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Monday, February 17, 2020

     “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 weekend, we celebrated another tax-collector, somewhat bolder than Zacch...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

     “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 said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I...

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

     “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For thou hast made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify thee; cities of ruthless nations will fear thee. For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the blast of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall…” (Is 25: 1-4)

     In today’s reading from Isaiah, the Prophet contrasts merely-human plans, symbolized here by city-building, with God’s “plans formed of old, faithful and sure.” The merely-human “city,” insofar as it is...

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

   “I am yours, save me (Σός εἰμι ἐγώ, σωσόν με / Твой есмь аз, спаси мя); for I have sought after your statutes.” (Ps 118/119: 94)

     How simple and bold, to say to God: I am Yours! (So) save me! And we can all say that, indeed we are all invited to say that, in the words of this beautiful Psalm, handed down to us from ancient times. It has been a cry from the heart of so many children of God, struggling like us, and praying these words in their ups and downs of “seeking after His statutes,” throughout the ages.

     Let me join them today, and ask God to “save” me, that is, to “bring me home,” from my wanderings-off outside of Him, if for no other reason than the fact that I am His. And I have “sought after” His statutes, to various degrees of success and failure, but rema...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

     “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up, and it shall be brought low…” (Is 2: 11-12)

     How unusual and refreshing, to have these readings from the ancient Prophet Isaiah on the weekdays of Lent! (Just FYI, the Prophet Isaiah is read at “The Sixth Hour” or “Sext” on the weekdays of Byzantine Lent). In the reading for this Thursday, quoted above, we learn that all our “lofty looks,” “haughtiness,” and other masks with which we might present one another, and torment one another, will be “bowed down” in the “day” of the Lord. So if we’re tormented today, either by living a...

Monday, March 11, 2019

     “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” (Gen 1: 1-5)

     Lent (re)-introduces us to the “basics” of our faith, like a catechetical program. So today, as those of us on the Orthodox church-calendar begin Lent, at Vespers we have this reading from the very beginning of the Bible. It takes us back to the very beginning of our “common story,” when God first created somethin...

Saturday, March 31, 2018

     “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbi...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

     “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’ Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violen...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

     “…Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (Jn 11: 11-16)

      The above-quoted conversation happens “today” (in liturgical time), and two days after Jesus was informed that His friend, Lazarus, had fallen ill back in Bethany. So, “today” Lazarus dies, and four days from now, on Saturday, the Lord will...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

     “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (Prov 21: 4-5)

    Throughout our Lenten journey, for almost six weeks now, we have had a reading at weekday-Vespers from the most “practical” book of the Bible, Proverbs. These readings, (including the one for today, part of which is quoted above), offer me practical, “how to” bits of ancient wisdom, on wise and healthy living. We have these readings specifically during Lent, because Lent is, among other things, a time of both physical and spiritual renewal; of healthy work-habits, eating-habits, praying-habits, resting-habits, and healthy “plan-making” for all this, on a daily basis. In the passage qu...

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