DESCENDANTS OF ABRAHAM

“The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.’ So Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.” (Gen 13: 14-18) This is our Church’s reading from Genesis at Vespers today, on Monday of

GOD STOPS OUR "BUILDING"

“Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; a

THE NAKEDNESS OF THE GREAT

“Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’” (Gen 9: 20-25) Noah did not know that wine would make him drunk, because he was the first to ma

HOW SHALL THIS BE?

“…And Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1: 34-38) The “mystery” or “sacrament” of the Virgin Birth, that is, of the Most Holy Virgin’s “vocation,” raises an understan

WHEN I FIND MYSELF IN TIMES OF TROUBLE...

“Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the n

RENEWING THE SPIRIT WITHIN US

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and remove not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation: establish me with the governing/directing Spirit (πνεύματι ἡγεμονικῷ).” (Ps 50: 10-12, Septuagint-translation) Psalm 50 (51) is chanted several times each day, in our daily cycle of church-services. In it we ask for “renewal,” several times each day, – because we can be “renewed” in God’s ever-new, ever-“governing” or “directing” us forward, Spirit, whenever we choose to open up to Him. Whenever I notice that I’ve slipped into going around in circles, according to “old” patterns or some “wrong” spirit or

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be (ἁγιασθήτω) Thy name…” (Mt 6: 9) It’s the first thing we “ask” for, in the Our Father; that God’s name “be hallowed.“ We’re saying, “Let it be” holy. But who is it that we are “asking,” to “let it be” this way? We are asking ourselves, while calling to God as our Witness, to let His “name,” – His “reputation” amongst us, if you will, – not to be tainted by our own projections upon Him, of our own shortcomings and issues (for example, our “daddy issues,” say, of a distant or absent or unreasonably-demanding or otherwise-abusive parent). Because God Himself does not need to be asked to do thus, as He does not stand in

A UNIFYING SIGN TO THE NATIONS

“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be honor (ἡ ἀνάπαυσις αὐτοῦ τιμή). And it shall be in that day, that the Lord shall again show his hand, to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, which shall be left by the Assyrians, and that from Egypt, and from the country of Babylon, and from Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia. And he shall lift up a sign (σημεῖον) for the nations, and he shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and he shall gather the dispersed of Juda from the four corners of the earth.” (Is 11: 10-12, Septua

DON'T BE FOOLISH

“A foolish woman is noisy; she is wanton and knows no shame. She sits at the door of her house, she takes a seat on the high places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who is without sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.” (Prov 9:13-18) Here, at the end of Chapter 9 of Proverbs, “foolishness” or “folly” is personified as a woman. But note that the opposite of “foolishness,” that is, “wisdom,” is also personified as a woman in the beginning of this same chapter, – to

ENDING THE DAY WITH A PSALM

“How beloved are your dwellings, O Lord of Hosts; my soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. For the sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtledove a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even your altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in your house; unto ages of ages shall they praise you.” (Ps 83: 1-5, Septuagint-translation) Psalm 83 is the first of the three psalms chanted at the final service of the daily cycle, the Ninth Hour. It is usually chanted in monasteries at the end of the workday, in the early evening and right before Vespers, which begins the liturgical cycle of

MAKE YOURSELF AN ARK

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it…” (Gen 6: 9-15a) Noah “walked with God,” while all aro

HERE I AM!

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then flew one of the seraphim t

THREE LIFE-IMPROVING TIPS

“Let my prayer arise (Κατευθυνθήτω, Да исправится) as incense before You, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of enclosure around my lips. Incline not my heart unto words of evil, to make/allege excuses (προφασίζεσθαι προφάσεις, непщевати вины) for sins...“ (Ps 140: 2-4, Septuagint-translation) These verses of the evening-psalm 140 (141) are sung in a special, Lenten melody today and Friday, and on all Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays, at a beautiful Vespers-service connected with the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. The three Psalm-verses offer me three, basic “tips“ for daily living in a peaceful, God-focused manner: 1. To live e

LOVE OF POWER

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power (φιλαρχίας), and idle talk (ἀργολογίας).” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 1) It is not sane to “love“ power or authority over others, although it is vital that some people exercise it, as their God-given vocation, – either as parents, or as political, military, or Church-leaders, or as teachers/professors, or as business-managers or executives. As St. Paul reminds us, “there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.“ (Rom 13: 1) The response-ability (or “ability to respond“ to the call/vocation) of power is humblin

CLOTHED & FED BY GOD

“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen 3: 21-24) The Lord God lovingly made for us our very first clothing, made of “skins,” after sin had made us uncomfortable in our own skin. Much

THE PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM

"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of idleness (ἀργίας), despondency (περιεργίας), love of power, and idle talk (ἀργολογίας). But give rather the spirit of whole-mindedness (σωφροσύνης), humility, patience, and love to Your servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen." (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem) One of the great paradoxes of the cross-carrying journey, (the cross itself being the greatest paradox, as something that brings victory through defeat), is that I learn to embrace God’s Spirit, of whole-mindedness, humility, patience, and love, through being confronted with, and

HUMILITY LIBERATES

“The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols He shall utterly abolish.” (Is 2: 17-18) This refreshing passage is part of today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, whose prophecies are read on Lenten weekdays at the service of the Sixth Hour. Isaiah is talking about “that day,” of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His Spirit, according to the loving will of the Father, into our lives. – And into my life, again and again, on any given day when I allow Him to do that, allowing myself to be “bowed down” in the liberating grace of humility. I let “that day” be today, on this fourth day of

THE LIGHT OF CHRIST

“…Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you…” (Prov 2: 3-11) This

GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1: 14-18) On Lenten weekdays, we have three Scriptural readings daily, not from the New Testam

HOW SHALL I BEGIN LENT?

”Where shall I begin to weep over the deeds of my wretched life? How shall I begin, O Christ, to relieve my present tears? But as You are deeply compassionate, grant me forgiveness of sins.” (Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete) Why is this first day of Lent called “Clean Monday”? Because yesterday, on Forgiveness Sunday, we cleaned our plates of all resentments and grudges, letting go of the burdens of any masks or self-justification. Now I approach God with nothing, as did the tax-collector with his nothing, so I can freely, cathartically weep before His mercy: “God, have mercy on me, the sinner!” The questions posed at the very beginning of the Great Canon, chanted tonight in our churches

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