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!

The Universe is My Parish

Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
February 25, 2018

sunday_of_orthodoxy“A time is coming when people will go mad.” St. Anthony said, “And when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad because you are not like us.”

This sounds quite prophetic for our day, especially when so many people try to make everything relative, denying the existence of absolute truth. We Orthodox Christians, however, believe in absolute truth because Truth incarnate is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and His truth is unchangeable.

Truth is truth, and falsehood is false, no matter what the majority say, and no matter how one tries to dress up falsehood. The Bible describes God as “the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). Our Lord God is eternal and unchanging, and therefore His Word and His teachings are unchanging. In every age and in every culture, the Gospel has to be presented in a refreshing and understandable way, but the truth itself is unchanging.

Today on this first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, which is often called the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh noted, however, that “The Triumph of Orthodoxy is not the Triumph of the Orthodox over other people. It is the Triumph of Divine Truth in the hearts of those who belong to the Orthodox Church and who proclaim this Truth revealed by God in its integrity and directness.”

The triumph of divine truth. I could choose to focus on many different aspects of truth, but one I will focus on today is the universal nature of our faith. St. John Chrysostom once said, “There are two kinds of bishops (or we could say Christians). One who says, ‘My parish is my universe.’ While the other says, ‘The universe is my parish.’” Continue reading

On the Brink of Salvation

33866143862_a610ba3812_kFebruary 5/18, 2018
Sunday of Forgiveness
Beginning of Great Lent

Romans 13:11-14:4
Matthew 6:14-21

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, This sermon was not an easy one for me to write this week. This always happens to me as we approach the Doors of Repentance, Holy and Great Lent. I am filled with so many lofty ideas about what it would take to fix the world, but that isn’t the point, is it? Lent is an invitation to fix what’s inside of me, and I don’t know about you, but I would far rather be doing something else. But this morning’s Gospel insists that our hearts can be found wherever we find the things we most desire or treasure. And when those desires are fixed on worldly things and not on eternity, our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in God. Continue reading

What on Earth is the Orthodox Christian Church?

Inside Orthodox Church.jpg

When you read or hear the word “Orthodox”, you may think of the Jewish religion or of your local orthodontist. But Orthodox Christianity is completely different from these. As Christians, Orthodox believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and that he died on the cross and resurrected three days later.

Inside any Orthodox Church you can find many colorful icons (paintings of saints). Orthodox Christians venerate icons by kissing them showing respect and thankfulness for the saint. Veneration is often mistaken as idol worshiping because the icons are painted on material, but icons are not idols. They are windows to heaven instead of being substitutes for God.

Continue reading

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