"NOT" UNDERSTANDING ST. PAUL

”I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually-immoral people (πόρνεις); not at all meaning the sexually-immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to depart from the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’” (1 Cor 5: 9-13) I usually avoid writing reflections about biblical passages

EMPOWERED BY GOD

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’ And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins’ —he then said to the paralytic— ‘Rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they marveled, and glorifi

SUFFERING REJECTION

“This I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (Jn 15: 17-19) Thus the Lord comforts us, in those cases when we suffer rejection in “the world.” At times, we might venture to seek “love” in the wrong place; from a person or people not “our own.” And we don’t realize this, until we suffer rejection. While rejection is always painful, here the Lord reminds us that it can actually strengthen our sense of vocation, of having been “called” by Him, or “chosen out of the

ST. MARY MAGDALENE

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘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

LET US COMMEND OURSELVES AND ONE ANOTHER

“Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend (παραθώμεθα, предадим) ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.” (Great Litany, Byzantine Liturgy) Let me “commend” or hand myself, and my “others,” over to Christ today, if I am feeling frustrated by not being able to control “us.” It may sound ridiculous to people more sane than me, but I sometimes feel frustrated, or even fearful, about my powerlessness over “our” behaviour(s) and lives; my own, and that of my loved ones. But today let me hand over, or “commend,” the complexities of my “whole life” and the lives of my “others,” into

SEEKING A “SIGN”

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.’” (Mt 12: 38-41) Here’s the thing about divine “signs”: They are sometimes “given,” as God sees fit, but they should not be sou

GOD FULFILS YOUR “DESIRE”

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all that He has done for you; Who is gracious unto all your iniquites, Who heals all your infirmities; Who redeems your life from corruption; Who crowns you with mercy and compassion; Who fulfils your desire with/in good things (Τὸν ἐμπιπλῶντα ἐν ἀγαθοῖς τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν σου / исполняющаго во благих желание твое) …” (Ps 102/103: 1-5a, Septuagint-translation) Most of the time, most of us carry around “desire” in our hearts, because as human beings we are lacking, in and of ourselves. We are meant to be “completed” or “fulfilled” through communion with our Creator, and through Him

FAITH COMES FROM EAST, AND WEST!

“As he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and we

STS. PETER AND PAUL

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Ps 18/19: 4, Communion-Verse on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) Today, when our Older-Calendar churches celebrate the great feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, we refer this Psalm-verse to the “voice” and “words” of the Holy Apostles, the fallible but faith-inspired human beings, who famously endured certain ups and downs, on their cross-carrying journeys. While they themselves were limited, and did not physically travel “into all the earth,” nor “to the ends of the world,” their unified “voice” and salvific “words” have continuously spread, passed on from generation to generation “to the ends of the world,

“FIXING” AN UNWISE WORD

“And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.’ And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?’ Those who stood by said, ‘Would you revile God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’’” (Acts 23: 1-5) As those of us on the Older Calendar prepare to celebrate the feast of Sts.

ACCEPTING GOD’S WISDOM

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her children.” (Mt 11: 16-19) God reveals His wisdom to us in different ways, and through different sorts of people. But if our hearts are closed to God’s wisdom, particularly when we’re stuck in our own “wisdom”; when we are “wise in our own eyes” (Is 5: 21), the

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS TAKEN BY FORCE

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is taken by force, and the forceful claim it.” (Mt 11: 12) Such was the excitement engendered by the preaching of John the Baptist, who proclaimed in the wilderness of Judea that the Kingdom of Heaven is “at hand” (Mt 3: 2), that people of all walks of life were taking it “by force.” That is to say, even the people who had been made “outsiders” to the “city” that was the religion of their fathers, fortified by the gate-keepers who were the religious “elites” like the Pharisees and scribes, were now breaking down its man-made walls and taking it “by storm.” John was preaching outside the comfort-zone of the religious authoriti

THE “SONG“ OF ZECHARIAH

“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, chi

THE “WRATH” & LOVE OF GOD

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak.” (Ps 6: 1-2, Septuagint-translation) I get most angry about/with those people and those things that I most love. “Hell hath no fury,” as it’s said, as do I, when disappointed with a something or someone that I love very much. But when I remember this, that my outburst of anger is just a twisted expression of my love, (especially when my love feels powerless), I can “harness” it or reign it in, by God’s grace, into an outburst of proper love. And I need to do that, because my anger, if I remain in it, is always unproductive, or a descent into unproductiveness, while true love is always

INDEPENDENCE DAY

“The Lord reigns, let the peoples rage;” (Ps 98/99: 1, Septuagint-translation) As we Americans celebrate Independence Day today, I’m thinking, just how empowering and truly “independent” this Psalm-verse is. I mean, it’s independent of a concern for what “the peoples” in our world and personal surroundings happen to be “raging” about, and focuses instead on the one, reliable fact that remains constant, both in our own lives and throughout history: that the Lord is the King above all of it, Who ultimately will judge it all. And it is His opinion, His evaluation of our ever-changing “rages,” that will stand eternally. So today, as I celebrate Independence Day with my beloved,

THE FREEDOM OF THE SPIRIT

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and pure/unmixed (ἀκέραιοι) as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 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

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

“God is our refuge and strength, a helper in afflictions that have come heavily upon us. Therefore shall we not fear when the earth is shaken, and when the mountains are removed into the heart of the seas. …Be still and know (Σχολάσατε καὶ γνῶτε / Упразднитеся и разумейте) that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us, our helper is the God of Jacob.” (Ps 45/46: 1-2, 10-11) How reassuring and faith-inspiring is this Psalm, no matter what is going on in our own lives or in the world around us. “Therefore” we will not fear, we say, as so many generations of faithful have said before us, in the ancient words of the Psalm, becaus

THE CROSS OF CHURCH-AUTHORITY

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For thoug

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