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Saturday, January 27, 2018

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with/by himself (πρὸς ἑαυτὸν), ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Lk 18: 9-14)

The Pharisee is very much “with” o...

Monday, November 6, 2017

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5: 16)

I know we like to say, these days, that we send our “thoughts” as well as our prayers, to those who have suffered some loss or tragedy. I just heard this phrase, “We send our thoughts and prayers,” in connection with the recent mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. But let me say this out loud, even if it’s not all that PC: It’s pretty cheap to send “thoughts,” because they come and go whether we like it or not, whereas “prayers” take a bit of work. And mind you, I’m saying this mainly to myself, because I know that when I say that I send my “thoughts” as well as my prayers, I often neglect the second pa...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Lk 11: 9-13)

I was recently asked whether the “success” of our prayers depends upon our “righteousness.” No, as the Lord explains above. “Success” in prayer, as Christ understands it, is reception of the Holy Spirit, i.e., commun...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to serve them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mk 1: 29-35)

I love getting this glimpse into both the “private” and “public” life of the enormously-popu...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Priest (in a low voice): “…Again, we offer You this spiritual worship (τὴν λογικὴν ταύτην λατρείαν, словесную сию службу) for those who have reposed in the faith: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith”; (aloud) “Especially (Ἐξαιρέτως, Изрядно) for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.” (Eucharistic Prayer, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

We don’t only pray “to” the saints; we also pray “for” them, in the Eucharist. How am I to understand this puzzling fact? What is “accomplished,” if I can put it that way, by such prayer?

First of all, we “offer” for the saints, by “remembering” them, as an expression of our gratitude for them. B...

Saturday, June 3, 2017

“…The poor man (Lazarus) died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus at his bosom. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm (χάσμα μέγα) has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’” (Lk 16: 22-26)

Do we conclude, from th...

Monday, May 1, 2017

“…Let us, the faithful, pray for the catechumens, that the Lord will have mercy on them; / That He will teach (κατηχήσῃ, catechise) them the word of truth; / That He will reveal (ἀποκαλύψῃ) to them the gospel of righteousness; / That He will unite (ἑνώσῃ) them to His holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” (Litany for Catechumens, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

This set of petitions is often omitted in churches that do not have any “catechumens” (those preparing for baptism, оглашенные). Among other things, we are called to pray that incoming members of the Church receive 1. Catechism (that they properly be taught the word of truth), 2. Revelation (that their hearts and minds be opened to the gospel), and 3. Unity/union with the “holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” (The word “one,” which seems...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Love does not insist on its own way (οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, does not seek its own things); it is not irritable or resentful... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13: 5b, 7-8a)

I’m thinking about this passage today, on the “Memorial Saturday” one week before Lent when we pray for the deceased, because I think it explains a lot about the whole business of praying for the deceased. It is natural, if we love them.

Just as it is natural for a believing person to pray for the beloved living, particularly if we have been separated from them physically or geographically, for whatever reason, so is it natural for such a person to pray for the beloved deceased. Because "love never ends." And prayer connects us, in God, because we fi...

Monday, January 23, 2017

And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; rise, he is calling you.’ And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me receive my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediatel...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lord, our God, Whose dominion is incomparable and glory incomprehensible; Whose mercy is immeasurable, and love for mankind ineffable: Look upon us and upon this holy house in Your loving-kindness, and grant to us and to those who pray with us Your abundant mercy and compassion.“ (Prayer of the First Antiphon, usually read silently by the priest at Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

There are many things about God that are expressed, in traditional theological terms, in the negative: He is “in-comparable,“ “in-comprehensible,“ “im-measurable,“ and so on. Because there are many things in Him and in our relationship with Him that we do not know or understand. Just like there are many things in my human relationships that remain a mystery. But the whole “mystery“ part does not stop me from loving and...

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