Is it because it’s Spring….?

Христос Васкрсе!

Found this in Serbian (here) but nothing about it in English.

A group of Polish nuns have made it their task to save boys from going down the “path of evil” if they would fall under the temptation of using the services of “ladies of the night”.  Twelve nuns to be exact are sitting by the phone ready to be of help.  “Instead of prostitutes, call us,” says their ad.

“Being a man is a great thing. God gave man the privilege of being a father, to take care of a family. They need to act bravely and not be subject to weaknesses,” said Sister Teresa behind the project hotline.

The Dominican Sisters do not scare the men by talking of the eternal flames of hell.

“Even when someone sets out on the path of evil we should not be judgmental, but return them to the correct path,” says the emergency line in Krakow.

“I don’t know if its because of Spring … but we have been bombarded with phone call these last few days,” says Sister Teresa.

Help my unbelief

Христос Васкрсе!

The website of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America puts out a weekly bulletin which I assume is to be used in all diocesan parishes. Among the content is a brief commentary on the day’s Scripture readings. Below is a brief commentary from the readings on April 3rd, the Fourth Sunday Lent of St. John of the Ladder  (see here for original bulletin). The first deals with a subject we will address this coming Sunday – doubt or unbelief.

COMMENTARY ON MARK 9: 17-31
The existence of doubt does not imply the absence of faith: the father “immediately…cried out…with tears” that he believed but then also asked for help with his unbelief. Christ accepts whatever sincere faith we possess and will increase it when we humbly desire Him.

COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 4: 25 – 5: 12
In the Old Testament, only a select few were chosen to hear God directly. Here, God Incarnate speaks to the multitudes face to face. The mountain is a place where divine action enters human history, where God reveals Himself to man (Matthew 17: 1; Genesis 22: 2; Exodus 3: 1, 19: 2; III Kings 18: 20). Matthew writing that Jesus “opened His mouth” emphasizes that Jesus is there to teach, not discuss or debate; the disciples are to listen as quietly and attentively as all those gathered.

The Gospel in Four Words

Христос Васкрсе! 
Received this via email:

Sentenced to Immortality

by Saint Justin of Chelije

Man sentenced God to death; by His Resurrection, He sentenced man to immortality. In return for a beating, He gives an embrace; for abuse, a blessing; for death, immortality. Man never showed so much hate for God as when he crucified Him; and God never showed more love for man than when He arose. Man even wanted to reduce God to a mortal, but God by His Resurrection made man immortal. The crucified God is Risen and has killed death. Death is no more. Immortality has surrounded man and all the words.

By the Resurrection of the God-Man, human nature has been led irreversibly onto the path of immortality, and has become dreadful to death itself. For before the Resurrection of Christ, death was dreadful to man, but after the Resurrection of Christ man has become more dreadful to death. When man lives by faith in the Risen God-Man, he lives above death, out of its reach; it is a footstool for his feet: “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55) When a man belonging to Christ dies, he simply sets aside his body like clothing, in which he will again be vested on the day of Dread Judgement.

Before the Resurrection of the God-Man, death was the second nature of man: life first, death second. But by His Resurrection, the Lord has changed everything: immortality has become the second nature of man, it has become natural for man; and death – unnatural. As before the Resurrection of Christ, it was natural for men to be mortal, so after the Resurrection of Christ, it was natural for men to be immortal.

By sin, man became mortal and transient; by the Resurrection of the God-Man, he became immortal and perpetual. In this is the power, the might, the all-mightiness of the Resurrection of Christ. Without it, there would have been no Christianity. Of all miracles, this is the greatest miracle. All other miracles have it as their source and lead to it. From it grow faith, love, hope, prayer, and love for God. Behold: the fugitive disciples, having run away from Jesus when He died, return to Him because He is risen. Behold: the Centurion confessed Christ as the Son of God when he saw the Resurrection from the grave. Behold: all the first Christians became Christian because the Lord Jesus is risen, because death was vanquished. This is what no other faith has; this is what lifts the Lord Christ above all other gods and men; this is what, in the most undoubted manner, shows and demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the One True God and Lord in all the worlds.

Because of the Resurrection of Christ, because of His victory over death, men have become, continue to become, and will continue becoming Christians. The entire history of Christianity is nothing other than the history of a unique miracle, namely, the Resurrection of Christ, which is unbrokenly threaded through the hearts of Christians form one day to the next, from year to year, across the centuries, until the Dead Judgment.

Man is born, in fact, not when his mother bring him into the world, but when he comes to believe in the Risen Christ, for then he is born to life eternal, whereas a mother bears children for death, for the grave. The Resurrection of Christ is the mother of us all, all Christians, the mother of immortals. By faith in the Resurrection, man is born anew, born for eternity. “That is impossible!” says the skeptic. But you listen to what the Risen God-Man says: “All things are possible to him that believeth!” (St. Mark 9:23) The believer is he who lives, with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his being, according to the Gospel of the Risen Lord Jesus.

Faith is our victory, by which we conquer death, faith in the Risen Lord Jesus. Death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin. The Lord “has removed the string of death.” Death is a serpent; sin is its fangs. By sin, death puts its poison into the soul and into the body of man. The more sins a man has, the more bites, through which death puts its poison in him.

When a wasp stings a man, he uses all his strength to remove the sting. But when sin wounds him, this sting of death, what should be done? One must call upon the Risen Lord Jesus in faith and prayer, that He may remove the sting of death from the soul. He, in His great loving-kindness, will do this, for He is overflowing with mercy and love. When many wasps attack a man’s body and wound it with many stings, that man is poisoned and dies. The same happens with a man’s soul, when many sins wound it with their stings: it is poisoned and dies a death with no resurrection.

Conquering sin in himself through Christ, man overcomes death. If you have lived the day without vanquishing a single sin of yours, know that you have become deadened. Vanquish one, two, or three of your sins, and behold: you have become younger than the youth which does not age, young in immortality and eternity. Never forget that to believe in the Resurrection of the Lord Christ means to carry out a continuous fight with sins, with evil, with death.

If a man fights with sins and passions, this demonstrates that he indeed believes in the Risen Lord; if the fights with them, he fights for life eternal. If he does not fight, his faith is in vain. If man’s faith is not a fight for immortality and eternity, than tell me, what is it? If faith in Christ does not bring us to resurrection and life eternal, than what use is it to us? If Christ is not risen, that meant that neither sin nor death has been vanquished, than why believe in Christ? For the one who by faith in the Risen Lord fights with each of his sins there will be affirmed in him gradually the feeling that Christ is indeed risen, has indeed vanquished the sting of sin, has indeed vanquished death on all the fronts of combat. Sin gradually diminishes the soul in man, driving it into death, transforming it from immortality to mortality, from incorruption to corruption. The more the sins, the more the mortal man. If man does not feel immortality in himself, know that he is in sins, in bad thoughts, in languid feelings. Christianity is an appeal: Fight with death until the last breath, fight until a final victory has been reached. Every sin is a desertion; every passion is a retreat; every vice is a defeat.

One need not be surprised that Christians also die bodily. This is because the death of the body is a sowing. The mortal body is sown, says the Apostle Paul, and it grows, and is raised in an immortal body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) The body dissolves, like a sown seed, that the Holy Spirit may quicken and perfect it. If the Lord Christ had not been risen in body, what use would it have for Him? He would not have saved the entire man. If His body did not rise, then why was He incarnate why did He take on Himself flesh, if He gave it nothing of His Divinity?

If Christ is not risen, then why believe in Him? To be honest, I would never have believed in Him had He not risen and had not therefore by vanquished death. Our greatest enemy was killed and we were given immortality. Without this, our world is a noisy display of revolting stupidity and despair, for neither in Heaven nor under Heaven is there a greater stupidity than this world without the Resurrection; and there is not a greater despair than this life without immortality. There is no being in a single world more miserable than man who does not believe in the resurrection of the dead. It would have been better for such a man never to have been born.

In our human world, death is the greatest torment and inhumane horror. Freedom from this torment and horror is salvation. Such a salvation was given the race of man by the Vanquisher of death – the Risen God-Man. He related to us all the mystery of salvation by His Resurrection. To be saved means to assure our body and soul of immortality and life eternal. How do we attain this? By no other way than by a Theanthropic life, a new life, a life in the Risen Lord, in and by the Lord’s Resurrection.

For us Christians, our life on earth is a school in which we learn how to assure ourselves of resurrection and life eternal. For what use is this life if we cannot acquire by it life eternal? But, in order to be resurrected with the Lord Christ, man must first suffer with Him, and live His life as his own. If he does this, then on Pascha he can say with Saint Gregory the Theologian: “Yesterday I was crucified with Him, today I live with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him, today I rise with Him.” (Troparion 2, Ode 3, Matins, Pascha)

Christ’s Four Gospels are summed up in only four words. They are: “Христос воскресе! Ваистину воскресе!” (Christ is Risen! Indeed He is risen!”) In each of these words is a Gospel, and in the Four Gospels is all the meaning of all God’s worlds, visible and invisible. When all knowledge and all the thoughts of men are concentrated in the cry of the Paschal salutation, “Christ is Risen!”, then immortal joy embraces all beings and in joy responds: “Indeed He is risen!”

Sermon on Good Friday

A homily on Good Friday by Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Church of Blessed Memory from last year:

Do you not think it amazing how that whenever the Lord Jesus Christ comes into contact with a person, He touches his HEART and SOUL AND TRANSFORMS HIS LIFE? This mystery happened so many times during His earthly ministry of three years. And even at this time as He prepared to be crucified, this marvelous work of transforming lives did not stop; His mission continued to the very end. Just because He was about to die a most gruesome death, there was no reason to stop touching the lives of the people with whom He came into contact – to heal them, to comfort them, to strengthen them, to change their outlook and perspective forever! He affected Pontius Pilate and made him question the motives of the Hebrew people who delivered up our Lord; even more He had an influence on Pilate’s wife (Procla, by tradition) who cautioned her husband not to condemn this innocent Man, the God-man. (She became a Christian soon after the Resurrection of Christ and is now ranked among the saints of our Church.) He forgave the sins and saved the soul of a thief who was crucified next to Him after he witnessed the awesome events that were transpiring on that first Good Friday. John, the Beloved Disciple, was commissioned to care for our Lord’s Mother, the Theotokos; the Apostle Peter wept bitterly after denying Jesus; a centurion came to believe that He was truly the Son of God, as he witnessed His salvific death.

People come to the Lord in different ways and for different reasons. Some approach honestly, freely, and willingly, seeking the truth. Others have seemingly chance or accidental encounters, and almost quietly and unobtrusively come to know him. Some are simply born into believing families. Still others resist stubbornly and hard-heartedly. And it appears that faith in Christ is thrust upon them. But how can that be? It is true faith and love if someone is forced into it? But if you think carefully about how even we love in our limited capacity, we realize to what lengths we may go to help a loved one who has strayed so far down the wrong paths in life and is in serious trouble. When we care so much and love so much. we do what we must do to help and save those we love. The Lord Himself often works like that. He loves and cares so much; He does not want any soul to be lost; He wants to save each one of us, so much so that He will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. He often needs to save us from ourselves. Sometimes we do need to be forced to what is truly good for us. That is why He sends us bishops and priests, monks and nuns, parents and grandparents and other pious fellow Christians to assist us; to awaken the slothful and the blind in soul. Perhaps this was the situation of the man named Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service for the Lord. According to tradition, Simon was a a devout Jew and a farmer in the town of Cyrene, in Egypt, in the Jewish settlement there. He had two sons, Alexander and Rufus. For whatever reason, one day he gathered his family and set off for the great city of his people. He traveled there, found and bought a house, as well as a field near the city. He and his sons worked their field and he provided for his family as we all do. There was nothing extraordinary about him or them. They were like so many other families of that time and place, settling and farming the land.

But one day that was to be changed. Was it chance, or was it really God’s will that on that eve of Passover he had gone to work in the field, and that early on the next morning, he happened to encounter that dreadful, somber procession, crowds of idle onlookers, and impassive, unfeeling soldiers who were leading criminals to their execution? Each of the three condemned men had been forced to carry a heavy wooden beam, in chains, and were proceeding to the old stone quarry outside the city, where they were to be executed, by crucifixion, nailed to those crossbeams and then left to die of thirst, loss of blood, and asphyxiation.

As Simon was about to pass by the dreadful and gloomy procession, he noticed that one of the men no longer had the strength to carry His heavy burden. No matter how hard the soldiers struck Him with the swords or whips, He could not take another step. Then one of the soldiers went up to Simon, seized him roughly by the arm and said, “You carry it!” It was useless to resist and instead of returning home, Simon lifted the heavy beam onto his shoulders and walked beside  the men condemned to death. While he was walking in this dreary march, it certainly did not occur to him that , from that moment on, he had become a bearer of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that by carrying it he would stand together with Him on Golgotha and share His burden. He did not know how much it would change his life.

Not much is known about what happened afterwards, because Simon’s name is never again mentioned in Holy Scripture. However, we do know that his sons, Alexander and Rufus, were Christians and were later well-known in the early Church. I think we can safely assume that their father was the first to convert and bring them along with him.

Most assuredly, his life was transformed that day. After that terrible moment when he took the Lord’s Cross upon himself, he came to know the truth, and he came to know his Saviour. He experienced walking along side His God, humiliated, blood-stained, bruised, crowned with thorns, in the lowest state of human degradation. At first he must have been appalled at the sight and even recoiled from it. But then he came to realize that this was our Lord and Saviour, and that He had taken upon Himself all of the sins and sufferings of the human race. Even though He was sinless, He still permitted Himself to suffer for our sins.

Simon of Cyrene was the first one to follow the Lord’s own command, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” This means “Share with Me My sufferings for the world; share with Me My longing – as the heart of God – to suffer together with the world, to die for the world, and to revive the world.” Once again the Lord shows the way and sets the example. And already soon after, a creature obeys Him and also sets the example for us. Each of us is called to carry his burden, his work, and his sorrow, not just patiently bearing it, but also sharing it with the Lord. That is why it is our pious tradition, each of us, clergy and laity alike, to wear the Cross on our bodies, beneath our clothing and perhaps as I and the priests of the Church wear it outwardly. It reminds us to serve our God and Lord and Saviour by serving the world and all mankind!

The one- time terrible sign of the Cross is now become a sign of joy and victory; an instrument of tortuous execution has been turned into the instrument of our salvation.  That is why we now adorn it with silver and gold and precious jewels, and show it such honor. And by it, our lives are transformed as was Simon of Cyrene’s. As Christ bore His Cross for us, we patiently bear our smaller crosses, and thus share in a small way in His suffering. On this night we HAVE SUFFERED WITH HIM, shortly, we will REJOICE WITH HIM, and in the future we will LIVE AND REIGN WITH HIM FOREVER.

AMEN!

+METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS