Despair is a temptation when life loses its purpose and the threat of an untimely death threatens to shorten that purposeless existence. As the worldwide coronavirus continues to rage with the possible hope for medical relief still months away, it is difficult to find cause to give thanks. Yet the lives of the saints show us how to find joy under all circumstances and the saint we remember this year on the feast of American Thanksgiving especially teaches how to give glory to God for all things.
Saint John Chrysostom the Golden-mouthed Archbishop of Constantinople (347-407) not only lived a life of thanksgiving, he is the principle author of the Divine Liturgy, the means by which the Church communes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the medicine of immortality and the mystical union of humanity with God. The Liturgy is also called the Eucharist from the Greek verb eucharisto which literally means “to give thanks” or to say thank you. When the church celebrates the Liturgy, She is thanking God, returning the gift received to the Giver of all good things in an eternal circle of reciprocal thanks.
Monasteries are the center of Orthodox Spirituality and are unfortunately mostly highly underrated. For a while I thought of them as a place to pray and plant seeds. But after visiting St. John the Baptist Monastery in Warwick, MA on many occasions my perception changed.
This small monastery in Western Massachusetts has a very relaxed atmosphere. Encompassed by forest, this place is surrounded by beautiful nature. Having this relaxed, calm setting sets a deep sense of inner peace. The quiet area helps calm the soul and leave all the worldly cares behind.
There are many monasteries around the world, and all of them have a unique setting. But the important key to the quiet beauty is the peace and calmness that is in the core of these Orthodox communities.
The famous saying that Christian Life is caught not simply taught relates to this injunction from the apostle to his disciple. I remember a time in my life when I had just graduated college that I eagerly desired to receive such a transmission. Oh, to be entrusted with the sacredkerygma of the living and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ from someone in that line of succession: a man who had heard it from a man who had heard it from another all the way back to the Lord himself. My own fathers In the flesh had all but denied this possibility. A writer of the book called The History of the Evangelical Association, a German pietistic confession that my ancestors followed in the mid-nineteenth century proclaimed about the historical apostolic succession “There remains an unbridgeable chasm between the Roman Catholic Church and our own Protestant one, and who can bridge this unbridgeable chasm?”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is baptized! An old Gospel hymn says, What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me pure within? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord, on this Sunday after Theophany, the great Feast of our Lord’s baptism in our human flesh, what darkness covers our minds? What sickness is asking for the blood of Jesus to cure? The blind man in this morning’s Gospel dwelt in a literal darkness, yet his enlightened soul knew who to ask for help and mercy. We live in a supposedly enlightened age but are blind to God, so that while we see with our physical eyes, our spiritual sight is quite limited.
I have blogged before about the challenges of culture shock, dealing with the strangeness of visiting a culture not your own. Just as we expect to find many things we love from back home but don’t find them, there are many things to discover in the new culture that pleasantly surprise us. For example, I had been coming to Russia for several years before I discovered the American ex-patriot community in Moscow, those raised in America who for whatever reason, either personal or business-related, have chosen Moscow as their primary residence. It’s a reminder that there are more reasons to live here in Russia besides the desire to collude in American elections. Continue reading →
The following is the text of a toast I gave in honor of my parents’ reception into the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday, May 12, Third Sunday of Pascha in honor of the Holy Myrrhbearers and American Mother’s Day. My father was received by Baptism and my mother by Chrismation at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in East Syracuse, NY.
“Nobody knows the trouble I seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.”
These simple, yet profound lyrics from an old negro spiritual express the longing of many a Christian lost in the multitude of denominations and confessions of the Church in this country and in the world. This family alone has experienced not less than 15 in our collective lives. But when I first witnessed the Orthodox Church I could see a church where, “Every generation chanteth hymns of praise to Christ.” Everyone from the smallest infant to the oldest great grandmother, all gather together in one Church. Today this prophecy has been fulfilled in your eyes: Not in a church designed principally for the youth, not in a church designed principally for the elderly, but in the Church where family integrated worship has never gone out of style. Continue reading →
Tuesday, August 15/28, 2018, Boston, MA
Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God
It is an amazing gift that with the blessing of Patriarch Neofit and the blessing of the beloved Prelate of our diocese, Metropolitan Joseph, three Hierarchs, the Metropolitans Serafim of Nevrokop, Grigorii of Vratsa, and Daniil of Vidin, together with Archimadrite Epifaniy came from Bulgaria to Boston to officiate the tonsuring and ordinations of our beloved Brothers in Christ from the parish of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Boston, MA. Continue reading →
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen! St. John the Beloved begins his first epistle, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (I John 1:1) And this morning’s Gospel also from St. John confirms this verifying faith through the testimony of another apostle, Thomas. Many identify him as doubting Thomas, a rather unfortunate label which casts a negative light upon his hesitancy to at first fully believe. But the Church in the Divine Services for today’s feast clearly proclaims Thomas’s unbelief or hesitancy to believe as good. So what is it about Thomas’s unbelieving belief that we can and should emulate? Continue reading →
Holy 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 →
“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 →