Sermon on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son 2013

Sermon on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son 2013

March 08, 2013

Brethren! All our attention must be centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all see ourselves in it as in a mirror. In a few words the Lord, the knower of hearts, has shown in the person of one man how the deceptive sweetness of sin separates us from the truly sweet life according to God. He knows how the burden of sin on the soul and body, experienced by us, impels us by the action of divine grace to return, and how it actually does turn many again to God, to a virtuous life. We will repeat it and discuss how necessary and easy it is for a sinner to return to God.

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Fasting and Humility of Soul

Fasting and Humility of Soul

March 01, 2013

Many, crowding to the fast, pollute themselves in the thoughts of their hearts, sometimes by doing evil against their brethren, sometimes by daring to defraud. And, to mention nothing else, there are many who exalt themselves above their neighbours, thereby causing great mischief. For the boast of fasting did no good to the Pharisee, although he fasted twice in the week1, only because he exalted himself against the publican. In the same manner the Word blamed the children of Israel on account of such a fast as this, exhorting them by Isaiah the Prophet and saying, ‘This is not the fast and the day I have chosen, that a man should humble his soul; not even if thou shouldest bow down thy neck like a hook, and shouldest strew sackcloth and ashes under thee; neither thus shall ye call the fast acceptable2.’ That we may be able to show what kind of persons we should be when we fast, and of what character the fast should be, listen again to God commanding Moses, and saying, as it is written in Leviticus, ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, In the tenth day of this seventh month, there shall be a day of atonement; a convocation, and a holy day shall it be to you;and ye shall humble your souls, and offer whole burnt-offerings unto the Lord3.’ And afterwards, that the law might be defined on this point, He proceeds to say: ‘Every soul that shall not humble itself, shall be cut off from the people4.’

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Labor and Leisure

Labor and Leisure

February 19, 2013

Thomas à Kempis wrote in his reflections, “Why do you look for rest, when you were born for labor?” His question reflects a profound truth about human nature and about what gives human beings peace. Namely, work brings satisfaction and consolation in human life, not “entertainment” and “taking it easy.” After all, Adam was told to tend the garden. God created the world and made man in the image of God, who therefore co-creates with God in the world. Laboring is part of human nature.

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How to Live According to the Faith

How to Live According to the Faith

February 04, 2013

Faith in Christ has existed on earth for almost 2,000 years now, and is in no way overcome. Hundreds of thousands of people have joyously borne terrible torments out of love for Christ, for faith in Him. And if in present times there have appeared men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith (II Tim. 3:8) and stood against the Faith and the Church of Christ, all their efforts are in vain: the Lord said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against [His Church] (Matt. 6:18). Let us look at ourselves. Is there among us firm faith and love for Christ? Do we not stifle it with our passions, laziness, doubts? Ah, friends, without faith in the Lord Christ there is no salvation! We must by all means kindle in ourselves the spirit of faith, that is, stimulate it, feed it with prayer, the Word of God, patience, sincere remembrance of the Saviour Who suffered for us. All of this can be done every day.

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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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