St. Sava of Serbia

Below is taken from a homily delivered by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of blessed repose on the feastday of St. Sava the first archbishop of Serbia, which is commemorated today 14/27 January:

“….our people have been celebrating the feast of Saint Sava for centuries, since he was our first archbishop, enlightener and teacher, since he is an inspiration to all of us, an example which shows us how to serve both God and people”.

“Saint Sava grasped the meaning of a wise thought uttered by the holy Prince Lazar, that the worldly empire lasts for a short time, while the Heavenly ones lasts forever. Being a worldly people, men of flesh and blood, we should take care of our bodies and worldly lives, we should know to render, as our saying goes, ‘unto the Emperor what belongs to him, but also unto God what belongs to Him’. Never has God asked for what belongs to the Emperor to be rendered to Him, yet it has happened that the rulers of this world had asked us to render unto them that which belongs to God” said Patriarch Pavle.

An idle pastime

“There are many who would laugh at the idea of a novelist teaching either virtue or nobility, – those, for instance, who regard the reading of novels as sin, and those also who think it to be simply an idle pastime. They look upon the tellers of stories as among the tribe of those who pander to the wicked pleasures of a wicked world. I have regarded my art from so different a point of view that I have ever thought of myself as a preacher of sermons, and my pulpit as one which I could make both salutary and agreeable to my audience. I do believe that no girl has risen from the reading of my pages less modest than she was before, and that some may have learned from them that modesty is a charm well worth preserving. I think that no youth has been taught that in falseness and flashness is to be found the road to manliness; but some may perhaps have learned from me that it is to be found in truth and a high but gentle spirit. Such are the lessons I have striven to teach; and I have thought that it might best be done by representing to my readers characters like themselves,- or to which they might liken themselves.”

Anthony Trollope “An Autobiography”

Rainbows in January

We’ve been having some very strange weather this winter season. After a day of spring like rain yesterday I came outside in the late afternoon to take this picture of a rainbow. It was 54 degrees. Typically, these days between St. John and St. Sava tend to be the fiercest.

We were fortunate the day before as well as we started a new tradition in the Shenango Valley Orthodox community with a Theophany celebration and the blessing of the Shenango River.

We even made the local news:

The more the dirt….

On why we should be thankful for the dirt that others may throw our way

A farmer’s donkey fell into a well. The farmer was thinking that it would be less expensive to bury the donkey there, than to bring him up.  He invited some of his neighbors, and they started shoveling soil into the well.  In the beginning, the donkey let out loud cries. But then he quieted down. A miraculous thing happened: Every time they shoveled soil in the well, the donkey was coming further up. At the end, he came out of the well.

The moral of the story is : The more that dirt is thrown our way, the more we are supposed to rise!

Every river is the Jordan

Today, at the Theophany celebration in Belgrade, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej greeted all those gathered for the blessing of the waters with the Serbian festal greeting, “God has appeared. Indeed He has appeared.”

“Today,” he continued, “every river is the Jordan. …. On this day He, who had thus been unknown to the world, revealed Himself to the world as the Redeemer of the human race, to reveal to us the path that leads to God. And that path leads us to each other.”

How Can Grace Teach?

H/T: Orthodoxy and the World (here); from a homily delivered by Patriarch Kirill on Theophany 2011. Pictured below is Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on the Eve of Theophany last year. Not to be confused.

….

The Apostle tells us that this grace teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts. But how can grace teach? Man is taught by words, both spoken and written; he is taught by life experience. So how can God’s grace teach man? The Apostle’s words help us to understand that any problem that man is capable of solving through his own reason can be solved with sufficient education, knowledge, and skill. It is only the most vital task, the task of man’s salvation, that he cannot solve through the power of his own reason, because an enormous number of various kinds of influences act on our nature – and on our very mind, will, and feelings. Without God’s help and grace we cannot reject ungodliness and worldly lusts – but are capable of doing this through God’s grace.

Grace also teaches us in the sense that, regardless of all the intellectual and behavioral temptations that have fallen upon man over the course of these 2,000 years of Christian history, the truth about salvation has been soundly preserved in God’s Church.

This sound preservation of truth is inaccessible to even the most powerful human intellect – the truth about salvation is preserved only through the power of God. Today, when we bless the waters, we are performing an action that would have been impossible if Christ had not suffered, risen, and revealed the grace of the Holy Spirit to us. The blessing of the waters, the calling down of Divine grace upon physical nature, is a symbol and sign of that liberation from sin that God revealed to mankind in Christ. Every one of us who touches the blessed water, who tastes it, receives this Divine energy and grace that teach us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts, helping us to preserve ourselves for the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, when drawing the blessed water, we should remember that we are touching something holy. The very drawing of water in church is a sacred rite. Sometimes we bring elements of this world into church: we need to hurry somewhere after the service, so we want to draw the water earlier, and we shove or harm the person standing next to us. Do not do this! Draw the holy water quietly and prayerfully. Just as Communion can be for judgment and condemnation, rather than for the salvation of soul and healing of the body, so too can taking holy water be for judgment and condemnation. For those who draw the water without piety and fear of God, this water ceases to be water gushing forth into eternal life.

Having come to church today, do not hurry to leave. Stand near the vessel with the holy water and, while you await your turn, pray fervently to the Lord for yourself, your family, your children and grandchildren, for health of soul and body, for our country, our nation, and our Church – that the Lord, through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, would grant us all the opportunity to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts for life in this present world. Amen.

Jesus, Adam and the Devil

“He who willingly suffers injustice and forgives his neighbor is like Jesus; he who neither commits injustice, nor suffers it, is like Adam; he who commits injustice, or demands interest, or mistreats someone else, is like the Devil.”

– An Anonymous Desert Father