Hierarchy and Order

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Taken from here

The Holy Three Hierarchs we celebrate today – St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom were great ascetics. “This means, dear brothers and sisters,” stated Bishop Maxim of Western America, “that out of their love for God they cleansed themselves and prepared themselves and then approached Him who most clean. We celebrate them at the Divine Liturgy as a community founded and established by the Lord to have its own hierarchical order. And that is what the world today opposes most of all – it doesn’t recognize the significance of hierarchy and order. St. Gregory the Theologian said that order holds the heavens and the earth and that it is not a human creation.”

Clergy Meeting

A far cry from western PA I attended the greater San Diego Orthodox Clergy brotherhood meeting this morning hosted by Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. And by “greater” I mean this brotherhood includes not only US parishes but also the Project Mexico ministry in Tijuana. A productive meeting as usual and with little Ilija running around I had my hands full.

The church, by the way, is gorgeous. Across from the church, seen in one of the photos below, are affordable living condos which the parish offers to their elderly. Just a beautiful complex.

  
  
  

Self-Denial or Self-Expression

Today being Ash Wednesday I thought to share this great piece by James K.A. Smith about fasting practices in the West. We have Discussions about our Faith Tuesday evenings at the church and just last night the topic of fasting was brought up. I think the professor was able to sum up our thoughts on the subject perfectly:

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

This question tells us a lot about American Christianity. While the question alludes to historic Christian practices of fasting and self-denial associated with the penitential season of Lent, the syntax of the question also points out a crucial shift: even our self-denial is an act of self-expression. Our submission to discipline is converted to act of will power. Continue

Thirty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Carl_Bloch_The_Healing_of_the_Blind_Bartimaeus_400Last Sunday’s gospel was taken from the 18th chapter of St. Luke’s gospel in which we heard of the rich ruler to whom the Lord said that he sacrifice everything and follow Him. This morning’s reading is taken from that same chapter and it takes place after that incident as the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem and approaches the town of Jericho.

There, a great multitude had gathered because they heard that Jesus was passing that way and in that crowd of people was a certain blind man who sat on the street begging. He heard the commotion and asked what all the excitement was. When they told him that Jesus of Nazareth would be passing by his heart jumped for joy. He exclaimed, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And while those around him told him to lower his voice he became louder and repeated, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

When the Lord commanded that the man be brought to Him, He asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, that I may see.” The Lord healed him saying, “…your faith has made you well.” And the gospel this morning ends with the words: “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”

It’s interesting how this man who couldn’t see was able to see the Lord as the Son of David.  On the other hand, all those around him who could see were only able to see Him as Jesus “of Nazareth”.

What’s more, those very same people rebuked the blind man and told him that he should be quiet when he raised his voice and called for the Son of David to heal him. Let’s not think that such people existed only at that time.  They not only exist today but they’re not always our so-called enemies. They can be family members, friends, those close to us who find offense, or in some way might be bothered by our faith in God and so they’ll say to us – though, not in so many words –  to “be quiet”.  This blind man from Jericho, however, gives us the beautiful example of persistence of faith. It’s one thing to say that we believe in God and yet another to continue believing despite all the negativity around us.

In fact, that’s the miracle in this morning’s gospel – the miracle of our faith.  It’s what’s inside all of us if we only search for it; if we look for it, we too, will see.  Like the blind man who saw without eyes we too shouldn’t need proof of God’s presence and thank Him only after seeing; rather, we should see Him in all things, His fingerprint is in all of nature, His presence is in all the days of our life.

Unlike other gospel episodes of healing, this morning’s reading was followed by the people praising God “when they saw” this great miracle. May this praise and thanksgiving fill our hearts as well for “every good gift and every perfect gift [which] is from above” (James 1:17) and with which God blesses every day of our life. Amen.

Whether we believe or not

“Whether we believe or not, we belong to God. Whether we understand it or not, or feel His presence or not, or rejoice in that presence or not, He exists. He is my God. He is my Lord. Even during moments of darkness and terror, when God doesn’t exist for me, He still exists. When I feel I’m a failure, when all my efforts seem fruitless, when my life seems to have passed in vain, Christ is still my Christ. He is there for me no matter what happens. He exists irrespective of my capabilities, capacities, and comprehension. I might imagine that God is small. But God is great. I might think that God doesn’t hear. But He does. And He has given Himself entirely to me, so that there’s only one possibility of failure: for me to break off my relationship with the ‘One Who Is’ (Ex. 3:14).”

 + Elder Aimilianos of Simonaspetra (The Way of the Spirit)

Thirty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

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In the gospel this morning we are given insight on how our attitude should be towards this world in which we live on the one hand and, on the other, how our attitude should be towards God. A man comes to Jesus and he asks the Lord what he should do to inherit eternal life. The reading this morning is from St. Luke’s gospel but St. Matthew also describes this episode and he describes this man as being ‘young’.

It is not by accident that he should happen to be a “young man” since young people are radical, young people seek solutions. Youth, if it is good and healthy and not corrupt by the temptations of its age, bears in mind the problems of their fathers, the problems and difficulties those before them had to bear and they seek solutions to solve those problems.

The greatest problem of all times and generations is the problem of death. We have sickness and we have diseases and we have the poor and all sorts of problems and difficulties but the ultimate problem of mankind is that our life comes to an end. And so when the young ruler comes to Jesus in this morning’s gospel reading he asks the Lord what he must do in order to solve this problem.

The Lord tells him to follow the commandments to which this man replies that he already does this. “If you want to be perfect,” the Lord tells him, “go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Upon hearing this, this man becomes very sad, turns around and walks away.

If we have love for someone we would want to spend all of our time with that person. We would not complain about spending neither time nor money on that person; on the contrary, we would sacrifice everything just to be with that person. That’s the love that God has for mankind. God sends His Only begotten Son who takes upon himself human flesh and becomes one of us out of His great love for mankind. Man, on the other hand, wants to love God with that same kind of selfless love but is surrounded by temptations and, as a result, falls into the temptations of this world and his love for God grows cold.

The tragic reality of this is that man, wishing to do what he wants and wanting to follow the desires of his heart, might find passing happiness but doesn’t have eternal joy. Subsequently, it is interesting to note in this morning’s reading how the young man, upon hearing that he must sell all of his possessions, doesn’t tell the Lord with a smile and laugh, “No thanks. I’d rather have my riches than eternal life.” Rather, he walks away sad.

Deep down inside every man is a desire to love God with one’s whole heart, soul and mind. But the temptations of this world – somewhat like the shiny apple that tempted the first man and woman – are so powerful that with a deceiving conviction they can force man into thinking he desires something he really doesn’t. And in the end he can even become so addicted to this thought that he would rather follow it with sadness and a bitter heart than enter into the joy which the Lord has prepared for all those who love Him.

Our possessions are not an obstacle for our salvation. Neither is the message of this morning’s reading that if we have many possessions we will not be saved. Rather, that our most precious possession be God.

May God always abide in our hearts not as an afterthought or something we possess in addition to everything else. But may He be in the very center of our hearts, of our minds and our entire lives both now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou Shalt Not…..

*Just last night at our Religious Discussion class the topic was do’s and don’t in church. Guess this is a don’t…..

H/T: Yahoo News (here)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine Roman Catholic Church officials have reprimanded a priest for riding a hoverboard and singing a song during Christmas Eve Mass.

The Diocese of San Pablo, south of Manila, said the Rev. Albert San Jose apologized for his action, which was caught on video and widely shared on YouTube.

The video shows the priest in a white cassock gliding up and down the church’s aisles on the two-wheeled electric scooter while singing a Christmas song. Some members of the surprised congregation applaud as he pivots and moves backward.

The performance came just before the final blessing in the Mass at the church in Binan city in Laguna province.

“That was wrong,” the diocese said in a statement late Tuesday, emphasizing that celebrating the Mass is the church’s “highest form” of worship and “demands utmost respect and reverence.”

“It is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people,” it said.

The priest could not immediately be reached for comment.

Philippine church officials have urged priests to live simply and humbly as they minister to the poor in the Asian bastion of Catholicism, especially under the leadership of Pope Francis, who is known for his frugal lifestyle.