The greater the love

proskome (800x688)Yesterday was the Feast Day of the Falling Asleep of the Most Holy Theotokos. At the Divine Liturgy, as I was preparing the Gifts, words from the Proskomedia that I routinely say struck me as if hearing them for the first time. Covering the diskos, chalice and then both with the large cover the priest says, among other things: “Cover us with the shelter of Thy wings….Give peace to our lives…”. Words I say every Sunday, every Feast Day, every liturgy I serve but they caught my eye yesterday. Sometimes we can make our lives more complicated than they need to be. Our thoughts are filled with the drama of our lives. We worry, we have anxiety, we dwell on things. All the while right before our eyes is the liturgy, our prayer to God that He “give peace to our lives.”

Archimandrite Sophrony wrote about the Mother of God: “…even with God’s love sorrows continue, the greater the love the greater the sorrow. … When she stood by the Cross her grief was as boundless as the ocean, and her soul knew pain incomparably deeper than Adam’s suffering when he was driven from paradise, for the reason that the measure of her love was beyond compare greater than the love with which Adam loved when he was in Paradise….We cannot understand such things, since there is little love in us for God and man.”

May God give peace to our lives.

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The Time of Life

A beautiful message from Fr. Rodney:

Valuing the Time of Life

V. Rev. Stavrophor Rodney Torbic

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8-To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Our lives are to conform to the purpose and timeliness of God. Our lives are to be an effort reaching toward God and being in unison with God. We come into this world by the grace of God.

God is at work as to where and when our birth occurs. God is at work in the functioning of our minds and bodies. God is at work in giving us the power and resources to make choices.

The time of life is a gift from God. The way the time of life is used reflects the extent we appreciate God. The more we live in conformity to the ways of God, the more we show our appreciation to God.

The ways of God are known through coming to God’s Holy Church. In God’s Holy Church, we hear and learn of the ways of God. We learn to pray and experience communal prayer in God’s Holy Church.

We learn of the lives of the saints in God’s Holy Church. We hear the direct teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ in God’s Holy Church. We learn of the value of the Holy Prophets in God’s Holy Church.

In the Holy Scriptures, the lessons of God are present for each generation until the Second Coming of Christ. Each moment of time being lived is the only time of certainty involving personal choice.

Time that is past cannot be relived. Time in the future is not guaranteed for each person.  The moment of each person’s last breath is not known. The time of the Second Coming of Christ is not known.

Each moment of life is to be used wisely and cherished as a gift of God. The example of the thief on the Cross turning to Christ at the last moment of his life showed clearly that a final act for Christ can make a difference.

The thief appealing to Christ with the utmost respect heard these words from Jesus: “  Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.(Lk.23-42-43)

The good thief on the cross demonstrated the value of reaching out to Christ.

Discerning the will of God and the wisdom of God requires attentiveness. The good thief on the cross was attentive to Christ. The good thief perceived the important difference in Christ. The thief’s perception made a lasting difference.

The way we think about God and respond to God makes a lasting difference in our lives. The way we relate with the Lord Jesus Christ has a lasting effect for us.

Psalm 89/90:12-So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
The Psalmist speaks about the length of life generally to be expected. (Ps.89/90:10) The Psalmist speaks about the orientation for life to make the most of it.

Blessed Augustine commented on this Psalm.

Blessed Augustine stated: “Depart not from the path of God, and become not runaways from Him.”   Personal and corporate prayers are essential for remaining on the path of God. Repentance and confession are necessary to return to the path.

The words of the Psalmist are reminders that earthly life is time limited. Seeking wisdom has great value. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about eternal life and there are few who will come to experience it.(Mt.7:13-14)

The way the time of each day is used determines if the wisdom of God is of primary interest to each person. Individuals exposed to the teachings of the Holy Gospel are accountable for what they know and are expected to learn.

Being a Christian brings with it the responsibility to following the teaching and way of Christ. The Creed is expressed at Holy Baptism. The Creed is expected to be manifested in the life of the believer.

The Creed is not only a profession of faith. The Creed is a guide and standard for daily life. Decisions made by professed Christians should conform to and follow the basic tenets of the Creed.

Believers taking the commitment to the Creed seriously will strive daily to adhere to the content. Nourishment for remaining on the path to God comes from the Holy Scriptures. Nourishment comes from listening to and reading the Gospel.

More than nourishment is needed to adhere to the ways of God. Believers need to exercise their minds. God is to be looked for in daily prayer and daily life. Serious believers will draw closer to God in the services of the Church.

Unity with Christ is best experienced in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. Believers do well to prepare themselves for the Holy Mysteries. Believers do well to avail themselves of the Holy Mysteries.

Much about God is beyond human comprehension. Much about God is available to learn in God’s Holy Church.  According to personal ability, each person does well to draw near to God and learn.

The hunger of the soul is satisfied in drawing near to God. Peace comes to the person drawing near to God in search of wisdom. The heart is central to the pursuit of wisdom.

The Lord said: “ For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”(Mt.6:21)  Hearts treasuring the wisdom of God have transforming power.(Mt.5:8)

Matthew 6:23-The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Individuals have choices as to where they are going in life and what they are searching for in life. The eye is the guide. The heart and mind are involved in control of the effort.

If the person is looking for God and unity with God, the person will search for the path of God. The person will follow the teachings of God. The more serious the search, the more God will be found and experienced.

Individuals looking for the glory and majesty of God will find them readily. Behold the mountains and hills greatly adorned and meditate on the Creator. Consider the diversity of animals and plant life and be amazed at the Creator.

Consider the human body and express great wonder to the Creator. Give thanks to the Giver of life. Be appreciative of the joys of life. Express thanks to God for the opportunity to learn about life and to have life.

The Cross of Christ and Resurrection of Christ are the fundamental guide posts on the compass for life. Be enlightened by the Transfiguration of Christ. Be renewed with each celebration of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan.

Immerse yourself in understanding the purity of the Mother of God and the significance of her having been chosen among all women of all centuries to be visited by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Christ Child.(Lk 1:35)

Give heed to the words in Genesis about the creation of the heavens and the earth and all within them.(Gen.1:1-2:1) Always be attentive to the words foretelling of Christ’s return.(Mt.25:1-46)

The time between a person’s birth and departure from this life deserves always to be viewed in the context of God giving life. God gives the breath. God gives the ability for motion of the body. God gives the senses of the body.

Each person determines what he or she gives to God in appreciation for life.

Each person has different gifts. Each person has different abilities.  The sincerity of giving to God matters the most.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s words describing the poor widow giving all she had is a lesson for the centuries. The widow put her last two mites in the treasury and became an example of giving approved by the Lord Jesus Christ.(Mk.12:41-44)

Distractions appear along the path of life. Keeping the eye on the Lord Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. Returning to the path leading to the Kingdom of God comes through repentance and confession.

The Lord welcomes returning sinners. Despair has no place in the Christian life. Jesus said: “ Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”(Lk.15:7)

Prepared for Adult Class. St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. Venearable Dometius, Martyr.
Venerable Or.     August 7/20, 2013   Father Rodney Torbic

Regarding the Holy Cloud of Mount Tabor

holy cloud

Read about the “annual miracles which takes place at Mount Tabor, especially about the Holy Cloud, which just about every year after the Vigil it occurs by covering Mount Tabor. Specifically it usually comes from Nazareth, an all-white cloud at a very low height, and it stays above the Church of the Transfiguration covering all the people, and it often descends to the earth.

This only happens when the Orthodox Christian pilgrims chant. When they don’t chant, nothing comes….”

on John Sanidopoulos’ blog MYSTAGOGY  (here)

Dormition Fast and Grapes

MinejPreobrazenje

A few words from Hieromonk Platon of New Marcha Monastery in Richfield, Ohio:

In clarifying the Typicon for the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, which is found in the August Menaion, we find a warning which deals with one special kind of fasting.

Namely, the Fathers order that a blessing of fresh grapes be done in the church on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord and as blessed fruit it be distributed to the people and as such that it be used, besides on Transfiguration, also on the following Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

In preparation for consuming this blessed fruit  we do not eat fresh grapes from new vines until the feast of the Transfiguration. This goes for those who do not have vineyards as well as those who do.

In the event one KNOWS THIS RULE and willingly does not comply the Fathers order that they not be given any of the blessed grapes nor that they be given grapes at all throughout the month of August.

The meaning of this fast is in awaiting the ripeness of fruit, and in offering it to the Lord for a blessing and in thanksgiving to Him…

Fifteen Days of Fasting

the_dormitionA nice message from my neighbor Fr. Thomas Constantine in Boardman, Ohio (here) which applies to us Old Calendarists these last days of August.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Greetings in our Great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Kali Sarakosti!

The first fifteen days of August are very special days because they are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is a time to strict fast as we prepare for the Dormition, or falling asleep of the Mother of God in the Lord. As we celebrate the Paraclesis services practically every day, we exalt the Holy Virgin’s virtues, and, lift up to her in prayer our loved ones, for their health and well-being. We rightly and worthily glorify the Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos on these days out of all the days of the year with special solemnity. Unfortunately, there are many who actively dishonor the Mother of God, the saints, their icons, their relics and their festivals. By denying her and the saints, people only are hurting themselves. So many times have we seen miracles, answered prayers, and guidance from the Holy Virgin. She has shown only love for her Son, His Holy Church and everyone in it. The Holy Church glorifies the honorable Dormition or Translation of the Mother of God from earth to heaven. She died peacefully without serious illness. And we can learn her story in the icon and the Holy Tradition of the Dormition. Her soul was taken up in the divine hands of Her Son and carried up into Heaven, accompanied by the sweet singing of angels. Her most pure body was then transferred by the apostles to Gethsemane where it is honorably buried. We see according to Tradition that Thomas had not arrived on time for the funeral of the Holy Virgin. When he arrived on the third day after her passing away he insisted on seeing her in her tomb. Yet when they opened the tomb, her body was not there. She was, according to Tradition, resurrected and taken up to heaven. In the icon we see the life-bearing body of the Theotokos laying on a bier, surrounded by the apostles and hierarchs, and in the center of the icon the Lord holding in His hands the most pure soul of the Theotokos. The Mother of God, the Mother of Christ, upon her death, became the child of Christ.

When someone dies, we say that he or she has “fallen asleep” or “passed away.” What does this mean? This means that for the true Christian there is no death. Death was conquered by Christ on the cross. But there is a translation, a rearrangement of his condition. We say that his soul is in another place, in another age, or in another world beyond the grave, eternal, without end. That is what is meant by “falling asleep”. It is as if it were a temporary dream after which, by the voice of the Lord and the fearful trumpet of the Archangel, all the dead shall live and come forth each to his place: either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29). This is what the Christian means by translation. The Holy Virgin never feared death. In fact, she was ready to die for Christ even at the Cross of Christ. In a frightful time when all of the apostles had scattered to save themselves, the Panayia never left the side of her Son and her God. She had no fear. Day and night she spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went often to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord, and here she offered up fervent prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder her from visiting her holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone. On one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and announced her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In pledge of this, the Archangel gave her a palm branch. With these heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told them of her impending repose. Since her repose, she has shown her unending love for us all.

She is “quick to hear” and always answers our prayers and supplications. During these fifteen days of the Dormition of the Theotokos, make every effort to attend as many services as possible. Allow the Holy Virgin to intercede for us, and, allow her motherly love fill us. Let us all love our Lord, His Holy Mother, and all of the Saints with our whole heart, mind, and soul. In Christ, +Father Tom