Smaller is Better

old-friar-famWanted to publish this rather excellent apologetic for smaller parishes made by one of our favorite pastors, Fr. Marc Vranes, on the 100th anniversary of his parish’s existence today. It is the parish church where my wife and I were engaged in the spring of 2003. We join in the chorus to wish Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Willimantic, Connecticut many, many, many more blessed years of ministry.

9 October 2016
Feast of St Tikhon, Apostle to America

Your Eminence, Reverend Fathers, My Beloved Community at Holy Trinity, Students from the UConn OCF, Both Current & All Alumni, Honored Guests, & Friends of HTOC in Willimantic, Connecticut-

As we hear in the Orthodox Church throughout the year, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works, in wisdom hast Thou made them all” (Psalm 103).

Several years ago as I was about to embark on a long discourse with a friend about a subject that required detailed explanation – it was no doubt an opportunity for me to set the record straight on some baseball related matter – I rhetorically asked my friend the time-honored question, “I don’t know where to start?” He responded by suggesting, “How about at the very beginning? It always works for me.” Continue reading

St. Helen’s Pilgrimage

Okay. I have to brag about this. My favorite prof from Seminary, Dr. Tim Patitsas has finally succeeded in bringing what used to be blandly called “the senior trip” into a full fledged Orthodox pilgrimage. I can only believe it is due to the communications vision of new Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology President, Fr. Chris Metropulos. Kudos to my Alma Mater for granting this rich experience to her graduates. I am happy to be among the first pilgrims back in 2011 where I recorded my observations in a Pilgrimage_Memory_Book.

The following is so much more worthy of the good donors who make the pilgrimage possible. God bless you all, my dear fellow graduates of Holy Cross!

Christian Camps & Monasteries

teen-spiritual-program-15-4I remember so well the first time I stayed overnight in an Orthodox Christian monastery. I dreamed of every Christian camp and conference I had attended up to that point in my life, for they represented the highest and deepest of my spiritual experience. After just one day in the concentrated prayers of the monastic daily cycle, those previous experiences of prayer became as mere foretastes of reality. Continue reading

A Siberian Missionary to America

IMG_8794From a small city church in Russian Siberia to one of America’s largest cathedrals in San Francisco, our batiushka (endearing term for priest) is about to finally complete his mission and strengthen a Cross-Pacific relationship that began in the middle of this past century. The story is bound up with one of America’s most beloved saints, Archbishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco, who after establishing St. Tikhon’s Orphanage in China, fled Shanghai  in 1949 when the flood of communism spilled into that ancient land as well. The saint fled first to a storm-ridden island in the Philippines and then to San Francisco in 1962. What concerns our Siberian pastor is that many other Russians fled with the Archbishop from his home city of Kyakhta, an important trade center on the northern border with Mongolia. To mark this connection between the mother city and the place of these emigrants’ exile, batiushka has brought a copy of the icon Mother of God, Surety of Sinners, all the way from its original home in Kyakhta to the San Francisco Cathedral “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Geary Boulevard. Continue reading

Fellow Pilgrims of St. Herman

hermanalaska

June 18, 2016
Eve of Pentecost

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. (I Peter 2:11)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36)

This world and all its lusts make us who live here forget that our true home lies elsewhere. Pilgrimage is the God-given tool for overcoming our excessive attachment to this world.  On this Eve of the Feast, having arrived at the birthplace of Orthodox Christianity in North America, our small group of pilgrims assembles in the early morning around the relics of America’s first Orthodox saint, Herman of Alaska, to pray for the salvation of our souls. I am here in Kodiak, Alaska with my brother-in-law and a priest who has almost circumnavigated the globe from a city if Siberia just north of Mongolia. We are guests at St. Herman Seminary in an unfamiliar place, but the common love for St. Herman makes us feel right at home as we meet other pilgrims from places as far flung as ours. Continue reading

Arriving Even at the Eleventh Hour

freyburg_28unstrut29_stadtkirche_st-_marien_weinberg_279May, 1, 2016
The Bright & Saving Pascha of Christ
the Lord Who Rose from the Dead
Trampling down Death by Death

No parable in Scripture proves a greater challenge to notions of human justice than that of the Workers in the Vineyard. In the story, those who come to work at the eleventh hour receive the same generous portion from the Master of the Vineyard as those who have labored from the beginning of the day. The only rationale given is the right of the master to do as he pleases with his wealth.

The Paschal Homily preached tonight in churches worldwide features this coming at the eleventh hour as the rich invitation of the Master and Lord of the heavenly vineyard towards the whole human race, especially to those who are least deserving of it. What can account for this reckless extravagance on the part of Our Lord and Master? Continue reading

An Assurance of Resurrection

duccio-di-buoninsegna-the-raising-of-lazarus-1310e2809311-e1277334608647April 23, 2016
Lazarus Saturday
23rd Anniversary of my Reception into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation

Giving us before Thy passion an assurance of the general Resurrection, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead O Christ Our God. Therefore, we like the children carry tokens of victory and cry to Thee the conqueror of death, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.  (Troparia of Lazarus Saturday)

As a youth, I was often in need of assurance. Movements of my soul toward God were quickly followed by moments of intense doubt: “Did the Creator of the universe really perform a work in me or was it simply something I ate?” Assurance of genuine salvation then came by frequently answering a call to the altar, kneeling in a bare church, and praying somehow that this time salvation would really sink in deep. While this was a great beginning, I sensed there was more to my relationship with Christ. And when I discovered the Church’s sacramental life, I also found the key to unlocking my much needed assurance. Continue reading