Fish for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28, 2019
American Thanksgiving
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church

By an uncommon occurrence, the beginning of our Orthodox Advent Fast this year coincides with the 4th Thursday of November, otherwise known in America as Thanksgiving. I have blogged before about my annoyance at reducing this great holiday to its chief dish. This year we received an opportunity to practice giving thanks without the turkey, and you know, I think we all felt quite a bit lighter.

Continue reading

Dramatic Reversals of Grace

Ven. Hilarion the Great4166599

Galatians 1:11-19
Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Beloved in the Lord, don’t we all enjoy a good story like this one in which the forgotten and downtrodden beggar becomes the exalted hero? And where the former persecutor becomes the fearless advocate of the oppressed? They are both examples of dramatic reversal that makes us wonder about the world– its true nature and the paradox that seems to govern all despite outward appearances to the contrary. Continue reading

Harvest is Here!

Screen_Shot_2015_10_25_at_6.21.00_PM__48020.1445822824Every year at this time, when most children are deciding what costume to wear for a feast that toys with evil, our family gathers for the more serious fun of a Harvest Festival. It is a fitting tribute to our God the creator as we the sub-creators bring the intelligent fruit of our labours together. The students of Saint Herman of Alaska Christian School for over 2 decades of its existence have every year gathered for this festival at the end of October closed to the 28th, the feast day of the Mother of God, “She Who Ripens the Grain”.

Festivities begin with several recitations from the different classes. Poems are declaimed, stories are portrayed, and all people remember to thank the God who gives us life. Headmaster Father Patrick Tishel spoke of how the Mother of God ripened the figurative grain of the Lord Jesus in her womb. Similarly, we offer back to the Lord of life the fruits of our minds and hands. Continue reading

For the Beauty of the Earth

aerialNews of the Kingdom of God first sounded not in the muggy, dusty capital cities, but on the shores of an azure lake among green groves and hills, reminding us that the beauty of the earth is a reflection of the eternal beauty of heaven.

— Fr. Alexander Men

I can still remember the strong impressions from my first time apple picking with our local Orthodox Christian School. I was a recent transplant from the Midwest, a good ole’ boy adrift in the complicated, concrete urban jungle of Boston. My idea of fun was sitting on the front porch and watching the grass grow. The city overwhelmed me, and I pined away for the countryside where a blade of grass stood a chance to survive. Continue reading

Unworthy, But Thankful

lessons-from-parables-parable-of-worker-fair-wage-fair-employerFor my yearly Back-to-School post, I offer this sermon on one of my favorite teacher flicks, Mr. Pip. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!

September 2/15, 2019
13th Sunday After Pentecost
M. Mamas
1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Matthew 21:33-42

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Happy New Year! Yesterday was a special day in the liturgical calendar for it marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, the new year of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. It also happens to coincide with the beginning of the school year. No doubt by now all the students gathered here have had their first day of school in an academic year that will last until sometime next year in the late spring or early summer. So it is a good time for us to gather our strength, take stock of our supplies, and above all be thankful for the opportunities afforded us with a fresh start.

This morning’s Gospel of the vineyard parable features an interesting array of characters to study. The vineyard owner is Christ who provides every supply necessary for a successful operation before he travels to a far off country. He even performs some of the tasks the workers should have done themselves: he plants a vineyard, sets a hedge around it, digs a winepress in it and builds a tower to protect it, but the vine-dressers rather than thank him for it squander both their time and resources. Not only do they not do what they’re supposed to do, but they actively plot to take over control from the owner and murder his son! In short, they wish to benefit from the fruit of the vineyard without the work of cultivating it. Yet the owner comes back and the Gospel asks, “What do you think he will do to those workers?” Continue reading

Disneyland in Russia

VDNKh. The Centre of Oceanography and Marine Biology Moskvarium. Built in 2015.We returned on Friday from our monastic retreat to greet some new company in our Moscow apartment. Our cousin and his family arrived from Surgut on vacation and stay at a nearby hotel while taking most evening meals with us. He is a fine fellow and his lively wife and 3 girls are the best company any soul could ask for, but their taste in entertainment is a little different from ours. And coming from the monastery only increases my own culture shock.

He invited us yesterday to accompany his family to see a show at the Moskvarium, a kind of sea-themed theater located in a huge cultural park of other museums and theaters north of Moscow called V.D.N.H. [pronounced V-Din-Ha]. We visited V.D.N.H. right before traveling to the monastery and went that time to a special museum dedicated to robots. My older son loved it, but I was less enthused by all the noise. This time I had high hopes that the show might combine the best in Russian theatre and dance with a theme park invented in America. What transpired was one of the strangest spectacles I have seen so far in Russia. Continue reading

A Sober Exuberance

48205105362_29a15541c3_kTime definitely passes differently at a camp near a monastery. I have asked two people already for the time and the day and both have responded alike that they count the day and the hour not according to their watch or phone, but according to their obedience: when it begins (now), when it ends (soon), when we will eat the next meal (soon enough), and when we will go to bed (before and after prayer). Who needs to measure the day with numbers in such an arrangement?

This monastic pattern of life makes this camp feel very different then even Orthodox camps I have visited in America. For it makes even loud events like sports or singing more subdued, more controlled— a kind of sober exuberance. Continue reading