Thursday, January 31, 2008

36th Thursday after Pentecost - James 1:19-27 - Are you religious?

When I was in college, and on the way to Orthodoxy, but still not even knowing that it existed, it was fashionable in my circle to deny that we were "religious". This was a four letter word to us - we arrogantly and ignorantly (I know now) stated that we were "Christian" and NOT "religious".

If we knew our bible as well as we thought we did, we would never say such a thing - or at least we would admit that although we were not "religious" because of our own weaknesses and sins, were were striving for pure religion.

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Are you religious? I am not - to state this unequivocally is to state that I love God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, and as a result of this, also loving my neighbor as myself .

It is interesting how we sometimes say things that are true, but with false understanding. After, lo, after these many years, I still state that I am not religious, but the reasons why I say it are so much different. Perhaps a little bit, in my life, I have been religious, and those times have been the best times for my soul. I can honestly say that I desire to have pure religion.

The key to this purity is not the first part what the brother of the Lord, James, tells us, but the second part.

From purity of heart flows all good works toward all men. Pure religion is the changing of the soul - from dark to light, from impure to pure, from ignorant concerning virtue to knowledge of all things holy. This knowledge is a gained by our learning the commandments of God and applying them to our lives. We do not become "unspotted from the world" by performing good works - we do good works because the love of Gods fills us, and purifies us.

Let us strive for "pure religion", or put another way, to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only".

PS. In college I was part of "Campus Crusade for Christ" for a while, until The Holy Spirit showed me that their way of life was not "all truth", as He promised he would lead us to. There were many admirable people in that group, but their faith was too shallow. They did not understand that pure religion means being part of the church - they did not understand where the church was and where it was not. There were many good souls . May God save them.

Epistle Reading for today:

James 1:19-27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

With God all things are possible

Both the epistle and gospel readings for today talk about what we must do, about the moral life of a Christian. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." "Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother." At the same time, both readings touch on our inability to obey the commandments fully. Did the young man observe all of the commandments? In the literal sense, perhaps - but probably not in their perfected sense, as interpreted by Christ in the sermon on the mount. For example, Christ explains that it does not suffice simply not to kill - rather, one must refrain even from anger without cause. (Matthew Chapter 5) But we are comforted: "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible." We are enjoined to "lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Sin encompasses us, death and corruption reign in our members, but through Christ's incarnation, sacrifice, death and resurrection they are defeated, and it is up to us simply to "receive with meekness" that which has been given us. We cannot save ourselves - we are too weak, too far removed from God. We cannot do good in our corrupted state. As the prophet Jeremiah says, (I paraphrase), just as a leopard cannot change his spots, so we cannot do good, being habitually sinful. But God's Word is able to save us by changing us, by uniting us to Himself and abiding with us. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." We need only desire to change, and make an effort to lay aside the "filthiness" of our old self and be conformed to the image of Christ. The power to do so will come from Him.


James Chapter 1:

"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."

Mark Chapter 10:

"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

17th Saturday after Pentecost - Matthew 25:1-13 - Parable Of The Ten Virgins


The Parable of the Ten Virgins is also appointed for Holy Equal to the Apostles Nina, Enlightener of Georgia. She is remembered Jan 14/27. This day fell on a Sunday in 2008.

Matthew 25:1-13 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. {2} And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: {4} But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. {6} And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. {7} Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. {8} And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. {9} But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. {10} And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. {11} Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. {12} But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. {13} Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

35th Friday after Pentecost - Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 - Which country are we mindful of?

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

This is saying that we can always go back to sinful ways, if we retain any attachment to them. What countries are we still "mindful" of?

The Apostle speaks delicately when he states "they might have had opportunity to have returned". The truth is, if we retain attachment to earthly things, we will always be "returning" in some way to these things, as a dog returns to its own vomit.

Who knows how far we will go? Do we? Could it not be possible that with repetition in the indulgence of our passions, we will embark upon an actual trip back to this "country" and do not come back? ABSOLUTELY! In this context, returning to the "country" that we should have left completely means our perdition. In the meanwhile, as our lives hang in the balance, we "play with fire", and are “double minded” and therefore unstable in all our ways. How many times can we indulge ourselves without becoming completely lost? How much should we gamble concerning this?

Human nature quickly tunes out warnings. Punishments, or threats of danger do little to dissuade us for very long. There is a principle in action here: A PERSON WILL DO WHAT HE WANTS TO DO. Look at your life and see if this is true. Why do you pray very little? Is is not because you are "mindful of another country" - something you value above prayer, such as leisure, or entertainments, or any of a million other things that we do instead of prayer? Our habits, deeply ingrained because of our indulgence in them, are very difficult to uproot, and will certainly not be uprooted by being reminded of punishments. We must change what we want if we are to become holy.

We see the true motivator to righteousness in this selection: to desire a “BETTER COUNTRY, THAT IS AN HEAVENLY.” We must daily, hourly, minute by minute,cultivate deep desire to become heavenly, holy - because only those with a clean wedding garment will dine in the Master's city.

How do we keep this blessed hope within us?

It is hard work. We remember that which we repeat. We repeat that which we value.

We must meditate upon the scriptures with great desire and longing. This must be a daily occurrence. How can we do that which we do not know? We must be people of the scriptures. When we hear the beginning of a phrase, our heart should feel the warmth of holiness as our mind completes it. Do you know the scriptures this well? I am not talking about rote memorization here. We remember that which is important to us. If holiness is important, then we will remember things regarding holiness, and feel pleasure when these things are brought to our recollection

My hope is that these small homilies that I write or speak will spark a desire in you to delve deeply in the scriptures. Be like a miner, with a pick and pail, looking for golden nuggets, and hold unto these as a precious treasure. The only way to maintain the truths taught in scripture is to live according to them, so in order to "maintain our face towards Jerusalem" we must cultivate the virtues.

What is it that you need to do today? I do not speak of your itinerary - do this, do that, go here, then go there. Your task today is to live like a Christian, and you cannot do this without thinking like one! Let us take as our example Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, and all the rest who cultivated their love for God by their actions and maintained their steadfast belief that there was something better for them - a heavenly city.

Partial Scriptural bibliography: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 ; 2 Pet 2:22 ; Luke 9:51 ; James 1:8 ; Luke 15:11-32

Epistle for this day: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Purpose of Our Life

It is easy to forget in the midst of our day-to-day responsibilities that the purpose of our life is not less than union with God. This is what we were created for. Not in the sense of losing our own personalities or being absorbed into the essence of God - God in his essence is beyond our reach, beyond our comprehension. Rather, we are called to union with God's energies, to participation in that same Uncreated Light that illumined Christ on Mount Tabor, Moses on Sinai, and St. Seraphim in his conversation with Motovilov. We feeble and corruptible ones are called to know and abide with the source of all strength, love, and life.

How is this possible for us weak ones, living as we are in the midst of the world? I just read a chapter by the Elder Cleopa of Romania,* in which he lists four practical, straightforward ways that the Holy Church has given us for attaining union with God:
1. Most importantly, Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Holy Mystery, the spiritual reality of Communion with Christ is clothed in a material form to make it more accessible and comprehensible to us. Glory to God for His Condescension!
2. Prayer - and in particular the prayer of Jesus.
3. Fulfilling the commandments and acquiring the virtues.
4. Reading and hearing the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God.

How straightforward this is! The Church gives us everything that we need. The Holy Mystery of Communion is available to us every Sunday. The prayers of the saints teach us how to pray - we only need to read them, understanding more with the passage of time. The Holy Mystery of Confession helps us in our struggle to fulfill the commandments and acquire the virtues. The Holy Scriptures are readily available, and the Church even gives us a list of readings for each day. Moreover, the Church Services give us everything at once: the Holy Mysteries, prayer, instruction in virtue, and abundant exposure to the Word of God! Glory to God for making it so easy to progress along the path toward such a lofty goal! To ascend the mountain, we need only keep walking, one step at a time.

*The Truth of our Faith, Vol II: On the Christian Mysteries

35th Thursday - "For ye have need of patience"


This is a homily, first to myself, spoken concerning the following scripture, which is appointed for the 35th Thursday after Pentecost:

Hebrews 10:35-11:7 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

May God help us to live in a way worthy of this Holy Scripture! May we always remember and live as "them that believe to the saving of the soul!".

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MENAION Jan 10/23 St Theophan the Recluse

Today we celebrate St Theophan the Recluse.

His was a unique ministry - a "recluse" who communicated with hundreds of people regularly via letters. We are fortunate to have many of his letters, evidently saved by his correspondents. In addition, this "modern" Saint wrote many excellent books, all of which were steeped in the wisdom of the Fathers, expressed in way easy to understand by the modern man. For many parts of his life, St Theophan saw almost no human faces, but he shows an incredible insight into human nature and the troubles of modern life. It is well worth it to pick up ANY book written by him and read it.

Here are a few pithy quotes, in no particular order.

Human life is complex and multi-faceted. It has physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Each aspect has its powers, needs and modes, and the exercise and satisfaction of them. Only when all of our powers are in motion does a man live. But when only a small portion of his powers is in motion, and only a small number of his needs are satisfied, this life is not life. (The Spiritual Life and how to be attuned to it, p 38)

It is necessary for us to live as God created us, and when someone does not live this way, I may confidently state that he does not live at all. (Ibid, p 39)

God grant that such a feeling - rejecting worldly life and amusements - always be with you. But is is also possible to fall in love with such things. It is obvious that you should not come into contact with such a life. The second time around, it will not seem so destructive and disturbing; the third time, even less so, and then it will not seem bad at all. As they say about vodka, with the first glass you are just breaking the bonds, with the second glass you soar like an eagle, and after that you just pour. (Ibid, p 37)

Everywhere and always God is with us, near to us and in us. But we are not always with Him, since we do not remember Him; and because we do not remember Him we allow ourselves many things which we would not permit if we did remember. Take upon yourself this task -- to make a habit of such recollection. Make yourself a rule always to be with the Lord, keeping your mind in your heart, and do not let your thoughts wander; as often as they stray, turn them back again and keep them at home in the closet of your heart, and delight in converse with the Lord.

He who refuses to give into passions does the same as he who refuses to bow down and worship idols

It is well known how powerfully corrupt images act upon the soul, no matter in what form they may touch it! How unfortunate is the child who, closing his eyes, or being left alone and going within himself, is stifled by a multitude of improper images -- vain, tempting, breathing of the passions. This is the same thing for the soul as smoke is for the head.

Recommended books

The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual

The Spiritual Life and how to be attuned to it.

Unseen warfare.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Audio talk on: Prayers of the church, the TRISAGION


Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday after Theophany - The Meaning Of The Winter Pascha; Our Nature Is Changed, We Are No Longer Captives

Sunday after Theophany - The Meaning Of The Winter Pascha; Our Nature Is Changed, We Are No Longer Captives


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Friday, January 18, 2008

The week in review - 2008 Jan 5-12, church calendar // Jan 18-25, Civil Calendar

The week in review - 2008 Jan 5-12, church calendar // Jan 18-25, Civil Calendar

Dear Brothers and sisters:

This week was the last part of the "twelve days of Christmas", with The Eve of Theophany on Friday, Jan 5/18, and Theophany the next day, on Saturday. I hope you enjoyed the fast free period. As I have told you before, we have a unique opportunity as Orthodox Christians who follow the fasts. When a period is fast free, we certainly notice it, and even our "not fasting" will remind us of God. Those in the world who do not fast have no reason to particularly notice how delicious certain foods are.

What Happened? A short review of last week.

Monday, Jan 1/14 was the Feast of the Circumcision and St Basil the Great. This was the namesday of Vasyl Hurt and Vasily Newell.

Tuesday, Jan 2/15 we held Vespers and discussed afterwards the Troparion and Kontakion for the feast of Theophany and its prefestival. The session is worth a listen and can be found at On this page, you may listen to and subscribe to the latest catechetical talks at St Nicholas. All catechetical talks are available at This day was also the date of the commemoration of St Seraphim of Sarov, my patron. I was also able to visit five men in prison; I am visiting them twice a month. I have baptised two: Demetrius and John, and two others, Robert and Williiam, will become catechumens soon.

Wednesday Jan 3/16 we had Divine Liturgy, at its regular time of 9 AM (see the front page for our Wednesday liturgy schedule, this one, being the 3rd Wednesday of the month, is always at 9AM and led by Jelena. Most of the hymns were in Slavonic, with very beautiful Serbian melodies. I consider Serbian melodies to be in between Greek and Russian (sounding somewhat like each), and our parish is fortunate to have such variety in our sacred music. I am also pleased to announce that we have had EXPONENTIAL GROWTH in our weekday liturgy attendence, which has DOUBLED in 1 week (from 2 to 4!). Perhaps we will have eight at the next liturgy?

Thursday Jan 4/17 was the namesday of Genevieve Park (Genevieve of Paris)

Friday, Jan 5/18 was the Eve of Theophany, and at 7 AM we celebrated the Hours, Typika, Vespral Divine Liturgy of Basil the Great, and first Great Blessing of the Waters. I would dearly love to talk to you all sometime about the OT and NT readings - all about water in some fashion.

What's Happening?

Saturday, Jan 6/19 is THEOPHANY. Divine Liturgy at 10AM, followed by the Great Blessing of the Waters.

Sunday, Jan 7/20 is the Sunday after Theophan, and the Synaxis of The Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. A past audio homily for this day can be found at

Tuesday Jan 8/21 we will have Vespers at 6:30 PM, followed by another talk about some aspect of the church's prayer. I keep making up each weeks teaching the week before, and would like to get a schedule out, to have at least a little organization. We will be talking about the church's prayer for a while yet, and I am open to topics. If you have something you want me to talk about, please let me know.

Wednesday, Jan 9/22 we will have Divine Liturgy at 9 AM. Riassa will be the main reader.

Theophany resources, including a sermon by St John Maximovitch and St John Chrysostom are at

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MENAION: Jan 3/16 St Genevieve of Paris

Jan 3/16 Holy Nun Genevieve of Paris

From thy birth thou didst long for /
Christ as thy bride, /
and in youth’s full flower /
thou wast granted thy heart’s desire. /
Thou wast a steadfast defender /
of condemned malefactors, /
and protectress of Paris, O Mother Genevieve.
(Megalynarian, according to Greek usage, written by Priest Seraphim, long ago, for his daughter Genevieve)


We do not know of a source for St Geneevieve's troparion and kontakion in English, but here it is in French!

Tropaire, ton 1.
Tes larmes abondantes ont arrosé et fécondé le désert des cœurs stériles, tes prières et tes soupirs ont produit du fruit au centuple. Prie pour ta cité, ô sainte Geneviève, et pour ceux qui vénèrent avec amour ta sainte mémoire

Kontakion, ton 2.
Pour l'amour du Seigneur, ô sainte Geneviève, tu as pris en haine le désir de repos, ayant éclairé ton esprit par le jeûne, car tu as vaincu les bêtes avec force. Mais par tes prières tu as écrasé l'agitation des ennemis.



In France 500 years after Christ's birth, there lived a shepherd girl with a blooming faith in her heart, the very same faith which budded in the hearts of the Judean shepherds who followed the star to the Lord's manger- bed.

Born into a wealthy family, the young Genevieve watched her family's flock as a matter of custom rather than need. Their home was in 'the lovely hill-country of Nanterre outside Paris. And in it Genevieve's soul was nourished with the Gospel message, the icons which illumined it, and the example of her parents' peaceful and pious lives.

One day the holy Bishop Germanus came to Nanterre and the people flocked to him as to a living iconof Christ. As he blessed the crowd, his eye fell upon the child Genevieve; his heart recognized the flame of love for God in her and he knew God intended to crown it with Divine Grace and unshakable faith. He called her to him, kissed her head, and told her parents that many would come to Christ because of her. Then he asked her, quite seriously, if she wished to dedicate her whole life to Christ, as a bride. And just as seriously little Genevieve replied that he had spoken exactly the desire of her heart. They entered the church for Vespers together and the Bishop rested his hand on her head until the end of the service.

The next morning the holy Bishop presented her with a medallion engraved with a cross and asked her never to wear another ornament but the Ornament of God's Grace through the Holy Spirit. With that, he gave his blessing to the townspeople and left Nanterre.At fifteen Genevieve was consecrated to the monastic life. When her parents died she went to live in a monastic community in Paris. The Evil One wasted no time in stirring up words against her, but the kindly Bishop Germanus treated her warmly in the sight of all and spoiled the Devil's plan to be rid of her quickly.

For the rest of her life the people of Paris wavered in their loyalty to her. One month they brought their sick to her for prayers and glorified God when their loved ones recovered. The next month the Wicked One sowed little seeds of evil in their ears and thoughts and they wanted to stone her. To his dying day her friend the Bishop stuck by her and even from his deathbed sent a message where- by she found favor with the people once again. As a reward for their repentance and because of Genevieve's heartfelt prayers and fastings with her sisters, God turned away an invading army and spared the city of Paris.

In her later life the Saint showed great compassion and steadfastness as Bishop Germanus had foretold. Once a pagan king, de siring to kill some prisoners, tried to do it before Genevieve could hear about it. He knew that if she begged for their lives he could not resist her pleas. But God told her about it and she rushed to the execution just in time to have the prisoners spared. People saw from this example that the prayers of this Saint must be very powerful before the king of Mercies is even a pagan king could not resist them.

One night in a violent rainstorm, the only lantern of Genevieve and her sisters blew out in the pitch dark of the muddy woods. Our Saint signed the lamp with the Cross of the Lord and a bright flame crowned the candle lighting their way to early morning Liturgy.
St. Genevieve reposed at a great age and her relics rest in the Church of St. Stephen in Paris, France.

Original Life in Orthodox Life, Dec. 1971; adapted for children by Agafeya Prince

Thoughts on today's readings

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one
teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God;
and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For
every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness:
for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full
age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to
discern both good and evil."

Why do we have such difficulty understanding the scriptures and the
writings of the fathers? Perhaps because we do not "by reason of use
have [our] senses exercised...." In other words, we do not struggle
hard enought to fulfill the scripture in our lives, and therefore our
heart is not purified so as to understand what they say... There is a
story in the life of one of the Optina elders, in which a visiting
bishop asked him why it was so difficult to remember the words of St.
John of the Ladder on the virtues, even after reading them many times.
The elder responded that these words would only be retained in the
memory if they were put into practice.
Reader Nicholas Park
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas TX

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jan 2/15 St Seraphim of Sarov
Today is the my namesday. St Seraphim is a lot to live up to. When I was baptised, a friend told me that I had one year to pray in the air and glow in the dark (both these things are described in the Saints conversation with Motovilov) Still waiting!
I thought it a good idea to examine a couple of the Saints famous sayings. We could discuss a hundred, but I will keep it to two to make this post "digestable". Let's see what we can learn from them.

"My Joy", "Your godliness"
Saint Seraphim treated EVERYONE equally, and called everybody "My joy", or "Your godliness". What an amazing point of view! He did not struggle to see the image of God in people as we do. Let's admit it, when we see things that are contradictory to Christianity (or appear to be so) in people, we judge and the encounter with the person is unpleasant to us. He was not unaware of their sins; Saint Seraphim was clairivoyant, and yet the Saint did not struggle to see this image; because of his purity, he saw everyone AS CHRIST, and filled with love, called them "My joy".

"Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ said: He who gathers not with Me scatters (Luke 11:23). (A Wonderful Revelation to the World, St Seraphim's conversation with Motovilov)

It would be a salvific for us if everything we did was first prefaced by questioning thoughts influenced by the Saint's words. Everything we do should have ONE purpose, which the saint outlines it clearly above. It is always easier to do something, and to endure when troubles begin, if one has a purpose. Sin is first conceived in the mind. There is a precious, small amount of time when our mind is considering a thought that we have an opportunity to accept it or reject it. Because of our weakness, after a certain point in the consideration of a sinful or unprofitable thought without outright rejection of it as sinful, we will be powerfully attracted to it, and unable to stop ourselves. It is during this precious time that we must bring all possible weapons to bear against our attraction to the sinful thought. Since thoughts are complex and the devil is wily, we cannot attempt to apply too much intellect to this struggle - we are over matched here. Simple thoughts must be our shield and sword against the darts of the Evil One. Based on the words of the Saint, we could use such simple thoughts as "will this thing help me acquire the Spirit of God, or will it hinder me", or "Am I gathering or scattering".

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

A Prayer to St Seraphim

O great Saint of God, our venerable and God-bearing Father, Seraphim!
Look down from the glory that is above, upon us who are humble and weak,
burdened with our many sins, and ask thy help and consolation.
Bend down to us in thy loving kindness,
and help us to carry out God's commandments without stain,
firmly to keep the Orthodox Faith, to approach God in heartfelt contrition for all our sins,
to make progress in Christian devotion and to be worthy of thy prayers before God.
Yea, O Saint of God, hearken unto us,
who pray to thee in faith and love,
and despise us not who seek thee as our defender:
now, and at the hour of our departure,
help us and defend us by thy prayers from the wicked assaults of the devil,
lest evil powers should have dominion over us;
but let us be granted, by thy help,
to inherit the bliss of heavenly mansions.
For we place our hope in thee,
O kind-hearted father:
be thou indeed our guide to salvation,
and bring us to the unwaning light of eternal life,
by thy good intercession before the throne of the Most Holy Trinity,
so that we may glorify and hymn with all the Saints,
the name worthy of adoration,
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
for ages of ages. Amen.

From an Akathist. "Polny Sbornik Molitv", pp. 202-203.


To know someone you must become like them - said another way

Here is something I read today that hits smack dab on a theme I talk to my parish about as often as possible:

"To try to discover the meaning of the commandments through study and reading without actually living in accordance with them is like mistaking the shadow of something for its reality. It is only by participating in the truth that you can share in the meaning of truth."

St. Gregory of Sinai.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thoughts on the Holy Scriptures, 33rd week after Pentecost

Ephesians 1:16-23 I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

How should we pray for someone? St Paul gives a good example here. He prays:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...”

St Paul understood that the Christian life is about knowledge. The “spirit of wisdom” encompasses knowledge about the true nature of things, of which he mentions non exclusively three: knowledge of Jesus Christ, knowledge about our calling and about our inheritance.

What kind of life would we lead if we fully knew the revelation of Christ, and, as a natural result of this, a full understanding of our calling? Since in order to know someone, we must become like him, and participate in his life by action, to have full revelation “of the knowledge of Him” is to completely cast off sin, and become holy and good, a secure possessor of the peace which Christ offers to us.

We need not pray that “So and So” “stop this”, or “start that”, because the fulfillment of the simple prayer that they will have the “spirit of wisdom...” encompasses all changes in their life necessary for their happiness.

The only prayer actual necessary for anyone, is “Lord have mercy”, but we must know what we are praying for. To ask God for mercy is to ask for help in all things, so that we may have given unto us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of (our) understanding being enlightened; that (we) may know what is the hope of his calling”

The reading and understanding of the scriptures is so very important if we are to have powerful prayer. While it is easier to concentrate when we only say “Lord have mercy”, or some derivative, like the Jesus prayer, within our soul must be the understanding of what this prayer means – what we are asking for. St Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is one example of what we should be praying for when we pray for others (and ourselves).

Our Father, we beg mercy from Thee, and that through Thy son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we unworthy ones may be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of thy Son, and that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of our calling and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And remind us forgetful ones of the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Amen.

Daily readings and reflections, available at http://www/

Friday, January 11, 2008

To feel good, you must do good.

I know so many of you have heard this from me a million times: "To feel good you must do good" I will never tire of saying it, because it is true, and to understand this is a key to happiness and a fruitful life. Just maybe, some of you tire of hearing the same thing so many times, so I present to you today, the SAME THING said DIFFERENTLY:

"What means, 'that they be careful to maintain good works?' That they wait not for those who are in want to come to them, but that they seek out those who need their assistance. Thus the considerate man shows his concern, and with great zeal will he perform this duty. For in doing good actions, it is not those who receive the kindness that are benefited, so much as those who do it that make gain and profit, for it gives them confidence towards God."

St. John Chrysostom.
The week in review - 2007/2008 Dec 22 - Dec 29, church calendar // Jan 4-11, Civil Calendar
Dear Brothers and sisters:
This week we celebrated the Nativity of our Savior. We are not fasting until the day before Theophany, which occurs on Sat, this year (Jan 19 according to the "wall calendar", Jan 5 according to the "church calendar". Therefore, eat all the pizza, sausage and steak that is reasonable for you on all days until Nativity, until Friday, Jan 18 (wall calendar date), when we fast from all animal products and fish, but may have oil and wine. Please realize, that the canons INSIST that you have meat and/or cheese on the following dates: Wed, Jan 9/Dec 27, Fri Jan 11/Dec 29, Wed Jan 3/16. I admonish you to be obedient to the canons in this regard! :)

Theophany is fast approaching. I must confess that I have NEVER blessed ALL the houses of my parish after Theophany when I was working full time. I intend to visit ALL of your homes this year! You must help me to accomplish this. I need to bless as many homes as possible during the day on the week following Theophany, and as many homes as possible in the evenings that I do not visit during the day. If you can be home during the day, PLEASE contact me.
The days I hope to be very busy blessing houses are:
Day Civil Date Church Date Comment
SAT 01/19 01/06 THEOPHANY. Time for a few house blessings, from noon till 3 PM
SUN 01/20 01/07 Sunday after Theophany. Blessing from 1 PM till about 6PM.
MON 01/21 01/08 From Noon till whenever
WED 01/23 01/09 After Liturgy, from Noon to whenever
THU 01/24 01/10 All day
FRI 01/25 01/11
During the day, until 2 PM
SAT 01/26 01/12 All day, until 2 PM
SUN 01/27 01/13 After Liturgy, from Noon to whenever
I think we will need more time then this, but I want to show you this schedule so you can make your plans.
What Happened? A short review of last week.
Monday, Dec 25/Jan 7 we celebrated the Nativity of the Savior. The homily for this day is available at: On this page, you may listen to and subscribe to the latest homilies at St Nicholas
Tuesday, we held Vespers for "the feast of Stephen", and discussed afterwards the Nativity Troparion and Kontakion. This talk is available at: On this page, you may listen to and subscribe to the latest catechetical talks at St Nicholas.
Wednesday Morning, at the bracing hour of 6 AM, we held our first Wednesday weekly liturgy. All those in our parish family were commemorated by name at the Fervent Ectenia. Since Nicholas and Priest Seraphim were there, God was with us, since "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mat 18:20) This is our earliest Wed liturgy, and it has distinct advantages for some of you: 1. you can get to work at the usual hour 2. the traffic on the way to church is really light! 3. You will not feel crowded!
What's Happening?
This week, we are still in the midst of the Nativity period, and not fasting until Friday Jan 5/16 (when we can have wine and oil)
Sunday, Dec 31 / Jan 13 is the Sunday after Nativity; we commemorate "Holy Joseph the Betrothed, David the King, and James the Brother of the Lord." This is David Ash's namesday.
Past homilies for this day may be found at
Tuesday Jan 2/Jan 15 we will have Vespers at 6:30 PM, followed by another talk about some aspect of the church's prayer. I will always hear confessions this evening for those who wish to commune during the Wed Divine liturgy and feel the need to confess. My general rule, by the way, is, if you confessed the previous weekend, or recently according to our understanding with each other, you may use your discretion regarding confession.
Wednesday, Jan 3/Jan 16 (NO FASTING) we will have Divine Liturgy at 9 AM. Since Jelena will be the main reader, we will likely hear some Serbian melodies, which I am definitely looking forward to. The sung parts of the liturgy will be primarily in Slavonic.
Friday, Jan 5/Jan 18 is the EVE OF THEOPHANY. We begin fasting again on this day, but may have oil and wine. There are many services:
Friday morning 7 AM - Royal Hours, Typika, Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great, First Blessing of the Waters.
Friday evening 6:30 PM - Vigil for the Theophany.
Saturday, Jan 6/19 is THEOPHANY. We will have Divine liturgy, at the same time as on Sundays.
Saturday 9:40 AM Hours
Saturday 10:00 Divine Liturgy, followed by the Great blessing of the waters
After liturgy, I want to begin house blessings, timed so I can get back to church by 4 PM
Saturday 4:00 Confessions
Saturday 5:00 Vigil
Sunday Jan 7/20
Services as usual. House blessings right after liturgy.
I have been invited to serve the liturgy on Monday, Jan 21 for the patronal feast of St Maximus (the parish in Denton). This is according to the calendar they use - the New calendar. I plan to also attend the vigil, which is at 7:30, so I need to be done with house blessing by about 6:00 PM.
Why do we bless houses?
This world, this creation, is in captivity; it is enemy held territory. The evil one, having enslaved all of creation at the fall, has laid claim to every nook and cranny of this earth. And for a while it looked as though he might be able to hold onto it. But then he reached too far and attempted to enslave the Master of All and to bind Life with the chains of death and his power was broken. But creation is still fallen, it is still contested land in the spiritual battle.

We, as Christians, are engaged in this struggle to reclaim fallen nature for the Kingdom of God. We often talk about this in terms of our own salvation, but the Church, addressing all of creation in a wholistic manner, also reaches out and reclaims a bit here and a bit there of creation in general. We do this in order that we might restore the usefulness of creation for working out our own salvation. Hence we bless anything that might help us in our salvation - and by blessing it we reclaim it for the Kingdom of God.

There are few things more vital to our lives than our homes. In our homes we pray, we work, we talk to others, we order our lives, we work out our marriages, etc. What more important place to reclaim for the Kingdom of God - or is it better to continue living in a place which is occupied by the enemy. For the most effective working out of our salvation, we must drive the enemy out of our homes, and keep him at bay by our prayers, our righteous life, and the annual sprinkling by Holy Water at Theophany.

(From a Post to the Orthodox mailing list, dated April 30, 1996 by Priest David Moser, St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church, 872 N 29th St, Boise ID
Used with permission )
Available at

It is a long-standing tradition in Holy Orthodoxy that the homes of all the faithful be blessed yearly, after the blessed feast of Theophany. The power of water to sanctify and transform is amply demonstrated in baptism, and we believe that God chooses to bless us through holy objects and actions, such as the relics of those who have pleased God, holy icons, oil and water. The priest usually prays a short service of supplication and then blesses all living areas of the house with "Jordan water", while singing the troparion for Theophany. In this way, the home of a Christian is "marked" and sanctified. "Jordan water" is the blessed water from the Great Blessing of the Waters, performed right after the Divine liturgy on the feast of Theophany.

When the priest arrives, the home should be very clean, and picked up. The doors to all rooms except the bathrooms should be open. It is good to have a small table set up, with a cloth on it, and a candle. If the family has an icon of the Theophany, it can be placed there, along with any other icons that are well loved in the family. The best place to put this table is before the family's icon corner. A censer may be burning. The priest will start a short service, in which the principle action is to walk throughout the house and bless every room with the Holy Water. The family should accompany the priest, who follows the eldest of the family (or in our variation, one of the children), who holds a candle and walks throughout the house. Everyone should be singing the Troparion for Theophany during this blessing.

Theophany resources, including a sermon by St John Maximovitch and St John Chrysostom are at

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Redeeming the Time

St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas TX

Rector: Priest Seraphim Holland 972-529-2754 cell:972 658-5433

St Nicholas Web Site:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephes.5:16)

January 2008

A Word from the rector

Brothers and sisters:

Please note that we are beginning our weekly Wednesday liturgies this month. The first one is Jan 9, 2 days after Nativity. I believe firmly that the most important work of our parish will be these liturgies, in which we will pray by name for all parish members and people present at the liturgy. We have many needs, and preeminent among them is to be people of prayer. These liturgies will be beneficial to those who attend and those who do not. I am prepared for the "long haul" here. There may be some liturgies where only myself and the volunteer reader for that day attend, but we will press on. Over time, if we are Christian, we must believe that our actions will bear good fruit.

The liturgies are at various times, to allow as many people as possible to attend at least one during the month. Please see the schedule below, and in the calendar, which is part of each month's printed REDEEMING THE TIME (RTT), and also online (you can reach it from a link on our BLOG).

Every building project has its setbacks, and we recently found out that the city will require us to do steel framing. This will raise the cost of the building. We will probably apply for a $200,000 loan, and this will stretch or resources to the limit (and some might even say: beyond our limits!). Our income has decreased significantly since I stopped working full time. I know this is the right thing to do; I can tell by how busy I have been! I want you to be aware that we are not financially stable right now, and things will need to change. I think the greatest change will come because of our commitment to prayer both at home and together in church; I believe that hearts will be changed, both in our parish family, and in friends of the parish and readers of our web page or BLOG. We all desire an outpouring of God's grace for our lives and our parish family, and an aspect of that outpouring will be an increase of our income. I ask each one of you to carefully consider if you should increase your regular giving to the parish.

In addition, I am asking all of you to consider five friends that you know, who you would be willing to ask for an extraordinary donation for our building fund. We are in serious need at this time. Our appeal letter is available at or It is in English and Russian. I am asking each one of you to print the letter, and send it, with a short cover letter, or better yet, give it to any friend you think might be willing to help us.

Name Days this month

  • Dec 30th: Daniel Holland
  • Jan 3rd: Jill (Juliana) Derkatch
  • Jan 8th: Mary Smith
  • Jan 13th: David Ash
  • Jan 14th: Vasily Newell, Vasyl Hurt
  • Jan 15th: Fr. Seraphim
  • Jan 16th: Genevieve Park

The Wisdom of the Fathers

St. Ignaty Brianchianinov: "All the holy ascetic writers of the recent centuries of Christianity affirm that, with the general diminution of divinely-inspired directors, the study of the Sacred Scriptures, primarily the New Testament, and the writings of the Fathers, and careful and steadfast direction according to them is the only path to spiritual success. The second moral rule proposed by St. Nilus consists of frequent — it possible, daily confession. Those trained according to these two moral rules can be compared to people who have vision and life, while those deprived of this training are blind and dead. These two rules, being introduced in any place whatsoever, can significantly change for the better both the moral and spiritual direction — this is shown by experience — without any change in external conditions. I consider it my sacred duty to pass on the wise advice which I heard from experienced elders worthy of respect. They told both laymen and monks sincerely seeking salvation: ‘In our times, in which temptations have so multiplied, you should especially be attentive to yourself without paying attention to the way of life and actions of your neighbors and without judging those who are tempted, because the corrupting action of temptation is easily transferred from those captured by temptation to those who judge them.’ The holy elders advised laymen to be guided in their lives by the Gospel and those Holy Fathers who wrote directions for Christians in general. One who is guided by the writings of the Fathers will have the possibility of attaining salvation; those lose it who live according to their own will and their own mind, even though they live in the deepest desert."

St. John Chrysostom: "I have always suggested and will not stop suggesting that you not only heed what is said in church, but also constantly occupy yourself in reading the Divine Scriptures at home. I have always suggested this also to those who are with me in private. Let no one say to me those words, cold and worthy of all condemnation: I am busy with public matters, I practice my trade, I have a wife, I am raising children, I manage a household, I am a layman; it is not my job to read the Scriptures, but that of those who have renounced the world. No, it is your job more than theirs; because they do not have as much need of the help the Divine Scriptures as do those who turn to them in the midst of many tasks. Monks, who have distanced themselves from commotions, enjoy great safety, while we, excited as if in the midst of the sea and falling into a multitude of sins, we always need constant and uninterrupted consolation from the Scriptures. It is not possible, it is not possible for anyone to be saved who does not constantly practice spiritual reading; for if, receiving wounds every day, we will not constantly practice spiritual reading, then what hope have we of salvation? Let us begin collecting a treasury of spiritual books for ourselves. Even merely seeing such books makes us more restrained from sin. Physical beauty often arouses lack of control, but spiritual beauty disposes God Himself to love it. Let us develop this beauty through the daily washing away of every impurity by reading the Scriptures."

The Home as a Little Church:

The Vision of St. John Chrysostom

by Dr. David C. Ford

(continued from November edition)

. . . . One of the most important dimensions of St. John Chrysostom’s exalted vision of the Christian life is his emphasis on Christ-filled marriage and family life. May I ask, how many of you are aware of his emphasis on marriage, and his very high view of Christian marriage? He believed that it is the calling of every Christian married couple to make their home a little church, and he preached with all his heart to inspire the married people in his flock, to fill them with this vision, this ideal, this goal, and to instruct them in how to bring this vision to pass in their own homes.

Let’s look now at some of the most important characteristics of the home as a little church that can be found in St. John Chrysostom’s preaching and writing. I believe six such characteristics stand out: First, we see a great emphasis on the need, indeed the requirement, that husbands love their wives with Christ-like, self-sacrificial love. . . .The second characteristic of the home as a little church is a pattern of order and discipline in the family, with the husband as the servant-head of the family, and his wife as second-in-command, and their children in obedience under them. . . .Thirdly, such a godly home is characterized by careful, attentive, heartfelt instruction and training of the children by the parents. . . . A fourth characteristic of the home as a little church is regular Scripture study, spiritual discussions, and prayer.

Fifth, in a Christian home, the husband and wife will be encouraging and inspiring each other and the children to godliness and virtue through mutual exhortation and through the example of their lives. As Chrysostom says, “Let wives exhort their husbands, and let husbands admonish their wives” (Homily XLVII on St. John; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 172; Women and Men, p. 175). In this spirit, he advises, “Pray together at home and go to Church. When you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers” (Homily XX on Ephesians; Roth, p. 61; Women and Men, p. 175; my emphasis). Notice in these quotations the complete equality of the husband and wife in these matters, and the reciprocity between them that Chrysostom expects.

St. John even suggests that there should be a kind of ‘rivalry’ between the husband and wife in their spiritual endeavors:

    But at home also, let the husband hear of these things [exhortations to virtue] from the wife, and the wife from the husband. Let there be a kind of rivalry among all in endeavoring to gain precedence in the fulfillment of this law. And let the one who is ahead, and has amended his conduct, reproach the one who is still loitering behind (Homily V Concerning the Statues; PG 49.80A; NPNF 1, IX, p. 379; Women and Men, p. 175; my emphasis).

On another occasion, he speaks in a similar way specifically concerning attendance at Church:

    Let them incite and urge one another to the assembly here – the father his son, the son his father, the husbands their wives, and the wives their husbands [again we see the reciprocity between and equality of the husband and wife in Chrysostom’s thought] (To Those Who Had Not Attended the Assembly.3; NPNF 1, IX, p. 225; Women and Men, p. 175, n. 25).

While, as we have seen, Chrysostom was at times very specific in giving advice concerning raising children, still, for him the best way to ensure that one’s children will thoroughly imbibe godly ways is through the day by day example of the parents – for the children, whether they always seem to or not, surely will be closely watching how their parents are living:

    If we seek the things that are perfect, the secondary things will follow. The Lord says, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you’ (Matt. 6:33). What sort of person do you think the children of such parents will be? . . . For generally the children acquire the character of their parents, they are formed in the mold of their parents’ temperament, they love the same things their parents love, they talk in the same fashion, and they work for the same ends (Homily 20 on Ephesians; Roth, pp. 63-64; my emphasis).

And again:

    The father, if he disciplines himself also, will be far better in teaching the boy [or, of course, the daughter] these precepts; for, if for no other reason, he will improve himself so as not to spoil the example he sets (On Vainglory; Laistner, p. 115; my emphasis).

The sixth characteristic we can glean from Chrysostom’s preaching and writing concerning the home as a little church is regular, generous almsgiving. Almsgiving, as you probably know, is one of Chrysostom’s most favorite themes. He often emphasizes, in the spirit of the 25th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew (“When I was hungry, you gave Me food . . .”), that when we give to the poor we are giving directly to Christ Himself, which brings us great spiritual rewards:

    Many are our debts – not of money, but of sins. Let us then lend Christ our riches, that we may receive pardon of our sins, for He is the One who will judge us. Let us not neglect Him here when He is hungry, that He may ever feed us there. Here let us clothe Him, that He leave us not bare of the safety which is from Him. . . . if we go to Him in prison, He will free us from our bonds; if we take Him in when He is a stranger, He will not suffer us to be strangers to the Kingdom of Heaven, but will give us a portion in the City which is above; if we visit Him when He is sick, He will quickly deliver us from our infirmities (Homily XXV on St. John; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 89; modified translation).

On another occasion he asked very piercingly,

    when after all this I do not vouchsafe to Him so much as a loaf of bread in His hunger, with what kind of eyes shall I ever again behold Him? (Homily XXIII on St. Matthew; NPNF 1, X, p. 165).

Chrysostom is convinced that, as he says, “You will not do so much good to the poor as to yourself, when you benefit them” (Homily LXXVII on St. John; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 286; modified translation). As he also says, “Do you not know that God enacted almsgiving not so much for the sake of the poor as for the sake of the persons themselves who bestow their goods to the poor?” (Homily XXI on I Corinthians; NPNF 1, XII, p. 124; modified translation).

For Chrysostom, giving to the poor is the greatest way to “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:20). As he exhorts:

    Let us then transfer our wealth, and remove it thither [i.e., to Heaven]. We shall not need for such a transfer donkeys, or camels, or carriages, or ships (God has relieved us even of this difficulty), but we only need the poor, the lame, the crippled, the infirm [to whom to give our wealth]. These are the ones who are entrusted with this transfer, they convey our riches to Heaven, they introduce the masters of such wealth as this to the inheritance of everlasting good things (Homily XVI on St. John; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 58; modified translation; my emphasis).

So it is completely in character for Chrysostom to advise families:

    Make your house a church, your little almsbox a treasury. Become a guardian of sacred wealth, a self-ordained steward of the poor. Your benevolence gives you this priesthood (Homily XLIII on I Corinthians; PG 61.368D-369A; NPNF 1, XII, p. 259; Women and Men, p. 173; my emphasis).

As he also says,

    Consider to whom you are giving drink, and tremble. Consider, you have become a priest of Christ, giving with your own hand, not [Christ’s] flesh but bread, and not [His] blood, but a cup of cold water (Homily XLVI on St. Matthew; NPNF 1, X, pp. 286-287; my emphasis).

And in a very remarkable passage, he even says that giving alms is offering a sacrifice on an altar more awesome that the altar in the church:

    This altar [in the church] is but a stone by nature, but it becomes holy because it receives Christ’s Body; but that one [the poor man] is holy because it is itself Christ’s Body. So that this beside which you, the layman, stand, is more awesome than that (Homily XX on II Corinthians; NPNF 1, XII, p. 374; Women and Men, p. 214; my emphasis).

Hence we see that almsgiving, understood to be a form of priesthood for the laity, is for Chrysostom a defining characteristic of the home as a little church. A priest I know told me recently that every time he does a house-blessing, he urges the husband to think of himself as the priest of his household. As Chrysostom says elsewhere, referring to an almsbox in one’s home,

    But if you have this little coffer, you have a defense against the devil, you give wings to your prayer, you make your house holy (Homily XLIII on I Corinthians; NPNF 1, XII, p. 262; my emphasis).

And again, after commending Zacchaeus, who, in receiving Christ into his home, said he would give half of his goods to the poor, St. John says:

    In this way let us too adorn our homes, that Christ may enter in unto us also. These are the fair curtains, these are made in Heaven, they are woven there. And where these are, there also is the King of Heaven (Homily LXXXIII on St. Matthew; NPNF 1, X, p. 500; modified translation; my emphasis).

In light of all these benefits of almsgiving, Chrysostom, using some imagery from sailing, urges husbands not to let their almsgiving be restricted out of too much concern for the material welfare of their families:

When we do works of mercy, we have need of intentness, lest by any means,

    thought for our household, and care for children, and anxiety about wife, and fear of poverty entering in, should slacken our sail. For if we put it on the stretch on all sides by the hope of the things to come, it receives well the energy of the Holy Spirit (Homily XXXIX on Hebrews; NPNF 1, XIV, p. 521; my emphasis).

And finally on this very important theme, Chrysostom addresses some strong words to those parents who restrict their almsgiving out of concern for leaving their children a large inheritance:

    ‘But a circle of little ones is round about me,’ one will say, ‘and I am desirous of leaving them with a good fortune.’ Why then do we make them paupers? For if you leave them everything, you are still committing your goods to a trust which may deceive you. But if you leave God their joint-heir and guardian [i.e., by giving your goods to the poor on behalf of your children], you have left them countless treasures. For as when we avenge ourselves God does not assist us, but when we leave it to Him, more than we expect comes about, so in the case of our goods. If we guard them ourselves, God will withdraw His protecting care over them, but if we cast everything upon Him, He will place both them and our children in all safety. . . .

    If then you would leave your children much wealth, leave them in God’s care. For He Who, without your having done anything, gave you a soul, and formed a body for you, and granted you life, when He sees you displaying such munificence and distributing your goods to Himself [i.e., through giving to the poor] as well as to your children, surely He will open to them every kind of riches. For if Elijah, after having been nourished with a little meal, since he saw that the widow honored him more than her children, made threshing-floors and oil-presses to appear in her little hut, consider what loving care the Lord of Elijah will display! Let us, then, not consider how to leave our children rich, but how to leave them virtuous (Homily VII on Romans; NPNF 1, XI, p. 384; modified translation; my emphasis).

Chrysostom even says boldly, “Give this loan to your children: leave God a Debtor to them” (Homily LXVI on St. Matthew; NPNF 1, X, p. 409), for the Lord, as he says, “does not promise to give a hundred percent on the loan, as is customary with us, but a hundred times the amount lent. Nor does He stop at that: this reward comes to us in this present life, and we gain life everlasting in the hereafter” (Homily 3 on Genesis.20; Fathers of the Church, vol. 74, p. 49; modified translation; my emphasis).

With all this in mind, Chrysostom confidently assures the widows of his flock:

    Transfer your wealth, therefore, to heaven, and you will find the burden of widowhood to be tolerable. ‘But,’ you say, ‘what if I have children to succeed to their father’s inheritance?’ Instruct them also to despise riches. Transfer your own possessions, reserving for them just a sufficient amount. Teach them also to be superior to riches. . . .

    If therefore, you cut off this one thing [in yourself] – this desire to accumulate wealth [and store it for your children] – and if you supply to the needy out of your substance, God will hold over you His protecting Hand. And if you are expressing a real concern for your children’s welfare and are not concealing covetousness under this pretext, He Who searches the heart knows how to secure their riches, even He Who ordained for you to bring up children.

    For it is not possible, indeed it is not, that a house established by almsgiving should suffer any calamity. If it should be unfortunate for a time, in the end it will prosper (Homily VII on II Timothy; NPNF 1, XIII, pp. 503-504; my emphasis).

This, then, is St. John Chrysostom’s glorious, magnificent vision of marriage and family life – of the home as a little church. Such a godly home is characterized, as we’ve seen, by 1), the husband loving his wife with Christ-like, self-sacrificial love; 2), a clear pattern of order, with the husband as servant-head, the wife as second-in-command, and then the children; 3), the parents giving the children careful, attentive instruction in godliness and virtue, both by word and by example; 4), regular Scripture reading, spiritual discussions, and prayer – even prayer in the night, besides morning and evening prayers together as a family; 5), the husband and wife exhorting and spurring each other to grow in the spiritual life; and 6), regular, generous almsgiving – giving to the poor as if to Christ Himself.

May we all be granted the desire and the grace to fulfill this vision in our own lives. Surely our All-Gracious LORD will give the strength and patience necessary to those who earnestly ask Him for His help in fulfilling this profoundly beautiful vision of making the home a little church – and hence, by the prayers of St. John Chrysostom, of making our little earthly domain a radiant embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Regular Service Schedule

This is also at


6:30 PM


Followed by a discussion about the spiritual/dogmatic content of various prayers in the church services.

1st Wed of the month

08:00 AM

Divine Liturgy Reader in charge: Natalia Hawthorne

Most hymns will be in Church Slavonic.

2nd Wed

06:00 AM

Divine Liturgy Reader in charge: Reader Nicholas Park

Most Hymns will be in English.

3rd Wed

09:00 AM

Divine Liturgy Reader in charge: Jelena Djolovic

Most Hymns will be in Church Slavonic, with many Serbian melodies!

4th Wed

09:00 AM

Divine Liturgy Reader in charge: Raissa Dudar

Hymns will be in English and Slavonic


4:00 PM

5:00 PM

After Vigil


Vigil (Vespers, Matins, the First Hour)


Earlier confessions or confessions on other days by appt.



9:40 AM

10:00 AM

12 Noon

Confession (please call before the night before if possible)


Divine Liturgy

Trapeza (public meal for EVERYONE)

Church School following on most Sundays.

For the exact schedule (including festal and Lenten services):

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

Regular Announcements

  • Fr. Seraphim asks that everyone would try to read each week's readings, according to the church calendar. We will discuss these on occasion, provide commentaries when possible, and provide a list of these readings each week. Keep an eye on the BLOG, because many of these readings are discussed there. In addition, you can find the readings each day at these web sites:

  • Please use our bookstore. We have books, icons, CD's, Pascha and Nativity cards, souveniers and other items. To make a purchase, please put the following into the donation box, together with the payment: the item name and the dollar ($) amount of the payment. There are pads for your use for this purpose in the bookstore.
  • We also have a library of books and CDs for your use. When you borrow from the library, please write the name of the book or CD on the clipboard, and return the items within four weeks. If you have materials to donate to the library, please speak to Natalia Hawthorne or email to stnatalia (at) hotmail (dot) com
  • The sisterhood is always open to new members! To join, please speak to Raisa Dudar.
  • We welcome new choir members! To join, please speak to Genevieve (Jenny) Park or email her at parknj (at) basicisp (dot) net
  • Please remember to support the parish financially.
  • Our building fund is our means of financing our land and building efforts. This fund currently contains $95,790. This is insufficient to pay for our land and building, but our goals are in reach if we put our trust in the Lord and give generously. To make a contribution, make out a check to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, and write in the memo line, "Building Fund."

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