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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all people, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess 3: 9-13)

I love how St. Paul is so full of “joy,” that he doesn’t even know “what thanksgiving” he can render to God, – for these Thessalonians, still “lacking” in their faith. He “abounds in love” for them, knowing that they are not perfect. He h...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered right; do this, and you will live.’ But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

May Christ our true God, through the intercessions of His all-pure Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles… and of all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and loves mankind.” (Dismissal, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

This seemingly-obvious fact is often repeated in our church-services, – that God is “good” and loves us. We need to be reassured of this fact, again and again; that He, indeed, loves “us.” That is to say, He loves the people “we” are now, as we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses. I need to embrace this astonishing truth, again and again, so that I can see myself as God does, both honestly and mercifully. In the inimitable words of Thomas Merton, “…The man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and...

Friday, October 27, 2017

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” (Col 2: 1-5)

How important are these words, in our Internet Age, when we are often "connected" with people, without actually seeing their “face in the flesh”! What is it, I’m a...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“…and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1: 14-18)

So there’s nothing new about the phenomena of “envy” and “rivalry” among those who “preach Christ.” It’s not surprising, because we do tend to feel “envy” and “rivalry” most strongly not toward outsiders, but toward our own. Already in the time...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (αἰσθήσει, sensitivity), so that you may discern what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorium and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ, in Christ)…” (Phil 1: 9-13)

Whatever happens to us today, both the ups and the downs, the Apostle is saying, let it all be “to the glory and praise of God”; may it benefit our growth in “love” and “knowledge,” and greater “sensitivity” to what is trul...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

And we have come to know and believe (ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν) the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness (παρρησίαν) in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear (φόβος) in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves/has torment (κόλασιν ἔχει). But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4: 16-19)

It is one thing, merely to say, “God is love.” It is quite a different thing, to “come to know” and also to come to “believe,” that God truly loves “us,” specifically you and me, and to trust in that love through our ups and downs. What St. John is saying here...

Monday, September 25, 2017

And you, who were dead (ὄντας νεκροὺς) in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath/anger (τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς), just as the others, – God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ (συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ), even when we were dead in trespasses. By grace you have been saved…” (Eph 2: 1-5)

Here St. Paul is telling us about a choice we have made, not to be the stillborn or dead “children of wrath/anger,” but children of th...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For you, brethren, have been called to/for freedom (ἐπ᾽ελευθερίᾳ); only do not use freedom 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, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Gal 5: 13-17) 

This passage is all about the bondage of self-seeking “lust,” which can deprive me of the freedom of self-offering, Spirit-filled “love.” 

The “Spirit,” that is, the Holy Spirit, is the God of Love,...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13: 1-3)

What a divinely disconcerting passage this is. I “gain” nothing, says St. Paul, when I don’t have love, even if I’m doing and saying all the “right” things; even if I “understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,” as in, the Orthodox faith. My words and actions fail to be constructive for myself and others, but rather fall flat, if what I’m saying and doing is...

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