expounded” parts of our liturgical greeting, as compared with St. Paul’s greeting, are placed in quotes above). Our liturgical greeting, as compared with St. Paul’s, is formulated in the optative sense, inserting the word “εἴη,” meaning “(l

GRADUAL RECOVERY

“And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see people; but they look like trees, walking.’ Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. And he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not enter the village, nor tell anyone in the village.’” (Mk 8: 22-26) The Lord cures this man’s blindness gradually, and not as He does in the various other cases of blindness reported in th

NOT OF THE LETTER, BUT OF THE SPIRIT

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, he says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shal

THE BAPTISM(S) OF THE LORD

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately fromthe water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Mt 3: 13-17) Christ was yet to be baptized (immersed) in the “baptism” of His death-and-resurrection (cf. His question to James and John

WHAT DOES “GRACE FOR GRACE“ MEAN?

”And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for/instead of grace (καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος / и благодать возблагодать). For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Jn 1: 16-17) Jesus Christ offers us the “fullness” of grace and truth, because He is the Source of both. But this doesn’t mean that God’s created world, or our lives, were utterly devoid of truth or grace, before His coming into them, because no living creature can “be” without the grace- and truth-filled breath of the Creator. In communion with Christ, however, we are given His fullness of grace, “instead of” or “for” the grace we had by virtue of “merely” being, biologically. As S

BEING LED TO MY TRUE SELF

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony (εἰς μαρτύριον). Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience (ἐν τῇ ὑπομο

THE WORD IN OUR “POST-TRUTH” WORLD

“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. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1: 1-5) In our “post-truth” time, when certain systems that are built on the spoken “word” seem to be breaking down, – like journalism, politics, and lasting marriages, – Christianity still proclaims the eternal centrality and power of the Word. Why? Because in Christianity, the power and validity of the Word rests not in any idea or ideology, but in communion with a

GRACE WAS GIVEN TO EACH OF US

“But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measur

EMPOWERED BY THE TRUTH

“Then he looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’ Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will crush.” (Lk 20: 17-18) Isn’t this a bit “harsh,” for our Lord Jesus Christ, the rejected “stone” of the “builders,” to say about Himself? Does He want us to be “broken” or “crushed,” if we reject Him? No, of course He doesn’t want that. But He’s talking about what “we” want; about “our” choices. And He tells us the truth about these, by the great love and respect He has for us. Here He squarely “looks at” us, His disciples, and tells us very directly about the difference be

LIVE, – DON’T JUST EXIST!

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any man wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Mt 16: 24-26) The Lord wants me to live, rather than just exist. Because my existence is arbitrary, as far as my will is concerned, while truly living is a matter of my free choice. And He dignifies every “me” born into existence with the freedom of choosing between the two. When I choose to cling on to “my” life, pursuing it in this “wh

PRAYING THE PSALMS

“O Lord, why are they multiplied that afflict me? Many rise up against me. Many say unto my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God. But you, O Lord, are my helper, my glory and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy mountain. I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will help me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that set themselves against me round about…” (Ps 3: 1-6, Septuagint-translation) How very sincere are the psalms, giving voice not only to the “highs” of our faith-journey, but also to the “lows.” Praying the Psalms teaches me to open up to God, and to speak to Him from the bottom of my heart, in a

THE MASSACRE OF THE INFANTS

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν, яко не суть, because they were not).” (Mt 2: 16-18) The Mother of God was spared, at this moment anyway, of the weeping that went on in Bethlehem, over children that “were no more.” She was to weep over her C

THE WISE MEN DEPARTED ANOTHER WAY

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’’ Then Herod su

THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE

“Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord, / and Your light (τὸ φῶς σου) has been marked (ἐσημειώθη) on us. / In knowledge (ἐν ἐπιγνώσει), we sing Your praises. / You have come and revealed Yourself, / O unapproachable Light.” (Kontakion-Hymn, Theophany/Epiphany) For those of us on the Older Calendar it’s Christmas Eve today, while New Calendar-people celebrate Epiphany/Theophany, which in Byzantine tradition commemorates the Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan, and in Latin traditions – the adoration of the Magi or “Three Kings.“ And despite the rather different customs and “flavors“ of our different feasts today, what strikes me this morning is a common theme of divine “knowledge,“ both in

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