June 30-Holy Apostles and All Saints of North America

At that time, when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Today I am inspired by the beauty that has come into the House of God.
Last night before Vespers, Sub-deacon Mitri came into the altar, as usual, and just stood there, kind of stunned as he looked at the icon and the transformation that took place in a few hours.
He finally turned to me and said, “Now this is a temple.!” Amen to that.
Thanks be to God for beauty, He is the Creator of beauty, we imitate Him to bring glory to His name.
Today we look at the Gospel reading about the sheep without a shepherd.

I find it so comforting that Jesus calls us sheep. He could have called us donkeys, or eagles, or cows; but He calls us sheep, in more than one place.
Well, I don’t claim to know for sure why He did, but it makes sense to me.
When Jesus looks at the crowd, they looked kind of pitiful, they were harassed and helpless.
I’ve seen sheep like this before.
One of our dogs on the farm took a fancy to harassing our neighbor’s sheep. The Hamilton’s were our neighbor, the farm just South of ours. They pastured sheep and our dog took great delight in chasing them. The sheep thought the dog was a wolf and panicked, every time he started chasing them.
He would go under the fence and start running toward them and they would panic, so they just started running. All of them, together as a group. Even when they were being- what they thought was attacked -they stuck together.
Eventually one sheep would get separated from the flock, and then there was real panic.
If they had just one time ignored the dog and just stood there looking at the dog it wouldn’t be any fun for the dog and he would have just left.
But they always ran, and it was so much fun for the dog. They were just harassed and helpless, they had no idea what to do about this dog.
But our neighbor did, he complained to us and we ended up getting rid of the dog, he would not stop chasing sheep!
But how sweet and loving is our Lord?
When Jesus sees this in His flock, His reaction is so kind, so understanding. He knows they are sheep.
So He did not judge or condemn them, or write them off.
What does it say? He had compassion on them.! He has compassion on us.
He doesn’t expect us to be eagles when we are sheep.
He knows us, He knows what we need, He knows how we operate, what we lack.
He knows us because 1. He made us. 2. He became one of us. 3. He became our shepherd. Sheep with a good shepherd can be amazing.

What is it about sheep? Well, they are group oriented, and they are not good at being loners. When a sheep gets separated from the flock they become very vulnerable, afraid. They panic, fearing for their lives, they make mistakes that could lead to death.
They aren’t really smart, even with the flock, without the flock they are helpless.
That is why the Good Shepherd leaves behind the 99 and searches all over for the one that is lost; and when The Good Shepherd finds the one, there is great rejoicing.
The one on his own is doomed to be killed by the predator who seeks after the lost sheep, steal, kill, and destroy.
This is why the word church comes from the word that means, the called together ones.
The Good Shepherd does not allow the flock to be harassed; He does not leave us helpless.
He leads us beside still waters. He prepares a table for us in the presence of the enemies of our souls. He feeds us His own Body and Blood. He purges our sins and gives us immortal life.

Notice that He leads, when you want sheep to go somewhere you don’t stand behind them and push them where you want them to go like cows and horses.
The sheep follow the voice of the shepherd. The Shepherd knows them by name and they recognize His voice. They do not follow another voice. John 10.
His is the only voice that restores the soul.
With Him they do not fear death or enemies.
He leads us beside still waters, where there is peace.
1. How do we know the voice of the Shepherd? In times of peace, we listen, we spend time with Him by the peaceful waters, we get to know Him intimately. Then, when the wolf comes, when the storm rises and frightens us, we will be able to hear His still, small voice and trust Him.
It is the quiet times that save us in the storms, or when we are attacked.

Our Good Shepherd feeds us in the presence of the Enemy, Let us live in His house forever. He prepares a table for us. Of eternal, heavenly food. Not the dead food we find to eat.
This is what we will remember every time we come forward for communion and we look up and see our Good Shepherd giving the Apostles communion. We installed this icon of the Apostles communing on the eve of the feast of the Apostles, pretty cool.

We forget sometimes to be quiet and spend time with the Good Shepherd, to learn His voice, so it is hard to trust Him.
We will not progress beyond being sheep if we don’t learn this. The sheep need time with the Shepherd.
Not only did He feed His people of the Old Covenant in the wilderness for 40 years, not only did He give them bread from heaven called manna; He also brought water out of the rock.
He fed over 5,000 on the hillside.
He fed the Apostles and made them fishers of men, preaching the Gospel to the whole world. And we following the Holy Apostles are still being fed by Him, the Author of Life.
He, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, healed the sheep when they were harassed and helpless, He rescued them, He cast out the wolf, gave them oil for their wounds and led them to wonderful places of rest.
The Apostles, we commemorate today, along with All the Saints of North America, were sheep who became much more than sheep. Ordinary men and women, and children and teenagers who became for more than ordinary; by following the Good Shepherd, by learning to hear His voice and fully trust Him. By eating from His hand the Bread of Life.
We have been given so much by our God of crazy love.
Psalm 36 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

We are here to be follow the Holy Apostles. To eat the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Life. We will rejoice with the Good Shepherd in green pastures of delight.
We love the beauty of His house. We rejoice in His house forever.
Psalm 84 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob.
Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.


All Saints June 23

On the first Sunday of Pentecost we celebrate All Saints Sunday, the day to recall and commemorate all the saints in Christ’s holy Church, known and unknown.

This is because there are many saints who are not know, and many who are not recognized officially by the Church.
Today’s Feast is the result of all that has gone before it.
The purpose of all the events in Christ’s life, is to make Saints.
That is the purpose of the Church, to make people holy.
Today’s Feast is the Feast of the identity of the Church, for a Church that does not make Saints is not a Church, it is merely an institution which abuses the word ‘Church’.
What is a Saint? Firstly, it seems that Saints are not born, they are made. At baptism we are all born again potentially to become Saints. The only difference between ourselves who are not Saints and the Saints, is that they are people who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, whereas we give up.
So as we celebrate this feast day, what are we to do? What exactly is our response?

The appropriate response is to have a firm resolve to follow them as examples.

This is why it is an excellent practice to read the lives of the saints, often, if not daily.

So to help us focus on the role of the saints in our lives, I want to continue along our road for the last little while of working on our image of God, Sharpening how we understand God.
How will we do this today? This prayer:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, treasury of blessings and giver of life: Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!
That prayer tells the whole story.
1. This is a prayer to the Holy Spirit. This is why we don’t pray this prayer in any service, from Pascha to Pentecost. We are waiting for the Spirit to come upon us at Pentecost. Now in the season of Pentecost, we have resumed saying this prayer and it forms our understanding of our Life in Christ.

  1. It begins by acknowledging Who the Holy Spirit is: Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit is fully God, as is the Son. Where the Holy Spirit is, there is God in His fullness.
  2. Then it tells us where the Holy Spirit is, and what He does: He is everywhere present, He fills all things, He is the Treasury of Blessings and the Giver of Life.
    So, again, fully God, He brings all that God is to us.
    This requires a little more thinking. Everywhere present. Hmmm. Everywhere. There is no place to go where the Holy Spirit is not, you can’t escape Him, you can’t flee from His presence. You can’t leave Him behind, you can’t lose Him, you can’t run away from Him, like Jonah tried to do.
    But this also means, on the other hand, that whether you are aware of it or not, He is there with you, in every part of your life. There is no part of your life that is not spiritual, because the Holy Spirit is there in the middle of it.

And everywhere He is, He brings Blessings, as the Treasury of Blessings, He holds all the blessings. As the Giver of Life, where He is there is Life. Where He is, everything is.
Our life is not really divided up into sacred and secular, in Christ all is done for Him, in Him, and through Him.
We often live our lives as if God really lived in the church, and only in the church.
We often leave Him behind when we leave.
The saints work very hard at always living life with an awareness of God in all they do, say, and think.
This is what ceaseless prayer is, living life in the very presence of God. Welcoming Him into all parts of our life and thoughts, not excluding Him, but making Him the True Lord of our lives.
1. Saints don’t give up, they understand the Grace of God.
2. Saints remember that what is most valuable is that which is eternal.
3. Saints keep their mind in the right place, they remember death, they remember God.

Today we celebrate the saints, lets get acquainted with them so we can be like them.


Pentecost-June 16

Today we have a Great Feast of the Lord, Pentecost. The final fulfillment of the prophecies about the work of our Lord for our salvation.
We celebrate with joy the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Church is full of light, darkness has been banished, death is overcome, our stoney hearts have been made flesh, the God of the Universe lives in us.
It is truly a great day. So we celebrate. And it is Father’s Day, Happy Father’s Day. And it is my ordination anniversary. I was ordained on June 16, 1996. So, many years to me. 23 years I have been a priest of the Most High God, despite my unworthiness and due in a large part to my excellent wife, the love of the Most Holy Theotokos and the prayers of the saints.
So today we celebrate.
So lets think about all these things and ponder the Greatness of our God, let Him fill us with wonder and joy.
Happy Feast Day to all of you. May the blessing of the Lord be with you always.
Today we do a lot of singing. But
Did you know that God sings? Lets think today. What do you think? Does God sing?
Zep 3:17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Did you know that there is a correct way to worship God, that He tells us how to do it?
Ps. 100:2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Exo 15:1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

Creation sings, did you know that?
Is. 44:23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

The people of God rejoice with singing
Is. 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
In the New Testament- The Church rejoices with singing.
Eph. 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Act 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Heb 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

And in the Kingdom to come: singing!
Rev 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
Rev 14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
Rev 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Singing is a normal way to worship.
The Western Church has predominately lost this concept in worship, starting with the Protestant Reformation, where chanting left the worship, singing became something only done for certain hymns, now many Protestant churches watch as others sing for them.
The Catholic Church has done much of the same.
This is sad and unfortunate.

But all religions have a longstanding tradition of singing in worship. Muslims chant, Jews chant.

We believe that following the Biblical pattern of worship is important, God has revealed to us how He should be worshipped, not according to what is entertaining, or what we think He might like, but what He has shown us.
The singing in Heaven is the pattern we follow, no matter how weak, how feeble, how inferior it may be.
But we also know that singing is not intended to arouse emotion or elevate us with thrills of orchestras. We sing because of what we sing about, not to inflame passions but to elevate us and our hearts and minds above this world. Our music is neptic, guided by sobriety, not emotion.
The whole book of the Psalms is intended to be chanted or sung, not read.

And we do sing. It is a way of speaking, but elevated.
If you are not singing, you are not worshipping.
This is why we have service books, with music in them, we all sing together, as the Body of Christ.

Why does God sing? Why does anybody sing?

Today is a day for rejoicing, singing. Singing not songs of men, but songs of God, what He has done.
He came down and divided the tongues for the salvation of men, He prevented them from singing together; until the Savior could come to save us from death, then at Pentecost He came down by His Holy Spirit and united us all by unifying our race in the Church. Now all mankind can sing together again, the songs of the Church.
At Pentecost men are united by the Gospel, there is no more separation by color or continent, all are one in Christ.
At Pentecost, the human race, in Christ, is made the Body of Christ, with Him as our head.
Why do we sing? We have a lot to sing about.
God sings, so we sing.
Creation itself sings, so we sing.
The angels sing, so we sing.
It may be true that we are most like God when we sing His songs back to Him in a beautiful, eternal dialogue of worship. I encourage all of you to sing to God, in your hearts, in your car, in your homes. When we lift up our voices, we lift up our hearts.


Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council-June 9

Is theology important?
In today’s epistle reading St. Paul prophecies of wolves who will come in the Church to try to destroy the flock.
Wolves come in to the flock to steal, kill, and destroy.
This happened many times, it is still happening.
But today we recall, commemorate and honor the 318 Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in the year 325.

St. Constantine the Great called this council for one reason. Theology matters.
We, the Orthodox, are trusted with keeping the Faith, keeping correct worship, correct praise, correct doctrine.

Why was this council called by St. Constantine?

A priest from Alexandria, Egypt in 311 began teaching that Jesus was not equal to the Father. That Jesus was a created being. That there was a time when Jesus did not exist, that therefore, Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father. Not consubstantial with the Father, not eternal, not God. This is not good.
So what happened to this priest, named Arius?

What is supposed to happen, he was called by the bishop and examined. The Patriarch of Alexandria tried to correct the teaching of Arius. To keep him in the Orthodox Church.
He told him he had to stop teaching these things. Arius did not listen. He kept promoting the error, confusing and dividing the One True Church.
The bishop deposed him from the priesthood when it became obvious that Arius had to intention of changing his teaching.
So, was Arius humbled by no longer being a priest?
Did he change his ways to save his soul?
No, he did not.

He began to write to the other bishops, asking them to examine his teaching and accept it, in the meantime he kept on teaching his heresy.
BTW, what is a heretic?
Is it someone who wrong teaching? No.
It is someone who has wrong teaching but does not accept the teaching and correction of the Holy Church, persisting in false doctrine. Then one is a heretic, for refusing to be humble, refusing to repent.
Not only was Arius not humble, not only did he refuse to stop teaching heresy, destructive to souls, but he began to convince people that he was correct.

In fact, he convinced much of the Church that he was correct and caused great turmoil and division in Christ’s Holy Church.
It is said of St. Athanasius the Great that he stood against the world in opposing Arius, so pervasive was his teaching.

So, St. Constantine called the council. Bishops and holy men came from all regions of the Church. 318 were there.

The Holy Fathers who were there, many of whom were survivors of torture and persecution, proclaimed the True Faith, they traditioned, the Truth.
The word tradition means to pass on to someone else what you have received, The Holy Fathers passed on what had been delivered to them, Arius wanted to reject and change what had been passed down from the apostles.
The Councils don’t say, “This is what we have decided.” They say, “This is what we have received, this is what the Church has always taught by all everywhere.”

What did they say at this council? Theology is incredibly important.
It is so important, we are going to write a new creed to improve on the Apostles Creed, to make clear what the Church has always taught, what the Holy Scriptures proclaim, that which is essential for our salvation.

So, they did so. They wrote the Nicean Creed, the one we still say every Liturgy. Up to the point where we say, And in the Holy Spirit. That second part about the Holy Spirit and the Church was added in the Second Ecumenical Council.
BTW, what does Ecumenical Council mean?
All the Church agrees.

So, Arius and his teaching were condemned, along with Nestorius and others who were champions of heresy.
This teaching is still followed by many outside the Orthodox Church, the teaching of Nestorius and Arius is still followed and they are honored by JW’s, for instance.

So what does the Church teach?
1Jn 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Joh_3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

We stand before the world, we proclaim the Truth.
We are hated because we say these things. This is what we have received. This is what we hold and pass down. Boldly.
Jesus Christ is God, Equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we proclaim, He is eternal, like the Father and the HS.
He is composed of the same stuff as the F and the HS.
There never was a time when He was not.
In fact, we believe that not only is Jesus True God of True God, but that He created all that there is.
All others religions of the world may have some truth, but they ultimately deny the Truth, and therefore are anti-Christ.

Two fundamental elements of our Faith are proclaimed.
1. God is a Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Equal in glory, co-eternal, consubstantial, of one essence.
2. Jesus Chris is God come in the flesh, without leaving behind His Godness, He was made man to save men.
God became man, that man might become god.

This is our glory, this is our salvation, this we proclaim, this we confess, that Jesus Christ is God, to the Glory of God the Father. Amen.

Sermon-Sunday of the Blind Man-June 2

The Paschal Service, the Resurrection Service-is truly an amazing and memorable event.
The Church takes has taken us through a darkness, Lent is similar to the setting of the Sun, Holy Week is the darkness of the middle of the night. Gradual darkening followed by complete darkness.

Then we bring out the light of Christ and the priest sings: Come take light from the light that is never overtaken by night, come glorify Christ, who is risen from the dead.

The church that has been dark, solemn, subdued is transformed into brightness, joy and glorious celebration-illustrating what the song promised. The darkness cannot overcome the light.

Our Fathers tell us that in fact darkness does not exist, it is merely the absence of light.
Similarly, they tell us that evil does not exist as a thing in itself, it is the absence of the Holy. Things are either toward God or away from God. God is life, true existence is in Him, evil is not life, it has no life, it is moving toward annihilation. When we move toward God we are moving toward Life and Light, away from evil.

Sometimes when I read the lives of the saints, such as St. Paisius, the brightness of his life makes it seem like I am living in darkness much of the time.
It is often said by holy men, that we live in a dark age spiritually.

In the old days of the church a holy elder was asked what will we be able to do? The answer was, in the future people will only be able to do half of what we do. But in the end times, it will be a miracle if people only keep the faith.
Perhaps those days are coming, soon.
The darkness seems to be encroaching, evil seems prevalent, men and women say evil is good and good evil, even the mention of God has been eliminated in the US House of Representatives.
The politics of rage and division are effectively causing strife. The LGBTQ community is being more and more accepted, in fact, it is promoted in the elementary schools of Sarasota County.
Darkness can be confusing and scary.
If fact, darkness is a symbol of evil, in the new heaven and the new earth, there is no night.
The scariest darkness is the darkness of the soul, the love of darkness, of evil, or maybe just a fleeing from, an avoidance of God.
This darkness is a blindness, an inability to see, a willful blindness.
This is what we see in the Pharisees, a darkness that made them want to kill the King of Glory.
Rather than rejoicing in the miracle which occurs through the compassion of Jesus Christ, they focus on blaming someone for breaking a rule. Angry that they were not receiving their due attention, they have lost the power of explanation.
For the last few weeks I have been preaching to you about the Goodness of God. That He is good, that His will for us is only good, because it can be no other than good, since it comes from a Good God.
So, I am taking about not thinking like the people in the story. What is our God image? How do we view God, how do we think about Him?
Is He to blame for a misfortune in your life? Is He one you get angry with in difficult times?
So much of our life can be a wandering in darkness and we may have despaired of things ever getting any better. At times, we may not have the eyes to see any light at all.
We find it easy to think only of ourselves and our will, but so hard to live with the humility and selfless love of Christ.
Maybe we have looked for fulfillment in the vanity of life: money, power, pleasure, appearances, impressing others, and getting our own way.
These produce more darkness, not light.
We cannot let ourselves be held captive by the corruptions of death, our passions, and the accumulated weight of human sin all around us. Or the darkness of our surrounding culture. We become what we focus on. St. Porphyrios said, ignore evil and follow Christ.

The good news of Pascha is that, in Christ, we may pass over from this living death to life eternal. The spiritual blindness of our souls may be healed.
If we develop the eyes to see it, we may leave behind the darkness. We may rise up to the light, truth, and joy of the kingdom of heaven. We may share in Christ’s eternal life, in His victory over sin and death, even now.

But we have to be honest with ourselves: it is much easier to remain in the darkness than to move into the light. Just as our eyes need time to adjust when we leave a movie theater and walk into the sunshine of a summer day, the eyes of our souls are not cleansed in an instant.
Our salvation is not a magic act, but requires our intentional, patient cooperation with the grace of the Great Physician.
There is simply no alternative to perseverance, to accepting bravely the tension and struggle that we experience when we expose our darkened souls to the healing light of Christ, and to mindfully turning away from temptations of whatever kind.

90 % of Orthodoxy is just being faithful, just showing up. In faith. In hope. In love.

The Lord gave the man born blind new eyes, he began to see, he began to worship.

As we near the end of the season of Pascha, we can all wrestle seriously with the question of whether we are really doing what we can to open ourselves to the light of Christ.
Are we intentionally moving toward God, and therefore away from evil?
Are we obeying the Lord’s instructions on how to find healing in our souls?
Are we keeping a close watch on our thoughts and disregarding those that tempt us to sin?
Are we following a rule of prayer and fasting that reorients our daily life toward God and helps us find healing from our passions?
Are we preparing faithfully to receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist each Sunday?
Do we take confession regularly and ask for the forgiveness of others whenever we wrong them?
Are we really dedicated to living the Life of Christ?
This is the last Sunday this year that we will sing, Christ is Risen. But He still wants to live in our hearts and give us new life.
Re-commit yourself to Him today. Renew your desire for Him. Don’t give up.
Christ is Risen!


May 26-The Samaritan Woman

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him.

We meet again the Samaritan Woman, the one who we would later learn was named Photini, a martyr for Christ.
She went on quite a journey after meeting Jesus.
She, like me, could divide her life into two main sections, B.C. and A.D.

She came to the well that morning, just as any other day, but this day was to be different.
She reveals herself to us and we can see that in many ways she is like us.
She has two very important thought problems.
Her self image and her God image.

Her self image was damaged, her immoral lifestyle made her embarrassed, she was not about to talk about her many husbands and the fact that she was living with a man outside of marriage.
She was willing to ignore the Jew at the well, for as she said, Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, especially a man with a woman. She was happy enough to just draw her water and go home.

But Jesus had a better idea.
He engaged her in conversation. He had a plan.

This has happened to you, too.
You thought at the time, that the person who talked to you was just a person who bumped into you somehow, not really sure how it happened. It started out as a casual conversation, but it developed into an event you will not forget. A God-appointed meeting. Yes, you have. You have had those kind of meetings, arranged by a loving God.

She had pre-judged the situation as something to avoid, Jesus changed the narrative.
He asked her for a drink. A very normal, little thing; but it changed everything. The familiar can open doors because there is a comfort level making it easier to move forward in an encounter with a stranger. Jesus found a way to let her relax and the conversation begins, she is curious.
Why is he talking to me?
As the conversation continues Jesus takes it into a more serious direction very quickly, taking it to a second level.
When her lifestyle comes up something very interesting happens, Jesus does not let it become THE issue. He goes deeper.
She is drawing water, He is drawing her. Drawing her to eternal life, living water; and then reveals that He is the long-awaited Messiah.
So there are two issues here.
1. Her self-image; adulterer.
2. Her God image; religious barriers, we have different views on worship.
Jesus won’t let either of these be THE issue.
He says: you believe the Messiah will settle these issues, I am He. I am bringing a new way of worship where it doesn’t matter where you are or what country you come from.
The Truth transcends man-made barriers.

Jesus comes to you like this.
Whatever past you have, whatever sins you think are a hindrance, whatever thoughts you have been listening to about why God cannot or will not forgive you, whatever you are ashamed of in your life, whatever you find embarrassing and could never confess; He already knows; and He still loves you. He is offering living water, new life, joy in forgiveness. Don’t let your image of God stop you. Take a risk. Your God-image is probably wrong. So is your self-image.

It is so wonderful in this story that Photini leaves her water pot to run back to the city to tell people about Jesus.
Her past was no longer the issue. She left it behind. She has a new beginning. She has new life in Christ. The living water is spilling out of her.

God wants to give us a new self-image-Child of God, True Christian, forgiven and set free.
He also gives us a new God-image. The one who is greater; the one who loves mankind, the one who comes to wells and stores and living rooms to set people free with new life, a new heart, a new way of life. The one who comes to us, pursues us, because that is what love does.
All that is left for us is to answer Him, accept Him, His love, His forgiveness, His living water.
She went on to be baptized by the Apostles and became a great example of a Christian.

I find it interesting that she came to the well at the sixth hour. Noon.
Tradition tells us that it was the sixth hour when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. It was the Sixth hour when Jesus was nailed to the Cross. Jesus was born, suffered, died and rose again to take us back to Paradise with Him. Will you come?


May 19-The Paralytic

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (15:43-16:8)
One man was there, who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
Somehow in 38 years of being paralyzed this man had heard that there was a place where healing happened. So he went there. And he waited.
He had no reasonable hope that he would receive healing, because as he explained to Jesus, I can’t get into the water in time because I have no one to help me.
So what is he doing there? After all those years? The situation has not changed, he still has no one to put him in the water?
1. He knew he needed healing. Some diseases are more problematic than others, some are more destructive than others, some are more obvious than others. He could not cover up the fact that he needed healing, it was obvious and debilitating.
But the fact is that we all need healing, in one or more areas, we need healing, mental, physical or spiritual, or a combination of the three.
The Christian life is beginning to understand our disease and find healing. Not do I have a disease? But, what is my disease.
We are all dying from a disease called sin. The only questions are: 1. Am I aware of it or am I in denial, and 2. what am I doing about it?
The Spiritual Life is getting to know the reality of our situation and receiving healing in Christ through His Body, the Church.
This brings us back to the biggest problems that we face: We don’t ask for healing because we don’t know how sick we actually are and we don’t come directly to the source of all healing.
We have amazing doctors and medicine in this country and we can reasonably help people with physical illnesses, but man is more than a body and a brain. He is meant to be the image and likeness of God. This image and likeness makes man a true human being when he is in Christ.
Our restoration as human beings happens when we are healthy in the soul.
It happens when we know the source of our healing intimately and we are purified by repentance.
Most people think you get saved, or go to heaven, by being better, by trying, by being nice. The Bible never says that. Be ye holy as I am holy. Not be ye nice and go forth. If nice would cut it Jesus wasted His time in death and resurrection.
We cannot heal ourselves, we need a Savior/Healer.
This story pushes us to see the True Source of Healing? How?
Why is this story included in the Paschal Season?
We can understand St Thomas and the myrhhbearing women, but this guy?
What is the link with Pascha? Water, baptism. Pascha was the time when people were baptized into Christ in the early Church. All the story chosen to be read during the Paschal Season have a role for water. So lets look at this story.
As we examine the story of the paralytic in greater depth, it is important to see that in its original context the Bethesda pool was not a source of salvation for the paralytic, but a rival alternative to it, if not its positive impediment.
The pool was thought to have healing power due to the fact that the water came out of the temple when the sacrifices were washed out of the altar. The blood of forgiveness was in that pool.
Remember the details of the story: the paralytic sat languishing by the pool, thirty-eight years in his wretched condition, hoping for healing.
When the pool’s waters were stirred (by an angel, as everyone thought), he hoped to be the first one into the pool to soak up the angel’s divine power and be cured, but being paralyzed, he was too slow, and someone always beat him to the pool.
So, he waited and waited, hoping to find salvation one day in the pool.
It was there that Jesus found him. When Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6), he didn’t say, “Yes Lord, please heal me!”
He was still hoping to get into the pool, and he answered, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” His hope is in the wrong place.
But salvation wasn’t in the pool. It was in Jesus. Jesus simply said, “Rise, take your pallet, and walk,” and the man did. He didn’t need the pool after all. All he needed was Jesus.

We see this contrast between the old and the new throughout John’s Gospel: not Jewish water, but Christ’s wine, not the old Temple, but Christ’s body, not the manna in the wilderness, but Christ’s flesh.
Christian faith involved turning from the old ways to the new.
Christ wants to give us new ways of healing, Pursue Christ, be purified by repentance. Jesus is the answer. Pursue Christ.

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

A Reason for the Hope that is in Us

by Fr. Lawrence Farley

“Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” These words of Christ, spoken to Thomas and recorded in John 20:29, have often been misunderstood. Some suggest that Christ was offering a blessing to those who believe in Him without any evidence at all, who accept Him on blind faith. This is not what Christ meant, for Thomas never accepted Christ on blind faith in the absence of any evidence. Indeed, Thomas had plenty of evidence and reason to accept Jesus as the Christ, including the many miracles he saw Him perform. By these words Christ was not affirming the necessity of blind faith, but offering a blessing to those who believed in Him even though they never experienced a resurrection appearance as Thomas did.

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Taste The presence

We all need a good dose of silent prayer each and every day. Finding that perfect place in your home that can become your cave, or prayer closet, will afford you that sacred space where you can go deep into the heart and connect with God. That place where you can close off your family, your worries, your job, your distractions, and go deep into your heart where you will find the peace that comes from Christ.

The Jesus Prayer is the perfect prayer, for it is a prayer of adoration and praise, and a prayer that proclaims that Jesus is Lord, and, as God, can grant mercy upon you. The simple prayer which invokes the Holy Name of Jesus can transform your life, and take you into the very Heart of God. This prayer is known as the Prayer of the Heart for the very reason that it is of the heart.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Said with the aid of a Prayer Rope (thus bringing your body into the action of the prayer), this prayer accomplishes Saint Paul’s admonition that we should “pray always”. It is a prayer that takes you out of yourself and into communion with Christ. It is a prayer that can change your life because through this prayer you can taste the presence of Christ within you.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Get To Know St. Paisios

The path to Athos is open to men only. But in Greece there is a women’s monastery where they live according to strict Athonite rules and serve without electricity, by candlelight. This monastery, in the village of Souroti, was founded by Elder Paisios the Athonite, whose books have been so popular in the past few years in America and Russia. A correspondent of the Russian Orthodox journal “Neskuchnii Sad” headed to Souroti to meet with people who remember Elder Paisios.

“I Was an Atheist”

“When Elder Paisios would visit the sisters at the Monastery of John the Theologian, thousands of people would come see him. I went especially to see how the swindler was cheating them all. I was an atheist. This was in 1988. The service had started. The church was divided into two parts: for laity and for nuns. There was a taut rope between the two sections, and I didn’t know that I couldn’t go in, so I crossed over. There was an elder sitting among the nuns, whose face radiated light… Seeing this, I left, but two days later I came again, for a blessing. Then I went to Athos and so remained with the elder for life,” recalls Nicholas Mentesidis, a jeweler who knew the elder.

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