THE MEANING OF THE ASCENSION

“Jesus said to her (Mary Magdalene), ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me (Μή μου ἅπτου / Noli me tangere / Не прикасайся мне), for/because (γὰρ) I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20: 15-17) As many Christians celebrate the Lord’s Ascension this Thursday, (and we, Orthodox Christians, pr

CHRIST ALWAYS “IS”

“’Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.’” (Jn 8: 56-59) Our Lord Jesus Christ “is,” before Abraham or any other created being “was.” His presence in our world always “is,” both before and after He “became flesh” and walked among us, as one of us. Because He is the eternal Son of the Father, Who was/is never “not a Father,” as He always had/has a Son. Just as Abraham “saw it,” the presence of the So

OUR FATHER

“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the

GIVE ME THIS WATER

“Jesus said to her (the Samaritan woman), ‘Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir (Κύριε), give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’” (Jn 4: 13-15) At this point, the Samaritan woman does not yet understand what kind of “water” Christ is talking about. But I love how she immediately wants it, as a “spring of water” that will be “in” her, rather than in this well on the outskirts of her village, whence she needs to carry it home. (Sorry for using the word “w

THE LIGHT OF LIFE

““Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” (Jn 8: 12) Here in Vienna, we’ve been having long stretches of consecutive, rainy days. I think that the lack of sunshine would be quite unbearable, so many “grey” days in a row, if the sun were the only or primary source of light in my world. But because certain good people, like my parents and others in their church-community passed on to me a light-filled faith in Christ, (because “it takes a village,” to form us in this beautiful faith), I do not “walk in darkness” or even “in greyness,” throughout these weeks of continuous rain. Faith elevat

ON CASTING STONES

“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?’ This they said, testing him, that they might have something of which to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, as though he did not hear. So when they continued asking him, he raised himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by thei

MID-PENTECOST

“In the middle of the Feast, O Savior, / Fill my thirsting soul with the waters of godliness, as You did cry to all: / If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink! / O Christ God, Fountain of our life, glory to You!” (Troparion of Mid-Pentecost) Today we celebrate “Mid-Pentecost” (Μεσοπεντηκοστή, Преполовение Пятидесятницы), which is the “midpoint” of the fifty days between Pascha and “Pentecost” (i.e., the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the 50th Day after Pascha). I’m reminded that we’re in the middle of a 50-day journey right now, in case I lost focus on the Church Calendar soon after the 40-day journey of Lent ended. In the Troparion-hymn of this day, quoted above, the Ch

TRUSTING WHILE NOT UNDERSTANDING

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh (τὴν σάρκα) of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed… This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (Jn 6: 53-55, 59-60) All this occurs well before Holy Thursday, when the Lord at His Supper commanded us to eat a certain bread as His “body,“ and to drink a certain cup as His “blood.“ There is no way that already here, in John 6,

NOT-PARALYZED BY OUR PAST

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.” (Jn 5: 2-9) In the thirty-eight years that this man spent on his pallet, he ha

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn 6: 48-51) Differently from the “manna in the wilderness” (Ex 16), the Bread of Life in the Church’s Eucharist does not only “come down from heaven.” While it is God Who makes our bread into “the living bread which came down from heaven,” by sending down His Holy Spirit in the Church’s Liturgy, it needs to be baked, and then offered, by our hum

ARGUMENTS ABOUT FAITH

“The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.’” (Jn 6: 41-45) It might seem that our Lord is talking “past” these people, and not responding to their concerns. They’re saying, they “know” His “father and mother,” – so how

FAITH TAKES WORK

““‘Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” (Jn 6: 27-29) When the Lord says, “Do not work for the food that perishes,” He is not calling us to quit our jobs. But He is calling us to do all our work, regardless of our occupation, as being “for the food which endures to eternal life,” and not merely “for the food which perishes.” In other words, whatever “work” I happen to be doing, it is all to be focu

OBSESSING OVER OUR POLITICS

“But there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is that power of God which is called Great.’ And they gave heed to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8: 9-12) So the nation of Samaria was all impressed with Simon, its little local hero, until the Apostle Philip came from outside this “nation,” and opened its eyes to a better a

STIRRED UP BY “SOUND BITES”

“And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen, as it was called (τῆς λεγομένης Λιβερτίνων), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never ceases to

MOTHER’S DAY

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.” (Mt 20: 20-24) Because it is

GOD’S GLORY, IN THE INTERNET-AGE

“How can you believe, who receive glory (δόξαν) from one another, and do not seek the glory (τὴν δόξαν) that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5: 44) As Christ says to us, (and not only to the “bad guys” in the Gospels, the Jewish religious leaders, to whom He is speaking here), we cannot “believe” if our focus is on receiving a dubious “glory” from other, merely-human, beings, while not seeking “The” glory that comes from God. Why not? Because human “glory” is not the sort of thing in which we can really “believe.” In fact, it is rather the sort of thing we can fear, because of its unpredictable ups and downs. And if we slip into a dependency on merely-human approval/disapproval, we will find o

WORKING & RESTING IN CHRIST

“…And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (Jn 5: 16-18) When Christ says, “My Father is working still…,” He reveals to us that God’s “rest,” on the Seventh Day, “from all His work” throughout the Six Days of creation (Gen 2: 2-3), did not actually mean that God stopped “working.” What God was revealing to us, in Gen 2: 2-3 and further in the Law (Ex 20: 8-11), with the whole business of the Sabbath-“rest,” is the kind of “

UNSCHOOLED & ORDINARY

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1: 14) St. John, who “thundered” these famous words ca. two millennia ago, was an “unschooled and ordinary” man, as we learn in today’s reading from the Book of Acts, about John and Peter before the religious elite of their time, the Sanhedrin: “…Now when they saw the boldness (παρρησίαν) of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unschooled and ordinary men (ἀγράμματοί εἰσιν, καὶ ἰδιῶται), they marveled. Then they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4: 13) Indeed, the only way to explain the “extraordinary” testimony of these

EMPOWERED BY FAITH

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave the power/authority (ἐξουσίαν) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1: 10-13) When we place our trust in the Lord and “receive” His divine authority in our lives, He also en-“trusts” us with “power” or “authority.” Different from our biological birth, over which we had no “authority” (as we were not its “authors,” not having chosen our biological parents or any of the other circumstances of

ST. GEORGE

“As the deliverer of captives and the protector of the poor, as the physician of the feeble and combatant of kings, holy champion and great martyr George, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.” (Troparion of St. George the Great Martyr) St. George, celebrated this Monday on the Older Calendar, has always been close to my heart. This is partly because he’s the patron-saint of my father, and this saint’s feast was always celebrated, both in my hometown-church (with an evening vigil and morning Liturgy), and in my parents’ home (with an open-house and festive dinner for anyone who stopped by to say Happy Nameday to my dad). And I love St. George’s Troparion-hymn, which underlines how

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