PATIENCE, THE “GOOD SOIL“

“And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience (ἐν ὑπομονῇ).” (Lk 8: 15) It is not an overnight process, the whole business of “bringing fruit” from the “seed” of God’s word planted in our hearts. It takes time. That’s why it takes “patience,” which is the power to wait. “Patience” in Greek is “ὑπομονή,” meaning, literally, a “remaining behind”; It’s a holding out in wait, to see what God sends next. I need this capacity, this power, simply to wait things out, practically on a daily basis, on the occasions when I don’t know how or whether to react. So, patience is what fills the space of t

STAYING TEACHABLE

“Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.” (Ps 118/119: 12) If I make at least a small effort to keep my focus on God, to listen deeply, and to see, deeply, what He is revealing to me today, then I continue to learn; I remain teachable. “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear,” Christ says (Mt 13: 16), reminding us that we are blessed already by this learning-process. I’ll note that He had harsh words not for the “unworthy,” but for the unteachable. Today might bring unexpected circumstances, unexpected or unpleasant behavior (either my own or of others). How will I respond to what comes my way today? Let me remember that Christ is calling me to keep

“SUCCESS” RE-DEFINED

“But Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mk 10: 42-45) Here Jesus re-defines what many people understand as “greatness” or, in modern-day terms, “success.” The measure of greatness, according to Him, is service; the extent to which one serves; gives of oneself. So let me see any work or

FEAR OF GOD vs. HUMAN FEAR

“When he had stopped speaking, he said to Simon (Peter), ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” (Lk 5:4-8) When Simon-Peter is initially confronted with the person of Jesus Christ, hi

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 12:9) Here St. Paul honestly witnesses to God’s power in his life, despite his own weaknesses. The Apostle’s witness is very powerful precisely because he shares it genuinely, admitting to his weakness, his struggle. Today I’m reminded of this honesty of the great Apostle Paul, as I am reading the autobiography of another inspiring figure, Bruce Springsteen. (Unfortunately, his movie, Western Stars, is not playing here in Austria, - but don’t miss it this weekend, if you’re in the U.S.!)

LEARNING TO SAY “AMEN“

Today I’m reflecting on the word, or declaration, “Amen!“ that so often occurs in our liturgical services. In its original Hebrew it means “truth, certainty.“ And in its liturgical usage(s) in various religious traditions in both East and West, in which it never stands alone, but is a response to other affirmations, (for example, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...“,) it means an affirmation of whatever truth about God that precedes it, to the effect of “It is so!“ or “We (or I) agree!“ – or at the very least, “Let it be!“ – in the sense that we (or I) let that affirmation “be,“ as it stands; I accept it, with no protest on my part, even if I don’t

JESUS WEPT

“When Mary (the sister of Lazarus) came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping (κλαίουσαν), and the Jews who came with her also weeping (κλαίοντας), he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep (ἐδάκρυσεν). So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (Jn 11: 32-36) The Lord so deeply felt the grief caused by the death of Lazarus, that in His compassion He famously “wept” (ἐδάκρυσεν). Of course, Christ knew of Lazarus’s coming resurrection, so it was not His friend’s death, i

SEEING THE SIGNS

“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him asked that he would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening. Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’ And he left them and departed.” (Mt 16: 1-4) The Pharisees and Sadducees often disagreed with one another, but they were unified in their opposition to Christ, because He d

CHOOSING GOD’S “KINGDOM”

“Thy kingdom come…” (Mt 6:10) As far as “kingdoms” go, I have a variety of choices today, as to which one I will inhabit. I can choose to play “king” myself, trying to control everyone and everything around me. Or I can make some other person or some other thing my supreme authority, and then depend on this person or thing, so it/they determine my actions, aspirations, mood, and so on. But I know, at this point in my life, that both these options lead down an unhappy road; a road of either lonely self-reliance, or burdensome dependency. I’m grateful today for the various reminders, beginning with the Our Father, of the Kingdom I’m called (yet not compelled) to embrace, in freedom: “Thy kingd

PRAYER & KNEELING

“Then he (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father…’” (Lk 22:41-42) So Jesus “knelt down” and prayed. Now, I know that there are various outer and inner forms of prayer. For example, we can go about our business, doing whatever it is we do, and continuously be aware of God’s presence, appealing to Him silently, from the heart, or perhaps whispering our prayer to Him throughout the day. A friend of mine, who is a busy mother of several small children, once told me that she does this, most of the time. But then she added that, from time to time, she must kneel down and pray, because it is “a more receptive position.” I found this insight helpful: Indeed,

WHAT DOES “LORD HAVE MERCY” MEAN?

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt 5:7) The word “mercy” is so often mentioned in Byzantine church-services, particularly in the brief prayer, “Lord, have mercy” (Kyrie eleison). The Greek word for “mercy” (eleos) means much more than some external “withholding of punishment” (which is what we usually understand it to mean in English). It is a divine energy; that is to say, its source is God – so we constantly ask Him for it. In our terms it is an internal disposition; an overflowing of the heart with compassionate, self-giving love. So, when I ask God for “mercy,” I am asking not only to receive it, but to carry it further; to be a vessel of His “mercy” in this wor

THE SABBATH REST

“Now it happened that he went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went his disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ But he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry…?’ And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:23-27) The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew “shabath,” meaning “to cease, desist, rest.” In the passage above I learn two things about the Sabbath: 1. In the Spirit of Christ, Who is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt 12:8), one has a new freedom to interpret and apply the law of the Sabbath; 2. A spec

THE TWO THIEVES

“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Lk 23:39-43) Two thieves. Both are suffering “justly,” and both famously have very different reactions to the crucified Lord in their midst. But I’d like to note something else here: Both thieves a

HUMOR, A DIVINE GIFT

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.” (Lk 9: 51-56) So James and John helpfully suggest destroying an entire village by “fire from heaven,” just because it denied them lodging. It is not without a sense of humor, then, that to these two brothers Christ gives t

WHEN WE’RE REJECTED

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord has taken me in.” (Ps 26/ 27: 12) The Psalms give expression to practically every human experience and emotion, from immense gratitude and joy, to the most difficult kinds of pain, like the one expressed here: Rejection. Rejection can be an emotional wound from childhood, as the Psalmist mentions above, or it can come at other times in life, in smaller or greater doses: Being fired from a job, being turned down for a job or school of our choice, or being not loved/dumped by the person we love, or betrayed by a spouse, or not making the team, or generally not being accepted for who we are, etc. Rejection can damage my life as few oth

GETTING BACK TO BASICS

“Now I remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…” (1 Cor 15: 1-5) In this passage the Apostle reminds the Corinthians of the basics of our faith, because some in the community had b

THE PROTECTION & COMPASSION OF THE THEOTOKOS

“I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps 115:4 / Ps116:13) This Psalm-verse functions as the “Communion Verse” for all of our church-feasts in honor of the Mother of God, including the feast of the Protection (Покрова) of the Most-Holy Virgin and Mother of God, celebrated today by those of us on the Older Calendar. Why? - And I don’t mean “why” the Older Calendar, although that is a good question, ☺ - but why this verse for all Marian feasts? The Mother of God is being praised for the “cup” of the cross, of which He prayed on that night in Gethsemane, that it be taken from Him, if possible (Mt 26:39). She co-carried the cross, with her Divine Son, to an exten

ADDICTIONS & FREEDOM

“All things are permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are permissible for me, but I will not be dominated/ruled by anything.” (1 Cor 6: 12) The main tragedy of addiction has to do with our loss of freedom, rather than some inherent “badness” of the “thing” to which one becomes addicted. In the case of more or less common addictions, like addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, sugar, video-games, or Internet-porn, or Internet-news, or the Internet in general, our loss of freedom happens in small steps, unnoticeably. At first, the “thing” might “help” us in some way, …until it doesn’t. It ceases to “help” when we are drawn to the thing against our will, because we

CLOTHED IN MAJESTY

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic (χιτὼν) was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,’ that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’” (Jn 19: 23-4; Ps 21/22: 18) On this Friday, the day of the crucifixion, let me reflect a bit on this humiliating detail of my Lord’s passion: the dividing of His “garments” (outer clothing) and casting of lots for His “tunic” (the undergarment), the removal of which

DAILY RENEWAL

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The Spirit blows where He wants, and you hear His voice, but cannot tell where He comes from and where He goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3: 5-8) As Christ explains in this conversation with the somewhat puzzled Nicodemus, we are all called to be born, not only “of the flesh” at our natural birth, and not only “of water and Spirit” at baptism. We are called to be born again, - and again, “of the Spirit.” This oft-

© 2020 Coffee with Sister Vassa Inc.

  • Odnoklassniki Social Icon
  • YouTube Reflection
  • Facebook Reflection
  • Vkontakte App Icon
  • Twitter Reflection
  • Google+ Reflection