True Wisdom

February 01, 2013

One local Orthodox priest in his sermon said: “In the first centuries of Christianity, in times of persecution, the faithful prayed in the catacombs, hidden in the damp underground. Faithful Christians came to these catacombs to offer prayers despite the darkness, dampness, and frightful cold, away from their persecutors… Presently, in this church where we are praying it is warm and bright, even when it is dark and freezing outside. We are able to peacefully sing hymns of praise to God, have discussions on lessons of faith, and to partake of the Communion of the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. However, in these days of peace and quiet our churches are becoming devoid of people.” This is how Batiushka spoke, and I was struck by the truth and simplicity of his words! Really, what justification can lazy and light-minded Christians possibly have to depart from God the Source of all that is great and beautiful? What can the empty, sinful world give them? There is nothing more beautiful or perfect than God! The Word of Truth is in the Orthodox Church! But outside of it are lies and, at best, futile and deceitful philosophies. In the world outside we find emptiness, a spirit of languor, as well as dissension, hate, and instability. Here, in the Christian world, we find tenderness, truth, love, joy which is real and stable for all time. The light-mindedness of this Batiushka’s parishioners became more apparent when I compared them to those in other cities. Here in the town of Tobolsk, for twenty thousand residents there are more than ten Orthodox churches. But in Kharkov, where I lived before, for half a million residents there were but two tiny Orthodox churches. In Sverdlovsk, the capital of the Ural provinces, there is also but one Orthodox church. On Feast Days, when I served in Kharkov, crowds of the faithful had to stand outside in the rain and frost, while those inside were fainting from lack of oxygen… and so many believers did not have the good fortune to be able to attend an Orthodox church at all! For a period of seven months I was not able to pray in the temple of God. For this reason I understand from experience how criminal and terrible it is for those unfortunate light-minded people to neglect this great Sacred House of God, so valuable and easily attainable for them! My thoughts are then transported to people of other faiths, who are still unaware of the beauty of Orthodox services, the truth of Her teachings, and the joy of life in the Grace of the Church, which is freely given to the faithful in the Seven Mysteries of God through the Orthodox Church. And I came to the conclusion that, were they to accept Orthodoxy, people of other faiths would value Orthodoxy much more than we do. The unwitting words of our Saviour come to mind: And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven: But the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping, and gnashing, of teeth (Matt. 8:11-12). There can be no justification for the negligence of these parishioners. Right here in these Orthodox churches that same Christ God proclaims His teachings and offers to partakers His Most Holy Body and Blood. Here, in the town of Tobolsk, a mere ten years ago people could not help but see true miracles with the revelation of the relics of Saint John, Wonderworker of Tobolsk and all Russia. I hear the echoes of other, frightening words of our God and Saviour to these lazy servants: If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin… If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin (John 15:22,24). The Lord uses all possible means to unite people to His Church and eternal blessedness, but people remove themselves from His Truth, and thus from eternal happiness.

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“My Son, Give Me Thine Heart”

“My Son, Give Me Thine Heart”

January 28, 2013

Today’s Gospel reading tells us of the rich young ruler who earnestly desired eternal life and asked Christ how he could inherit this desire. Christ first gives him some basic commandments of the law to see if the man had kept these. He replied that he had kept them all from his youth. Christ, knowing the young man’s heart and loving him tells him: Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

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Appalachian “Old Christmas”

Appalachian “Old Christmas”

January 24, 2013 1 Comment

The people of Appalachia, with whom we at the monastery share a home in West Virginia, are a people who have been Protestant for many generations past. Though they aren’t Orthodox, and though many of their ancestors in America may never have been exposed to the Orthodox Church, they are people who, in their own way, hold a deep faith in God and have preserved many traditions that hearken back to ages past.

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The Way of Walter Mitty

November 12, 2012

In 1939, the American writer, James Thurber, wrote a short story entitled The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.1 The narrative deals with an aging Walter Mitty on a trip into town with his overbearing wife. Walter is inept at many things; he is an absent-minded driver, he can’t handle simple mechanical tasks, and he forgets things easily. While he goes through a day of ordinary jobs and errands, he escapes into a series of romantic fantasies, each spurred on by some mundane reality.

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“He Does Not Desire the Death of a Sinner”

“He Does Not Desire the Death of a Sinner”

April 02, 2012

Today is the 5th Sunday of Great Lent, when we commemorate our holy mother, St. Mary of Egypt. Before speaking about her, let me begin with something a little different that will illustrate the difference between Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman that we heard about in today’s Gospel.

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On Slander - Sermon for the Sunday of St. John Climacus 2012

On Slander - Sermon for the Sunday of St. John Climacus 2012

March 26, 2012

When I was a teenager, I became the best of friends with another young man who was my age, and I spent most of my free time with him. This young man was known for being a very negative and critical person. My parents were not happy about our friendship, fearing the negative influence he would have on me, and they sometimes expressed their concern, but I would hear nothing of it, making excuses for him. One of the primary effects of that friendship was the terrible habit I developed of gossiping about people and slandering those whom I did not like. At first, I joined in with the desire to be liked and accepted by him, but later it became a part of me, whether I was with him or not. This friend and I would spend hours upon hours nearly every time we spoke, mocking and deriding other people, laughing at their expense, blinded by our pride and self-love, thinking we were better than everyone else. Deep down, I knew this behavior was wrong, but after several years of indulging in this sin, when I began to repent and change my way of life, this deep-rooted passion proved very difficult to uproot. I still remained very judgmental because my efforts to change were half-hearted.

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