Sun, 18 March 2018
A Meditation on St. John's “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”
The farmer's wealth is gathered on the threshing floor and in the wine press, but the wealth and knowledge of the monk is gathered during the evenings and the night hours while standing at prayer and engaged in spiritual activity. Step 20 (on vigil), 10.
When the day is over, the vendor sits down and counts his profits; but the acetic does so when the psalmody is over. Step 20 (on vigil), 18.
Stillness of the body is the knowledge and composure of the habits and feelings. And stillness of soul is the knowledge of one's thoughts and an inviolable mind. Step 27 (on stillness), 2.
What is Orthodox Tradition? Why is it important for us to immerse ourselves in the worship and rigors of Orthodoxy?
At the visible level, one that can be observed and studied by scientists, tradition is the accumulation of rituals and ideas that are directed towards a purpose. In the case of Orthodox Tradition, that purpose is the formation of good and strong human beings, good and strong families, and good and strong communities.
We know that, left to their own devices, children will go selfish and feral (spoiled, if you will); that family structures will morph into tyranny or disintegrate altogether, and communities will do the same.
On the other hand, good ideas and useful rituals allow humans, families, and societies a way out of this nasty and brutish life. Through Orthodox ritual and belief, the passions are tamed. The child learns self-control, the family finds grounding, and the community naturally brings safety, healing, and guidance to all its members. Beliefs and rituals that do these things are continually reaffirmed through our participation in them and those that prove counter-productive are adjusted. This is done slowly, and with a recognition that there is a wisdom in tradition that is seldom obvious to the impatient.
But there are other forces at play; there is an invisible level. God continually works through His prophets, His Christ, His Holy Spirit, and His Church to grant discernment to individuals, yes, but mostly to the community as a whole. The rituals and ideas of Orthodoxy are not just useful (although they are), they are inspired and strengthen by grace. Even more importantly, Orthodox Tradition is not directed primarily to the perfection of people, families, and communities, but to their salvation. To put it in theological language, we are not just learning to subdue our baser instincts, we are being saved and drawn deeper into infinite perfection through our life in Christ and Holy Orthodoxy.
If you look around, you cannot help but notice that all reasonably healthy, traditional societies have religious systems that have accumulated ideas and rituals that civilize their adherents. Because there is only one human race and we all have the same line between good and evil dividing our hearts, there is a lot of overlap in their ideas and rituals. Virtue is encouraged; vice is shamed and disciplined; and the unity of the good is proclaimed and celebrated. To the extent that we have become lax in our own devotion, we are encouraged by their witness.
But there is no need to go anywhere else to experience the one thing needful for every person, family, and community. It is found in its fullness in Holy Orthodoxy and its benefits can be enjoyed completely here at St. Mary's (and every other parish that was, is, or ever will be).
Let us immerse ourselves in that fullness now, as we continue our celebration of God's love for us, His people, and His world.
Sun, 4 March 2018
Marriage as a Metaphor for Orthodoxy
Today we celebrate the life and teachings of someone who really got it – St. Gregory Palamas; he experienced God's love for him in a real and tangible way, and he reflected that love back at God and on all those around him.
That's what we are to do, as well. To open ourselves up to the deifying warmth and light of God; and then to send our thanksgiving and praise back up to Him and to use the energy of His grace to serve those around us.
The Good News of the Gospel is that this is made possible and real through the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ.
Although this Gospel really is simple, it has been elaborated with so many words and celebrated, confirmed and taught (if not gilded) with so many rituals – and denied by so many lies – that it is understandable if we sometimes mistake and judge the cup rather than that which it holds.
Perhaps a metaphor will help.
I have met people who think they understand the joy and transformation that marriage can bring.
One set thinks they know it because, while not married, they have their own version of it called “pornography” or really any kind of sex outside of marriage. We cannot deny the reality of that experience, but I hope you realize that it has very little to do with the enduring joy of marriage. They will claim that they do not need to be married to experience the joy of sex; but even when it comes to that, they have settled for something less satisfying and less real. And while intimacy is a powerful and necessary part of marriage, it is hardly the primary source of the transformative joy that marriage provides. They think they get it, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should.
A second set which is equally troubling think they understand marriage because they themselves are committed to the institution of marriage. They have had their ceremony, they wear their rings, and they share a house. But when you start speaking to them about the joy that comes from sharing a life with another person, you learn that their experience is quite different. They are living the rituals of marriage, but they are missing the thing those institutions is meant to hold and protect. They think they get it, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should.
This is a great and wonderful mystery but, as with St. Paul, I speak not of marriage, but of the Church. (Ephesians 5:32)
St. Gregory Palamas fought against both of these misunderstandings about God.
One the one hand, there were people (like the Bogamils) who thought they could really experience God without the Church. This is like having sex without marriage; it may be real in some sense, but it is not healthy nor is it real in the way that a committed sacramental relationship with God in Church is real. They thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.
On the other hand were those who thought is was enough to participate in the rituals and sacraments of the Church. That the experience of God was not something that was possible, that union with Him through Christ was a metaphor for belief, and that the joy to be had through opening oneself up to the Divine Nature of God was a simple emotion and not a metaphysical or supernatural reality. They thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.
God is real and we were meant to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We are Orthodox Christians. We have not settled for something less than we should. We are not just going through the motions when we pray and participate in the rituals of the Church; we are opening ourselves up to God. We allow His grace to heal and transform us, and then we offer and share this transforming grace with the world.
Sun, 11 February 2018
There are broken and despairing people in this world; it is our charge to care for them. We can justify our indifference with all kinds of religion and sophistry, but in the end our deeds will be laid bare. Homily on the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
Sun, 4 February 2018
Three lessons from the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Sun, 28 January 2018
We live in a fantasy world. A world in which there is no need for us to change. But we are not well, we are simply deluded. May the Lord God protect us from the Pharisee in our minds that wants to tell us lies about ourselves and our neighbors and give us the humility – and through that the justification - of the Publican. Enjoy the show!
Tue, 23 January 2018
In edition to finishing up the Book of Numbers, we start a three part series addressing the brutality of the cleansing and taking of the Promised Land. It's a tough topic. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 21 January 2018
From Youngstown, OH. This was the Sunday after Theophany, Zacchaeus Sunday, and the day after Volodymyr and Gennie Esther's wedding. This homily claims they are all connected. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 14 January 2018
On this day, the Church celebrates the Resurrection(like every Sunday) and the Circumcision of Christ (the 8th day after the Nativity) and begins preparing for the celebration of the Baptism of Christ (the Sunday before Theophany). In this homily, Fr. Anthony connects the dots between them all. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 24 December 2017
It is both the second Sunday before the Nativity and, at least for most of our neighbors, the day before the Nativity. In this homily Fr. Anthony talks about why we remember our Forefathers on this day and gives us advice on how to make peace the center of our pattern. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 17 December 2017
Was Jesus Christ really born on the 25th of December? It's an interesting question, but the real confusion is not about the day the Virgin Mary miraculously delivered the baby Jesus in a humble stable in Jerusalem but about the day when Christ was actually brought into being. In this homily Fr. Anthony shares the mystery of a God begotten before all ages born as a baby in Bethlehem. Enjoy the show!