THE MEANING OF THE ASCENSION

“Jesus said to her (Mary Magdalene), ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me (Μή μου ἅπτου / Noli me tangere / Не прикасайся мне), for/because (γὰρ) I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20: 15-17) As we Orthodox celebrate the Lord’s Ascension today, I’m thinking about what the Lord said to Mar

LEAVETAKING OF PASCHA

“It is the day of resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord's Pascha! For Christ our God has brought us from death to life, and from earth unto heaven, as we sing the song of victory!” (Paschal Canon, Irmos-hymn of Ode 1) Transitions can be hard. And yet I am being invited, on “the day of the resurrection,” (which we’ve been celebrating this entire Paschal season, ending today on the “Leavetaking” of Pascha) to join the Lord’s Great Transition, – the Lord’s “Pascha” or “Passover” from death to life, and from earth to heaven. This “day” is every day in the life of anyone who believes in the risen Lord; “This is the day which the Lord has made” (Ps 117/118: 24), also this Wed

I AM ASCENDING

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Jn 20: 16-18) As the feast of the Lord’s Ascension is coming up (for those of us on the Orthodox church-calendar), I am thinking about these words, said by the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene (and through her, to the disciples) about His upcoming ascension. He is announcing to them th

BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT

“’While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him.” (Jn 12: 36-37) I do “have the light” today, whenever I choose to turn toward Him. I “have the light” in the many, powerful and life-giving gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church “in this world”; gifts like Holy Scripture, and other sacraments or mysteries that live and breathe in us and through us, on a daily basis, whenever we choose to embrace them in faith. Let me choose to “believe in the light” offered to me today, by the ever-generous hand of our Lord Jesus C

PARENTING & OVER-PARENTING

“The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, ’Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (Jn 9: 18-22) Do the parents of the blind man healed by Jesus throw their son under the

MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE

“So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews took up stones again to stone him.” (Jn 10: 24-31) “If you are t

"COMMITTED" TO THE LORD

“…they (Paul and Barnabas) returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed (χειροτονήσαντες) elders (πρεσβυτέρους) for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed (παρέθεντο) them to the Lord in whom they believed.” (Acts 14: 21b – 23) “For” the churches of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, as we learn in our Church’s reading for today, the Apostles “appointed elders,“ while “committing“ them, or placing them in the hands of /in the charge of, the Lord. Because the entire Church, together with

BEWARE OF PEOPLE

“Behold, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise/sensible (φρόνιμοι) as serpents and pure (ἀκέραιοι, lit. unmixed, uncontaminated) as doves. Be on your guard against / Beware of people, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues…” (Mt 10: 16-17) As part of the long list of instructions that the Lord gives His apostles in this tenth chapter of Matthew, as He sends them out on their mission, He likens them (and us, members of the “apostolic” Church) to three kinds of creatures: sheep, serpents, and doves. More precisely, He says that they (already) are “like sheep,” i.e., vulnerable and rather helpless (when without a Shepherd) vis-à-v

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?’ J

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NOT-BAPTISED

“While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can any one forbid water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10: 44-48a) Right after St. Peter preached about Jesus Christ in the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word,” – “even on the Gentiles” who were not yet baptised. S

GOD IS NOT PREJUDICED

“And Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10: 34-35) This St. Peter says in the house of one Cornelius, a Gentile, and a centurion of the “Italian Cohort” in the Roman army, to whom Peter is sent to preach, and whom Peter ends up baptizing, with all of Cornelius’s household in Caesarea. The mission to Cornelius is a surprise to St. Peter at this point, because he had not yet stepped outside his “comfort zone,” based on the Jewish tradition of his upbringing, which perceived Gentiles as a source of ritual impurity. It strikes me as quite remarkable, the bre

COME TO ME AND DRINK

”On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of him (ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ, out of his belly) will flow rivers of living water.’ But this he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn 7: 37-40) On this feast of Mid-Pentecost, marking the mid-point of our journey from Pascha to Pentecost, we celebrate these words said, nay, cried out, by our Lord to all of us: If “anyone” thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. That also means me, if I recognize th

GOD DOESN'T NEED "MY GOODS"

“Keep me, O Lord, for I have hoped in you. I said unto the Lord: You are my Lord, for of my goods, you have no need (ὅτι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου οὐ χρείαν ἔχεις, яко благих моих не требуеши).” (Ps 15/16: 1-2, Septuagint-translation) God would not truly be Lord, if He had ”need” of anyone or anything; i.e., if He were somehow insufficient, in and of Himself, and depended on the “goods” of others to keep Himself fulfilled. As the Source of Good, that is, as the Source of Life, He certainly has no “need,” as we say in the above-quoted Psalm, of “my goods.” But God does “want” me to embrace true goodness, His life, even while He does not “need” me to do that. Because outside of it I am not truly alive. I

"DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED?"

“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed… One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.” (Jn

COMMUNION OUTSIDE THE EUCHARIST

“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6: 63) At this time, when many of us cannot approach Holy Communion because of the pandemic, I’m reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ does offer us Himself, as the Source of Life, also in other ways. And I find I must be extra-attentive, these days, to let myself be nourished by Him in these other ways, - particularly by His life-creating Word, of which He says: “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” So let me take pause today, for a bit of prayerful reading, because I need not hunger or thirst, according to my Lord’s promise: “I am the bread of life;

ARGUMENTS ABOUT FAITH

“The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.’” (Jn 6: 41-45) It might seem that our Lord is talking “past” these people, and not responding to their concerns. They’re saying, they “know” His “father and mother,” – so how

CHRIST GIVES WOMEN A NEW VOICE

“Women, hear the voice of gladness: ‘Trampling on the tyrant Hell, I have raised the world from corruption. Run, tell my friends the good tidings, for I wish joy to shine on what I fashioned from the source from which came grief’.” (Exapostilarion of Myrrh-Bearers’ Sunday) In this hymn, Christ is addressing the Myrrh-Bearing women, and through them all women. He tells us not to walk, but to “run,” and tell His “friends” the good news of the resurrection. Thus He grants women a voice we did not properly have, ever since Adam was banished from paradise, – as God says to Adam, “Because you listened to the voice of your wife.” (Gen 3: 17) Now, right after His resurrection, Christ chooses to spre

THE INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE OF THE MYRRH-BEARERS

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified,

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