Orthodox Thought for the Day

ORTHODOX THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Monday, April 27, 2015

How the grace of the Holy Spirit works

The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less.  Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him. 
 
 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Behave like a Christian


 

When someone wishes to render evil for evil,
he is able to hurt his brother's conscience even by a single nod.   


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Best of Russia trip coming up


Fr. Ilya Gotlinsky is preparing to take a group of pilgrims on tour in Russia from July 26 – August 8. The tour will visit Moscow, St. Petersburg, Pskov, Novgorod and Valaam.  Fr. Ilya routinely leads Orthodox tours, so this is an unique way to visit Orthodox holy places with a well-informed guide.  Learn about this wonderful Orthodox tour to Holy Russia here: http://orthodoxtours.com/our-tours/136-2015-the-best-of-russia.html  

A couple Ortho Thought readers are participating this time ‘round and I thought I’d let you know that.  And not only that, but there is a lady going on this tour who is hoping for a roommate.  So, if you’re a single woman who wants to participate in this tour, here is an opportunity for you to room with someone of like mind and faith.  Please contact Fr. Ilya for further details.  

God bless you, dear readers.  I am hopeful that someday I can join you on such a tour, along with my sweet daughter, who is Russian born.  

Your sister in Christ,
Presbytera Candace

A homily: On modesty and will



Our Lord Jesus Christ, instructing His disciples and apostles, imbued in them the necessity of observing purity of heart and thought. From the thought and from the heart proceed our sinful impulses: "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart," says the Saviour; "and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies," (Matt. 15:18-19). 

The Saviour pointed to this farther with the following words: 

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 27-28). This law of the psycho-political nature of man is well-known to contemporary perverters, who are consciously striving to corrupt our youth. We remember how in Russia those who prepared the revolution, and then the communists, began the spiritual weakening of that nation by imbuing the youth with shamelessness and depravity. Special circles were organized for this, which spread contempt for the ordinary laws of morality. Such propagation of "free morals" which surrounds us now more than ever, is frequently being spread even among school age children. 

In our days, as in pre-revolutionary times in Russia, this propagation has the definite goal of corrupting contemporary society. This is an old method. History is filled with examples of nations which perished from the spread of depravity; The Lord turned Sodom and Gomorrah. Babylon fell. The Roman Empire perished. The free West could be subjected to this same corruption... What do we see in the life which surrounds us? Indecency and shamelessness in clothing; shameless kissing and embracing on the streets and in public places; shameless advertisements, filthy pornographic literature... All of this dissoluteness 
and perversion pours into life in an immense wave. Truly, there is no less shamelessness now, if not more, than in pagan times when the Holy Apostles and their successors had to exhort Christians with especial zeal in the observance of modesty. 

Man's nature is such that the sins of the flesh, the active role belongs on the one hand to the male sex, while on the other, the temptation comes from women. Because of this, Christian cultures everywhere established customs which helped the preservation of good morals, as well as modest dress for women, so that the exposure of the latter should not evoke sinful thoughts and tempting inclinations in anyone. The more elevated the spiritual culture, the more modest was the dress of the women. 

Modesty in dress is our first line of defense. It must guard the purity of women and keep men from the temptation of sinful desires. Meanwhile, the evocation of precisely these feelings characterizes contemporary fashion. 

What was peculiar before to a fallen woman, who, in plying her base trade, dressed provocatively with the goal of evoking sensuality in men, is now becoming the mode and norm for young women who are often unconscious of the meaning and consequences of this fashion which enslaves them. We know that the fight against sin which surrounds us on all sides is not an easy matter. The path of salvation is made narrower in proportion to the intensification in the world of evil and apostasy. But the ancient pagan world which surrounded the handful of the first Christians was no less corrupt. These latter, however, 
did not accede to the temptations of the pagan modes, even as some now do not accede to 
contemporary temptations. 

The Holy Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians wrote that they shone as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Phil. 2:15). A lofty spiritual disposition and irreproachably clean, strictly, chaste life; these were the characteristic traits of the Philippian Christians, for which the Apostle Paul praised them. We live in later times; nineteen centuries separate us from those days in which the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles. But now, just as the Christians of the first centuries, we are encircled by an environment full of shamelessness and perversion. May the high and holy example of the ancient 
Christians teach us to be as steadfast and firm in the observance of the laws of Christian morals, and not accede to the temptations which surround us. 

The moral character and moral value of man's personality depends most of all on the direction and strength of the will. Of course, everyone understands that for a Christian it is necessary to have first, a strong and decisive will, and second, a will which is firmly directed toward the good of his neighbor, toward the side of good and not evil. How is one to develop a strong will? The answer is simple: above all through the exercise of the will. To do this, as with bodily exercise, it is necessary to begin slowly, little by little. However, having begun to exercise one's will in anything (e.g., in a constant struggle with one's sinful habits or whims) this work on oneself must never cease. Moreover, a Christian who wishes to strengthen his will, his character, must from the very beginning avoid all dissipation, disorder and 
inconsistency of behavior. Otherwise, he will be a person without character, unreliable, a reed shaking in the wind, as we read in Holy Scripture. 

Discipline is necessary for every one of us. It has such vital significance that without it, a correct, normal order and success in our endeavors is impossible. This is of primary importance in the ilk of each individual; for inner self-discipline takes the place here of external school or military discipline. Man must place himself in definite frameworks, having created definite conditions and an order of life, and he must not depart from this. 

Let us note this, too: man's habits are of great significance in the matter of strengthening the will. Bad, sinful habits are a great obstacle for a Christian moral life. On the other hand, good habits are a valuable acquisition for the soul and, therefore, man must teach himself much good so that what is good becomes his own—habitual. This is especially important in the early years, when a man's character takes shape. It is not in vain that we say that the second half of man's earthly life is formed from habits acquired in the first half. 

Probably no one would argue against the need for a strong will. In life we meet people with varying degrees of strength of will. It often happens that a person who is very gifted, talented, with a strong mind and a profoundly good heart, turns out to be weak willed and cannot carry out his plans in life, no matter how good and valuable they might be. On the other hand, a less talented person who is stronger in character and has great strength of will, this person often succeeds in life. 

What is more important than strength of will is its direction: does it act for good or evil? A well intentioned but weak-willed person is seldom of great use to society; while a person with a strong will bent on evil is very dangerous. From this it is clear how very important are those principles, those basic foundations and rules by which man's will is guided. 

What is the source from which man's will can draw suitable principles of guidance? For a non-believer, an answer to this is extremely difficult and essentially impossible. Are they to be drawn from science? In the first place, science is interested primarily in questions of knowledge and not morals, and secondly, it does not contain anything solid and constant in principles because it is constantly changing. From philosophy? Philosophy teaches about the relativity of its truths and does not claim their unconditional authority. From practical life? Even less. This life itself is in need of positive principles which can remove from it unruly and unprincipled conditions. But while the answer to the present question is so difficult 
for non-believers, for a believing Christian the answer is simple and clear. The source of good principles is God's will, and this is revealed to us in the Saviour's teaching, in His Holy Gospel. It alone has an unconditional, steadfast authority in this regard; and it alone teaches us self-sacrifice and Christian freedom, Christian equality and brotherhood (a concept stolen by those outside the Faith). The Lord Himself said of true Christians, "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father" (Matt. 7:21). 

From Orthodox Heritage (Vol. 3, Issue 7), p. 3-4. 
Source:  http://blessedphilaret.blogspot.com/2012/08/sermon-modesty-and-will.html

 

St. Philaret on the Christian faith of the non-Orthodox

It is self-evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e., those who knowingly pervert the truth...They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, "Who will have all men to be saved," (I Tim. 2:4) and "Who enlightens every man born into the world," (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.  St. Philaret of New York 

St. Philaret of New York (+1985)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Orthodoxy on "other" Christians


 
by Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose

A few years before he died, Fr. Seraphim received a letter from an African-American woman who, as a catechumen learning about Orthodoxy, was struggling to understand the uncharitable attitude that some Orthodox Christians showed to those outside the Church, an attitude which reminded her of how her own people had been treated. “I am deeply troubled,” this woman wrote, “as to how Orthodoxy views what the world would call Western Christians, i.e., Protestants and Roman Catholics. I have read many articles by many Orthodox writers, and a few use words like ‘Papists,’ etc., which I find deeply disturbing and quite offensive. I find them offensive because as a person of a race which has been subjected to much name-calling I despise and do not wish to adopt the habit of name-calling myself. Even ‘heretic’ disturbs me….

“Where do I stand with my friends and relatives? They do not know about Orthodoxy or they do not understand it. Yet they believe in and worship Christ.… Am I to treat my friends and relatives as if they have no God, no Christ?… Or can I call them Christians, but just ones who do not know the true Church?

“When I ask this question, I cannot help but think of St. Innocent of Alaska as he visited the Franciscan monasteries in California. He remained thoroughly Orthodox yet he treated the priests he met there with kindness and charity and not name-calling. This, I hope, is what Orthodoxy says about how one should treat other Christians.”

This woman’s quandary was actually fairly common to people coming into the Orthodox Faith. Now nearing the end of his short life and having thrown off his youthful bitterness, Fr. Seraphim answered as follows:

I was happy to receive your letter—happy not because you are confused about the question that troubles you, but because your attitude reveals that in the truth of Orthodoxy to which you are drawn you wish to find room also for a loving, compassionate attitude to those outside the Orthodox Faith.  I firmly believe that this is indeed what Orthodoxy teaches…. 

I will set forth briefly what I believe to be the Orthodox attitude towards non-Orthodox Christians. 

1.   Orthodoxy is the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind, and therefore we should guard with our life the purity of its teaching and our own faithfulness to it. In the Orthodox Church alone is grace given through the sacraments (most other churches don’t even claim to have sacraments in any serious sense). The Orthodox Church alone is the Body of Christ, and if salvation is difficult enough within the Orthodox Church, how much more difficult must it be outside the Church! 

2.    However, it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Church—that is up to Him, not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established for salvation—which is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself can accept the experience of Protestants being ‘born-again’ in Christ; I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ, and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these people “subjective” or “beginning” Christians. But until they are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity, they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving the grace of the sacraments. I think this is why there are so many sects among them—they begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church, and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for the Church’s teaching and sacraments. 

About those Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church, therefore, I would say: they do not yet have the full truth—perhaps it just hasn’t been revealed to them yet, or perhaps it is our fault for not living and teaching the Orthodox Faith in a way they can understand. With such people we cannot be one in the Faith, but there is no reason why we should regard them as totally estranged or as equal to pagans (although we should not be hostile to pagans either—they also haven’t yet seen the truth!). It is true that many of the non-Orthodox hymns contain a teaching or at least an emphasis that is wrong—especially the idea that when one is “saved” he does not need to do anything more because Christ has done it all. This idea prevents people from seeing the truth of Orthodoxy which emphasizes the idea of struggling for one’s salvation even after Christ has given it to us, as St. Paul says: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil. 2:12]. But almost all of the religious Christmas carols are all right, and they are sung by Orthodox Christians in America (some of them in even the strictest monasteries!). 

The word “heretic” is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously “heretics,” and it really does no good to call them that. 

In the end, I think, Fr. Dimitry Dudko’s attitude is the correct one: We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teaching.… 

As for prejudices—these belong to people, not the Church. Orthodoxy does not require you to accept any prejudices or opinions about other races, nations, etc.
 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The value of patience

 
Without application of strength one cannot make a step; the application of strength requires effort, and effort requires patience.  Be patient in the sure hope that your labors will be rewarded in the end.  Patience crowns everything and gives to everything support and strength. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

CHRISTOS VOSKRESE! Serbian folk presentation

Many people have already seen this, but visiting this presentation again is so uplifting—Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!


 

May the brightness of this Holy Feast fill your hear with great joy,

Presbytera Candace

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY, HE IS RISEN!


A Paschal season message of Fr. John Krestiankin of blessed memory:
 

 

Now all things are filled with light; heaven and earth, and the nethermost parts of the earth… Christ is Risen!

Children of God! From a fullness of unearthly joy I greet you with words full of Divine power: “Christ is Risen!” The holy fire of this salvific tiding has burst anew with bright flames over the Lord’s Tomb, and has spread throughout the world.

The Church of God, filled with the light of this fire, gives it to us: “Christ is Risen!”

Beloved in Christ brethren and sisters, my friends! You of course will have noticed that, of all our great and joyful Christian feasts, the feast of the Luminous Resurrection of Christ is characterized by a special solemnity, a special joy: it is the feast of feasts and the festival of festivals!

No service in our Orthodox Church is more magnificent, more heartfelt, than Paschal Matins. Therefore all the faithful rush to God’s church on the Paschal night. Indeed, the Paschal Divine service resembles a magnificent banquet prepared by the Lord for all those who stream under the grace-filled protection of His House.

Contemplate the contents of St John Chrysostom’s “catechetical homily”! With paternal tenderness and cordiality the Lord accepts those who love Him with all their being. “Blessed is he who has wrought from the first hour” – these are those who from their youth undeviatingly follow His Divine steps.

Yet he does not reject those who, overcoming doubt in their souls, approach God only in their mature or even elderly years. “Let him not fear for having delayed, for the Lord in His love will accept the last even as the first, accepting the deeds and welcoming the intention.”

Undoubtedly all who were in church on the Paschal night experienced an unusual delight… Our souls rejoiced, filled with a sense of gratitude to our Lord and Savior for the eternal life He has given us all. Indeed, Christ’s Resurrection raised the human race from earth to Heaven, giving an elevated and noble meaning to human existence.

The human soul yearns for the eternal life of joy. It seeks it… Therefore people rush to the luminous Matins in God’s church. And not only the faithful, but even those whose consciousness is from the Christian religion.

They come here not simply to look at the solemnity of the Christian service. Their souls, given by God to everyone at birth, are attracted to the light of the inextinguishable Sun of Truth, seeking the truth.

Faithful people on this holy night feel an abundant outpouring of the luminous joy of Christ’s Resurrection with particular power. And no wonder! Christ’s Resurrection is the foundation of our faith, the inviolable pillar of our earthly life.

By His Resurrection, Christ has given to people to comprehend the truth of His Divinity, the truth of His elevated teaching, the salvific nature of His death. Christ’s Resurrection is the completion of His earthly deed [podvig]. There could not have been any other end, for this was the direct consequence of the moral sense of Christ’s life.

If Christ be not risen, the Apostle Paul writes, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is futile. But Christ is risen, and He has raised all mankind with Him!

The Savior brought perfect joy to people on earth. Therefore on the Paschal night we hear a hymn that we ourselves take part in: “Angels in the heavens, O Christ our Savior, praise Thy Resurrection with hymns; deem us also who are on earth worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.”

In His prayer before His suffering on the Cross, He asked His Heavenly Father for the gift of this great joy for people: Sanctify them by Thy truth… that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves (Jn 17:17, 13).

Through the Resurrection of Christ, a new world of holiness and true blessedness has been opened unto man.

During His earthly life the Savior repeatedly pronounced words that are precious to the faithful soul: Because I live, ye shall live also (Jn 14:19); My peace I give unto you (Jn 14:27); These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (Jn 15:11).

The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, writes: For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection… Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (Rom 6:5, 8).

A new life has been opened unto man. He has been given the possibility to die to sin in order to be raised with Christ and live with Him.

“A Pascha that hath opened the gates of Paradise to us,” we sing in the Paschal canon.

There is no joy, my beloved, more luminous than our Paschal joy. For we rejoice that, in the Resurrection, our eternal life has been opened unto us.

Our Paschal joy is joy for the transfiguration (change) of our life into an incorrupt life, in our aspiration for imperishable good, an incorruptible beauty. We now celebrate the greatest mystery, the Resurrection of Christ, the defeat of the Life-giver over death! Our Savior triumphed over evil and darkness, and therefore the Paschal Divine service of our Orthodox Church is so jubilant and joyful.

The faithful awaited this solemn service, preparing themselves for it during the long weeks of the Holy Forty Days. It is natural that their hearts are now filled with inexpressible joy.

The deepest meaning of Christ’s Resurrection is in the eternal life that He gave to all His followers. For 2000 years already His followers have unwaveringly believed not only that Christ arose, but in their own coming resurrection to eternal life.

Christ the Savior spoke many times during His earthly life about Himself as the bearer of life and resurrection. But then these words of the Divine Teacher were incomprehensible not only to the people who listened to Him, but even to His disciples and apostles.

The meaning of these words became clear only after Christ’s Resurrection. Only then did His apostles and disciples understand that He is, indeed, the Lord of life and the Conqueror of death. And then they went to preach throughout the entire world.

We, beloved, great each other during these joyful days with the words “Christ is Risen!” We will continue to greet one another in this way for the course of forty days, until the day of the Lord’s Ascension.

Just two words! But these are marvelous words, expressing unwavering faith, which gives joy to the human heart, in the truth of our immortality.

Christ is Life!

He many times spoke of Himself as the bearer of life and resurrection, as the source of eternal life, which is without end for those who believe in Him.

Christ is Risen! – and may our souls rejoice in the Lord.

Christ is Risen! – and may our fear of death vanish.

Christ is Risen! – and our hearts are filled with the joyful faith that we, too, will rise with Him.

To celebrate Pascha – this means to know with all one’s heart the power and grandeur of Christ’s Resurrection.

To celebrate Pascha – this means to become a new person.

To celebrate Pascha – this means with all one’s heart and mind to thank and glorify God for His ineffable gift, the gift of resurrection and love.

In these days we all exult and joyfully celebrate, praising and glorifying the deed [podvig] of the triumph of Divine love.

Christ is Risen!!!

Let us throw open our hearts to meet Him Who suffered, and died, and arose for our sake. He will enter and fill our life with Himself and His Light, transfiguring our souls. We answer this by striving towards Him along our way of the Cross, for at its end, there is no doubt, shines our own resurrection to life eternal.

Friday, April 10, 2015

From the Ortho Thought archives


Who Shall Roll the Stone Away from the Tomb for us?
 
 

Paschal preparation tips—cooking perfect hard-cooked eggs


 
& assembling a Paschal basket:

 

Every one of us is potentially a Judas

Each One of Us is Potentially a Judas

A sermon given by Fr. Seraphim (Rose) during Great Lent, 1982

 

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as he sat at meat. But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, "To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, "Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall be also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, "What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you." And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.   Matthew 26:6-16

In this passage of Scripture, we read how, as our Lord prepared for His Passion, a woman came and anointed Him with very precious ointment; and it is very touching how our Lord accepted such love from simple people. But at the same time Judas—one of the twelve who were with Him—looked at this act, and something in his heart changed. This was apparently the “last straw,” because Judas was the one in charge of the money and he thought that this was a waste of money. We can even see the logical processes going on in his mind. We can hear him think about Christ: “I thought this man was somebody important. He wastes money, he doesn’t do things right, he thinks he’s so important…” and all kinds of similar little ideas which the devil puts in his mind. And with his passion (his main passion was love of money), he was caught by the devil and made to betray Christ. He did not want to betray Him; he simply wanted money. He did not watch over himself and crucify his passions.
 
Anyone of us can be exactly in that position. We have to look at our hearts and see which passion of ours will be devil hook us on in order to cause us to betray Christ. If we think that we are something superior to Judas—that he was some kind of a “kook” and we are not—we are quite mistaken. Like Judas, every one of us has passions in his heart. Let us therefore look at them. We can be caught with love for neatness, with love for correctness, with love for a sense of beauty: any of our little faults which we cling to can be a thing that the devil can catch us with. Being caught, we can begin to justify this condition “logically”—on the basis of our passion. And from that “logical” process of thinking we can betray Christ, unless we watch over ourselves and begin to realize that we are filled with passions, that each one of us is potentially a Judas. Therefore, when the opportunity comes—when the passion begins to operate in us and logically begins to develop from a passion into betrayal—we should stop right there and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

We must not look at life through the glasses of our passions, nor see how we can “fit” life into being what we would like it to be—whether this is a life where there is peace and quiet or where there is a lot of noise and excitement. If we try to make life “fit” like this, a total disaster will result. In looking at life, we should accept all the things which come to us as God’s providence, knowing that they are intended to wake us up from our passions. We should pray to God to show us some God-pleasing thing that we can do. When we accept what comes to us, we begin to be like the simple woman in the Gospel who heard the call from God and was thus able to be His minister. She was proclaimed to the ends of the world, as our Lord says, because of the simple thing she did—pouring out the ointment upon Him. Let us be like her: sensitive to watching God’s signs around us. These signs come from everywhere: from nature, from our fellow men, from a seeming chance of events… There is always, every day, something that indicates to us God’s will. We must be open to this.

Once we become more aware of the passions within ourselves and begin to fight against them, we will not let them begin the process which was seen in Judas. Judas started from a very small thing: being concerned for the right use of money. And from such small things we betray God the Saviour. We must be sober, seeing not the fulfillment of our passions around us, but rather the indication of God’s will: how we might this very moment wake up and begin to follow Christ to His Passion and save our souls.
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)  09 / 04 / 2015


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On the Wise & Foolish Virgins

From a previous year's posting on this blog:
http://otftd.blogspot.com/2012/04/on-wise-and-foolish-virgins.html


Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day
nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.  Matthew 24:13

Found at:  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/52839.htm
 
 
Holy Tuesday: the parable of the ten virgins. Modern Greek fresco.
 
On Monday evening, Jesus Christ also tarried in Bethany, and on Tuesday morning he again came to the temple in Jerusalem and taught much in the both inside and outside the temple (Mt. 21:1). The high priests and elders heard His parables and understood that He was talking about them, and so they tried to catch Him and kill Him. However, they were afraid to take Him openly because the people revered Him as a prophet (Mt. 21:46), and were astonished at His doctrine (Mk. 11:18), and heard Him gladly (Mk. 12:37).

On this day, the Church has chosen as foremost from the Gospel teachings of Christ the parable of the ten virgins, particularly appropriate for the period of Holy Week, during which we should be especially vigilant and in prayer. Through the parable of the ten virgins the Church is urging us to be always ready to meet the Heavenly Bridegroom with chastity, almsgiving, and the urgent practice of all the other virtues, which are represented by the oil prepared by the wise virgins.
Archpriest G. C. Debolsky
Service Days of the Orthodox Church, v. 2
 
Hymns from the service on Holy and Great Tuesday
 
Think, wretched soul, upon the hour of the end; recall with fear how the fig tree was cut down. Work diligently with the talent that is given to thee; be vigilant and cry aloud: May we not be left outside the bridal chamber.
Kontakion
I slumber in slothfulness of soul, O Christ the Bridegroom; I have no lamp that burns with virtue, and like the foolish virgins I go wandering when it is time to act. Close not Thy compassionate heart against me, Master, but dispel dark sleep from me and rouse me up; and lead me with the wise virgins into Thy bridal chamber, where those who feast sing with pure voice unceasingly: O Lord, glory to Thee.

O Bridegroom, surpassing all in beauty, Thou has called us to the spiritual feast of Thy bridal chamber. Strip from me the disfigurement of sin, through participation in Thy sufferings; clothe me in the glorious robe of Thy beauty, and in Thy compassion make me feast with joy at Thy Kingdom
Stichera from Matins
The Gospel of St. Matthew
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Mt. 25 1:13

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord, when He was nearing the days of His suffering, was especially close and candid with His disciples. The Savior said to the Apostles: Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you (John 15:15). He told them no longer in a hidden manner, but rather with special clarity, that He must suffer, that in this way he would prepare them for His suffering: Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified (Mt 26: 2). Seeing the sorrow that was overtaking the Apostles, He comforted His disciples with the promise that He would not abandon them.

Yet along with this the Lord did not hide from them that they too, and all Christians in general, likewise await the same lot as He, their Divine Teacher: Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (Mt 15: 20, 18, 19).
Once again, seeing that they were sorrowful, the Lord comforted them: In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (Jn 16:33, 14:16; Jn 14:27).

The Lord asks His disciples to abide in Him and fulfill His commandments, for without Him they can do nothing: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. If ye abide in mM, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again (Jn 15:4, 7; 14:3).
 
The Lord comforts them, revealing to them that joy will follow from sorrows, that prizes have been prepared for them in the Coming Kingdom. Inasmuch as His disciples were interested in how the Lord would come to earth, the Savior announces to them the Divine truth that at the end of the world He will come in great glory to judge the living and the dead, and that all those who believe in Him sincerely and who have lived in repentance to the end of their lives will be found worthy of His Kingdom, and that the unbelieving or apostates, who have gone without repentance to the end of their lives, will be condemned to eternal torment.
 
When shall these things be? (Mt 24:3), the disciples asked. The Lord answered them that of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Mt 24:36). In this way the Holy Scriptures preserve in deep mystery, and do not reveal to us the assigned time of, the Second Coming, in order that we might keep ourselves in purity and chastity, preparing at all times to meet the Lord.
 
Therefore the Lord cautions his disciples: Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. Watch therefore (Mt 24:42; Lk 17:26, 27, 30; Mt 25:13).
 
In our time more than ever one needs to remember this warning, for today there are especially many who slumber and sleep. Spiritual sleep is not like physical sleep, which strengthens the organism; to the contrary, this is an unhealthy sleep, a sick lethargy, in which people pursue vanity while thinking they are living a real life, forgetting about the soul, about God, about the future Eternal Life. In order more deeply to impress in us the feeling of danger, the necessity of wakefulness, and to awaken our conscience from spiritual drowsiness, the Lord tells the parable of the ten virgins, which we heard in today’s Gospel reading:
 
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Mt 25:1-13).
 
This parable teaches us that, accepting faith, we must accompany it with good deeds, which can and must support our spiritual life. The foolish virgins, going out to meet the Bridegroom, did not prepare the oil of good deeds for their lamps. The wise stored up good deeds along with their lamps in order to meet the Bridegroom worthily. So too our life must be a preparation for meeting the Lord, and for the rest of our lives we must constantly work towards the acquisition and preservation of living faith and burning love of God, the Source of life, and love of one’s neighbors.

The concerns of this age obscure the essential concern and aim of our life: the illumination of the soul with the light of Christ, its salvation and preparation for the Eternal Kingdom. Let us be sober so as to enter the Heavenly bridal chamber with the wise virgins and be found worthy by the Lord of eternal good things. Amen.
Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)
Translation by Ora et Labora
29 / 04 / 2012

Monday, April 6, 2015

Luke 14:13

 
Beloved readers, 

I hope you had a blessed Lenten period and have felt joy on this Palm Sunday Feast.  As we accompany Christ during His Passion this week, may we sense His real presence in each service. 

My heart is filled with hope as I write to you today.  The reason is that I have witnessed, first hand,  your commitment to Christ and love for the brethren not so long ago.  On somewhat short notice, back in January, you, beloved readers, helped make it possible to send $8,000 to Kosovo to bless the oppressed Christians of that region.  A good portion of that amount was raised as a result of your own caring and sincere love.  The message that returned to me in response was one of excessive joy and appreciation from the fathers of the Decani Monastery who are Christ’s hands and feet on the ground there.  Part of their ministry is to obtain and distribute necessities for life—food, firewood (fuel), medicines and more to the faithful of the region.  The one thing they cannot procure without assistance are funds to make this possible.  This is where we have opportunity to bless and be blessed.   

It is one thing to say, “I love or I care about…” and another thing to demonstrate it.  When we meet genuine needs of people who suffer for the sake of their faith, we share their burden and relieve it.  We give hope, simply through showing that someone in hardship is not forgotten, that someone cares whether they feel hope, joy or consolation.  This is a ministry that is within our reach.   

Pascha is less than a week away.  The Decani Monastery Relief Fund once again looks to God to bring tangible blessings to the Serbian Orthodox Christians of Kosovo and Metohija.  Although we may not hear much about this region in the news, it nevertheless remains an area of extreme hardship.  Believers suffer at the hands of authorities who do not share their Christian faith.  Theirs is a “rough neighborhood.”  Never fully secure from harm, except in Christ.  Never fully nourished, except through Christ.  Never fully warmed, except through Christ.  Did you turn up your thermostat during the recent harsh winter months?  I did.  The Christians in Kosovo and Metohija did not have that luxury.  God has entrusted us with so much material wealth…let us be good stewards of it, and I write this message to myself, first of all. 

The Christians of this region are truly poor—not of their own will, but due to circumstances outside of their control.  For most, there is no path out of the hardship they live with day to day.  There has been war in the area, there is hatred for Christians, the faithful suffer.  At this point, it is costly for them to obtain even basic items.  This is hardship.  It is not something we in the United States are familiar with.  We have not walked in their shoes.  However, we can lift the burden.  God has given us the ability and the choice whether to do so.   

As I contemplated this message, this passage from Luke chapter 14 came to mind.  Christ is speaking at a dinner hosted by a Pharisee: 12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. 

The brethren in Kosovo cannot repay any generosity you extend.  However, what a joy to bless someone in adversity—a brother or sister in Christ whom you may never meet in this life.  And see what the Scripture above says to us, “…and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Repaid by God Himself.  What a promise can be ours-- bless someone in adversity now and be repaid later by God Himself!  For a believer, can there be any better offer?   

So, now I ask you--will you join me in making this coming Paschal feast a time of joy for the Orthodox Christians of Kosovo?  Doing so will be like inviting these dear souls to your own Paschal table—spiritually, they will be there—thanking God, and you, in their hearts!  Your gift of any amount will surely brighten their celebration of this most Holy Feast.  It is easy to contribute, too.  Simply visit the DMRF site and access the Paypal button:  http://www.thedecanifund.org/ 


The DMRF is a non-profit tax-exempt charity.  For those who don’t use Paypal, donations via check may be sent c/o Fr. Nektarios Serfes, the Decani Monastery Relief Fund President, below:   

                                                            Decani Monastery Relief Fund
                                                            c/o Rev. Fr. Nektarios Serfes
                                                            2618 W. Bannock Street
                                                            Boise, ID   83706
 
Thank you so much, dear brothers & sisters—thank you! 

A small blessing for you:  a glimpse of the Decani Monastery:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0dVGqV9WMg&list=PL00C458C423B2E3C7

Your sister in Christ,
Presbytera Candace