CHRISTIANITY & PATRIOTISM

“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, ‘

JESUS CHRIST HAS COME IN THE FLESH

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4: 1-4) We confess that Jesus Christ has come “in the flesh.” Not as did the ancient heretics known as “doceti

VOCATION AND MONEY

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray him.” (Mk 14: 10-11) Here St. Mark the Evangelist mentions that Judas is “one of the twelve.” That is Judas’s “vocation” and God-given “place” in this world. But his concern, nay, obsession, with money (cf. Jn 12: 6), which isn’t quite being satisfied in his God-given “place,” draws him out of that place, and onto the slippery slope of “sin” (or “amartia” in Greek, which means “missing the mark” or the point of one’s own existence). It’s an obsession that, when succumbed to, not only mak

MUSIC & DANCING IN CHRISTIANITY

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing…” (Lk 15: 21-25) On this Sunday of the Prodigal Son, NC-people also celebrate the feast of “The First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist,

WHO CONTRIBUTES “MORE THAN ALL”?

“’Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.’ And he looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and he saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So he said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’” (Lk 20: 46 – 21: 4) So, our “standing” in our church-community might be one thin

LOVING GOD’S WORLD

“Do not love the world (τὸν κόσμον) or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου, false pretension of life), is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” (1 Jn 2: 15-17) What does St. John mean by “the world,” when he tells us not to love it? Does he mean the world that God “so loved, that He gave His only-begotten Son…” (Jn 3: 16)? Or does he mean the world that God created, and saw that it was “very good” (Gen 1: 31)? No, he means the

FAITH IS NEVER BORING

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch!” (Mk 13: 33-37) It’s never boring, a life in Christ. We’re called always to be expecting the next visit of “The Coming One”; of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who “comes again” (καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον / и паки грядущаго), and again, into our lives, i

KNOW THAT HE IS NEAR

“This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.’ … But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not sl

DON’T BE INSANE

“The insane person (ἄφρων, безумен) has said in his heart: There is no God. They are corrupt and are abominable in iniquities; there is none that does good. God looked down from heaven upon the sons of man, to see if there be any that understand or seek after God. They are all gone astray, they are altogether rendered useless; there is none that does good, no not one. Shall not all they that work iniquity come to understanding, they that eat up my people as they eat bread? They have not called upon the Lord. There they have feared with fear where no fear is. For God has scattered the bones of people-pleasers; they have been put to shame, because God has set them at nought.“ (Ps 52: 1-7, LXX)

WATCH YOURSELVES

“But watch yourselves (Βλέπετε δὲ ὑμεῖς ἑαυτούς); for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be sav

A MUTUAL OPEN-DOOR POLICY

“Open to me the doors of repentance, o Lifegiver; / For my spirit rises early to pray towards Your holy temple, / bearing the temple of my body all defiled. / But as The Generous One, // purify me by Your abundant mercy.” (Byzantine Lenten Hymn, Sunday Matins) In these weeks leading up to Lent, I’m thinking how willingly our Lord exchanges “house-visits” with us. Last weekend, we heard the reading about Zacchaeus, a tax collector who scrambled up into a tree to catch a glimpse of Christ, from afar, – and the Lord rewarded his humble efforts by visiting his house. This weekend, as Lent draws nearer and we begin to chant the “Lenten Triodion,” we celebrate another tax-collector (or “publican”)

THE LIBERATOR OF OUR SOULS

“Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! / From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. / Enlightening those who sit in darkness! / Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder; / You accepted in your arms the Liberator of our souls (τὸν ἐλευθερωτὴν τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν), / Who grants us the Resurrection.” (Troparion-hymn of the Meeting of the Lord) Today, as those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Meeting of the Lord, when He was brought into the temple on the 40th day after His birth, I’m wondering what this means, that Christ is “the liberator of our souls.” It means that my previous bondage is no more, when I “accept in my arms,” as did the “righteous elde

ZACCHAEUS

”He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goo

TRUTH-TELLING IN PUBLIC

“And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me.’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From men’?’—they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to

INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE “SYMBOLICALLY”

“…Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can this be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’” (Jn 3: 9-15) I recently received a comment, under a reflection I posted about the healing of the blind

JESUS HAS A LOOK AROUND

“And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when he had looked around at all things (περιβλεψάμενος πάντα), as the hour was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mk 11: 11) After our Lord triumphantly entered Jerusalem, seated on a colt and greeted by exuberant crowds, He went into the temple and …did nothing, really. He just looked around and left, probably to the disappointment of the crowds. It was only on the next day that He “went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves…” (Mk 11: 15), like Master of the Temple. I have no profound poin

FAITH RESTORES VISION

“And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; rise, he is calling you.’ And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi (Ραββουνι

THE CANAANITE WOMAN

“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away / Dismiss her (Ἀπόλυσον αὐτήν), for she is crying after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And he answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ t

EMBRACING CHRIST IN TRANSITIONS

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Now you are letting your servant depart (Νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δουλόν σου) in peace, Master (Δέσποτα), according to your word; For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples,

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