Today, on the second Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, who lived in the fourteenth century. He is known for his defense of the Hesychasm of Athonite monks and the Orthodox understanding of prayer against the attacks of theologians who were influenced by Western scholasticism.
Most of us, living in the world as we do, know very little about the Hesychast controversy, the works of Saint Gregory, or about the practice of Hesychasm. This is not because Orthodox theology and praxis is somehow more complicated than other areas of human knowledge and experience. We are often very successful at learning highly complex subject-matters, mastering very sophisticated skills, and becoming experts in our area of work or study. Yet, when it comes to prayer, too many Christians spend very little time and effort to learn about it and to practice it. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that among the multitude of very accomplished experts on a variety of subjects that attend our churches, very few are experts in prayer. (more…)
What we have, we protect not, and, losing it, we weep.
A great deal has been written and said about the possible closing of Fort Ross on the Pacific Coast of California to the public, and about the cultural and historical significance of this southernmost Russian 19th-century settlement on the North American continent. Indeed, Fort Ross was and continues to be a symbol of the Russian presence on the West Coast of North America, and it played a key role in the history of the Russian exploration of Alaska and the Pacific coast of Oregon and northern California. But for an Orthodox Christian, the history of the Ross settlement is first of all tied to the history of the spreading of Orthodoxy in the United States, which for us has become a second home. (more…)
It is usually understood that when John the Baptists thundered “You, brood of vipers!” (Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7) he was speaking to Pharisees and Sadducees and that this was not a very nice thing to say. Indeed, Matthew makes it quite clear to whom John was speaking and that they—the Pharisees and Sadducees—were not good people (see Matt. 23:15, 23, 25, 27, 29). Yet, what we know about the Pharisees is that they were very pious, religious, seekers of God, attempting to fulfill all of the religious rules and customs (Roetzel 39), and that their belief system in many aspects was very close to that of later Christianity (Brown 80). Additionally, John said those words to the people who came to be “baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6). 
In this paper, I shall explore the possible meaning of the phrase “you brood of vipers” found in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke (3:7), where John is addressing the crowds. Are we “much perplexed by his words and ponder what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke1:29)? What did the author try to express and convey to the community by putting these words in the mouth of John the Baptist? Was this an insult, a warning, or praise? What would the intended reader of this passage learn from it? (more…)
We have come to the end of the first week of the holy salvific, and great Lent. We heard the prayerful canon of St. Andrew of Crete, in which we recalled people and events from the history of the Church, the history of humanity. But it is not for the sake of a history lesson that we gathered in church each evening. While hearing about the sinners of old who lived thousands of years ago in far-away places, we sorrowfully recognized our own sins. But it turns out that from the righteous ones we are truly separated by thousands of years and kilometers. (more…)
On the first Sunday of Great Lent we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a feast that was established in the year 842 to mark the final defeat of the Iconoclast heresy. In issuing a decree to celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Synod of Constantinople wished to specifically commit the restoration of holy icons and the triumph of Orthodox Christology to the collective memory of the Church. During the eleven centuries that have followed since that day, the feast has come to be celebrated as the triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies that have troubled the Church. Within the solemn proclamation of the Anathema which is heard on this day in every Orthodox cathedral, the Church in its fullness confirms the faith of the Fathers and rejects all heresies of the past and present. Yet the meaning of this feast is not in the rejection of false teaching from our midst, but in the true triumph of Orthodoxy in our hearts and lives. (more…)
Русский: Покаяние и исповедь
In order to understand what repentance is, one must first think about what sin is. Most often, people liken sin to breaking God’s law or transgressing against God’s commandment. Undoubtedly, such a characteristic of sin has its basis in the Old Testament. But just like all Old Testament things, this is only a shadow or a symbol of that which has received a deeper meaning in the New Testament. (more…)
Русский: Прощеное воскресенье
Matthew 6 (RSV):
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;
15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
* * *
Tomorrow we enter the holy days of Great Lent, and the Church calls us to ask forgiveness of one another with repentance and humility in our hearts. We will enter a holy place and time. In the time of the Law, God’s people travelled every year to the Holy City of Jerusalem and entered the Temple to offer a cleansing sacrifice. In the weeks leading up to Great Lent, we hear wondrous words chanted in church: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning” (Ps. 137). It is now time for us to remember the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Fatherland. It is now time for us to direct our path to the Holy City and to enter the Temple of the Spirit to offer a living sacrifice, the fruit of repentance. (more…)
Русский: Масленица—языческий праздник?
One often hears that Maslenitsa[i] is a pagan holiday and that it is not good for Christians to participate in such festivities. Is this so? There is not a simple answer to this question and many similar questions that meet at the intersection of Christianity and pre-Christian pagan culture and customs. The answer to this question is complex. That is to say, it consists of several parts.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Beloved in Christ brothers, sisters, and children,
Today we have been honored to be concelebrants and fellow communicants in the Divine Liturgy—the great Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This day is especially notable for us because today we celebrate our parish feast—the memory of the holy new martyrs and confessors of Russia. From the earliest times of the Church, Christians gathered on the days of the memory of martyrs for the breaking of bread—participation in the sacred Eucharist; and today, the Lord granted us this great gift. (more…)
Русский: Неделя мясопустная, о Страшнем суде
Português: O Domingo do Julgamento Final
Only one week is left before the beginning of Great Lent. For people who are far from the Church, Lent comes unexpectedly, that is to say, they do not expect it and do not prepare for it. For such people Lent ends just as unexpectedly, Church feasts unexpectedly pass by, and life itself unexpectedly comes to its natural end. And it so happens that people spent their whole lives trying to hide from God, running from Him, and not expecting to meet Him. (more…)
This paper is a development of the study on the Gospel of Luke started in the previous work titled “You brood of vipers!–Or What to Say to People Who Have Come to Be Baptized.”
In almost two thousand years of Christianity, we have learned to understand the Holy Christian Scriptures in our own particular way. We have learned to apply the Scriptures to our own time, our own situation, and to derive meaning particular to what we believe. In our prayers we may ask God to grant us “the humility of the Publican” from Christ’s parable (Luke18:9-14) and compel each other to “flee the proud speaking of the Pharisee” (Lenten Triodion 106). The very words “Pharisee” and “pharisaic” (“pharisaical”) can be used in a derogative way by some Christians to describe “hypocritical censorious self righteousness” (Brown 79, fn 19), apparently drawing on passages such as Matt. 23:15, 23, 25, 27, 29. But did the author of the Gospel of Luke and the early Christian community put the same meaning in those words? Did they understand them in the same way that we so often do? (more…)