We heard in the Gospel reading that the Father gave all judgment to Christ, and that this judgment is righteous. We also know from Scripture that it is merciful. Why is this? Why does judgment belong to Christ, and why is His judgment righteous and merciful? It is because He knows what it is like to be us. He lived among us; He became one of us. He didn’t just look down from a cloud, but came down and lived the human life. He looked into the eyes of the righteous and the sinners, He spent time with politicians and prostitutes, He observed the Pharisee and the Publican. He experienced poverty, hatred, betrayal, torture, and death. He walked in our shoes. He knows what it is like to be us. This is why He is the one to judge; and this is why His judgment is righteous and merciful. I think this gives hope to all of us.
On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of Saint John, the Abbot of Mount Sinai. For centuries, his work, The Ladder, has been a favorite Lenten reading for those who wish to ascend from earth to heaven, and many pastors urge their parishioners to learn from this treasure chest of ascetic wisdom.
Much can be said about the gems contained in the work of Saint John of the Ladder, but I have been thinking about the very image of the ladder. A ladder is not a wormhole; it is not a teleportation device. A ladder has steps, and one has to step on one before stepping on the next, climb on the lower level before continuing to a higher one. The image of a ladder reveals to us the gradual nature of ridding ourselves of passions and acquiring virtues.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Dear in Christ Fathers, brothers, sisters, and children,
Today we celebrate the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, the heavenly intercessors for our parish. Their memory is precious to us for many reasons—some personal, some that relate to the entire Russian Church.
Since ancient times, the Christian Church has been strengthened by examples of its martyrs’ unshakable faith. These examples, passed down through generations of Christians, have nurtured and strengthened the Holy Church. From the times of the Apostles, Christians have gathered around the holy relics of martyrs, celebrating their memory and looking up to their standing in faith despite torture and persecution as a source of strength and inspiration in their own spiritual lives. (more…)
Translated from Russian by Priest Michael van Opstall
Dear fathers, brothers, sisters, and children!
Today we celebrate the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. This day is notable for us for several reasons.
A quarter of a century ago, the foundation of our church was laid in the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and under their prayerful protection. Ivan Vladimirovich and Lyudmila Raymondovna Assur founded this church in the memory of Ivan’s father, the New Martyr Vladimir, who was killed for preaching Christ. Metropolitan Veniamin (Fedchenkov), the well-known churchman and writer blessed New Martyr Vladimir to preach. The history of this small parish in its picturesque setting is similar to the mountains which are visible to the northeast: there have been peaks and there have been valleys. The ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim Rose once prayed at Divine Liturgy in this solitary place, and later heavy trucks roared along Route 213, destroying the usual prayerful silence. The parish grew and became strong in the Truth. We need not recall all of the days of difficulties, but there was a schism in 2001, the deep wounds of which are not yet healed to this day. By the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, may the Lord strengthen us, and may the trials which are sent to us be for our spiritual growth. (more…)
1/14 August 2009
All-Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, WA
Those who are lucky enough to call this monastery their home parish, and those who came here from other cities and towns in order to partake of the sanctity of this holy place—I greet you with the Feast of the All-Merciful Saviour and His Most Holy Mother. (more…)
A talk given at the celebration in the Western American Diocese on 2 August 2003, Monterey, California
One of the organizers of the celebration of the glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov was a Russian patriot, General Vladimir Feodorovich von der Launitz, governor of Tambov in 1903. The General devoted his whole life to serving the Tsar and his Fatherland, and was eventually killed by a terrorist revolutionary while leaving a church. When he was asked how such a grand ecclesiastical celebration as the glorification of a saint can be organized, Vladimir Feodorovich crossed himself with a sweeping motion and responded, “Saint Seraphim will help!” These words of the Russian nobleman of an ancient boyar family were meant to express that which united over three hundred thousand people gathered from all corners of Russia in the Sarov monastery in July 1903: the hope with which the faithful turn to the God-pleasing saint for almost two centuries now, beseeching him for prayers and intercession before the Lord. (more…)
In today’s Gospel reading (Matt. 6:22-33), Christ urges us not to be anxious about our lives and bodies—what we shall eat, drink, or wear (25). But how can this be, if we must eat and drink, and clothe ourselves? Are we not earthly beings, who are bound by laws of biological existence? Do we not come from our forefather Adam, who is dust (Gen. 3:19), and as he was so we also are (1 Cor. 15:48)? This is true; we are descendants of Adam, and find ourselves in a fallen state. We sustain our lives by devouring the created world, we wrap out bodies in that which is corruptible, our soul draws its inspiration from the lusts and desires of our bodies, and our spirit feeds on the passions of the soul. This is the order of life that has become habitual to us, but it is not natural for us; God did not create us for such an existence. (more…)
Today, on the second Sunday after Pentecost, we continue to explore the meaning of sanctity in our lives through the examples provided to us by the Church. The Church guides us in the celebration of the memory of the saints who are the closest to us in culture, and often in time. The numerous holy princes and peasants, learned and simple, monastics and soldiers, hermits and martyrs, men, women, and children—they are our ancestors and neighbors, parents and children, past and present. Sanctity in the holy Church of Christ did not end in some long-ago century, but has always persevered, and is set as a standard for our own lives here and now. Sanctity did not stop with the Apostles, or the Fathers, or even the New Martyrs of Russia, but reveals itself in the lives of the saints here in North America, some of whom many present here can remember personally. And those who remember, for example, the life of Saint John of San Francisco, know that sanctity is not in spectacular fireworks or drumbeat from the sky, but in taking one’s cross and following Christ (Matt. 10:38). (more…)
Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Holy Church celebrates the memory of all saints. Just as Pentecost is not the pouring out of the Holy Spirit two millennia ago on the Apostles only, but on the whole Church—that is to say, on us—now as then; in the same way the Feast of All Saints is not a memorial or a tombstone on the graves of some ancients, but a call to sanctity for us here and now. And if anyone is dead to this call, if anyone is a stranger to sanctity and considers it to be for someone else, in some other place, and at some other time, he must ask himself whether or not he is in the Church, the living and holy Body of Christ, or whether he is a tree that does not bring forth good fruit (see Matt. 3:10). But what is sanctity? And what does it mean to partake of it? (more…)
Today we celebrate one of the twelve great feasts of the Church, the Ascension of our Lord. This feast, unlike immovable holidays, is directly related to Pascha and Pentecost. Ascension crowns the celebration of Pascha and prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
All this time, from Pascha to Pentecost, listening to the words of the Gospel and of church hymns, we as if again and again recall and relive the joy which encompassed the holy apostles. Forty days from Pascha to Ascension they rejoiced in communion with the risen Savior (Acts 1:3): He came to them (Luke 24:36), stayed with them, ate with them (Luke 24:43), taught them and explained scriptures to them (Luke 24:45). We also, keeping our paschal joy like the flame of a small candle, feel the Savior’s presence, commune with Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist, listen to the holy scriptures and teachings. (more…)
Русский: Исцеление слепорожденного
Christ is risen!
It is not for much longer that we will hear these marvelous words from the church ambo. The all-Church celebration of this great solemnity, this salvific work of God is coming to an end. Together with the angels in heaven, we sang the resurrection of Christ; together with Apostle Thomas, we called out, “My Lord and my God!” having met the Savior; together with the myrrh-bearers, we ran to the empty tomb, carrying our pain, our sadness, our sorrow and received the good news; like the paralytic, we were raised by Christ from the death of sin to pure life; and like the Samaritan woman who left her clay pot by the ancient well and ran to tell the people in the city about the coming of the Messiah, Christ urges us to leave the muddy waters of the worldly and the sinful and drink from the ever-flowing Divine source, leading us into eternal life. (more…)
Christ is risen!
Last week we heard the Gospel story about the healing font in Jerusalem, and about Christ, the Source of all healings, raising a paralyzed man. And, as if in unison with that man, we asked the Savior to raise our souls that are paralyzed by sins. On Wednesday we celebrated Mid-Pentecost, recalling the Savior’s teaching at a synagogue that He had come to heal the whole man (John 7:23) and to give him life; and also, remembering that Christ is the Source of life (John 7:37), we blessed the waters, asking God to give us His healing grace through the visible matter of water. Today, as if continuing to point to the salvific font, to the spring of pure water, the Holy Church offers us a Gospel reading about Christ which likens His coming to the water of life, which quenches all thirst and flows into eternal life. (more…)
Christ is risen!
Here we are, halfway between the Holy Resurrection of the Lord, the day of the salvation of the world, and Holy Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The holy Church, as if connecting both holidays with an invisible thread, tells us about the healing of the paralytic by Christ on the day of the Jewish Pentecost. In this story we hear about the paralysis of sin and lengthy, very lengthy awaiting of healing, about hopelessness and the coming of Christ, our hope, and finally we hear the commandment to lead a righteous life. (more…)
Русский: Неделя жен-мироносиц
Christ is risen!
Today the Church celebrates the memory of the holy myrrh-bearing women. The holy women were faithful disciples of Christ and always remained near the Lord in His earthly service. They listened to his preaching in Galilean synagogues, walked with Him to Jerusalem, were present at the resurrection of Lazarus, cried with the Mother of God at the foot of the Savior’s Cross and followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb. They spent the hours following the Crucifixion in pain and agony with what was left of the Lord’s disciples. Undoubtedly, their hearts burnt with the desire to run to the Lord, but they observed the Sabbath with other Jews “because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity” (John 19:31 NRSV). (more…)
Русский: Неделя Фомина
Christ is risen!
All of Bright Week we lived in the Paschal joy in the risen Savior; and our joy, just like that of the holy apostles, was mixed with confusion: not long ago we had remembered the death of Him Who is the Source of life, but now we rejoice, having been raised to life by Him Who had been in the tomb. Just like the holy disciples and apostles during the first days after the resurrection, we vividly remembered the passions of Christ during the reading of the 12 Gospels; the Lord’s death and the taking down of His Body from the Cross, which we symbolized by the bringing out of the shroud; the Savior’s burial, when we carried the shroud in a procession around the church; and the long hours awaiting the miracle on the Saturday of Great Stillness. (more…)
Our Great Lent has come to an end; tomorrow, we enter the Passion Week. Great Lent is our journey to God, and it ends at the gates of Jerusalem. Today, we greet the coming Lord with palm branches in our hands (John 12:13), sing to Him “Hosanna” (Matt. 21:9), carpet his path with our clothes—such a solemn and joyous occasion! It seems that if we become silent, then the very stones will shout out (Luke 19:40). But what a terrible solemnity this is!
Today, we remember the life, struggles, and victory of our Mother among the saints Mary of Egypt. And verily she is our Mother in the faith, as more people have been inspired by her well-known life than there were Corinthians in the days when Apostle Paul wrote his letter to them. Yet so very often we remain distant and strangers to the treasure of Saint Mary’s life experience. (more…)
Today we have reached the midpoint of Great Lent; we have travelled half of our path to the Holy Pascha of our Lord. Having come to the center of Lent, we piously venerate the life-giving Cross of Christ. In the synaxarion for today we read that since the Cross is the Tree of Life, and this tree was planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, in the same way the holy fathers placed the Tree of the Cross in the middle of Great Lent, reminding us of Adam’s fall. At the same time we are delivered from the fall through the tree, for partaking of it we no longer die, but inherit life. (more…)
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…)
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: 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…)
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…)
The Meeting / 2/15 February 2009–The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord and Sunday of the Prodigal Son
Today is an unusual day. On this day, two liturgical cycles come together, and we hear two marvelous Gospel readings about the Meeting of man and God. In a certain sense, this Meeting contains the meaning of religion. If we choose to derive the word “religion” from the Latin re-ligāre—“to re-tie,” then the break which began when Adam hid himself from God (Gen. 3:10), ended when the son “arose and came to his father.” And God, “while [the son] was yet at a distance, … saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). God Himself comes to us, embraces us in the state in which He finds us, restores in us the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10), and leads us home Himself. (more…)
Russian: Неделя мытаря и фарисея
Today, we begin the beautiful cycle of services from the Lenten Triodion. The word “triodion” means “three songs,” but really there are many odes in this book—all of them are offered for our spiritual benefit. The Holy Church is preparing us for Great Lent. Like any journey that is to be successful, the journey of Lent must be undertaken with proper resolve, commitment, and preparation. And this is why we do not just begin Lent one day, but take time to prepare for it; not merely waiting, but actively preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies for this journey to Pascha. (more…)
People like that say one thing, but something else is in their heart; on their tongue it is, “Lord, have mercy!” but inside, “Have me excused.”
St. Theophan the Recluse
In Christianity, we constantly use familial themes: we call each other “brother” and “sister,” we call upon God as “Father,” we get together and partake from one Cup, after each service we sit down for a meal at the common table, we are taught to care for each other as one would for family… but do we adhere to these teachings? Do we think of our Church as our home, of God as our Father and of each other as a brother or a sister? Quite the opposite often appears to be true. In this age of individualized consumerism, we often treat our Church as a spiritual “supermarket.” We properly recognize that the Church offers us treasures, but instead of communing we consume. (more…)
Russian: На начало Рождественского поста
Italiano: Sull’inizio del Digiuno della Natività
We have begun the joyous and holy Nativity Fast. The fast begins on November 28, or forty days before the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and ends on the feast itself or January 7, according to the secular calendar. Just as the Jews wandered in the wilderness for forty years before entering the Promised Land, the Holy Church leads us for forty days into the wilderness of the Fast before entering into God’s promise revealed on the Nativity. For the Jews, it was in order to shake off the bonds of slavery—physical, mental, and spiritual. An entire generation of people born and raised in Egyptian slavery was to die before those who no longer remembered being slaves and those who were born free were allowed to enter the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod. 3:8). And so it is with us: we must shake off the bonds of slavery to sins and passions—physical, mental, and spiritual. We must cease being slaves of sin and become friends of Christ by keeping His commandments (John 15:14). (more…)
Today, the holy Church celebrates the memory of its martyrs who lived a long time ago. But it is time for us to also remember those who have suffered for Christ very recently.
Only a few days after a religious extremist shot 13 people on an American Army base, another extremist shot and killed a priest at his church in Moscow. This was not the first priest who has been killed in Russia in recent years. In fact, in the last two decades, at least 26 Russian clergy have been killed and many others wounded in failed murder attempts. Of course, not all of these murders were motivated by religious beliefs; some were committed by criminals who did not believe in much of anything at all. Yet, many murderers claimed to have been acting in the name of Satan, Krishna, or Allah. The latest victim in a string of murders motivated by religion appears to have become Priest Daniil Sysoev, the rector of the Apostle Thomas church in Moscow. (more…)