Two bloggers meet

   
 After commenting on his blog for a number of years now and he on mine I finally  had the opportunity to meet Fr  Gregory of the-once-more-active Edwards in Greece blog here

We are both here to take part in the St. Sebastian and St. Mardarije  Institute in San Diego

If there is no humility

Bishop Joanikije on yesterday’s gospel reading (H/T here):

“Life experience teaches us that when man is in danger, in trouble, or in some sin, he needn’t fall into despair over his misfortunes, nor to lose hope, since many who have been in danger have been saved, many who have sinned have corrected their entire lives and from being sinners they have become righteous and Saints. Life experience teaches us this, but also the Church of God. If we would compare those two men of whom we heard in the Holy Gospel, the one who called himself righteous and the publican who repented – if we were to compare them to a ship coming to port we would be able to find some similarities.

“We assume, brothers and sisters, that that man (the Pharisee), was truly righteous and that he fulfilled all of God’s commandments, that he didn’t commit any sins, and kept himself from secrets. By our human reasoning we would say that this was a righteous man. But the Lord through His word confirms that this is not sufficient and that that man is lacking something important from his righteousnes1000joanikije_budimljansko-niksickis. This righteousness and this righteous man – who truly made an effort to fulfill God’s commandments – lacked humility, and repentance and this is the most important, he lacked compassion, philanthropy, true, human compassion for his neighbor.

“But this other man, was surely a sinner, but he sincerely repented. We can compare him to the man who is in danger and has found his salvation through repentance. He sincerely repented, from his heart, he didn’t judge anyone but himself. His true repentance was received by the Lord, his short prayer: Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner, was received by the Lord as if he had done an entire Vigil and more. What brought to such closeness to God, dear brothers and sisters? Repentance. For repentance is hope, repentance is faith, repentance is nobleness, readiness for change. That is what brings us to the closeness of God, and this shows us that God loves both the sinners and the righteous. God rejoices in the righteous who make an effort, but the righteous need to attain humility. Only then will their righteousness shine like the sun. If there is no humility then the greatest virtues are darkened, they lose their value, they are converted to their opposite.”

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

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Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, named after the gospel reading we hear this Sunday, the story Jesus gave about a Publican who goes to the temple to pray and the publican who goes to the temple to pray. Last night, at Vespers, we opened a  service book and began using it in our church services – the Lenten Triodion. It is only used during Lent so that we  can say we’ve entered the fast – but we’re not fasting. Instead we are preparing ourselves for the Great Fast. And one of the first things the church tells us in our preparation for fasting is: don’t fast! Don’t fast on Wednesday of this week and don’t fast on Friday of this week that we might not become like the Pharisee in today’s gospel, thinking that it’s the fast that saves us; thinking that it’s prayer that saves us. Remember, our Lord says at one place in the gospels, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If we take a closer look at the Pharisee in today’s gospel we’ll notice that he was a good man. He fasted regularly. He went to the temple regularly. He tithed regularly. But when he prayed that’s all he talked about. And so he says to God in his prayer, “I thank you God that I’m not like other people, robbers, evildoers….or even this publican. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

Such a prayer is not pleasing to God who distances Himself from evildoers. Many of the holy fathers teach us that humility is the mother of all virtues. It opens the doors to our salvation. It was this virtues that adorned the heart of the publican and not the Pharisee even though he had many good deeds.

Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testament, are filled with examples of the dangers of pride. This is the reason the Church decided to give us this morning’s gospel reading to begin our preparation for Great Lent, that we be given this lesson about humility.

We need to be sober-minded and always aware of our sins. As our holy St. Bishop Nikolai points out, God is more pleased when man numbers his sins and not his good deeds. Because He is our Physician and comes to our bed and asks us our pains. Foolish is the man who conceals his pain speaks to the Physician of his good health and wise is the one who tells him of all his pains. St. John Chrysostom says that to sin is evil but to not speak about it is the greatest sin for we unless we speak about it we’ll find no cure.

This is precisely the goal and aim of Great Lent. Yes, we are to fast and abstain from certain foods, but that’s not the point – the point is to change and grow closer to God.

May the Lord strengthen us in our faith that we approach the coming Lenten season with a humble heart.

Monastery Slava

   

 The Monastery of the Meeting of the Lord located in the rocky hills of North County San Diego, in Escondido, is not a monastery in the full sense of the word. But its tranquil and remote setting, tucked between hills on every side one turns and its rugged terrain is definitely fitting for an ascetic. Though it’s literally 10 minutes from Escondido, a city of 100,000 in population, one would never guess that civilization is just around the corner. 

We were there today for the monastery Slava with His Grace Bishop Maxim leading the clergy and faithful in the eucharistic celebration. 

The Calendar

Courtesy of Twitter @diakrisis_logismon

Q. Had the Calendar ever been an issue discussed before?

A. Yes. In the 16th century, when Pope Gregory XIII instituted the New Calendar, he wrote to the Orthodox to encourage them to accept it. They refused, and condemned the Calendar on three separate occasions. One of these Orthodox councils resulted in a document called the Sigillion of 1583, which condemned the New Calendar as incompatible with the Orthodox Faith.