GOD’S KIND OF “BLACK” FRIDAY

“He who dwells in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say to the Lord, ‘You are my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I hope in him.” (Ps 90: 1-2, Septuagint-translation) Because I am traveling today, and once again find myself outside my usual surroundings and routine, I appreciate the unchanging “refuge” of familiar Scripture-passages like this one. I can “dwell” and “abide” in a stable place, if I choose to lean on God, in a God-focused way of being, regardless of the various places and gatherings and persons/personalities I find myself confronted with. So let me make this “Black” Friday a good kind of “black,” – the kind that signifies

THANKSGIVING

“Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith h

THANKSGIVING & FASTING (OR NOT)

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats

A DAILY RESPITE

“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed/untied (ἀπολέλυσαι) from your infirmity.’ And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.’ Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sa

THE TIME OF YOUR VISITATION

“And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace (τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην)! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation (τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς σου).” (Lk 19: 41-44) The coming/advent of Christ was a time of “visitation“ (τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς/tes episkopes); of Jerusalem being “visited“ by God. Being “visited“ in this sense (i.e., in the “

MAKING AMENDS

“I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε), with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager (σπουδάζοντες) to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in the one hope of your calling, – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4: 1-6) The “calling to which you have been called”! What is that, exactly? It is “to maintain the unity of the Spirit (ἐνότητα τοῦ Πνεύματος) in the bond (συνδέσμῳ) of peace,“ as one Body, in

THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE THEOTOKOS

“The most pure Temple of the Savior; / the precious Chamber and Virgin; / the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, / is led today into the house of the Lord, / bringing with her the grace of the Spirit. / Therefore, the angels of God praise her: / ‘Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.’” (Kontakion-hymn, Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple) Today, those of us on the “New” Calendar celebrate the Most-Pure Virgin “being led,” at three years of age, into the Temple; and those of us on the Older Calendar – the feast of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers (i.e., the invisible creation of angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, etc.). Thankfully, the above-quoted h

WHAT IS A “PAREMIA”?

“‘When these days are over it shall be, on the eighth day and thereafter, that the priests shall offer your burnt offerings and your peace offerings on the altar; and I will accept you,’ says the Lord God. Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the Lord said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut…’” (Ezek 43: 27 – 44: 2) This is one of the three Old-Testament readings at the Vespers-service of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, celebrated tomorrow (NC). The three readings are called “Paremia

FINANCIAL CONCERNS & GOD

“One of the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or divider (κριτὴν ἢ μεριστὴν) over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; tak

WHAT IS "SALVATION"?

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made both (τὰ ἀμφότερα) one, and has broken down the dividing wall, the hostility, in/by his flesh, abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizen

ACCEPTING GOD'S LOVE

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Fo

FINDING THE LOST

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing… Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have fou

INCREASE AND ABOUND IN LOVE

“For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all people, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess 3: 9-13) I love how St. Paul is so full of “joy,” that he doesn’t even know “what thanksgiving” he can render to God, – for these Thessalonians, s

BE ENLIGHTENED

“I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall always be in my mouth. In the Lord shall my soul make its boast; let the meek hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my tribulations. Come to him, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed. This poor one cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him from all his tribulations.” (Ps 33/34: 1-6) I’d like to begin this Tuesday in the Spirit of this psalm. It doesn’t rant and complain about what is “wrong” with the world or with us, as the words we read or hear in the news (and share on social media) often do. No, the psalm tea

LOVING OURSELVES

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered right; do this, and you will live.’ But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was goi

SUNDAY, THE LORD’S DAY

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps 117/118: 24) The day known as “Sunday” (dies solis) according to the Planetary Week of the ancient, pagan world, is also known as “the Lord’s day” (κυριακή, domenica, dimanche, duminică) in the Christian world. The Church did, eventually, use the symbolism of the Sun-cult to its advantage, associating Christ with the Sun, as “The True Sun” and “The Sun of Righteousness.” Our observance of “Sunday” originates, in any event, in close connection with the Person of Jesus Christ, and particularly with the “new worship” He established in His “new covenant” (Mt 26: 28), based on His salvific work. So, from the earliest

DIVISIONS IN OUR OWN “HOUSE“

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Lk 12: 49-53) Our Lord knew that His light, His “fire,” would stir up the forces of darkness in new ways, not only or even primarily

RECEIVING THE WORD IN MUCH AFFLICTION

“And you became imitators (μιμηταὶ) of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1 Thess 1: 6-8) Interestingly, that’s how God’s “word“ planted in us seems to grow, and to be particularly fruitful: “in much affliction“ and “with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.“ When I stay close to God’s word, and focus on His voice in my life, then these two go hand-in-hand. I mean, “affliction“ and

SENDING “THOUGHTS” & PRAYERS

“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.” (James 5: 16) I know we like to say, these days, that we send our “thoughts” as well as our prayers, to those who have suffered some loss or tragedy. And this is not a bad thing, of course. But somehow, I find that when I say that I send my “thoughts” as well as my prayers, I tend to neglect the second part. Let me really pray, this morning, for anyone I happen to have heard of recently, in need of prayer, lest I dismiss myself from the responsibility of really praying for people, rather than just “thinking” about them. And the differen

FOR HE IS GOOD AND LOVES MANKIND

“May Christ our true God, through the intercessions of His all-pure Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles… and of all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and loves mankind.” (Dismissal, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) This seemingly-obvious fact is often repeated in our church-services, – that God is “good” and loves us. We need to be reassured of this fact, again and again; that He, indeed, loves “us.” That is to say, He loves the people “we” are now, as we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses. I need to embrace this astonishing truth, again and again, so that I can see myself as God does, both honestly and mercifully. In the inimitable words of Thoma

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