Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As we come to the mid point of Bright Week, I must apologize for not blogging for so long. As can be imagined, Holy Week and Pascha are a busy time. But in any event, we now revel in the joy and glory that is the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bishop's Archpastoral letter for this Pascha talked about a beautiful concept, the concept of Divine Friendship and human recognition. The idea is that if we can keep the idea of friendship with God in our hearts, it will become easier for us to recognize God in the world around us, especially in the people that we deal with. This is one of the great challenges of the Christian life, to see and recognize, however hidden it may be, the image and likeness of God in those around us, and to nurture that image and likeness.

During the reading of the 12 Passion Gospels, at one point Jesus says to his disciples that He speaks to them plainly now because they are His friends. As we listened to those Gospels, as we witnessed the Passion of our Lord, as we stood beneath His Cross and He looked up to heaven and said "Father, forgive them for them know not what they do", we too have become friends of Jesus Christ. And as friends, we recognize Him not only in the joy of this Resurrection, but in all the world around.

In Pascha, all things have been made new, all things have been redeemed, all things now rejoice. Christ is Risen and death is overthrown, the demons are fallen, the angels rejoice and life reigns.*  Let our hearts burn as the hearts of Cleopas and Luke burned as they talked with the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus for Christ being risen from the dead has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.*

* Taken from the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Passion Week Begins

Last night we celebrated the second to the last Pre-Sanctified of this Lenten season. I know it seems silly to mark that occasion, but it always encourages me when we get to the "last" of certain services as we approach Pascha. last Friday we celebrated the last Paraklis service, a beloved service and a favorite of mine, but its end marks the final march to the Resurrection of our Lord.

These first two days of Holy Week speak to us about watchfulness and preparedness. On Monday and Tuesday evening, in the Gospels at Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, our Lord speaks plainly to his disciples about what is to come to pass. He explains to them the need to be ready for what lies ahead. And He speaks to them about things that are going to take place shortly and also about this that have yet to come to pass, things that we still wait for today.

It is a powerful message as we begin this journey of Holy Week to the Resurrection of Christ. This week is like a microcosm of our entire life. We are called to a lifetime of repentance, a lifetime of watchfulness, a lifetime of preparation for those things that Christ speaks about: The tribulations to come and His final coming in glory.

Yes, Holy Week is a preparation for celebrating Pascha but it is also a preparation for our life, a life in Christ, a life in the Risen Lord. Let us learn from these lessons placed before us each day this week and in so doing, let us embrace this life, a life that leads to salvation and the kingdom of heaven.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lights, Camera, ACTION

We have talked repeatedly about the fact that prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars by which we sustain a good and focused Lenten effort as well as a good and focused spiritual life. These three good works call us to action in our lives, they call us to be active.

I am sure we can all agree that we each lead active, if not frenzied lives. One of the goals of the Lenten season is to take a moment to look at our lives, look at the action in our lives and see if that action is worthy of God, worthy of salvation. How often are our actions needless, inconsequential or even selfish? Have we allowed the frenetic pace of society to cause us to simply do things without thinking? On the other hand, does this mean that anything that we do that is not directly related to God is bad? Of course not.

The key here is that what we do is not as important as how we do it, assuming what we do is not sinful. If we make God a part of our daily life then our everyday activities become infused with God and with holiness. If we live a life full of the love of God then our actions, in their many forms, become worthy of God. In essence, we are called to do all things for the glory of God. This is action of which we can be assured will benefit us, will bring us closer to God. This is action that will do more than provide a meaningful Lenten season for us, this is action that will transform our lives and show us the path of salvation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Good News

Yesterday, on the Julian Calendar, we celebrated the Annunciation of the Mother of God. This Feast day commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she is to become the Mother of God. 

The fact that this Feast usually falls during the season of Lent holds special significance for us. Certainly we see and understand that the Feast must occur now, nine months prior to the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. However, the fact that it occurs during these days of ascetic struggle is equally important.

As we come near the end of our Lenten journey, the temptations will certainly increase for us. As we get closer to the moment of celebrating Christ's victory over death, the devil desperately wants to dampen that celebration with sin. The Annunciation of the Mother of God becomes a way point for us, a safe harbor in this storm of temptation. We see in this Feast the promise of salvation and the we realize that the moment that we have been preparing for, Pascha, has at this moment become a reality.

As the Tropar of the Feast says to us: Today is the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery that was planned from all eternity. Let us celebrate this reality and embrace it and allow it to help us and lift us up in these concluding days of Great Lent. As Moses says in one of the Old Testament readings for the Feast, as he beholds a bush burning but not being consumed: I will now turn aside and see this great sight. Let us turn aside from this world and behold the sight of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

But I have prayed for you

Tonight, at our Adult Education class, we concluded the class with a look at the following Gospel passage:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34 

While we are used to hearing about the moment when Peter denied our Lord three times, especially during Holy Week, we don't necessarily hear the passage in full as quoted above. It is a very powerful passage as it speaks to the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and to His ability to see what was to come.

In some ways, it is as if He is talking to us today, telling us that He has prayed for us that our faith may not fail. I think we often feel that our faith has failed when we give in to temptation, but isn't that exactly what Peter did, give in to temptation? And yet, in the end he returned to Christ and gave strength to those around him.

Every time we realize our sinfulness, every time we ask forgiveness or apologize, every time we go to confession, it is God praying for us, strengthening us. When we do these things our faith has not failed, but it has strengthened through God's infinite mercy and love. While we may fall to temptation, while the passions may get the best of us, if we repent, we become stronger and we grow closer to God.

May God give each of us the courage to be sorry, the courage to repent. May we grow strong in our faith and our relationship to God.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Run the good race

As we come to the midpoint of the fifth week of our Lenten journey, it is important for us to "keep our eye on the prize" as they say. In a short time we will once again celebrate the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem and begin our solemn walk with our Lord through His passion, death and resurrection.

It is now that we must remain vigilant, now that we must remain alert. We must not become complacent concerning the good spiritual work we have done so far. We must keep to it, working harder and harder each day. Already we can see, off in the distance, the Cross of our Lord on the hill of Golgatha. It is that prize that we must remain fixed on.

On goal has not been reached. We have not yet come to the end of our travel. It is close, to be sure, but the true reward comes on that Holy Saturday evening when we shout "Christ is Risen!" Then we will know that we have done our part, if we can shout that greeting with sincerity and a new found understanding of Jesus Christ and the mystery of His Resurrection.

This is what the fast offers us. The is what is just beyond our reach right now. God bless us with success these final days of the fast and bring us to His glorious triumph over death.