The following is a pastoral email shared by the Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Tishel of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. I find it to be a prime example of the command from the Scriptures to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. It is republished here with permission.
Stay Within, Seek the Lord, Save Your Soul.
Spider webs can be used to stop bullets; they also can entrap a fly for dinner. The slogan: stay home, stay safe, save lives is a brilliantly effective slogan, but as a simplistic slogan, it can be misguided unless we unravel it and find its proper spiritual application. Unless we parse it a little: expose it to the UV Light of Christ, boil it to disinfect and analyze its DNA structure, we can’t be sure when it will protect and when it will entrap.
As a universal command STAY HOME does not work for everyone, of course. People who are sick or immuno-compromised should take this advise to heart. For this idea to be effective for everyone, we should see its application in the monastic sense as it is given to hermits: Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. This is a good idea while we are staying home more. Use the time to go within, pay attention to the inner person, our heart and mind, do more spiritual reading, especially read the Scriptures, repent as the Lord commanded and practice ascetic feats to accomplish this. Practice more interior prayer; spend more time with our families and care for our relations.
Homily October 2/15, 2017
Ss. Cyprian & Justina
II Corinthians 11:31-12:9
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is among us; He is and ever shall be. Beloved in the Lord,
In this morning’s Epistle and Gospel, we are given two very difficult questions to ponder. What should we do with unanswered prayer and how do we love even our enemies? St. Paul raises the first question in his second letter to the Corinthians when he insists that three times he asked the Lord to remove a thorn in his flesh and after only the third time did he receive his answer. What are we to make of this heavenly reluctance to respond? How many of us have had similar unanswered prayer and have felt almost like giving up asking? Continue reading
June19/July 2, 2017
St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Wonderworker
On this great feast day of America’s own saint, whose relics lie in the San Francisco Cathedral, I feel compelled again to bring the church into our home. I discover another divine service which is found online in both text and youtube, making it easy to pray along with the video. The Akathist Glory to God for All Things can be sung at any time for any reason, and I especially feel its message now as I plan departure from a city that has taken such good care of us these past several years. Wondrous is God in His Saints!
I 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
Street Chapel in Greece
I had a seminary professor who ridiculed the idea of a small private chapel. He reasoned that if Liturgy means “the work of the people”, would not a private chapel limit this work to mere self-service or just a small hand-picked elite? While I agree with the principle of opening divine services to as many as possible, I think he might be missing the purpose of these smaller chapels and by extension the small, local parish church.
In Russia, the small chapels which dot the roadside, stand guard at the cemeteries, and provide a wayside Inn of Salvation at the airports and train stations are called chasovnya which I presume is derived from the Russian chas for “hour”. They are placed everywhere for those who need to pray at odd hours and not just the scheduled times of morning Liturgies and evening vigils. Their presence invokes the universality of the faith, that prayer is not limited to certain times or important metropolitan centers, but extends to the farthest reaches of creation. Continue reading
Reader’s Stand on Crete
I had the distinct privilege and honor to chant the vigil tonight at my home parish, and as I was singing the hymns of preparation for the weekly celebration of the resurrection on Sunday, I was reminded of a post that has been brewing for a while in my heart. Our eccelsiarch (head chanter who arranges the service schedule) recently redid one of our key service books which was in sore need of repair. He painstakingly removed the well-loved pages of a prayer book published in 1988 and inserted them, one by one, into sheet protectors and a three ring binder that now consolidates two service books into one. Seeing the highly used pages reinvigorated with new life reminded me of a time long ago when my opinionated self learned a lesson about the true purpose of a prayer book… Continue reading
Charles Krupa / AP
My phone rang this morning at 6:00am. “Such a strange time for anyone to be calling. It could not possibly be a salesman.” Caller ID said, “City of Boston,” and when I answered it, the robo-call voice on the other end spoke of a city-wide advisory to stay indoors while police were in hot pursuit of a suspect who was roaming the streets, extremely armed and dangerous. Now, it is one thing to hear of such tales from browsing too many conspiracy theorists’ websites late into the night. It is another thing entirely to get an official alert from city hall bright and early on a Friday morning. I immediately vowed not to make the same prayer-less mistake that I made earlier in the week when given similarly perilous news. In the wee hours of the morning, before most of my family even thought about arising, I said an Akathist prayer to the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas of Russia and followed it up with the Akathist prayers to the Mother of God that I spoke about in an earlier post. Continue reading
I first heard of the tragedy that struck our fair city in the form of an email call for urgent prayer. And being the prayer warrior that I am… [ahem] well, no, you guessed it. Instead of instantly falling on my knees to almighty God and begging the protection and supplication of his saints and angels, I instead worried and hunted on the internet for information when information was least readily available.
I had been just four blocks away from the blast site with my three young children only several hours before the incident. We enjoyed a lovely morning of carousel and swan boat riding and were contemplating a trip into the spectator crowds around the marathon when a wiser notion [nudge from a guardian angel?] steered us underground on the metro and back towards home. Continue reading