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Bishop Gerasim and Orthodoxy Sunday
Icon Visit and Retreat-Archimandrite Sergius
On the weekend of February 10-12, Archimandrite Fr. Sergius traveled from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery in PA with the miraculous icon of St.Anna. A large crowd sang with us and then were anointed with oil and venerated the icon, along with the relics of Sts. Joachim and Anna, plus a small piece of the Robe of The Theotokos.
On Saturday we brought the icon to Holy Spirit Orthodox Church and after greeting St. Anna, Fr. Sergius led two wonderful talks on learning to pray.
On Sunday, Archimandrite Sergius served with Fr. Stephen and Fr. Brendan and gave the homily.
All were greatly blessed by the presence of the Saints and benefited greatly from the teaching of Fr. Sergius. The talks are available on the parish Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hsocparish/
Sanctity of Life Sunday
Sanctity of Life Sunday follows the annual March for Life scheduled on Friday, January 20, 2023, which marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the United States of America.
We welcome Orthodox faithful from across the country to join His Beatitude in commemorating the victims of abortion and to stand in witness of the sanctity of life.
Joining His Beatitude will be members from the Holy Synod of Bishops, representatives from the stavropegial seminaries, and other Orthodox Christians from around the country.
The March for Life will commence at 8:00 AM with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC. Additional details can be found at Orthodox Christians for Life.
To the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
My Beloved Children in the Lord,
From the earliest times, Christians have been at variance with the world because of their reverence toward sexuality, marriage, and human life at all its stages. In the post-apostolic Epistle to Diognetus, very possibly from the pen of St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Theologian, we read that Christians ‘marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh’ (ch. 5).
Rather than viewing pleasure and fleeting happiness as the supreme good, Christians know that virtue, a rightly-ordered relationship with God and the world which he created, is what leads up toward true goodness, which is God himself. Another word for this right relationship with the Creator is life.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God and incarnate Word came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility between God and man and restore us to our friendship with the Divinity, which friendship had eroded because of sin (Eph. 2:14). Thus he is revealed to be the Life and Light of the world (Jn. 8:12, 11:25, 14:6), the one in whom and through whom we enter into a rightly-ordered relationship with existence and the Source of existence, and who shows us what that relationship—virtue—is, and where it leads—eternal life, eternal relationship with the Lord and his saints.
Life, for Christians, means far more than biological life. And yet this deeper and broader conception of life should only increase our reverence for biological life. For, in Christ, we understand that every human being is created in the image of God, and that every human life is a free gift of the Father, from whom comes every good and perfect gift (Gen. 1:27, Jam. 1:17).
Thus, we understand that there is no opposition between reverence for life and true human flourishing. Or, to cast the matter more bluntly, we can never accept abortion and infanticide as a solution for other human ills. Rather, we must see the sins of abortion and infanticide as manifestations of the same evils that underlie other social injustices.
This year, Sanctity of Life Sunday has taken on a new meaning. The Supreme Court has undone, as far as lies in its power, the injustice wrought by its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. But this means that our work in defense and promotion of life is only just beginning.
We know that, as soon as Christians gained a voice in the Roman Empire, that used that voice to speak against the enormities that the Empire committed against human dignity: slavery, gladiator and beast fights, and, yes, abortion and infanticide. As long as we Orthodox Christians have some voice in this pluralistic, democratic society, it is right that we use this voice to defend the weakest among us, including especially the unborn children who still lie under threat of legalized abortion in many jurisdictions.
But we must never, ever allow ourselves to become focused solely on political, and much less partisan and ideological, pursuits. Instead, the defense and promotion of life must start and end with our personal commitment: in our hearts, in our families, in our parishes, in our communities, with alms of time and treasure and talent and effort. With whatever resources God may give us, we must promote true human flourishing, starting with the right to life for all people, at all stages of life. And we must do what we can to orient our life toward God through virtuous living, encouraging the same in our brethren and neighbors wherever and however it is possible. In so doing, we might hope to attain to the everlasting life and bountifulness of the heavenly kingdom, where Christ the Lord reigns with his Father and his All-holy and life-giving Spirit.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Funeral Arrangements for Reader Ignatius (Jeff) Constant who departed this life on Saturday, December 17.
Visitation at Farley Funeral Home 265 Nokomis Ave S, Venice, FL 34285 on Thursday, December 22 from 5-7 pm with the Memorial Service at 6:30pm.
The Funeral Service will be at HSOC at Noon on Friday, December 23 with burial to follow at Gulf Pines Memorial Park in Englewood, FL
Monthly Food Sale
Holy Synod of OCA Issues a Statement
Holy Synod issues statement on same-sex relationships and sexual identity
“… the Orthodox Church must continue to proclaim what she has always taught: that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and the Orthodox Church in America can in no way deviate from this teaching…”
Among the Holy Synod’s affirmations of the same teaching are the “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” from the 10th All-American Council, Miami, Florida, taking place from July 26-31, 1992; the “Synodal Reaffirmation of the SCOBA statement titled ‘On the Moral Crisis in our Nation,’” issued May 17, 2004; and the synodal “Statement concerning the June 26 US Supreme Court decision,” issued June 28, 2015.
Therefore, in accord with the timeless plan of God our Creator, the unchanging teaching of Christ the Savior announced through his holy apostles and their successors, and the consistent witness of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, the Holy Synod affirms what the Scriptures clearly and plainly proclaim and the holy fathers unerringly confess, namely: that God made human beings in two sexes, male and female, in his own image, and that chaste and pure sexual relationships are reserved to one man and one woman in the bond of marriage.
As such, we affirm that sexual relationships are blessed only within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Motivated by love and out of sincere care for souls, we call those who suffer from the passion of same-sex attraction to a life of steadfast chastity and repentance, the same life of chastity and repentance to which all mankind is called in Christ.
Thus, we, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, conclude by once again affirming that all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons of the Orthodox Church in America should teach nothing other than the fullness of the Orthodox faith, which is the fullness of the saving truth.
We remind our faithful and clergy that every person of goodwill is welcome to visit our parishes. However, reception into the Church, and continued communion in Christ at the sacred Chalice, is reserved for those who strive to live a life of repentance and humility in light of these God-given truths, conforming themselves to the commandments of God as the only path of salvation in Christ. All of us are sinners, but it is for precisely this reason that Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15).
Staying Balanced in a Tilted World
Statement On Overturning Roe v Wade-Metropolitan Tikhon
Statement on the overturning of Roe v. Wade
Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon
Monday, June 27, 2022
To the Hierarchs, Clergy, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:
Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
On June 24, the American people received the news that the Supreme Court of the United States, in its opinion concerning the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has overturned the right to abortion created by the court in its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
Undoubtedly, this should be a cause for rejoicing for all Orthodox Christians. As I affirmed in my recent archpastoral message for the feast of the Annunciation, “The Orthodox Church in America has always believed, upheld, preached, and defended the sanctity of human life from the time of conception in the womb.” From the earliest times, the shepherds of the Church
On The Sacredness of Human Life-Assembly of Bishops
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Passed by the full membership on June 19, 2022
We, the members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, promote and uphold the sacred and inviolable essence of human life. The continued challenges of our time prompt us to publish a more comprehensive statement of the Orthodox Church’s regard for human life and, in particular, the termination of human life. Prepared by our Committee for Church and Society, and affirmed by the Assembly as a whole, this statement seeks to succinctly articulate Orthodox Christian teaching for the faithful and to continue the Church’s tradition as a beacon and witness to life as freely given by our good and loving Creator.
Sacredness of Life
The sacredness of life is shared with all creatures and creation fashioned and brought into existence by our mutual Creator. From single-celled organisms to plants, reptiles to birds, or mice to elephants, all are created and thus sacred. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As such, it is our responsibility as human beings to treat all life accordingly: with care, reverence, humility, and love.
Human Life is Sacred and Inviolable
The recognition of each human person as created in the image and likeness of God, destined for eternal life and therefore, sacred and inviolable, is a cornerstone of Christianity. Through the Church’s canons, dogma, and moral code across the centuries, we have affirmed this understanding of human life from the womb to the tomb. These convictions are taught and witnessed by the Orthodox Church in all its manifestations around the world today. All human life is both sacred and inviolable, regardless of age, health, or any other status. Human life, including free will, is rightly understood as a gift from God, meant to be cherished and respected. We are all meant to “have life, and have it abundantly,” as we know from our Good Shepherd (John 10:10-11). When human life is understood in this way, we are inclined to care deeply for one another and to cherish and protect each and every person.
Taking of Human Life
Any deliberate ending of human life is a rejection of its sacredness and inviolability and is unacceptable. This includes Continue reading
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23)
At that time, as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
The fruit of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is now evident. Last Sunday we celebrated all the saints who were well pleasing to God in every generation, known and unknown. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit being sown in the Church. This celebration continues today with a focus closer to home, on the Saints of North America.
The people of the ancient Church have Continue reading
Statement On Sanctity of Life and The Supreme Court
Friday, June 24, 2022
NEW YORK – Today the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Court did not outlaw abortion. It merely returned that decision to the people to decide in their respective States.
In its recent statement entitled, On the Sacredness of Human Life and its Untimely Termination, the Assembly of Bishops, addressed the issue of abortion by stating, “any act to terminate life in the womb – whether by abortive medications, medical procedures, or destructive behavior – is considered murder, and risks terrible spiritual consequences for those involved.” As such, the Assembly of Bishops recognizes today’s decision of the US Supreme Court as a step toward the preservation of life.
April 1-Mary of Egypt
Venerable Mary of Egypt
Saint Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”
Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the
4th Sunday of Great Lent
4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).
Last Judgement Sunday-Meatfare
The Sunday of the Last Judgment is also known as Meatfare Sunday, or Carnival Sunday.
This is the last day that meat can be eaten before the Lenten fast.
Dairy products are allowed on each day of this week, even Wednesday and Friday.
The next Sunday is the Sunday of Cheesefare, It is the last day that dairy products can be eaten prior to the commencement of Great Lent.
“‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”
The Prodigal Son
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
The Sunday after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This parable of God’s forgiveness calls us to “come to ourselves” as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being “in a far country” far from the Father’s house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only “arise and go,” confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that “home” where we truly belong (Luke 15:11-24).
After the Polyeleion at Matins, we first hear the lenten hymn “By the Waters of Babylon.” It will be sung for the next two Sundays before Lent begins, and it serves to reinforce the theme of exile in today’s Gospel.
Starting tomorrow, the weekday readings summarize the events of Holy Week. On Monday we read Saint Mark’s account of the Entry into Jerusalem. On Tuesday we read how Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray the Lord. On the night before His death Christ tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him. He also predicts that they will desert Him, and that Peter will deny Him three times. On Wednesday the Gospel describes how Judas betrayed the Savior with a kiss. Thursday’s Gospel tells how Jesus was questioned by Pilate. On Friday we read the narrative of Christ’s crucifixion and death.
Publican and Pharisee
Sunday of The Pubican and Pharisee
The Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus is devoted to the Publican and the Pharisee. At Vespers the night before, the Triodion (the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent) begins.
Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.
The second man was a Publican, a tax-collector who was despised by the people. He, however, displayed humility, and this humility justified him before God (Luke 18:14).
The lesson to be learned is that we possess neither the Pharisee’s religious piety, nor the Publican’s repentance, through which we can be saved. We are called to see ourselves as we really are in the light of Christ’s teaching, asking Him to be merciful to us, deliver us from sin, and to lead us on the path of salvation.
Two weeks before the beginning of the Fast, as part of our preparation for Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, the Church prescribes the reading of Saint Mark’s Gospel. From Monday to Friday the focus is on the end times, and the Savior’s death and burial.
February 2-The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord
The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple
At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he beheld the promised Messiah. By divine inspiration, Saint Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint Joseph had brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the Law.
Saint Simeon received the divine Child in his arms,1 and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Saint Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
At the Temple was an 84-year-old widow, Saint Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” She arrived just when Saint Simeon met the Divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”
Before Christ was born, the righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous persons of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet Him in the Temple.
The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokhios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the VI century.
In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. Giving thanks to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.
Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: Saint Andrew of Crete in the VII century; Saint Cosmas Bishop of Maium, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the VIII century; and Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessaloniki in the IX century.
Today we also commemorate the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.” The Mother of God is depicted without her Child, and seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.
A similar Icon, “Of the Seven Swords” (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right. The “Softening of Evil Hearts” Is also commemorated on August 13.
The Icon “Simeon’s Prophecy” symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).
In Constantinople, the Emperors would celebrate the Feast Day at the Blakhernae church during the All-Night Vigil. This custom continued until the Fall of the Byzantine Empire.
Monthly Food Sale
A new class for catechumens and all members will be led by Fr. Stephen beginning January 12 and lasting until February 16. (6 weeks) Wednesday evening from 6-7:30 pm.
Theophany Home Blessings
Theophany House Blessings
During the days following the Feast of the Theophany (January 6th), it is customary for the Priest to visit the homes of his parishioners, bringing with him the “Jordan Water” for the traditional Theophany House Blessing. All who reside in the household should make every effort to be present for the Blessing.
In anticipation a lampada, or candle should be prepared with an icon. Upon the arrival of the Priest, he is to be greeted by all of the family members, each of whom asks the Priest’s blessing and reverences his right hand. Then a family member lights the lampada (or candle) and turns off all televisions, radios, etc. in the home. Lights should be turned on in all the rooms of the house that are to be blessed. Then the entire family gathers with the Priest before the icon corner (or table) to begin the Theophany House Blessing. All areas of the home will be blessed, messy or not. We bless the mess too. All pets included. And cars.
This is a great way to begin the new year with the cleansing of the home with holy water.
Holy water is always available at the back of the nave for use all year. Drinking everyday is recommended, or at least when feeling ill.
Opportunity For Men
The St. Paisios Brotherhood is for men. Visit our webpage at:stpaisiosbrotherhood.com and sign in for tons of resources to assist you in becoming the man God intended you to be.
Introduction to Orthodoxy
Study the Scriptures-From an Orthodox Perspective
HOW TO STUDY SCRIPTURE FROM AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE
What follows is not a comprehensive guide to how to the study the Bible, but it is a collection of previous articles into one post, so that they can be easily accessed.
First, a talk that covers why we should study the Scriptures, as well as some of the basics about how we should do so.
See more here: How to study the Scriptures
“When It’s Safe” Means Never
ARCHPRIEST GEOFFREY KORZ | 18 AUGUST 2020
At every liturgy in the Orthodox Church, just before the singing of the Nicene Creed, the priest or the deacon intones the words, “The doors! The doors!” This call dates back to the earliest times, when the doors of the church had to be barred shut, to prevent outsiders (in those days, Roman soldiers) from entering the church, witnessing those who confessed the faith, seizing them, and killing them.
Being a Christian was not safe.
Centuries later, under the Muslim Turks, Crypto-Christians – those who lived publically as Muslims, but secretly as Orthodox Christians – attended Liturgy in secret churches, often hidden beneath secret doors in the floors of their own homes, or in unknown caves. In rural villages, Orthodox priests sometimes posed as Muslim imams just to maintain their cover. If such a village of Crypto-Christians was discovered, everyone – from the old people down to the infants – was put to the sword.
Being a Christian was not safe.
Centuries later, under Communist regimes, faithful Christians would meet secretly in grey concrete apartment blocks, where priests would baptize for little ones who had been brought by their grandmothers, without the knowledge of the parents – a legitimate excuse for the parents to give to the atheist authorities if the family was ever caught. In the most severe Communist regimes, a handful of faithful would gather outside a city or town for a clandestine nighttime Liturgy, served by a priest brought in from far away to avoid the prying eyes of local authorities. In all these cases, the faithful knew, if they were found out, the punishment would be a swift execution, or worse – a slow and painful death in a concentration camp.
Being a Christian was not safe.
In the last few months, faithful around the world have experienced the closure of our churches, the prohibition of the public celebration of Holy Week, and the effective ban by bishops and civil authorities in different places on the reception of Holy Communion. In most places, churches have now reopened (at least in part).
Yet formal studies and informal observations show that about one-third of those who regularly attended holy services at the start of this year have now become accustomed to staying home on Sundays and feast days, and have not returned to church.
Perhaps good habits have been broken. Perhaps laziness has set in. Perhaps the lure of Sunday breakfast in bed has proven seductive.
Yet what has covered all the human laziness and brokenness behind the spiritual falling away is a single self-deception.
These are the words, “I will return to church when it is safe again.”
Curiously, one does not hear the same phrase repeated in relation to the liquor store – i.e. I will return to the liquor store when it is safe again. Nor does one hear it applied to the purchase of groceries: grocery stores seem somehow protected from all sicknesses, and remained so throughout the recent worldwide crisis.
Neither does one hear this phrase when it comes to the workplace – i.e. I will refrain from making an income, because the risk to my health is too high. I will return to work when it is safe again.
No, it seems only churches suffer from the unique level of danger – just as they did throughout the earlier part of this year, making them more risky than public transport and dollar stores combined.
The truth is, in the current climate of madness, many Orthodox Christians have not only shifted from realistic medical precaution to social hysteria, they have also found social hysteria to be a most convenient cloak for avoiding anything inconvenient or difficult.
Have to visit a relative? Not until it’s safe again.
Have to finish some difficult job? Not until it’s safe again.
And how about going back to church every Sunday morning…?
Brethren, attending the holy services of the Orthodox Church – Sundays or feast days – has never been safer than it is today. The truth is, however, it has never been safe to be a Christian.
In the catacombs around Rome rest the remains of more martyrs for Christ than live in my home city – over half a million martyrs. Being a Christian and going to church was always a risk for them – and so it will be for every generation of Christian, unto ages of ages.
So please, kindly set aside the idea that you will return to the holy services “when it’s safe”. That day will never come.
You will either make up your mind to live as a Christian and return to church, or you won’t.
Awake At Night?
Are you frequently being wakened at night?
It may be God calling…
There is strategic significance in praying during the early morning hours.
In the Gospel reading this past Sunday St. Matthew tells us that Jesus came to them walking on the water in the Fourth Watch of the night. (Matthew 14:22-33)
The fourth watch is defined by the Roman watch as a time spanning from 3am – 6am.
As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday the Bible refers to this way of keeping time and also refers to hours of the day.
For instance, Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.
At the time of Christ on earth time was not as precise as it is today.
It was approximate. The 4th watch was the time between 3 and 6 am. More precisely, the 4th watch started at 3 am and the guards were on duty until day, 6 am.
The hours of the day were: 1st 6 am; 3rd 9 am; 6th Noon; 9th hour 3 pm.
The Orthodox Church reflects this in the Services of the Hours, appointed for those hours of the day, then Vespers at 6 pm. The new day beginning at Vespers. Plus there is the Compline Service and the Midnight Service.
So the first century Christian would understand St. Matthew to mean, it was about 3 am when Jesus came, walking on the water.
The darkest hour of the night. In a great storm. After a long day when they listened to the teaching of Jesus, He fed the 5000 and then sent them into the boat to go ahead of Him across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus went up the mountain to pray after He dismissed the crowds. They all must have been pretty tired. Fatigue can exaggerate fear. The disciples were afraid. Jesus was not.
Then as the disciples row across the Sea a storm fights them, the wind blows against them, keeping them from reaching the other side and threatening to drown them.
Remember, on one other occasion in a similar situation, Jesus was with them and calmed the storm to save them. (Matthew 8:23-27) This time they did not have Him in the boat.
St. Mark tells us (Mark 6:42-53) that Jesus “saw them in the boat” while He was still on the mountain praying. Verse 48 tells us “and he would have passed by them” walking on the water.
Jesus sees them from the mountain and leaves to help them, yet it says “He would have passed them by.” As if He was waiting to hear them ask for help, Matthew says they thought it may have been a spirit and they were very afraid. So they call out to Him and He comes to them.
The dark hours of the night, a raging storm, the disciples are afraid for their lives, the last time Jesus had saved them after they woke Him from sleep. This time they thought they were alone and He comes, but not until stretching their faith. A little.
Sometimes, this is how we awaken in the night. With frightening dreams, worry, fear for some thing or another. The dark seems to make it worse.
But just as Jesus saw them from afar, He sees us as well. Struggling with our thoughts, plagued with worry, lacking faith.
He comes to us, He is with us. But we see the storm and the waves, not Him.
The forces of “nature” seem often to oppose us, indeed the earth itself is against us (Genesis 3) but they are ultimately God’s servants and work at His bidding for our salvation (Romans 8:28).
The Gospel of St. John and St. Mark do not mention the fact that Peter walked on the water. Mark tells us that as soon as Jesus came to the boat it was at the land. Instant resolution.
St. Matthew tells us this story about the wonders of God and our weakness (why did you doubt?) in the midst of the storm; the small reference to the Fourth Watch is a detail that sets me to thinking.
What is it about the night?
- Jacob wrestled with God and met Him face to face. Gen 32:24
Gen 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
- Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea- Exodus 14:24
Exo 14:24 And it came to pass in the morning watch, that Jehovah looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians.
- Gideon defeated the Midianites (middle watch), Judges 7:19
Jdg 7:19 So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands.
(before the Romans the Jews kept three watches)
- Peter and Jesus walk on water, Matthew 14:25.
- The angels appear to the shepherds in the field to announce the birth of the savior. Luke 2:8
Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.
- Jesus is resurrected from the dead, Matthew 28:1
Mat 28:1 Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
- The bridegroom comes at mid-night Matthew 25:6
Mat 25:6 But at midnight there is a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him.
Some pretty amazing things happen in the night!
What if you are awakened in the night for a spiritual reason? What if God wants to come to you in the night?
Maybe 8 straight hours of sleep isn’t the best plan.
The next time you wake in the night, grab some prayer before you try for more zzzzz’s.
The Story of the World We Live In
The Story of the World We Live In
July 8, 2020 · Fr. Stephen Freeman
Some ten or so years ago, my wife and I were hunting for a long-ish audiobook to entertain us as we made a 10-hour drive. A novel was one possibility, but none came to mind. As it was, we chose a book named “Salt.” It was an account of the world in terms of salt – its use, its production, its vital importance to human life, and its place in the shaping of our history. I was skeptical as the trip began, but found myself intrigued as the hours rolled by and we journeyed across world history courtesy of everyone’s favorite condiment. Salt apparently belongs to something of a literary genre. The author of Salt has also given us Milk, Cod, Salmon, and Paper. I need to schedule more road trips.
What these fascinating books illustrate is that the story of the world, and civilization, can be told from any number of angles. Is the world really just the story of salt? Or, could the story of the world be told from the point-of-view of a single grain of sand? Doubtless, more would be said of the endless procession of ocean waves than is accounted for in our historical travails. As narrative creatures, we tend to dismiss the grain of sand as nothing more than background, a prop that supports the real action. A single grain’s story, however, would provide a great deal to consider. The silica and other elements that make up the average beach have an origin, no less complex than our own, though with fewer words and emotional tensions.
These exercises in historical perspectives are instructive for understanding the limits of all historical conversations. In history, we are always right to ask, “Who is telling the story? What’s this story about? From what point of view is it written?” If we were speaking of a “pure” history, then it would be the story of everything, about everything, told from everything’s point of view. Such, of course, is impossible. Choices must be made. When the choices are made, those questions will be answered more finitely and with greater precision. But what is then called “history” is not really about everything – but about a few things, and always with a point.
During a time of social upheaval, one of the most disturbing aspects of our lives is the turmoil within the public narrative. How do we speak about ourselves and others? How do we describe what is taking place. What is unfolding?
For the faithful, this disturbance should be revealing. The nature of the secular world is that it establishes the dominant narrative for the world. Without noticing, we quietly make the Christian story to be a sub-plot of this larger account. Our faith becomes what secularism tells us: a personal option that is, at most, a religious life-style. We feel powerless and worry that the voice of the Church is silent. Indeed, I hear this when various people suggest how the Church could make its voice more “effective.”
There is a “clash of narratives” as Christ stands before Pontius Pilate. Pilate imagines that the Roman Imperium is the true narrative and defining story of the world. He threatens Christ, “Don’t you know I have the power to kill you or to release you?” For Christ, the Roman Imperium is but a passing moment within the salvific providence of God. “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above.”
This same clash of narratives occurs day-by-day in our own lives, though we rarely notice. We hear the dominant cultural narrative announce its importance and power. Our response is anxiety and concern flows from the fact that we believe its claims to be true. Imagine Pontius Pilate’s shock at being told that he would have “no power” over Jesus had it not been given to him by God (“from above”). It is Christ’s complete dismissal of the Roman narrative. The martyrs of the early Church lived in the same dismissal. Their faith was the full acceptance of the narrative we have received from God in Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection is the final word of God on the outcome of human history. In Christ, history comes to an end, and we won. That quiet assurance eventually led to the complete failure of Rome’s claims.
The danger resurfaces, however, as converted empires, and their secularized children, begin to assert new narratives that seek to replace the gospel of the Kingdom of God with the bastardized gospel of progress and human perfection.
There is always a danger within the political life of modernity that our participation will mark our capitulation to its narrative. As such, our vote (or other such actions) always borders dangerously on the pinch of incense offered to the emperor as worship, a thing rejected as idolatry by the early martyrs. I say, “borders,” because it need not be a capitulation. But, in order to refrain from that capitulation and blasphemous offering, there is a need to deconstruct our own vote.
So, what is the narrative that explains our vote? Do we imagine that history depends on such a thing, that the world is being constructed through politics? Again, in His dialog with Pilate, Christ said:
“If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)
The ballot is certainly a “peaceful” way of joining battle (thank God!), but it, nevertheless, generally assumes the Hobbesian contract in which the world is a pitched battle for control. The nature of the American social contract is an agreement to allow the ballot box to replace the battlefield. Nevertheless, it presumes the supremacy of the ballot. That is its presumed narrative.
For the Christian, the narrative of the gospel of Christ is, always, the controlling structure of our life. That work of Christ, completed in His death and resurrection, are the sole source of peace and true meaning. We may vote, but the outcome rests in Christ, just as surely as the outcome of Pilate’s judgment was not truly in his own hands. None of this denies the actual historical reality of our actions. Rather, it affirms the historical reality of Christ’s actions and their lordship over every human reality. There may be an election whose outcome could be classified as “death.” It remains a fact that Christ “tramples down death by death.”
For too many, the Cross of Christ has disappeared into the historical past and become a “fact” about which we proclaim a doctrine, a religious belief. As for the present, we take up our swords (even the peaceful ones) and imagine ourselves as having been delivered into the wars of this world for good or ill. (Do your best!) However, the historical character of the Cross does not exhaust its content. The Cross is an event of the God/Man. It is the marriage of heaven and earth, both within time and utterly transcendent of time. It is an eternal moment while being truly historical. Its “cause-and-effect” is equally eternal and triumphant over every human cause. Every human cause is thus “judged” by the Cross. An election, like every act of the human will, stands before the Cross and has its meaning within the light of the Cross. It is only in that Light that we see light.
Christ’s words, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” remain true and triumphant. Today, this is the story by which we live. All of creation holds meaning only in its light. God forbid that we imagine this to be a religious conversation and not a conversation about the whole of life.
We all stand before Pilate. However, it is God’s story that rules the world.
About Fr. Stephen Freeman
Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.
Upcoming Events and Sunday Bulletin
Wednesday 9 am-Divine Liturgy-Mary Magdalene 6 pm-Orthodoxy Class-bring a Bible-5th Century and End Times
Thursday 12-Molieben for an Epidemic
Saturday 5 pm-Vespers
Sunday 9 am-Matins
Sunday 10 am-Divine Liturgy
Sunday, July 19-6th Sunday after Pentecost-The Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. (12:6-14)
Brethren, Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (9:1-8)
At that time, getting into a boat Jesus crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say,
Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”
And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Sub-deacon Mitri and Nora Moussa, Helen Nicholas, Barbara Demis, Dennis Poney, Lydia Holt, Lily Zelner, Anna T., Matushka Sasha, Fr. Ian, and Alia Karras, Al Maruskin.
On Receiving Holy Communion
Let us attend.
We welcome all people to come and worship with us, however, only Orthodox Christians in good standing may come to the chalice and receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This means that we believe it is the Body and Blood, not just bread and wine. This means that we confess ourselves to be sinners in need of salvation and we have participated in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession, confessing our sins to the priest for absolution and forgiveness.
St. Paul teaches us that there is a dangerous way to receive communion, unworthily, not discerning the Body and Blood, this can cause people to get sick and possibly to die. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26-31) But St. Paul does not teach us that we can get sick if we approach the chalice the right way. We cannot get a virus by consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. The God who created the cosmos, appeared miraculously in the burning bush and revealed Himself in the Holy Trinity can certainly keep us from illness when properly communing with and consuming a miracle. This does not mean we blindly go worth, but we go forth in faith; distancing, sterilizing, masking, etc.; out of love for neighbor, not believing that the building itself will keep us healthy. We do not put God to the test.
The miracle is in the chalice, not the people nor the building. But even with that we are careful, tilting our heads back, opening our mouths and allowing the Gifts to be dropped in with care. Not touching anything, for the sake of the weaker brethren. Have faith, not fear; be cautious, not afraid.
New Member on Pentecost Sunday
The Church Is Not a Cruise Ship, But a Battleship
By: Archpriest John Moses | 28 December 2019
It always surprises me when someone comes to the Orthodox faith. Given the present age, there are so many versions of Christianity on offer. Many of them are in step with the values and hopes of the culture. Some offer a path of prosperity and comfort (whether they ever deliver is another issue). Some offer helpful hints for hurtful habits and demand little more while others teach the path of positive thinking. In some, the music is rousing and contemporary, but often the theology is not intellectually demanding.
Why then would someone want to join a Faith that asks you to be regular in your attendance instead of coming when it suits you; that you fast as a lifestyle; adopt a prayer rule instead of just praying what you want and when you want; tithe instead of dropping in the box whatever you have in your pocket; study to challenge your thinking instead of believing that all you have to do is “read and heed”; attend classes to learn from others, etc.
Read more here: battleship
Elder Ephraim Reposes in the Lord
On December 7, 2019 at approximately 10 p.m., Elder Hieromonk Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos Arizona, founder of 17 monastic communities in the United States, peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at Saint Anthony Monastery in Florence, Arizona at the age of 92.
The Athonite elder, loved throughout the entire Orthodox world, also remained the spiritual father of several monasteries in Greece and on Mt. Athos, where he labored for many years as the spiritual child of the recently-canonized Elder Joseph the Hesychast and as abbot of Philotheou Monastery.
The Funeral Service for Elder Ephraim was held on Wednesday, December 11 at Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America presided, along with numerous hierarchs and monastics of his Archdiocese. May his memory be eternal!
A Simple Approach to Reading the Entire Bible
Archpriest John Whiteford | 04 August 2019
There are some elaborate charts that tell you how you could read the Bible all the way through in one year — which if you followed, would work fine. However, I wonder how many people have ever followed such charts all the way through, because it would require that you make regular reference to the charts, and remember where you were on the chart.
On the other hand, many people simply open up the Bible at Genesis, and then get bogged down somewhere towards the end of Exodus and Leviticus, and then quit.
One method I would suggest is much simpler to follow, and if you do, you not only will read the Bible all the way through in about a year or so… but you could continue to read the Bible and get a balanced intake of the various parts of the Bible rather than hit one section that is difficult and then lose interest.
Read the rest here: Read
New Icon Installed
Khourieh Keather Sommer painted and installed our new icon. She did an amazing job and we highly recommend her work.
New Members on Pentecost
The Soul is a Mirror
by Fr. Stephen Freeman
The soul is a difficult thing to speak (or write) about. First, the word is used so commonly and widely that its true meaning becomes obscured. Second, the soul is largely unknown to each of us, despite its primary importance. So, I will begin by giving its simple meaning: the soul is our life. When we hear the story of Adam’s creation we learn that he is fashioned out of the earth. Then, God breathes into him, “and he became a living soul.” The soul is the life (there are no dead souls), and the life is a gift from God, the “Lord and Giver of Life.”
Read the rest here: soul