BLESSED THROUGH REJECTION

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of/because of the Son of man (ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Lk 6: 22-23) How can we know when we’re “hated” or “excluded” or rejected somehow, specifically “because of the Son of man,” and not for some other reason? We know this is happening “because of the Son of man” when we are rejected specifically for being ourselves, according to our “vocation”; I mean, according to our response to Christ’s call to us personally, to be and to act and to serve

THE MESSY BUSINESS OF "VOCATION"

”But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, of the good news), so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Phil 1: 12-14) St. Paul’s decision to follow his “vocation” or “call,” to follow Christ, led the Apostle to much pain and isolation, even unto imprisonment and “chains.” As Carl Jung wrote about the whole messy business of following one’s “vocation,” which he considered an essential part of “the

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

“We bow down before Your Cross, O Master, and Your holy Resurrection we glorify.“ (Byzantine Hymn, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross) Why the cross? Why would God choose a “cross,“ of all signs, as the sign of His (and our) victory; as the instrument by which He trampled, and we, in Him, continue to trample, death and darkness? For one thing, when I make the sign of the cross, I become bigger than myself. Because the cross branches out, extending beyond me. As Chesterton noted in his brilliant comparison of the (Buddhist) circle and (Christian) cross: “The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.“ Inde

JOIN US TODAY! (with Fr. John Behr)

Dear Friends, Please join me today, at 9:30 am EDT (or 2:30 pm UK-time), for a VERY interesting interview with renowned Orthodox theologian and patristics-scholar, Prof. Fr. John Behr, about "Creation and Gender"! And Fr. John will be chatting LIVE with the viewers at the premiere, so don't miss it, and join us this morning at 9:30 am EDT at this link: https://youtu.be/d9ge5Kw3Ijg

LET US LIFT UP OUR HEARTS!

“Priest: Let us lift up our hearts. (Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας. Горé имеим сердца.) People/Choir: We have them (lifted up) to the Lord. (Ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν Κύριον. Имамы ко Господу.)“ (Eucharistic Prayer, Byzantine Divine Liturgy) The Eucharistic Prayer is not only a text, read (mostly) by our priest. It is also an action and an event, “done“ by the entire Church, all of us, as we gather by invitation of the Host of this event, our Lord Jesus Christ. And the “place“ where we get to meet our Host, if we suit up and show up to this event, is “above,“ in the Presence of God. This is an “above“ that becomes accessible to us, in our (down) here and now, as we “let ourselves“ be lifted up into communion

GOD BLESSES OUR TECHNOLOGY

“…So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. (…) And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Gen 3: 6-7, 21) Right after “The Fall”; after our decision to grasp “the knowledge of good and evil” from the tree, and not God’s way, we immediately felt the need to protect ourselves from “the elements” of God’s created world, by covering ou

THE "INVISIBLE" WORLD IN OUR LIVES

“…And Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’ And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remai

WHY ARE YOU TROUBLED?

“As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb, and he took it and ate before them.” (Lk 24: 36-43) There were many reasons, from the merely-human perspective of the disciples, why they should be “troub

PRAYING THE PSALMS

“O Lord, why are they multiplied that afflict me? Many rise up against me. Many say unto my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God. But you, O Lord, are my helper, my glory and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy mountain. I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will help me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that set themselves against me round about…” (Ps 3: 1-6, Septuagint-translation) How very sincere are the psalms, giving voice not only to the “highs” of our faith-journey, but also to the “lows.” Praying the Psalms teaches me to open up to God, and to speak to Him from the bottom of my heart, in a

HE MADE YOU ALIVE

“…and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph 1: 22 – 2: 2) Is St. Paul alleging that we, members of “the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all,” no longer “sin” or “trespass,” – hence we are “alive”? No, the Apostle knows that we are still works-in-progress, who still “sin” and “trespass” on occasion, fall

NOTHING FROM OUTSIDE CAN DEFILE US

”When he had called all the multitude to himself, he said to them, ‘Hear me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing tha t enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!’ When he had entered a house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. So he said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?’ And he said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from

PREFERRING "CAESAR" TO CHRIST

“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’” (Jn 19: 14-19) …But the

HEALTHY EATING & FASTING TODAY

Dear Friends, Please join me this Saturday morning, 9:30 am EDT, for a very helpful & inspiring interview with clinical nutritionist Denise Canellos, MS, CNS. On how better to take care of ourselves, also within the framework of the Orthodox Church's fasting & feasting traditions, and in the Covid-19 era. Denise, an active member of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA, has a private practice, providing personal nutritional counseling, corporate wellness programs, professional workshops and more. She will be chatting with our zillions of viewers LIVE today, at 9:30 am EDT. So if YOU have questions about healthy nutrition, exercise (how much & how often) intermittent fasting (to ha

THE SCANDAL OF THE CROSS

“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offence/scandal of the cross (τὸ σκάνδαλον τοῦ σταυροῦ) has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you (about circumcision) would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit,

GOD LETS US MAKE OUR OWN MISTAKES

“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’” (Jn 12: 23-24) The whole mystery of physical resurrection, through which our Lord “restored” or “redeemed” our fallen humanity, was already revealed by our Creator in His creation, in the way He made plants grow from seeds, which need to “fall into the earth and die,” in order to come alive again to “bear much fruit.” We learn this in the first chapter of the Bible, when God says, “’Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fr

PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” (Mt 22: 35-40) …So let me put first things first today, and let myself love God, my neighbor, and myself, “before” I worry about “all the law and the prophets.” It’s easy, even if it isn’t simple. It’s “easy” to love God, Who loves me unconditionally, having created me, and Who continue

THE REPROACH OF CHILDLESSNESS

“By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin, / Joachim and Anna are freed from the reproach of childlessness (ὀνειδισμοῦ ἀτεκνίας); / Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death. / And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: / The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!” (Kontakion-hymn of the Nativity of the Theotokos) As those of us on the “New” Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, our attention is drawn to the whole topic of the “reproach of childlessness,” endured for decades by the Holy Virgin’s parents, Joachim and Anna. They were liberated from this “shame,” just as we were freed from the “guilt” o

A "SACRIFICE OF PRAISE"

“…Mine is the world, and the fulness thereof. Shall I eat of the flesh of bulls? Or the blood of goats, shall I drink it? Sacrifice unto God (Θῦσον τῷ Θεῷ) a sacrifice of praise (θυσίαν αἰνέσεως), and pay unto the Most High your vows... A sacrifice of praise (θυσία αἰνέσεως) shall glorify me, and there is the way wherein I shall show him my salvation.” (Ps 49: 13b-15, 24, LXX) God does not “need“ any of our “things,“ which we may think to “sacrifice“ or offer to Him, because the whole world is already His. “Mine is the world,“ He reminds us in this psalm, “and the fulness thereof.“ What He is teaching us, by allowing for various “offerings“ in the Old Testament, is self-offering. It’s the wh

GOD'S LITTLE SECRETS

“’…But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.’” (Mk 4: 20-22) As those of us on the Older Calendar continue to celebrate the Afterfeast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, I’m thinking about the once-“hidden” virtue of Mary, a poor Jewish girl from Nazareth. She “heard the word and accepted it” quietly, in a private conversation with an Archangel, and then “bore fruit” incalculably m

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

“Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be (ἁγιασθήτω) Thy name…” (Mt 6: 9) Indeed, “hallowed be Thy name,” despite our often not Christ-like behaviours, as Christians. God’s “good name” can be obscured or even tarnished by us, who have been baptised (e.g., “immersed”) or consecrated/ordained in His name. If we, who are supposed to be dedicated to, and ministering in, His name, are actually self-serving; serving our own “name,” or perhaps many “others,” whose name is “legion” (cf. Mk 5: 9), like our particular political causes, then the light and goodness of God’s “name” does not shine forth from us. It rather becomes obscured, or even confused with the darkness and evil of His enemies. As

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