WHY DO WE FAST?

“Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’” (Mt 9: 14-17) Today, on the final day of the Apostles’ Fast for NC-people

STILL BEING SINNERS

“…But God shows his love for us in that, while we (were/are) still being sinners (ἔτι ἀμαρτωλῶν ὄντων ἡμῶν / еще грешником сущим нам) Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while being enemies (ἐχθροὶ ὄντες / врази бывше) we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5: 8-10) Do we cease to be “sinners” after we are “reconciled to God” in Holy Baptism? No. But we do cease to be His self-professed “enemies,” that is, purposefully battling against God’s purpose(s) with all we’ve got. That’s why, in the traditional pr

HOPING AGAINST HOPE

”In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘reckoned to him as righteousness.’ But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who beli

REDEEMING THE TIME

“See then that you walk circumspectly/carefully, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time (ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν), because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” (Eph 5: 15-19) On a daily basis, we are called to “redeem the time.“ What does this mean? “Redeem“ (literally, to “buy up“) in this context means 1. To evaluate/understand the significance of “the time,“ that is, of every specific situation or opportunity or challenge, i

ACTION vs. ANXIOUSNESS

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6: 31-33) It may seem ironic that today, when we Orthodox Christians begin the Apostles’ Fast, we also have this reading, in which the Lord commands us not to be “anxious” about “what” we shall eat or drink (or wear). But as we adjust our food-choices according to the fasting-rules of our Church, (abstaining from meat and dairy-products), we do so not “anxiously.” We do so in a purposeful act

SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS

“They (the saints in the Old Testament) were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set

THE SALT OF THE EARTH

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be salted? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” In ancient Israel, salt was the symbol of a covenant of friendship (cf. Num 18:19 and 2 Chron 13:5), more specifically, a friendship with God. Related to this symbolism is the Slavic custom of greeting a guest with bread and salt. Thus the Lord says in Mk 9:50: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” It symbolizes good will, and all that good will entails (love, compassion, humility, patience) that sustains a friendship. Salt was very precious in the ancient world, just as true friendship is precious (a

THE DAY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

“And (we believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets.” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) This Monday after Pentecost, known in our liturgical calendar as “The Day of the Holy Spirit,” I’m thinking about the various “roles” of the Holy Spirit, both within the mysterious Being of our Triune God, and in this world. What’s revealed to us about His Being within the Holy Trinity is, He “proceeds” (as distinct from the Son, Who “is born”) from the Father; and He is equally-divine, as One co-worshipped and co-glorified with the Father and the Son. Hence we worsh

PENTECOST

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2: 1-6) The action of the Holy Spirit in this wor

COMMEMORATING THE DEAD

“With the saints give rest (Μετὰ τῶν ἁγίων ἀνάπαυσον / Со святыми упокой), O Christ, to the souls of Your servants, / where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, and no more sighing, / but life everlasting. (Kontakion-hymn, Saturday Before Pentecost) Today, because it’s the Saturday before Pentecost when we commemorate the dead, I’m thinking about death. I think it hurts us so much, when we encounter it, because we don’t accept it. And we shouldn’t. God didn’t accept it either, which is why He sent us His only-begotten Son to come and share it with us, and then to trample it for us, by overcoming it in the “life everlasting“ of His resurrection. But why is it that death still can and does hu

WE ARE ALL “SENT”

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (Jn 17: 18-21) Today I don’t just happen to exist “in the world”; I am “sent” into it, as are all of us, who have come to believe in Christ. Whatever situations we might be in today; however ambivalent or even pathetic and messed-up our life-situations may be at times, we are “sent into” them, that we may be

APOSTOLIC SHREWDNESS

“But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.’ And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, ‘We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?’” (Acts 23: 6-9) I dare say, St. Paul is quite shrewd here,

WHEN SORROW PRECEDES GRACE

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter/Helper (ὁ Παράκλητος) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the rul

BEING “PRUNED” FOR MORE FRUITFULNESS

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15: 1-5) Just stay connected to Me, the Lord says to us, and you will “bear much fruit,” even though your “fruitfulness” will at times be painful. Because

LET US BE ATTENTIVE!

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (Jn 21: 9-14) The passage quoted above is the Gospel-reading a

A CONTINUOUS PENTECOST

“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were abou

THE ASCENSION & TAKING CARE OF MY BODY

“When You had fulfilled the dispensation for our sake (Τὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν πληρώσας οἰκονομίαν / Еже о нас исполнив смотрение), / and united the earthly to the heavenly: / You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, / in nowise departing but remaining without stepping away, / and crying out to those who love You: // ‘I am with you and no one (prevails) against you! (Ἐγώ εἰμι μεθ᾽ὑμῶν, καὶ οὐδεὶς καθ᾽ὑμῶν. / Аз есмь с вами и никтоже на вы.)’” (Byzantine Kontakion-Hymn of the Ascension) This Thursday, we Orthodox Christians celebrate the Ascension of our incarnate Lord, Jesus Christ, up into the heavens, in His resurrected, human body. So I’m reminded of the great dignity of my physical body, which my

TRANSITIONING from PASCHA to PENTECOST

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while coming together / eating with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this tim

THE CROSS OF “SEEING“

“So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?’ And they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Why, this is a marvel! You do not know

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