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Sunday, March 31, 2019

    “And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’” (Mk 8: 34-38)

Which part of Christ’s “words” would one be “ashamed” of? It’s the part about the Cross, which is the Way of walking through our hardships, shortcomings, and darkness, rather t...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

     “Lord and Master of my life, grant me not the spirit of idleness, despondency, love of power, and idle talk.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part One)

     Today Lent begins for many Christians, while for those of us in (most of) the Orthodox Churches, it will only begin next Monday. Nonetheless, (little-known “fun fact”), even we Orthodox Christians have Lenten-style services on this Wednesday and Friday of the pre-Lenten “Cheesefare Week,” although dairy-products and fish are allowed. By “Lenten-style services” I mean that this Wednesday and Friday no Divine Liturgy is celebrated (as it is not on weekdays of Lent); and along with other hymns and prayers from the Lenten Triodion, the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem is read, with great prostrations. So we have a foretaste of Lent this...

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

     “’…Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.’ One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.’ And he said, ‘Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Lk 11: 43-46)

Good for this lawyer! He heard the actions of “others” being reproached in a sermon, but recognized that he himself was reproachable, in these same ways. And for this insight, the Lord blesses him with a clarification, as to how he and his lot (of lawyers) could do better.

Let me also recognize reproaches in Scripture, or in sermons...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

     "And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Mt 12: 32-35)

     If I find myself “running off at the mouth,” or overtalking in a way that begins to burden my conscience, it’s time to examine not primarily my words, but my heart. It’s by and with my heart that I embrace what the Prayer of...

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thus says the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. Thus says the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts; In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the garment of a Jewish man, saying, ‘We will go with you: for...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (Joel 2: 12-13)

Yes, I do know that it is “not” Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, for us Orthodox Christians today. Nonetheless, the above-quoted passage is, indeed, part of our Church’s reading for today, Cheesefare Wednesday. Because this week, or Cheesefare Week (Maslenitsa in Russian), the week preceding Lent, is liturgically already preparing us for the season of fasting and “return to the Lord” that is Lent. In fact, today, on Cheesefare Wednesday, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, and th...

Monday, April 11, 2016

 

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge (κατακρίνειν, condemn) my brother, for blessed are You, unto ages of ages. Amen.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part Three)

 

Here I am asking for God’s kind of vision. He is able “to see” and yet “not to condemn” (κατακρίνειν, to judge uncharitably). I, on the other hand, can not see in His way, without His help, because we “do not see,” without the light of the Lord. Our kind of vision is darkness in light of Him, Who is the Source of all justice, as Christ reminds the Pharisees: "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." (Jn 9: 39) And as the wisdom of St. Ephrem’s prayer reminds me, His kind of vision opens up to me through seeing “my own...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, love of power, and idle talking give me not.” (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, part 1)

 

How very “post-post-modern” of St. Ephrem that the spirit of “idleness” (inactivity, sloth, procrastination) and its outgrowth of “despondency” (various forms of depression and feelings of unfulfillment) are the very first concerns of his famous prayer. In our time, when opportunities abound for every form of distraction and entertainment, whenever and wherever th WiFi is working, these “spirits” have become our everyday companions.

 

St. John Climacus says that despondency makes one “look out the window” (in his context, of the monastic cell, The Ladder XIII.13). Indeed it makes me look “elsewhere,” away from the here and now, which, in des...

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