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Saturday, May 26, 2018

     “Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” (Jn 11: 32-35) 

     On this Memorial Saturday preceding Pentecost, when we commemorate our departed, I am thinking about how the Lord shares our human grief over the death of a loved one, when we share it with Him. When Lazarus’s sister Mary fell before Him in tears, surrounded by friends who are also in tears, Jesus allowed Himself to be so “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” that He wept with them. He also allowed Him...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent (ἀλλ᾽ἐαν μὴ μετανοῆτε) you will all likewise (ὁμοίως) perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise (ὡσαύτως) perish.’” (Lk 13: 1-5)

Here our Lord is not using the word “likewise” (ὁμοίως, ὡσαύτως) literally, in the sense that His listeners (all of us) will “perish” in the same exact way that those mentioned here did, wh...

Sunday, October 29, 2017

This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6: 50-51)

What kinds of “life” and “death” is Christ talking about here? The kinds that begin already here, in this world. The Son of God has come “down from heaven,” has inserted Himself into our physical world, in the flesh, to share with us true life, in Him. He offers us communion/participation in His physical Body and Blood, that we may, already here, “have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10: 10). He shares with me His human-divine Being, sweeping me up into the unity God intended for us in the first plac...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age. There was one who pleased God and was loved by him. He was taken up, lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.” (Wisdom of Solomon 4: 7-15)


Monday, October 16, 2017

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment/condemnation (εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται), but has passed (μεταβέβηκεν) from death to life.” (Jn 5: 24)

Here is the choice my Lord places before me: 1. I can ”come into judgment/condemnation,” which means sitting in my own “debt” or death-bringing guilt, without embracing God’s mercy and God’s way forward, or 2. I can “hear” His word and embrace faith, moving forward through the ups and downs, on the life-bringing way of the cross, in humble forgiveness of myself and others. Thus I can “pass from death to life,” walking through things in the light and lightness of God’s word.

Today let me choose life, asking the right kinds of questions. Let me ask God’s kinds of quest...

Monday, August 7, 2017

I shall not die, but live, and I shall tell of the works of the Lord. As he disciplines, the Lord has disciplined me (παιδεύων ἐπαίδευσέ με ὁ Κύριος, наказуя наказа мя Господь), but he has not given me over unto death.” (Ps 117: 17-18, Septuagint-translation)

I shall not die, but live! – I say this morning, just as we say at the beginning of Matins, when we sing “The Lord is God.” It is sometimes tempting, after a difficult experience, to “die” a spiritual death, to lose heart and stop praying, having lost hope in God and also in humanity. This might be our reaction when we suffer a painful loss, say, of a loved one who has either abandoned us or died; or when we suffer the loss of a job or position, or of our physical health.

But the Psalm-verse quoted above invites me to grow, rather than...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Christ is risen from the dead, / trampling down death by death, / and upon those in the tombs (καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι, и сущим во гробех) / bestowing life!” (Byzantine Troparion-hymn of Pascha/Easter)

So – who are “those in the tombs”? All of us, practically. “Those in the tombs” are those of us “buried,” either in our work or in a relationship, or in a “dead” indifference to work or a relationship (I realize that sounds paradoxical, but both those situations are “deadening”); or in some obsession or addiction, like an unhealthy dependency on a thing or person.

But Christ “is risen” from all our darkness, having walked through it; having confronted all our weakness, anger, resentment, fear, despondency, and insufficiency, which led Him to the Cross, – which was His calling or “vocation.”...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

“’Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.’” (St. Peter’s speech on Pentecost, Acts 2: 22-24)

Pentecost is still many weeks away, but I am already called to anticipate it in the above-quoted passage, read in our churches today. Here St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, is “making sense” of Christ’s death and resurrection. He offers me the simplest and clearest “explanation” of our Lord’s rising up from...

Friday, March 31, 2017

My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.” (Kontakion-hymn, Great Canon of St. Andrew)

Whether we like it or not, our mortality, or the fact that we will all, indeed, die a physical death, is something with which we are confronted more and more as we age. This fact really begins to “hit home” for many of us when we lose a parent, or notice our parents ageing. Psychologists observe that such reminders of our own mortality often cause depression, existential angst, and various unhealthy behaviours in middle- aged people in our time.

But there is nothing morbid or dark in “remembering death,” as we are taught to do regularly...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blessed are those who mourn (οἱ πενθοῦντες), for they shall be comforted.” (Mt 5: 4)

It is necessary to mourn, when one has suffered loss. But also – when someone else has suffered loss. I am called to mourn with them, rather than distance myself, because “I don’t know what to say.” This kind of distancing myself from another’s pain is self-centered, focused on my fear of “performing” inadequately in the face of someone else’s tragedy, - while it’s not about “me.” I just need to be there, mourning with the mourning, who also “don’t know what to say.”

Today I’m thinking about this because a good friend of mine, the wife of a priest, just lost her 21-year-old son. He was trying to fix an air-conditioner and fell out the window to his death. There is nothing to say. But there is much mourning...

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