LET IT GO, BEFORE LENT

“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who ea

"GOD-BEARING" FATHERS

“All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11: 27-30) The reading quoted above is for the Saturday preceding Lent, the Saturday of All the “God-Bearing” (θεο-φόροι, бого-носные) Fathers, i.e., the great ascetics who came to “bear” or to carry God within themselves, dedicating their lives entirely to God-focused f

"WITH YOUR SPIRIT"

“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” (Gal 6: 18) Just as we often respond to a celebrating priest, “And with your spirit,” after he has blessed us at our church-services, so does St. Paul say to all of us, “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Because all of us, both clergy and laity, while having different vocations, are given to share in One and the Same Spirit, as St. Paul writes: “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink (ἐποτίσθημεν) of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12: 13) Whatever my state of mind is today, and whatever “mood” I may be in, with regard t

GRATITUDE OPENS DOORS

“As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’ 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 y

GOD'S JUDGMENT & OURS

“…Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, b

TWO SATURDAYS BEFORE LENT

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection o

THE FIRST LOVE

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: ‘…you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for my name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have abandoned your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Rev 2: 1, 3-5) In the above-cited passage in the Book of Revelation, the Lord sends this message to the “angel” (in our terms, the bishop) of the church in Ephesus, and talks about a quite subtle loss of his “first love” for the Lord. This reminds me of my own “first love,” that is, the love I h

THROUGH FAITH & PATIENCE

“Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience (μακροθυμίας) inherit the promises.” (Hebr 6: 9-12) What promises? The many promises made to us by our Lord, of growth in true life, peace, hope and wisdom, on our cross-carrying journey in communion with Him. ”Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” He inv

A NEW NAME

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give.. a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Rev 2: 17) In this intriguing passage in the strangest of New-Testament Scriptures, the Book of Revelation, the Lord the Holy Spirit speaks about “the one who is victorious,” the believer who co-carries the victory of Christ’s life-giving Cross. By walking the journey of the cross on the cross’s terms, i.e., Christ’s self-giving love, humility, patience, courage and wisdom, the believer walks through life’s difficulties in the quiet victory of the Spirit. And “that person,” the “victorious” one

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS & ORTHODOXY

"If you want to be respected among women (and a spiritual man should be especially concerned about this), then do not have friendship with them, and then you will be respected by them... A woman, when one flatters her, becomes unbearable, but she is most trepidatious, and becomes very impressed, before those who comport themselves with her in a free and imperious manner." (St. Isidore of Pelusium, as quoted by St. Dmitry of Rostov, p. 47 of vol. 2, February 4, of his "Жития святых" or "Lives of the Saints," Moscow 1905, Sinodal'naja Tipografija.) This is a quote I copied into one of my notebooks on the Lives of the Saints, back when I first read the Life of St. Isidore of Pelusium, a great F

GOD'S OPEN DOOR POLICY

“Open to me the doors of repentance, o Lifegiver; / For my spirit rises early to pray towards Your holy temple, / bearing the temple of my body all defiled. / But as The Generous One, // purify me by Your abundant mercy.” (Byzantine Lenten Hymn, Sunday Matins) Has the Lord closed any of His “doors” to us? No. In fact, in these weeks leading up to Lent, we’re repeatedly reminded of how willingly He exchanges “house-visits” even with the “worst” of us, whenever we open up to Him, in repentance. Two weekends ago, we heard about Zacchaeus, a tax collector who scrambled up into a tree to catch a glimpse of Christ, from afar, – and the Lord rewarded his humble efforts by visiting his house. Last w

COMING TO MYSELF

“And he said, ‘There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself (εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν) he

GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT

“Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Lk 2: 27-32) Today, on the great feast of the Meeting of the Lord (OC), we’re celebrating an encounter of the Lord with an old man, Simeon, who allowed himself to be “guided by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit guided him to “come into the temple” and

BLINDFOLDED & BEATEN

“Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.” (Lk 22: 63-65) Does it do us any good, to know the heartbreaking details of certain violent crimes, like the ones described above? They blindfolded Him, beat Him, mocked Him, and apparently they enjoyed it. You can’t “un-know” that; it stays with you, like stories that pop up in the news about various forms of human cruelty. How can I “process” this information, so that it does not make me cynical about humanity in general? I can “process” it in the light of the dark story quoted above, of God’

THE LORD'S ANONYMOUS HELPERS

“When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, Why are you untying it? you shall say this, The Lord has need of it.’ So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.” (Lk 19: 29-35) We see these nameless followers of the Lo

CHOOSING CHRIST OVER BARABBAS

”Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. And he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?’ And they cried out again, ‘Crucify him.’ And Pilate said to them, ‘

HAVING PATIENCE

“But take heed to yourselves/watch yourselves (βλέπετε…ἑαυτούς); for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And 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 hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who has patience (ὑ

I AM THE DOOR

“I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not o

KEEPING PRAYER SIMPLE

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with/by himself (πρὸς ἑαυτὸν), ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be hu

ON SEX & POWER

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women (τὰς τοιαύτας). What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning wit

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