The God Who Delivers

Sunday, April 19, 2020 Bright and Saving PASCHA of our Lord Jesus Christ

And who is the God who will deliver you out of my hands?

— Pharaoh, King of Egypt to Moses the Great, Patriarch, Prophet & God-seer

The taunt of this particular Egyptian ruler rings down through the centuries and is rehearsed every Great and Holy Saturday during one of the 13 readings from the Old Testament. But it is more than a taunt or even an honest query: It is the prayer of every person in the grip of some power beyond their making or control.

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Cultivating the Church at Home

April 17, 2020, Great and Holy Friday

“How do you, Father Herman, manage to live alone in the forest, don’t you get bored?” He answered, “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course.”

Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 3, St. Herman

In this forth week of our at-home Coronavirus quarantine, we struggle as a family with where to go and what to do. Our travelogue has been quickly and suddenly restricted to our immediate vicinity, and we labor at how to overcome feelings of isolation and boredom. The saints in heaven and especially the monastic hermits like St. Herman of Alaska can teach us what to do with our boredom, and it does not involve surfing to the next binge-worthy series or reaching for our favorite comfort food. It involves a rediscovery of our blessed habitation, that home which Father Herman called, “the blessed place which will render my soul’s salvation.”

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Holy Week at Home

Saturday, April 11, 2020: Lazarus Saturday

Every year around this time I encourage those of you in my world wide readership that have never been to an Orthodox Church or visited an Orthodox worship service to GO. This year we have the especial privilege and blessing to not have much on our schedule as most are quarantined. I hereby encourage you then to live stream the Holy Week services in very own living room!

Starting today and continuing throughout next week until Pascha (Orthodox Easter) and beyond will be served throughout the world the most sublimely beautiful and divinely inspired worship you have ever seen, heard, felt, smelled or touched, except this year the feeling, smelling and touching will be left to only a few (those few who are left to serve what is being live streamed).

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Deceiving the Deceiver

christApril 28, 2019
Bright and Saving PASCHA
of our Lord Jesus Christ

I love how the character of Christ is portrayed in the 2016 film Risen. In the movie, a Roman tribune is assigned by Pilate to investigate the alleged theft of the body of one late Hebrew rabbi who claimed to be the Messiah. This same tribune had witnessed Christ’s crucifixion himself, so he knew his man. But upon his first encounter of the risen Lord, he was taken aback. This mighty Roman tribune who had commanded legions of soldiers and put down entire insurrections against Caesar was terrified not so much by Jesus’ resurrectional power, but by the way in which it was manifest: an uncanny sober levity and a peculiar nonchalance. He was smirking like one who had pulled off the most enormous con game ever played. Continue reading

The Lord’s Last Farewell to his Friends

aka, Mecca.April 26, 2019
Great & Holy Friday

I am an art collector. A good painting with an equally good story has a way of catching my eye and heart. But because I have neither the time nor the pocketbook, most of my collecting happens online via Google image searches. And once I find an image that means something particular to me, I like to hunt it down to its source, where it lives, usually in a museum or sometimes in a church.

When I was recently in Chicago for a clergy retreat, I felt compelled to visit that fine city’s Art Institute. I remembered it to be the home for at least one or two of my favorite works. But as I neared the marble steps, I was racking my brain to remember the particular painting there that had stolen my heart the most. It wasn’t Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks or Wood’s American Gothic; neither was it the Paris Street; Rainy Day or any of the museum’s excellent collection of Rembrandt. All of these are undoubted masterpieces, but they don’t tell a story that speaks directly to me. Continue reading

Holy Week and Paschal Magic

christ-resurrectionHoly Week and Pascha are definitely the most amazing and wonderful jewels of the Orthodox Christian Church. Holy Week and Pascha are not only incredible but also personal leaving me crying of sorrow and of joy of Christ’s resurrection. Christ died on the cross only because of our sins. He loves us. Only a person that truly loves us would die for us.

Now, let me explain what is so beautiful about Holy Week and Pascha. First, Palm Sunday: The Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, where the people praised and glorified him. Then, Holy Monday: The Bridegroom Matins service foretells of the future sufferings of Jesus Christ. Holy Tuesday: The last musical Presanctified Liturgy, in which the Holy Communion(Eucharist) is pre-sanctified. There is harmonious music in the service like “Let my prayer arise…“. Holy Wednesday: Holy Unction is the service in which Orthodox Christians receive holy oil to heal us physically and spiritually. Continue reading

Eternal Life in Living Color

22857601_1974427522803959_5886353336021549056_nApril 8, 2018
The Bright & Saving Pascha of Christ
the Lord Who Rose from the Dead
Trampling down Death by Death

“So, what what kind of fun stuff have you been up to lately?” I had been engaging my favorite Syracusan barber in friendly conversation about his favorite pastime, hockey, when he politely turned the question towards me and my world. How does one encapsulate the joyful sorrow of Holy Week, the gut-wrenching agony of Golgotha, and the unexpected hope of Easter morning into a 5-second elevator speech? I told him that we had not celebrated our Easter yet and that this was our week to get ready for it. “Wow, that’s cool. So what is it like?” Words fail to describe the rich details of Holy Week and Pascha, yet I wanted to leave a strong impression. Knowing that he had not attended any church for quite some time, I used a comparison that I hoped was familiar. “It’s the one time out of the year that my kids actually drag their parents to church and not the other way around. Who doesn’t like the thought of staying up into the wee hours of the morning for a party that initially lasts until the sun comes up? I mean, what rock concert has ever lasted that long?” Continue reading

All Jesus- All Week Long

mhp11For those of you in my faithful readership who have yet to experience an Orthodox Christian Holy Week, now is your chance. At an Orthodox parish near you, begins a week of services next week unlike any you have experienced anywhere else on the planet. If you are local to Boston, you are cordially invited to attend all of the services our parish offers or come to the parish where we are currently serving in upstate NY. If you can only do one, come to either Saturday morning Liturgy or late Saturday night, early Sunday morning for the Feast of Feasts, GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA.

Worse case scenario, if you are unable to appear hypostatically (in person), you can at least listen to a youtube channel created that has much of the key music or the ever-mellifluous Ancient Faith Radio. WARNING: Once you have gone to one service, you won’t be able to stop, so clear your schedule for God because He deserves your praise more than baseball games, concerts, or that addicting TV series. Let the divine drama begin!

Alive Unto God

Great & Holy Saturday, 2017
Eve of Pascha, The Resurrection of Christ

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11)

great-and-holy-saturday-burial11“If there were only one book left in the Bible, only one chapter, yea only one verse, it would have to come from Romans chapter 6.” I was used to hearing such hyperboles from our pastor and teacher growing up, so when he made this particular declaration, it did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I mean, if I had to lay my bets on the most seminal verse in Scripture, I might have chosen something about love like the ever-popular football verse, John 3:16. But this spiritual father of mine was closer to the truth than I realized. For the next time I heard his declaration ringing in my ears was the first time I heard that chapter situated in the very heart of the church year. Continue reading

Deep Repentance, Profound Forgiveness

Great & Holy Wednesday
Holy Week

Heard the Hymn of Cassiani last night in church and today on a wonderful youtube mix. What a profound expression of repentance and grace. May he who rose from the dead, Christ our True God, grant us the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness as we near the day of his most glorious resurrection from the dead: