GUARDING THE EYES

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Mt 5: 27-29) This is so simple, even if it isn’t easy. If somebody or something is dragging you down (a certain person, or food, or internet-activity, or whatever), perhaps because you’ve developed an unhealthy attachment or even obsession with them/it, then 1. stop looking at them/it, and 2. Distance yourself physically from them/it. This might tak

FORGIVENESS & PROGRESS IN LIFE

Priest (silently): “Again and countless times we fall down before You, and we implore You, O Good One, Who loves mankind: That You, having regarded our prayer, may cleanse our souls and bodies from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and grant to us to stand before Your holy altar of sacrifice, free of guilt/debt and condemnation(ἀνένοχον καὶ ἀκατάκριτον). Grant also, O God, to those who pray with us, progress in life (προκοπὴν βίου), faith, and spiritual understanding (συνέσεως πνευματικῆς). Grant that they always worship You with awe and love, partake of Your Holy Mysteries without guilt/debt or condemnation (ἀνενόχως καὶ ἀκατακρίτως),and be deemed worthy of Your celestial Kingdom.” (Sec

CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS

“For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because John said to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head

HUMILITY & GRATITUDE

“…for he has regarded the humility of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Lk 1: 48, The “Song” of the Theotokos, Песнь Богородицы) Is this a “humble” statement, I mean, the part about “henceforth all generations will call me blessed”? Of course it is, because the Mother of God said it. But I think, mainly because of our misconceptions of “humility,” were anyone else to make mention of their fame, let alone anticipate their future fame, “henceforth,” in “all generations,” we would probably find such words “not humble,” at the very least. “Humility,” however, does not mean being blind to our gifts or blessings, but rather seeing them in the proper lig

AFFLUENCE & ADDICTIONS

“…And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Mt 19: 23-26) In our part of the world, many of us have more than enough, in terms of food, clothing, housing, and material comfort. This kind of affluence can lead to a false sense of self-sufficiency, and a complacency with respect to God, as i

CALLED TO FREEDOM

“Every one should remain in the calling (ἐν τῇ κλήσει) in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brethren, in whatever (state) each was called (ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη), there let him remain with God.” (1 Cor 7: 20-24) This is a difficult passage about our “vocation,” or “calling” from God. More specifically, it’s about 1. The fact that God has “called” us, and 2. The place or state we were in, when He did so. And St. Pau

DEALING WITH SORROW

“For godly sorrow (ἡ κατὰ θεὸν λύπη) produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly sorrow produces death. For see what earnestness / zeal (σπουδήν) this godly sorrow has produced in you…” (2 Cor 7: 10-11a) Whatever “sorrow” I may have today, because of some loss, rejection, or disappointment (either with myself or others), it can bring me growth, or death. It is a sort of “crisis” (from the Greek “κρίσις,” meaning “decision, judgment, choice”), which stops me in my tracks, or at least slows me down, demanding some kind of resolution or relief. Now, I can choose to make my sorrow “godly,” by re-focusing on God (“changing my mind” or my focus in “metanoia,” re

FINDING TIME FOR GOD & ONE ANOTHER

“As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to serve them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mk 1

EATING & DRINKING, IN CHRIST

”And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk 22: 15-20) This passage tells

EXPECTING THE GOOD

“I look for/expect the resurrection of the dead (Προσδοκῶ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, Чаю воскресения мертвых, Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum), and the life of the age to come. Amen.” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) Christianity is all about “looking for” or “expecting” good things, rather than bad ones. A God-centered life turns me away from the “bad” kinds of expectations rooted in merely-human anxiety, – that feeling of impending doom, coming at you around the corner, for example, in financial matters or in personal relationships. In a God-less, self-reliant state we tend to slip into certain fears, like that of being left destitute or being left alone, like, with six or seven cats in a lone

LIFTING UP OUR HEARTS

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with overindulgence and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21: 34-36) Here our Lord is talking about “that day,” when He will come again for His final judgment and time will end. I’m thinking this morning that “that day,” when time will end, will come upon me at the moment of my death. I’m not sure how chronology will “work” in the afterlife, where there is n

NOW IS THE TIME

“Behold, now is the acceptable/favorable time (καιρὸς εὐπρόσδεκτος, время благоприятное); behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6: 2b) The best time, the most “favorable” time, for me to respond to God’s call to me, to be found or “saved,” like a ship lost at sea, is now. And this is true, whatever is going on in my chaotic life in the moment, and however little time I seem to have for matters “spiritual.” The Apostle tells me, “now is the day of salvation.” Because God meets us where we are. We may be limited in our places and times of prayer, and in our forms of prayer, sometimes very feeble, informal, and not the way prayer is “supposed” to look, – but He is “everywhere and fills a

HIS TRANSFIGURATION AND OURS

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with

ON PATIENCE

“In your patience possess/acquire (κτήσασθε) your souls.” (Lk 21: 19) I know I’ve reflected on this passage before, about “patience” (“ὑπο-μονή” in Greek, meaning, literally, “a remaining behind”). But this morning I came across it again, and think I need to reflect on it anew. Sometimes, “you just have to wait, you gotta trust, give it time…,” as Phil Collins put it. It is trust, or more specifically faith, which makes patience, which has been called “the power to wait,” possible. In patience, we wait for what God sends us next, for example, the wisdom of what we should or should not do in a given situation. Today let me have patience, both in the small and big things. In the “small” things

LIGHT SHINES OUT OF DARKNESS

…For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…” (2 Cor 4: 6-8) As imperfect human beings in an imperfect world we do, at times, encounter “darkness,” both within and outside ourselves. But as Church or “ekklesia” (from “ekkaleo,” meaning, “to call out”), – as “those called out” by God to follow His Son, in communion with Him, we are never entirely light-less, even when encount

BLESSED ARE THE EYES THAT SEE

“Then turning to the disciples he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’” (Lk 10: 23-24) A busy mom sometimes writes to me, lamenting the fact that she has so little time for prayer. On some days, she writes, “all” she can “manage” is to venerate her icons alone in the morning and at night. But as I’m reading the passage quoted above, read today in our NC-churches, celebrating the famous “Image of the Lord ‘Not-Made-By-Hands’,” I’m thinking how, indeed, “blessed” are her (and our) “eyes which see” what they see, merely by directi

WHY PRAY TO THE “SAINTS”?

“…Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5: 16-20) This passage explains not only why we should pray to

HOW DO PRAYER-ROPES “WORK”?

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6: 11-12) In the rite of monastic tonsure, the monk/nun is handed not only a cross, as a “shield of faith,” but also a prayer rope (“komvoschoinion” in Greek; “chotki” in Russian), as a “spiritual sword.” Note that the latter is often (mis)understood as a mere calculator, helping us “keep count” of prayers or prostrations. But in monastic literature and tonsure-rites it is more

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