OrthoAnalytika (Orthodox Podcast)

In this homily on the woman at the well (St. Luke 4:1-42), Fr. Anthony describes how Jesus Christ taught us to do evangelism by leading with love.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200517-HomilyonLeadingwithLove.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Christ healed the paralytic.  St. Peter healed Ananias and raised Tabitha from the dead.  We sure could use some of that kind of power now, right?  Enjoy the show.

Direct download: 20200510-HomilyonHealingPeopleNow.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:47pm EDT

In this homily on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers (St. Mark 15:43-16:8), Fr. Anthony compares our reactions to deaths caused by COVID-19 to the reactions of various groups at the time of Christ's death.  He finishes by encouraging us to imitate the witness of the Myrrhbearers who reacted in the noblest way possible: love.

Direct download: 20200503-HomilyonAttitudestowardsDeath.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:18pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony on his back porch in Hartwell, Georgia as he talks with his mentor and friend, Fr. Robert Holet (UOC-USA) about how we can take this opportunity to meet the evangelical challenges of today and prepare for those of tomorrow.  This is the audio from Fr. Anthony's daily YouTube livestream (Fr. Anthony Perkins).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200428-HoletandEvangelization.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:22pm EDT

Join me on my back porch in Hartwell, Georgia as I make a case for optimism, boundaries, and the virtue of having a generous spirit.  The last bit ends up being pretty profound (through no fault of my own, I assure you!).  From my daily livestream on YouTube (Fr. Anthony Perkins).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200427-AGentleSpirit.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

This is the audio from my daily YouTube livestream (https://www.youtube.com/user/74snipe/)  In it, I talk about the value of diversity in risk-adversity and areas of expertise and describe how our culture's willingness to tolerate diversity will allow us to make it through this crisis better than if we only had people who thought correctly.  I also talk about the value of optimism and use the example of a recent MP article on aliens to describe how NOT to evangelize people who know how to think critically.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200424-OptimismandAliens.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony on his back porch in Hartwell, GA, as he talks with Fr. Gabriel Rochelle (UOC-USA) about breadmaking, cycling, Celtic spirituality, and the Old Testament.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200408-FrGabriel.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:21pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony Perkins on his back porch in Hartwell, Georgia, as he talks with Julianna Golas (Human Development and Family Studies, University of Rhode Island) about parenting during these hard times. Themes addressed will include finding your family rhythm in chaos, the power of routines, and recognizing the signs of mental health distress.

Direct download: 20200407-Golas.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:45pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony on his back porch in Hartwell, GA as he talks about connection, story, and a simple way to find comfort and joy even in the midst of a trial.  This is the audio from Fr. Anthony Perkins' YouTube livestream (YouTube channel: Fr. Anthony Perkins).  Check it out!

Direct download: 20200406-FindingComfortNow.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Fr. Anthony shares a lesson that both the Apostles Luke and John and St. Mary of Egypt learned: that our default setting may make us feel right and good, but our feelings are a poor indicator of truth.  Our experience with the Coronavirus helps us understand this and why the world groans in agony as a result.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: CoronavirusandthePsychologyofMisingtheMark.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:43pm EDT

Listen as Dn Tim Kelleher, author, actor, director, and deacon talks about story, liturgy, and how we can deepen our faith in difficult times.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200403-DnTimKelleher-audio.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Check out our daily livestream on YouTube at "Fr. Anthony Perkins"!

A Meditation on St. John’s “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

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 we look around, we 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.

We also cannot help but notice that those societies and cultures that have rejected older ways of wisdom in favor of fads and the fulfillment of every flick good idea fairy’s wand find themselves unable to sustain anything but change, leading to a degeneration of the person, the family, the culture, and the world.

This is not to say that all traditions, or even everything that has accumulated around Holy Orthodoxy is good and healthy and should be preserved.  We are all familiar with tradition with a big T – the things that need to be preserved – and tradition with a little t; those things that may be useful for some times and places, but should be replaced with something better as they become counter-productive.

This crisis has forced us to realize how hard that adjustment is.  One of the little t tradition that is hurting us now is that our spirituality has become synonymous with our regular participation in the Holy Eucharist. The big T tradition here is the ontology of the Eucharist and our need for it.  But to the extent that we have missed or neglected other parts of our Faith; the building up of and the experience of the kingdom of God in our hearts and the reality of God’s presence in our homes, then we are less prepared than we should be to face the present temptations and struggles.  The same goes for the mysterious ontology of suffering and the Church’s teaching on how to do it well and in a manner that blesses the people around us

And so, this social distancing becomes an opportunity to broaden our little t traditions; those rituals, ideas, and conversations that flow naturally from our ancient faith and provide wisdom – tested and perfected over time -  to deal with the realities we face right now.  We need not wait until the “good old days” are restored to thrive. 

The wisdom of St. John of the Ladder shares a part of this tradition we need: how to live well alone and how to live well in isolation with others.

  1. Watch your thoughts.  They need not define you (unless you want to be crazy).
  2. Redirect away from unhealthy thoughts; reinforce and intentionally engage thoughts that are patient, kind, and hopeful. Prayer will help with this.
  3. Be the patient pastor of yourself and the people you are living with. NOT the tyrant or passive aggressive rebel.  Build them up and encourage them.
  4. Cultivate peace through silence. Through the slow but kind word, and through every well-considered action.

These will not just allow us to come through this present crisis stronger than we entered as individuals and families; it will bring an important but atrophied part of our ancient and venerable Orthodox tradition back into our daily lives, allowing us and our children to be more prepared for whatever challenges they face.

And when our regular access to the Eucharist is restored to its proper place in the center of our communities, we will allow it to feed rather than atrophy the kingdom of God within us and within our families.

Let us immerse ourselves in that fullness of faithful believers and families, gathered around the celebration of the Eucharist now, as we continue our celebration of God’s love for us, His people, and His world.

Direct download: Homily-EmbraceTradition.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This is the audio from Fr. Anthony's daily youtube livestream: (https://www.youtube.com/user/74snipe).  Before praying the Moleban for Times of Pestilence and Deathbearing Disease (Book of Needs, Volume 4, St. Tikhons), Fr. Anthony invites us to enter into an attitude of prayer together with three deep breaths and the Jesus Prayer.

Direct download: Moleban-Pestilance.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:42am EDT

Listen as Fr. Anthony tries to share three ways that our suffering can become an opportunity for grace.  But listen with patience, because he (I!) didn't do it all that well (God forgives, but perhaps he (I!) needs more sleep?)!  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-SufferingWell.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In this homily, given as the devastation and growing risk of the coronavirus is becoming known, Fr. Anthony takes us back to basics, calling us to love (and know) God in peace and to love (and serve) our neighbor in hardship.  The latter includes a willingness to suffer well, in Christ. 

Direct download: Homily_-_Back_to_Basics.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:52pm EDT

In this homily given on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Fr. Anthony makes the point that it is much more difficult to bring people into the Church than it is to drive them out and keep them away.  One easy way we, members of the Royal Priesthood, can keep people out of our pews is by showing how much more seriously we take our tribal politics than the Gospel.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_Sunday_of_Orthodoxy_2020.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:26pm EDT

Homily on St. Matthew 6:14-21, in which Fr. Anthony distinguishes between forgiveness that leads to reconciliation, that which allows relations to continue in hopes of reconciliation, and that which leads to an unfortunate but necessary separation.

Direct download: Homily_-_Forgiveness_2020.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

As I told the people at the end of the liturgy, this homily was about two hours of editing away from being worthwhile!  It's great being in a PhD program, etc., but it leaves much time than I'm used to (and need) to prepare.  It's usually okay, but this day I tried out a couple points that weren't quite ready.

Direct download: Homily_-_Last_Judgment_2020.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Dn. Michael Abrahamson talks about the role music (and kindness) has played in his deepening his love of God.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Talk-20200216.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:09pm EDT

In this homily on the parable of the Prodigal Son (St. Luke 15:11-32), Fr. Anthony challenges us to move beyond seeing ourselves just as the Prodigal into imitating the Father (while avoiding becoming the Older Son!).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-OurStoryintheProdigalSon.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:38pm EDT

Arranged by Dn. Michael Abrahamson, sung as part of the Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Mission (UOC-USA) in Waynesville, NC on 2/16/2020.

Direct download: Anaphora-HolyHolyHoly.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:21pm EDT

Arranged by Dn. Michael Abrahamson.  Sung as part of the Divine Liturgy at Holy Resurrection Mission (UOC-USA) in Waynesville, NC on 2/16/2020.

Direct download: Trisagion-OdetoJoy.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:18pm EDT

Homily – Publican and Pharisee
Fr. Anthony Perkins

All of creation is pregnant with potential – less full of lifeless atoms or particles than of seeds just waiting to be brought forth into fruition.  And here I speak not just of literal seeds (although it is almost time to start working with those and getting them ready for transfer into the garden come Spring), but of everything. 

All of creation is ready to grow, made that way by its Maker, just waiting for our attention – the attention of its stewards – to bring it from possibility into realization.  When sown by stewards of pure heart and understanding, these seeds will be nurtured into beauty, offering the best possible fruit, [and] manifesting the glory of God in very tangible ways.  When sown by stewards of ill will, apathetic spirit, or twisted rationality, these seeds will grow into something much less savory, twisted testimonies to pride and carelessness.  Think of these examples:

  • The relationship of the newly wedded couple contains so much potential. Will they be good stewards of that seed, nurturing it into a marriage that will be a blessing to themselves, their families, and their communities? Or will they warp it with the waters of their own pride, forcing it to grow into a noxious and bitter weed with reeking flowers that foul the air and harm all those who rub against it?  The seed could grow either way – it is up to them; it is their decision.
  • Starting even earlier, take the example of the literal seed within the womb. There is so much potential there.  What will it become?  A child of light or a spreader of darkness?  Or, like a quarter of such perfect seeds, will it be sacrificed to the false gods of irresponsibility and liberation long before it sees the light of day?
  • Take the first interaction between strangers – will this potential relationship manifest itself as an application of love and friendship, or as a selfish transaction between a hustler and his mark? Or will the potential remain just that as the two strangers remain just that – strangers – and the possibility for the incarnation of perfection through what could have been a powerful friendship remains unrealized.

 

Perhaps these are too abstract – we are not used to thinking about relationships in these terms.  Americans tend to be more practical – so let us turn to the building blocks of this society: money and time. 

  • Each dollar within our wallets, our purses, and our accounts is a seed. It has such potential to change lives – will it grow into a beautiful fruit that feeds and heals, or a stunted sacrifice designed to slate our selfish addictions for a moment longer.  It has such great potential – what kind of stewards of that dollar – that talent, to use Biblical language – will we be?
  • And what will we do with our time? Every moment is so pregnant – what will it become?  How will it be redeemed?  In idleness or action?  In prayer or prelest?  As an offering to love or selfishness?  Today we have a great lesson in the use – and misuse of time.  Will we work the moments we are given in a way that brings us into closer union with perfection, or will we work it in a way that moves us only deeper into our own delusion?

Let’s look at the lesson from the Creator Himself that describes this very dynamic.

  • Let’s start with the Pharisee.  He was praying.  How could he go wrong?  He had tended his garden so well… but then poisoned it with his pride.  The moment wasn’t just wasted, it was polluted.
  • How about the Publican?  He was praying, too.  No matter what a mess he had made with all the previous potentialities, in this moment – he was pure.  And God moved within the seed of that moment, that pure offering, and it became like the mustard seed – growing to crowd out all that had been grown before.

Another way to think of this is that there is a seed of perfection within us all, ready to manifest itself through every moment and action of our lives.  But we can pervert this possibility with our willfulness and pride. 

Let's not do that; that would be bad! 

Instead, let us look at every moment as an opportunity to do something good and to do something beautiful so that we and this world we are meant to care for will become good and beautiful. 

The Gospel lesson today shows us that the way to bless the moment in this way begins not with memorizing the scripture or mastering the rigors of fasting or of tithing everything we have.  The Pharisee did all those things in a way that closed his soul off from grace.  No, we begin as the Publican: with humility. 

On our own, we have nothing to offer the moment that can help it.  We have nothing to share with our neighbor that can benefit them.  We have nothing fitting to offer God that can match His glory.  And so we offer him our humility. 

And this humility becomes an opening through which the grace can flow, and as long as we keep it open – as long as we keep pride at bay and remain attentive to the actual needs of the moment - that grace will transform us and bless everyone around us.  The imagery given to the prophet Isaiah will then be fulfilled: the desert places will become fruitful gardens because we will have watered them with the teats of our repentance and with the Living Water of grace that flows from the open heart of Christ and all His people.       

Direct download: Homily-SanctifytheMomentwiththePublican.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:20pm EDT

In this homily, Fr. Anthony draws on the example Zacchaeus to describe the need for repentance and commitment in the life of the Christian.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ZachaeusandSalvation.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Tito Coliander's Way of Ascetics.  It's awesome.  We're working our way through it together.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class_-_The_Way_of_Ascetics_02.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In this homily given on the celebration of the Trinitarian Epiphany at Christ's Baptism, Fr. Anthony literally goes back to the beginning and then places the celebration of Christ's baptism within the economy of salvation (Lord, I hope the homily was better than that summary of it!).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_Theophany_and_Orthodox_Sacramental_Theology.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:26pm EDT

In this homily on the Sunday after Theophany (Ephesians 4:7-13; St. Matthew 4:12-17), Fr. Anthony talks about the gains made in the spreading of wealth (and the dramatic reduction of poverty) brought about through economic freedom, a freedom that encourages and empowers people to identify needs and contribute to the good of all; and uses that as a metaphor for understanding the St. Paul's call to all to find and exercise their gifts toward the building up of the Kingdom.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Empowerment_of_the_Saints.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:31pm EDT

Tito Coliander's Way of Ascetics.  It's awesome.  We're going to work our way through it together.  Today's class was interrupted by a tornado warning.  We're all okay, but the recorder shut off (I guess it got scared?)!

Direct download: Class_-_The_Way_of_Ascetics_01.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Sunday before the Nativity is for remembering and celebrating the lives of the "ancestors of God."  In this homily, Fr. Anthony encourages us to learn charity towards our neighbors based on the way Scripture (and thus the Holy Spirit) interprets the lives of the heroes of the Old Testament.

Direct download: Homily-_Sunday_before_Nativity_OC.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:51pm EDT

On the Sunday after Nativity we commemorate the slaughter of the innocents by Herod.  Fr. Anthony challenges us to think - and repent of - the sacrifices we would be willing to sacrifice for our own sin.  Oh, and yes, he really did blank on the place of Christ's birth (bless his heart)!  He forgot his recorder, so this was recorded on his new iPhone SE.

Direct download: Homily-Slaughter_of_the_Innocents.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Among other things, in this homily Fr. Anthony demonstrates why it is so difficult to preach well on sex (it's hard to say anything useful without saying something that offends liturgical sensibility).

Direct download: Homily-20191222.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on Ephesians 5:18-19 and St Luke 18:18-27.  Christ loved the Rich Young Ruler.  He wasn't manipulating him (e.g. for money or control), but was trying to get him to rise above his feelings and find freedom to that he could enjoy eternal life.

Direct download: Homily-ChristsPastoralCare.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on Luke 13:10-17. 

What does Duran Duran (and Monty Python) have to do with the Feast and evangelism?  In Fr. Anthony's finals-addled mind: it's all part of the pattern.

Gospel: St. Luke (14: 16-24).  Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”

Direct download: Homily-DuranDuranMontyPythonandtheFeast.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

St Luke 18:35-43.  The healing of the blind beggar.

Three points:

  1. Jesus did not stay in one place.

Jesus Christ is and was God.  It is fitting that He reside in the throne room of God, surrounded by the cherubim and seraphim, with His holiness reflecting off all the angels and archangels around Him.  But as the being of perfect love, He had to act on behalf of his beloved children (US!).  So He took flesh and became man.

Some would have expected Him to take up residence in the Temple or in the Governor’s House.  But instead He lived among common men and women and, for the last three years of His life, went from town to town so that everyone would know the Good News of salvation.  His body was the temple and He took His holiness, His healing love, and the truth of the Gospel everywhere He went.

We must do the same.  God resides within us.  We are called to love others as God loves us.  We are more than just disciples, we are Christ to the world– we are members of His body, the Church.  Others expect us to keep the reason for our joy and hope here in this building, but that is not how to love!  Yes, we invite the world to be transformed by joining us here, but love requires that we share the reason for joy and hope in the world.  We don’t hide it under a bushel (no!) we let it shine!

The Lord was traveling in today’s lesson, and we give a glimpse at what happened as He did.  We see that it isn’t always neat.   

  1. Jesus – and his disciples – encountered the messiness of the world.

The world is a messy place.  Look what happened in today’s lesson: Christ and His entourage are almost to Jericho, and a beggar disrupts their travel.  This comes on the heels of other messy encounters: people having the nerve to bring their children up to Him to be blessed … a Rich Young Man questioning Jesus, and now this beggar!  I am willing to guess that, in their weaker moments, the disciples would have preferred Jesus stay in a place where they could control Him.  Then He could teach them – and anyone else who knew how to behave and knew what kind of questions were appropriate. 

But that would have been a different God, the God of Ivan Karamazov’s “Grand Inquisitor”.  Life is messy.  People have real problems, questions, and needs that do not fit into neat little categories.  And God goes out to meet them where they are.  As with the Rich Man, He may not always tell them what they want to hear, but there is the real sense that love required meeting people where they are (out in the world)… and then leading them to the cross and, through that, to the Resurrection and life eternal. 

We have to recognize the way our desire to control and mediate grace is more often a result of our own totalitarian pathology than a genuine desire to do God’s will.  Yes, grace leads to harmony; but demanding harmony before offering grace is like withholding medicine until a patient is well enough to deserve it.    

  1. Everyone glorified God.

My final point may seem obvious, but it demands attention.  How did the people respond to the blind man’s healing?  Did they attack Jesus (they did in other places, as when He healed on the Sabbath)?  Were they upset that He wasted His time and power on a simple beggar when He could have done something more important?  Were they upset that they did not get their fair share of Jesus’ miracles on their own body (I bet all of them suffered from something!)?

No,  the Gospel says; “And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”

This is the proper response to God’s love and power no matter how it matches our desires or expectations: glorification!  When we glorify God, we become more human, more happy, more resilient.  And when others see us glorifying God, not just here in the temple, but everywhere we see Him and His miraculous action in this world, they are naturally drawn to worship Him as well.

Yes, let’s continue to praise God and enjoy His miracles here within these walls, but let’s be like Jesus Himself and take the Good News out into the world and let our friends and neighbors – even our enemies – feel the healing grace that flows through our love for them.  Yes, it’s going to be messy and it may well mean that more unworthy beggars than kings feel the benefit of this grace; and it may end up meaning that we bring more grace to the lives of the people in our humble community of Anderson than to those in the great halls of Washington D.C. (that may seem to need it more).

But Christ cured the blindness of the beggar on the way to Jericho despite the all terrible things the powerful were doing in Rome.  Evangelism is local; it begins with the transformation of our hearts into overflowing fountains of grace that pour out to bless everyone we meet. May the Lord strengthen us as we spread His grace in a messy world.

Direct download: Homily_-_Bringing_Grace_to_a_Messy_World.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:29pm EDT

Nativity Bible Study
Session Two: Interpretation through hymnography

Review:  What is the Bible?  What isn’t it?

  • It is NOT the Logos! (St. John 1: 1-18)
  • It is not a complete historical account (St. John 21:25)
  • It is not self evident (Acts 8:26-35)
  • Interpretation is of the Lord, through Christ (Genesis 40: 8; St. Luke 24: 13-32)

Like the Ethiopian Eunuch, we need the Church to interpret the Scriptures for us.  The services of the Church are celebratory and poetic interpretations of the events described in Scripture.  Historical narratives speak to the head while musical poetry speaks to the heart. 

Let’s warm up with some of the hymns from the Matins (Vigil) service of the Nativity.

From the Kathisma.  The first is purely descriptive.

Come, ye faithful, let us see * where Christ the Savior hath been born; * let us follow with the kings, * even the Magi from the East, * unto the place where the star doth direct their journey. * For there, the Angels’ hosts * sing praises ceaselessly; * shepherds in the field * offer a fitting song, * while saying, Glory in the highest * to Him this day born within the cave * from the pure Virgin and Theotokos * in Bethlehem of Judea.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 

The second is descriptive, but is told from Mary’s view.

Why, O Mary, marv’lest thou, * amazed at that which is in thee? * Because I have given birth * in time unto the timeless Son, * yet none hath taught me concerning my Child’s conception: * without a man am I, * how shall I bear a Son? * Who hath ever seen * a birth without man’s seed? * But, as is written, where God willeth, * the order of nature is overcome. * Lo, Christ is born now of the pure Virgin * in Bethlehem of Judea.

Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The third is a theological meditation on the unity of God and man in Christ Jesus.

He Whom nothing can contain, * how is He held within a womb? * And while in His Father’s arms, * how in His Mother’s pure embrace? * Such is His will and good pleasure, and as He knoweth. * For being without flesh, * He took flesh willingly; * for us, He Who Is * became what He was not. * Without forsaking His own nature, * He hath partaken of what we are. * For Christ is born now, twofold in nature, * to fill Heaven with mankind.

And another gem, from Ode 9:

I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave a heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, and the manger a noble place in which hath lain Christ the uncontained God. Let us, therefore, praise and magnify Him.

The most concentrated alternation of scripture and hymnographic commentary occurs during the Royal Hours (and the Vesperal Liturgy).

First Hour

  • Psalms: Psalm 5 (a morning psalm in its usual place), Psalm 44 (Messianic Psalm about the wedding; Hebrews 1:8 confirms; also used in vesting prayers and Proskomedia), Psalm 45 (Be still and know; God is with us).
  • Prokimen:  Psalm 2: 7,8). The Lord said unto Me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.
  • Readings:  Micah 5:2–4 (Prophecy of Bethlehem), Hebrews:1:1-13 (St. Paul interprets the OT and explains the divinity of XC). St. Matthew 1:18-25 (Narrative: birth).
  • A Hymn:  Prepare, O Bethlehem, and let the manger make ready and the cave receive; for truth hath come, and shadow hath passed. And God hath appeared to mankind from the Virgin, taking our likeness and deifying our nature. Wherefore, Adam and Eve are made new, crying, Goodwill hath appeared on earth to save our race.

Third Hour

  • Psalms: Psalm 66 (a song of the Resurrection), Psalm 86 (A prophecy on the meaning of the Nativity and the uniting of the nations in the Church), Psalm 50 (usual Psalm).
  • Prokimen:  Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder
  • Readings: Baruch 3:35-4:4 (Wisdom appeared on earth and lived among mankind). Galatians 3:23-29 (we are one in Christ).  St. Luke 2:1-20 (narrative: shepherds).
  • A Hymn: Tell us, O Joseph, how it is that thou dost bring the Virgin whom thou didst receive from the holy places to Bethlehem great with child? And he replieth, saying, I have searched the Prophets, and it was revealed to me by the angel. Therefore, I am convinced that Mary shall give birth in an inexplicable manner to God, whom Magi from the east shall come to worship and to serve with precious gifts. Wherefore, O Thou who wast incarnate for our sakes, glory to Thee.

Sixth Hour

  • Psalms: Psalm 71 (prophesy of the Messiah; includes Magi/Kings), Psalm 131 (Messianic; also points to nations), Psalm 90 (usual Psalm).
  • Prokimen: Psalm 109:4,1. From the womb before the morning star I bore Thee. Said the Lord to my Lord: Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.  
  • Readings.  Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 9-10 (Virgin birth; God is with us!).  Hebrews 1:10-2:3 (Christ is greater than the angels). St. Matthew 2:1-12 (Narrative: wise men)
  • A Hymn:  Listen, O heaven, and give ear, O earth. Let the foundations shake, and let trembling fall on all below the earth; for God hath dwelt in a creation of flesh; and He Who made creation with a precious hand is seen in the womb of a created one. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.

Ninth Hour

  • Psalms: Psalm 109 (Messianic; see above), Psalm 110 (a hymn of joyous praise), Psalm 85 (usual Psalm)
  • Prokimen:  Psalm 86:4-5.  And of the mother Zion, it shall be said, this and that man is born in her and the Highest Himself hath founded her. His foundations are in the holy mountains.
  • Readings:  Isaiah 9:6-7 (for unto us a child is born!), Hebrews 2:11-18 (Christ became a man), St. Matthew 2:13-23 (go to Egypt!)
  • A Hymn.  Verily, Herod was overtaken by astonishment when he saw the piety of the Magi. And having been overridden with wrath, he began to inquire of them about the time. He robbed the mothers of their children and ruthlessly reaped the tender bodies of the babes. And the breasts dried up, and the springs of milk failed. Great then was the calamity. Wherefore, being gathered, O believers, in true worship, let us adore the Nativity of Christ.
Direct download: Class_-_Interpreting_Nativity_Scripture_with_Hymnography.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Enjoy the show!


St. Luke 10: 25-37.  Homily on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  How does discipline lead to the freedom to love?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_The_Good_Samaritan_Discipline_and_Freedom.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

St. LUKE 12:16-21.  The Lord said this parable: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." As he said these things, he cried out: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Direct download: Homily_-_Leave_it_all_on_the_track.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In this homily on St. Luke 8:26-39, Fr. Anthony shows how easy it is to place our enemies as the villains of Gospel lessons... and reminds us that this is only because we see them through the log (pride!) in our own eyes.  This recording also includes the Liturgy of the Faithful. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_What_Swine_Do_We_Love.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Our Faith: Church Architecture and the Movement of the Faithful

Opening Scripture:  Psalm 29:1-2; Exodus 24:9-18; John 12: 3-8
Summary of Scripture:  The Glory, Power, and Love of God.

Today’s Lesson:  Beauty will Save the World

Questions for consideration:

  • What purpose do architecture, icons, vestments, and music serve? What is it about beauty that is salvific?  Why did Dostoevsky say that it would “Save the world”?  The emissaries from Kyiv’s reaction to worship in Constantinople’s St. Sophia? 

Basic Orthodox Architecture

  • The Temple is Sacred Space. Think of Moses and the burning bush.  The Arc of the Covenant.  The Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It is set aside.  [We are also temples, but this is meant to elevate us… NOT to degrade the physical temple!].  So nice to have an Orthodox Temple that was designed as such!
  • Basic Orthodox Architecture (the Arc of Salvation)
    • Narthex: vestibule. Transition space from the world to heaven on earth.
    • Nave: the central portion where the faithful worship.  Contains pews, tetrapod, place for confession, kliros, candle boxes.
    • Altar/Sanctuary:  Eastern-most section.  Holy of Holies.  Altar Table with Tabernacle and Gospel Book are central.  Also includes the Table of Oblation.
    • Iconostasis: Divides and unifies the altar/sanctuary and nave.  Symbolizes unity of the faithful through Christ.  Holy Doors in middle represent “Gates of Paradise”.  Note that Christ comes out to us (not the other way around).  Deacon doors on side are most commonly used doors.  Specific icons in various places.
    • Domes vs. Steeples.
  • Icons, Frescos, and Stained Glass
    • Our icons/frescoes include:  Iconostas: Christ the Savior, Christ with the Theotokos; St. John the Baptist, St. Raphael of Brooklyn; Archangel Michael, Archangel Gabriel; Icon of the Entrance (changes); Festal icons; icons of patrons
    • Our stained glass include: feasts, mysteries.
  • Vestments for Servers and Holy Things
    • Common day things/people become icons of something better.
    • Colors have theological significance.
  • The Movement of the Faithful
    • How does our behavior change when we walk in (i.e. what do/don’t we do here that we don’t/do there)
  • The Music of Orthodoxy
    • How is our music different from our music out there? How is the talking different?

Discussion:  The role of beauty in our lives.  Do we really need all this stuff?

Next time (11/23 and 11/30):  Nativity (Incarnation) Prophecies 

Direct download: Class_-_On_the_Architecture_of_Holiness.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Why did Christ pick a Samaritan as the Hero in this story?Homily on St. Luke 10:25-37 

We know this lesson; we’ve heard it so many times! Perhaps you want to “test out of” this homily?  We know that the Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we need to have the courage and compassion to love all people that are in need; even those who are different than ourselves. We even get extra points for knowing the symbols in the story that point to the salvific power of the Church.  This lesson on compassion for all provides a necessary corrective! Our instincts betray us.  Our fallen post-Babel psychology is tribal, with many of our moral standards defined by differences between “us” and “them” rather than need.

But if that was the main point, why not make the Samaritan the one on the roadside and an ordinary Jew the one that helps him? Then the Jews listening to him would have known that they should love and help Samaritans, not just other Jews.  Surely that would have been a more effective way to teach compassion towards the “other.”  But Christ is the Great Teacher and scripture is a reliable guide to His teaching.  Whenever we read something in the Bible that seems off, it is time for us to learn something new and unexpected.  After all, as St. Paul wrote to Timothy;

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

So let’s look a little deeper and see if we can learn why it was that the Lord Jesus has a Samaritan saving a Jew, rather than the other way around.

1) First off, this parable continued a theme that Jesus returned to often. He had a lot of patience for everyone but the hypocritical leaders of the Jews, those who knew what the greatest commandments of the Law were (love God and love your neighbor), but refused to follow them. Contrasting the men that were held up as the “best of the best” with a lowly Samaritan showed that much of their behavior was was ungodly and to shame them towards repentance.

2) But wait, there’s more: the parable was designed to do more than shame the religious leaders, it was designed to shame all of the listeners; to point out that their own behavior would have been just as despicable as that of the priest and the Levite. Jesus was basically saying; “this is what your leaders would have done in this situation ... and you would have been tempted to do the same.” It wasn't necessary to put an ordinary Jew in the parable; two points make a line. They themselves were part of that line.  Jesus had already described the line by describing the usual behavior of the men who were supposed to be the “best of the best.” These are the two points that make that line. The Jews would have seen that they are part of that line.

But Christ is not just bringing attention to the immorality of the Jews; He was describing the fallen psychology of all mankind (the “old man”, “Adam”) in general. Mankind (the “old man”, Adam) was caught in a rut – he was not virtuous. He was not courageous. He was too willing to define virtue based on what other people did or expected rather than on what virtue actually requires. It would take something jarring to get them to see this and to change. This parable is jarring. It goes against expectations.

The Samaritan in the parable is virtuous not because of who he is (i.e. the box society put in) but because of what he does; just as the priest and the Levite are cowardly and mean not because of who they are (i.e. the box society has put them in) but because of their actions.  For a tribal people, this undermined the natural and expected order.  And that disruption was necessary because that natural and expected order was ungodly and wrong.

3) There is a more subtle theological point that the Church would have us remember. The Samaritan is an outsider. It is an outsider, one who is only half-Jew – or half-man, as it were – that heals the dying man. The Orthodox Church teaches that the Samaritan in the parable represents Christ. He is counter-posed to the Jewish priest and Levite in the parable not just because He is also different – He is both fully man and fully God – but because He is the only one who can bring healing to the brokenness of humanity. As a good and virtuous man, He – unlike the Jewish leaders of His time – had the will to save all mankind; and as the All-Powerful God, He also had the power to do it. The Jewish law and temple worship that the Priest and Levite offer and lead cannot heal the wounds of mankind the way that Christ can. He is more than our High Priest, He is Christ our God, the Savior of the world.

[This theological point becomes even more powerful when we add in the fact that Christ is the New Adam, the new "mankind" if you will; and we are to climb out of our rut by joining Him as part of the new mankind, as part of the new Adam, the new mankind, the Church with Him as its head (for these are all the same thing) with all the grace, responsibility, and power that this represents].

In Conclusion, our psychology is the same as that of Christ's audience. We are called to be virtuous; to be courageous and caring, even when the world is not. But we have more than parables and Christ's example and teaching to help us. He is the source of all virtue and healing, and we are His body. If we accept Him as our God, then it is His virtue that defines us and His healing power that flows through our loving actions. But there is even more: we are still fallen and our psychology is still the same: for instance, we still look to others to see what the right behavior is. The parish, like the family, is called to be a community that is defined by its virtue and charity; the examples that we set for one another naturally create a community that is good. Moreover, our community then sets the example – becomes the leaven for – the entire nation and the world itself.

 May God strengthen us as we live virtuous lives in Christ; for the good of our families, our parish, our nation, and the world.

Direct download: Homily_-_Why_Make_the_Samaritan_the_Hero.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity

Asceticism III: on Mysteries, Love, and Silence

Review.  We have been called to a great purpose.  In Christ it is possible.  We need Him to be saved; we need Him to live the kind of lives we were meant to live.  Lives of meaning and contented peace.  Lives free of spiritual disease.  Christ has the medicine that heals what truly ails us, but we need to have a relationship with Him to receive it. In the case of normal doctors, the mechanisms are things like conversation, prescriptions, and a healing touch. Through these, our relationship with our doctor gives us the opportunity for greater health. Christ is our Great Physician; what does a relationship with Him bring to us? What is the medicine He shares with us? Is it “work” to take the medicine?

  • The Medicine of the Mysteries. This may be the easiest one for us to see.  They look like medicine!
  • The Medicine of Love. This isn’t just the way God heals others, it is how He heals us!
  • The Medicine of Silence. Silent prayer is a test of our spiritual state and, done correctly, can be part of its healing.

We are sick. Our minds have become warped. We confuse our will with God’s and make an idol of our pride. We need to heal our minds. We cannot do this by reading books, even the right ones (although we can certainly make things worse by reading the wrong ones). Nor can we simply “try harder” to be good. Both of these simply act as offerings to our pride, trying to make it stronger so that it can overcome everything else. What we need to do is to quiet that pride and lower the mind to Christ. Hesychasm. God in us. Quiet. Peace. Restores truth and beauty to the center of our lives with the mind in its proper place as the executive of this beauty and truth.

So how do we achieve this peace? First, we have to immerse yourself in the Mysteries of the Church and you have to dedicate yourself to selfless love of and service to your neighbor (to include you spouses, your parents, your children, and even those people who unjustly seek to do you wrong). Next, you have to develop and follow a prayer rule. Spending five-ten minutes each evening and morning in prayer over an extended period of time is a prelude or warm-up for the way of silence.

The problem of thoughts – and the difficulty of finding silence. It’s hard, but you certainly won’t find it if you don’t try! And if you don’t, there is a real risk that the other two modes – being religious and being nice – will become distractions, taking us right back to where we were at the beginning of the story.

Which is why, my dear brothers and sisters, we need to develop the tools to bring peace to our lives and to those around us. “The creation waits with eager longing for the sons of God… because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19&21)

“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis

How do you meditate?

  • What brings you peace? What quiets your mind?  
  • Meditation (silent prayer) is not just for monks. It is for US!  The ones who need peace.
  • Set yourself up for success.
    • Quiet comfortable place.
    • No distractions (your mind will provide plenty!)
  • Deep breathing. Why?  I use an app to train me for this.
  • Match the words of your prayer to the movement of your breath.
  • Periodically check your shoulders and relax(!)

Don’t get frustrated or upset or worry if you cannot keep focused on these prayers for very long.  If you make this a regular part of your daily ritual, you will train your mind for peace. In times when you are losing your calm, a couple of deep breaths will be enough to bring you back to yourself.

Questions?                                                                   

Next Week: The Rhythms of Life and Worship

Direct download: Class_-_On_Silence.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

A homily on the Parable of the Sower (St. Luke 8: 5-15).  Fr. Anthony encourages us to cultivate habits that sustain and our relationships.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_Habits_for_Sustaining_Strong_Connections.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:17pm EDT

Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity

Asceticism II: on fasting

 Review.  Last week we talked about Christ’s prayer and use of Psalmody (Psalms 21-30); remember that we can also imitate His fasting.  We also talked about kenosis (self-emptying) and that doing good is not just a sign of grace, but the way we open ourselves to it.  Lastly, we talked about why we work; what is work’s purpose?

Warm-up I.  We are made to worship God and serve others.  Learning humility, patience, and the other virtues are necessary for us to do that well.  But in kenosis, we do not disappear.  We are not joining the Borg or some Universal Consciousness.  Nor are we becoming possessed, like puppets; that is NOT what St. Paul meant when he said that it was no longer he who lived but Christ who lived in him. 

Warm-up II.  Who is our neighbor?  Whom are we to love as much as him?  Asceticism doesn’t just allow us to love and serve others well, it allows us to love and serve ourselves.  If this is selfish, then we are doing it wrong (although self-care can feel selfish, especially if we are not well balanced). Self-care is NOT just about maintaining the tool so that it can serve (it is that and more).   

Do Not Fast

  • If it will harm the physical health of you or another
  • Without prayer; without alms-giving; without humility
  • With judgment against those whose rigor is different than your own
  • According to your own will without guidance from your spiritual father
  • Hoping to please God or out of fear of His wrath

Do Fast

  • In imitation of Christ; in His love and with His purpose
  • According the teachings of the Church, with the guidance of a spiritual father
  • In conjunction with prayer, simplicity, almsgiving
  • Other suggestions?

What You’ve Been Waiting For: THE RULES FOR FASTING
Remember that these are an ideal to strive for.  For many, absolute adherence would be counter-productive. Fasting related to foods has many different degrees.

  • The Standard Ascetic Fast (an aside on the role of hunger):
    • No meat (anything with a backbone, so this includes fish)
    • No dairy (or eggs)
    • No olive oil
    • No wine
  • The Standard Eucharistic Fast: abstention from partaking of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ
  • Complete Fast: totally abstaining from all food and drink

Outside of Lents and Feasts

  • We follow the standard ascetic fast on Wednesdays and Fridays
  • There is no Eucharistic fast (we can take Communion any and all days of the week)
  • Complete fast from midnight until Communion on Sundays and any other days we plan to receive

Additional Fasting Periods (Lents and Fasting Days)

  • Great Lent follows the standard ascetic fast (with modifications)
  • The Nativity Feast (Advent) two periods (11/15-12/19; 12/20-12/24) that vary in strictness
  • The Apostles Fast (from Monday of All Saints until the Feast of the Apostles on 6/29)
  • The Dormition Fast (8/1- 14)
  • Eve of Theophany (1/5), Beheading of St. John the Baptist (8/29), Elevation of the Holy Cross (9/14)

Special Fast-Free Periods           

  • Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ to Theophany Eve (12/25 – 1/4)
  • The first week of the Lenten Triodion (after Publican and Pharisee)
  • Bright Week (week after Pascha; this extends to the Ascension for the Antiochians)
  • Trinity Week (week after Pentecost)

Questions?                                                                   

Next Week: Asceticism III – the work of silence

Direct download: Class_-_On_Fasting.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on the Demoniac at Gadarenes (St. Luke 8:26-39).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_-_Infactuation.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:52pm EDT

Homily on 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1. 
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Direct download: Homily_-_A_Call_to_Holiness.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:50pm EDT

Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity

Prayer as a Mystery and Medicine for Pride

Questions for consideration: what happens when we pray?  What is the purpose of prayer?  How does pride (noetic effect of the fall!) affect our prayer? 

Background.

  • Pride divides us from one another and from God.  It makes honest communication and healthy relationships with even people who love us and whom we love difficult (much less everyone else).  How can you communicate and have relationship with someone we “see” so poorly?
    • The absurd puppet show in our mind (with us as the star and hero or victim…).
    • Unless we are willing do some serious work, God is just another puppet in that show.
    • “Work?!  We aren’t saved by works?!”  Becoming “perfect as God as perfect” is more than being forgiven, redeemed, and saved.
  • How do we get to know our family and friends?  How can we get to know God?
  • How SHOULD we communicate (and commune) with our family?  How SHOULD we communicate with God?  Wouldn’t it be great if there was an instruction manual for prayer?

An Apology for Prayer… and for using a Prayer Book

  • Prayer is one of the best ways to develop and maintain our relationship with God. “Reading” these prayers (is reading the right term? It’s not like reading a novel!) does that for us.
  • Prayer is the way we thank God for blessings and ask for His help. These prayers do that well and in the proper way.
  • We CAN use our own words, but these were the words of saints preserved and passed down (and tested and confirmed) through many, many generations (note that they are often labeled according to the saint). These can serve as models even for when we use “our own words.” These prayers teach us how to pray! “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father…” St. Luke 10:1-2a).
  • “Rote” prayer trains our minds (and this also speaks to REPITITION!).
    • Train the reasoning brain. Teaches us words, phrases, and approaches that pattern our thoughts and responses. It also crowds out immature and self-centered approaches to prayer.
    • Train the passions. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, I am going to focus on THESE things and nothing else. This is a controlled arena; a weight room; a rifle range. Humility must be earned.  This helps us deal with the problem of pride!
    • Train the nous. Humility, awe, and thankfulness; these are the only rational responses to being a human in the presence of God. More on this in a future class.
  • Back to repetition. Why is this not “vain repetitions” (St. Matthew 8:6)?  What keeps us praying as the Publican and not the Pharisee?    Submission.  Love (we MUST have love; that’s complicated).
    • Requires repetition of scales arpeggios, and practice pieces to 1) learn how the musical world is structured and 2) how to attune your senses and your actions to it; first self-consciously but over time more automatically.
    • Without this, there is only what one hears… to the extent one’s “ear” is good, one might begin to intuit some patterns… but what about the voice? What about performing? What about composing?
    • This is the way it is with us and our moral actions. We will intuit some patterns from the world; this will forming our own “conscience” (DON’T “trust your feelings, Luke!”) and affect our ability to know and communicate (remember: the fallen world makes the problem of pride worse).
    • Repetition builds up a reliable pattern. It establishes a healthy order. It builds a wall around our minds to provide a safe place for us to interact with ideas and challenges. We need that sense of order and reliability.

Final point for tonight.  We begin prayers; “In the Name…”  This is scriptural, but what does it mean?  We are God’s imagers.  We re-present Him.  We act in His name.  Done with confident humility.  Here’s a mind-bender: the Logos prayed to the Father (a witness of them being “One” as we should be one)!

Next week:  Asceticism as training for perfection.   

Direct download: Class_-_On_Prayer.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 7:11-16. 
"At that time, Jesus went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!""

Direct download: Homily_-_The_WIdow_of_Nain.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Adult Education, Class Two: Pride
Our Broken Moral Psychology
(and how to heal it… and the world)

Some Scripture to get us started:

Proverbs 16:18.  Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Romans 12:3.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

1 Corinthians 13:4.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Galatians 6:1-3. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

Philippians 2:3.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

James 4:6   But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:10. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

###

Pride: A Noetic Effect of the Fall.

What effect do we have on others? Is it like St. Peter’s? Do we walk in the midst of broken people bringing them healing? Do others, recognizing the potency of our peace, go out of their way just to be in our shadow? Have we achieved any degree of the kind of purity and goodness – the kind of peaceful spirit – that will, as St. Seraphim of Sarov intimates, lead to the salvation of thousands?

I have to be honest with you, even when that honesty might be troubling: when it comes to everything that is important on this earth, when it comes to the things that really matter in our daily lives, in the life of our families, this parish and this community, and in the entire course of cosmic history, there are only two types of people in this world:

  • Those who are part of the problem
  • Those who are part of the solution

Saint Peter was part of the solution (healing of Aeneas; raising of Dorcas; his shadow!). That wasn’t always the case. There was a time when he was more affected by his own pride and the expectations of others than a commitment to do what was good and right; but by the time the events described in Acts 5 & 9 roll around, he wasn’t just occasionally doing what was good and right (as he had before), he had become good and right. So good that Christ and the Holy Spirit worked amazing miracles through him.

Don’t we want to be part of what Peter had? To bring hope to the hopeless, healing to the hurt, and life to the dead?

If so, then we must give our lives to Christ. We must open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. We must train our feelings, our minds, and our wills to want only those things that are holy and good. All other things will pollute us and make unsuitable for salvation – much less for the salvation of the creatures and creation around us.

The polluted person is not part of the solution. Pollution is the thing we need to end. The polluted person is part of the problem. Pollution comes in many forms (here I speak not of factories and cars and the like, but of the soul); and the great difficulty of living in this world is that it celebrates impurity, makes it seem normal, even good.

We have to keep ourselves pure. We have to keep our families pure. We especially have to keep our parish pure. The Church is where people come to be healed. But what good is a hospital that is full of germs? Whose doctors and nurses and orderlies have not washed their hands? The Church is where people come to be cleansed, but what kind of cleansing comes when the parish water has been fouled? The Church is the palace of the Prince of Peace, where people come to calm their souls and bring an end to divisions, but what kind of peace can we offer if we war among ourselves?

It is so easy to become part of the problem. Our pride is set up for it. The brilliance of our minds works overtime justifying our selfish motivations and excusing our bad behavior. Our minds are the best PR guys we could ever get, the kind of salesman that could sell snow to eskimos. The kind of guy that every elected official wants around to explain why his policies and actions are the very best. The problem is that our minds use this skill to convince us that we are saints, that our every motivation is noble, and our every action was required by the situation at hand.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have found that this is the default setting for our moral “decision making”: we instinctively do things, then our minds kick in to explain why we do (or rather, should do!) them. Very few moral decisions are the result of choice or discernment – no matter what the PR guy in our head tells us. This is bad because our instincts are often flawed. They must be trained. This requires humility and effort. It’s a lot easier to just let the cheerleader in our brains tell us how great we already are.

But if we take the easy way, we will be part of the problem and we will make it harder for those who are actually trying to help (the ones who, unlike us, are not part of the problem) to do their job.

This can even happen in our parishes. The description of the power of St. Peter’s shadow came right after the condemnation of Ananias and Sapphira, the two who threatened to contaminate the Apostolic Church with their selfishness. The indicator of the problem in their hearts was that they gave some money to the church, but held more back (unnecessarily). Today’s reading comes right after Simon Magus tried to buy the Holy Spirit so that he could do the same kind of wonders that the apostles did.

Can you imagine the way the PR people in their heads spun their motivations and actions? Ananias and Sapphira probably considered themselves so generous! I am sure they had all kinds of sweet-sounding justifications for not supporting the ministry of the Church with all their time, talents and treasures. Don’t we all? And yet the truth condemned them and they died in their sin. Simon Magus’s mind may have told him that he only wanted this power to help others; that he would use it to ease people’s pain. Don’t we all? And yet the truth condemned him. His error was so great that he is one of the greatest arch-villians in the history of salvation. He even has an entire category of sin – Simony – named after him.

We have good intentions.  We want to be part of the solution. We want to do good. That is why we are here. But we cannot trust our instincts – even if we call them beautiful names like “my conscious” or “my heart” or “my feelings” (we cannot trust your instincts!) – to guide us. Nor can we trust our brains to discern what is right. Our instincts will point us in the wrong direction and our minds will convince us we are exactly where we should be and right around the corner from where we are going. The PR guy in our brains will tell us how good we are and provide all kinds of infallible evidence to support this claim.

But we are not good. There is only one that is good, and that is Christ. We must trust Him (not ourselves). We have to let go of our instincts and justifications and start over. Let the Holy Spirit – found so powerfully not in our feelings but actually manifested in the teachings of the Church – strengthen and guide us.

This is important. You are here today, and that is a good beginning. But it is not enough. Through humility, let the Lord’s peace and power replace your pride. Through your prayer rule and study, let the wisdom of God retrain your mind to be an advocate for truth rather than a cheerleader for sin (and not just a way to learn new words to write your own hagiography), and then, let the peace and power that passes all understanding transform your life, and from there to transform this world.

If we do this, then we will become – as St. Peter was - a part of the solution.

Direct download: Class_-_On_Pride.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily: Why We Need to Love God to Really Love Our Neighbor
Gospel Lesson:  St. Matthew 22:35-46 (The Great Commandment) 

Great lesson from The Teacher: “what is the most important thing ever?” Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind!

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: To love God with the whole heart is the cause of every good. The second commandment includes the righteous acts we do toward other people. The first commandment prepares the way for the second and in turn is established by the second. For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbor in all things himself. The kind of person who fulfills these two commandments experiences all the commandments.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 157–158). InterVarsity Press.

Why is it so important? What can’t we just skip to the second one, as the non-believers do? Isn’t it enough just to love? 

No. We have to be intentionally connected to the SOURCE of love. It’s like how our homes need to be connected to the generators through the power grid. We might be able to create enough energy “off-grid” to power some things some of the time, but in order for it to be consistent, we need to be on the grid, and that grid needs to be connected to the generators. 

Without that, our “love” of your neighbor is going to be based on how we are feeling, and that is a terrible way to love. We can see how well this works just by looking around. Everyone can be nice and sacrificial and patient when it feels right; but who is willing to do it when it is hard and unpleasant? 

Loving God with complete openness, humility, and awe allows His love to strengthen us; it also grants the ability to see God in our neighbor – even our enemy – so that when we are serving them we are also serving Him and thus remain “hooked up to the grid”, so to speak. 

There is another point worth making because our context hides it from us: this openness, humility, and awe – this love of God with the whole heart, soul, and mind – needs to be done in community. It is made to be done within the Church. The Church is not just for us; it is the place where the conduit of love connecting us with God and one another is the purest and strongest.  It is where we learn through experience how to have that source in us and connecting us; one pure love uniting, healing, empowering, and guiding us together. 

Of course we can create connections without God, playing with institutions and laws and the distribution of power in hopes of finding an optimal solution [and we’ve done a pretty good job of that in our country because we have tried to create a system where the drive to take care of the self and the family requires one to find ways to serve the needs of others and where the earnest desire to serve others is rewarded with the ability to care for oneself and one’s family]… but even so, this can only go so far. 

Without the connection to God and the ability to see the image of God in all our neighbors, we are still governed and limited by our own power and our own feelings and motivations. Without reliable access to the source of Goodness, Patience, Love, and Courage, even our system will either break down into an anarchy of competing feelings or calcify into a totalitarianism where one group’s idea of love – rooted in fallen ideologies and tribal egoism – will create a hell on earth.

It is not enough to be connected to one another and to try to “be nice.” Let me give one more example before I conclude. Many of us are connected to zillions of neighbors through social media. And when it works well, it is wonderful. But have you noticed how often it sours? How, even those we love and know to be good post things that create pain and division? Even groups that are explicitly Christian can dissolve into hellish pits of division, hurt feelings, and wickedness. We’ve all seen it, it isn’t good, and there has to be a better way.

There is, and what we are called to do, that thing we called “Orthodox Christianity” is it.

Being nice is not enough. Being “Christian” is not enough. That niceness and that “Christianity” need to be continually reinforced by the grace of God. This is only done through love, and this love is meant to be cultivated, experienced, and shared within the Church and from the Church to the world.

The fullness of that Church is meant to be found here in this, our parish home. If we open our hearts and our community to God through sincere worship and immersion in the sacraments; if we open our hearts to and serve one another and the hurting neighbors in our community; the conduit of love will be opened to maximum throttle and the grace of God will light us up and turn us into a beacon of hope and security to the world.

May our light so shine among men that they will see our good deeds and be drawn to worship the God who is in heaven.

Direct download: Homily_-_Love_without_God_is_Fickle.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:08pm EDT

Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity
The Mysteries

Questions for consideration: does God just work through ideas and the heart, or does He work in the physical world, too?  How about mankind?  Is there such a thing as a blessing?  A curse?  How do they work?

Background.

  • God is un-created.  He made this world as an expression of His Love.  He made man in His image to be the steward of creation.  Creation was designed to respond to our touch and to our care (as a reflection of how it responds to His touch and care).
  • We failed in our first calling as good stewards.  We were cast out of the Paradise where blessings were meant to compound eternally.  But creation still responds to our touch and to our care.  
  • Alas, we have become a curse to the earth; “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you,  and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3: 5-7)”
  • Christ is the “New Adam” (Romans 5); He has restored humanity’s ability to be the good steward of creation.  Note that this is accomplished by those who unite themselves to Him in His Holy Church.

Mysteries (not as in “strange”, but as in the way the ineffable God is made known and accessible. 

  • Baptism.  The theology of Theophany (the Baptism of Christ); “The Jordan turned back!”  The Psalms are full of language about how God has tamed nature.  Our baptisms are not just symbolic of an inward change.  The water is blessed, the old man dies through immersion and is brought up a new man in Christ.  Because it is a real change, it is meaningful for a baby to be baptized.  Moreover, this allows the child to grow up in Christ and not just waiting for Him.
  • Chrismation.  The seal of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20).  The physicality is through the oil, which was prepared by the Patriarch on Holy Thursday.  The anointing with chrism makes us a “christ”, an anointed one!  
  • Communion.  The Body and Blood of Christ.  This is the central Mystery of the Christian Church.  Instituted by Christ Himself, the Gospel and Epistle references make is clear that it has always been the central rite of believers and more than just a symbol or remembrance.  The physicality here is obvious.
  • Confession.  The “Second Baptism”, with tears in the place of water (God accepts even “a portion of a tear”).  We are all sinners and there can be no salvation without repentance.  Confession was done in the midst of the Church; now the priest stands in for all the people.  The “seal of confession.”  It is more than counseling and more than the repentance the believer does on his knees at home (St. James 5:16; St. John 20:23).
  • Holy Unction.  The healing ministry of the Church in its most iconic form (St. Mark 6:13; St. James 5:14).
  • Marriage.  This is one of the greatest icons of the Church: the union of two live in love through Christ (St. John 2:1-11; Ephesians 5:32).
  • Ordination.  The laying on of hands (1 TImothy 5:22).  Bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, taper bearers.

“Minor” Mysteries

  • Funerals.  Prayer.  Silence.  Loving touch.  Listening ear.  

An Apology for Orthodoxy:  It is radically Incarnational.  It takes God’s call for us to be stewards - and annointed ones - seriously.  It also takes our own incarnation (psycho-somaticism) seriously.  It also takes our pride seriously.

Thoughts?  Questions?  

Next week:  Orthodoxy as the medicine for pride.   

Direct download: Class_-_Sacramental_Realism.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on the first Sunday of Luke (5:1-11).  The Gospel is on Christ calling the disciples to become "fishers of men."  This account at the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry bookends with a similar one that occurs after His Resurrection.  Fr. Anthony reminds us in this homily that we live in the joy of that second account (even when our nets seem empty).  Keep fishing!

Direct download: Homily_-_Keep_on_Fishing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This is a recording of the talk I gave for the “Ukrainian Historical Encounters Series”  special event "Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Organized Ukrainian American Community" on 21 September 2019 at the Princeton Club of New York.  I represented the UOC-USA on the panel on "The Ukrainian American Community and Religious Life".  The moderator was Dr. Andrew Sorokowski [Religious Information Service of Ukraine].  The other presenters were the o. Ivan Kasczak (The Ukrainian Catholic Church) and Rev. Mykhailo Cherenkov (Ukrainian Evangelic Community).


Every time we do this, it is different.  This time, the focus is on the spiritual peace and harmony offered through the Divine Liturgy.  Sorry about the audio quality; enjoy the show!

Direct download: Excerpts_from_a_Teaching_Liturgy_-_A_Meditation_on_Being_One.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. John 3:13-17. "The Lord said... as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up ... " What's that all about? Snakes and salvation. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-SerpentsandSalvation.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Gospel is St. Matthew 18:23-35 (the wicked servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive).  The Divine Liturgy was our first in our new location.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: DivineLiturgy-20190901.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

The Gospel is St. Matthew 18:23-35 (the wicked servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive).  God desires that we be one as He is One; forgiveness are essential for both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of this unity.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ForgivenessReconciliationandUnity.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

1 Corinthians 3:9-17; St. Matthew 14:22-34.  In this homily, given at the first "official" Divine Liturgy with the Holy Resurrection mission in Waynesville, NC, Fr. Anthony focuses on the hand that Jesus Christ gives to Peter when he called out "Lord save me!" as he sank into the water. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-LordSaveMe.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In this, his last homily as the priest of St. Mary's in Allentown, Fr. Anthony describes how the multiplication of the loaves is a model for all the good work we do in the world, to the glory of God and the serving of our neighbors.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-KindnessandtheFeedingoftheFiveThousand.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Matthew 9:27-35
Romans 15:1-7

A world of violence, of division, of demonization, of sinful self-righteousness. Surely we have to do something.

And so we try. We come up with policies, but because we are so damaged and divided, these just polarize us more. Gun control? Assimilation? Immigration? The reaction each of us have to these words; the defensiveness, the anger, the argumentativeness... these demonstrate the need for something stronger, something that goes deeper.

We need a new start. A way to allow us to approach ourselves, one another, and our problems with new eyes.

The Gospel is that the Lord has seen our divisions and our pain, and so He has sent His Son. Through His Son, we can all be given a new start.
Baptism. Confession. A new start. As many times as it takes. New eyes. A New mind, a New heart. A growing capacity to see, to know, and to love.

But we are so divided! And becoming more so every day. We are coming up with new identities that show how different we are from one another, and then we rally around those differences and use them to puff ourselves up and degrade all those who oppose us. Worse yet, these differences are put within a context of power, where the only worthwhile goal is to destroy the ways of the other and replace them with our own. How can we break out of this downward spiral of division and hate?

The Gospel is that the Lord has seen our divisions and our pain, and so He has sent His Son. Through His Son and the Unity that is His essence, we can become One as God is one. In Him, we are called to become a new humanity, a humanity that is not divided by nation – no Greek nor Jew, or sex – no male nor female-, or power – no master nor slave – but is all one in a joyful unity. All made more of themselves without causing that to put him against others who are actualized differently from themselves.

Rebirth? Yes, we need a new start; and the Lord offers it to us every day. A world without division? Yes; and that is what we are doing here today.

So what do we need to do? We need to give ourselves over to Christ; allow Him to continually remake us in His image and allow His love to heal the divisions that are destroying our families, our country, and our world.

Today St. Paul gives some simple advice on how to work towards peace.Be patient with one another, especially when they are weak. Bear their burdens. Know their pain. Comfort them.

Kindness can seem too hard. “What if people use me”. If you hold true to yourself, if you maintain your integrity and virtue, you cannot run out of kindness. It isn't like money or food. If people use you? Don't let them. If people are mean? If they respond poorly? Then they are starving for it: give them more. Kill them with kindness? Yes, kill their demons with kindness. Not out of spite, but out of a desire for their healing, because you have come to know them and to love them and to desire their salvation.

Kindness: weak soup for a starving world? No. Unity. Love. Redemption. These are the things the world needs. And this is the Gospel: that God has seen our pain and He offers this unity, this love, this redemption to heal our wounds, silence our hatred and division, and draw us into an eternity of joyful perfection.

We spread this love not through shouting or stressing how we are different, but by patiently drawing them into love.

Direct download: Homily-AChristianResponsetoViolentDivision.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Christ sent his disciples out to heal.  Today (7/14) we celebrate Sts. Cosmos and Damion, the Unmercenary Healers.  In this homily, Fr. Anthony reminds us that is our calling - not just that of clergy and medical professionals - to heal the brokenness of those around us.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-HowtoHealinChrist.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This Liturgy was celebrated in Waynesville, NC as an outreach of St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown, PA and in anticipation of the mission (Holy Resurrection) that is scheduled to begin services in Waynesville on 18 August 2019.  The audio of the homily is not all that great (it was a small room, so Fr. Anthony kept his voice down as was a distance from the microphone, so we supplemented it with some of the music from the service.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-VisionforWaynesville.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Man Born Blind
Acts 16:16:34
John 9:1-38

I strongly encourage you to spend time studying scripture. Not just reading it; it's not like a novel that is easy to follow or a textbook that lays everything out and then footnotes the hard stuff; it requires effort. And part of the effort is asking questions. We've talked about this before: the Bible, like Orthodoxy and everything else worthwhile, can handle scrutiny. Asking questions - not out of a desire to attack or discredit, but out of a desire to understand and even test – is the way our rational mind learns. Our subconscious mind learns through the repetition of ritual and story, but the rational part of our mind learns best from active and continuous dialogue. And here at St. Mary's we are creating a culture of safe, loving, and productive dialogue; so that we can fulfill the desire of God “that all be saved and come to the knowledge of God.”

I love this Gospel, because one of the obvious questions is asked straightaway; “why was this man born blind, is it because of his sin or his parents?”

Awesome. And our great teacher gives the answer, and he does it by stepping outside of their worldview and shifting it from sin to the power of God. It's a beautiful thing.

But there are other questions that come up to. And one of the most pressing and most obvious is; “if God has that power, and he used it on this random blind guy, why didn't he use it on …; why doesn't he use it on ….” And so on.

These are great questions. They are questions motivated by hearts that are broken with grief and a desire to bring comfort to people who are hurt and suffering.

There is an answer, but in order to give it, I need to come at it sideways, with a parable.

Why a parable? … Why make one up?

From our own experiences: the melt down on aisle four.

Parable:

Hungry child. Knows what is required to end that hunger. Demands that the parent end the hunger. Now. There is food in the shopping cart; it is there so that dinner can be made. No; the demand is more insistent. In a toddler, it takes on the form of the melt-down. But what if the toddler had words? What would they look like? Love! Where is the love? A child in need! Feed the child! If you love, you must feed the child!

Some in the store may even support this: “please feed the child!!!”

But what happens if the parent gives in to the tantrum?



Greater long term success and and satisfaction is found in learning about self-control and deferred gratification (not to mention the fact that bad behavior has negative consequences) than in satisfying cravings and hunger pain as soon at they show up.

The good parent will soldier on, make dinner with the child (or while he sits in time out watching it being made), and then be reminded – at dinner – about the regular cycles of the household rhythm. Eventually, when the child is hungry, he will not need to be reminded that dinner will come, that the love of the parent is real and that she really will take care of the child. It will all be automatic. The refusal to disrupt the plan and rhythm of the good household around the short-term desires of the child will be understood as necessary, or at least, acceptable.

The parable isn't perfect, but it provides a good start to understanding why good healed this blind man, but doesn't answer every request immediately and in the way we demand. Even when we insist that love requires such a response.

God healed the blind man for the same reason he accomplished all of his miraculous healings: so that we would know that we could trust Him that dinner really would be shared with all who desired to eat once it was actually time for that dinner to be held.

God has healed our diseases; God has granted us all immortal life.

Right now, we're in Aisle Four and hungry; we seem a long way from home and forever away from dinner time.

That doesn't give us license for us to have a melt-down on aisle four.

But if we do melt-down, remember that God is our good parent. He is patient. He won't love us any less, but life will go much easier for us – and all the other shoppers in aisle four and throughout the store – if we learn the value of self-control and defered gratification.

Christ is Risen, He is ascended into glory, and we will join Him there when it is time.

Direct download: Homily-BlindMan2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman; St. John 4:5-42.  What are we to learn about water that is more than water and the secret food that sustained Jesus?  Listen and find out!

Direct download: Homily-20190526.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:58pm EDT

St. John 5:1-15; Acts 9:32-42.  Three lessons: A Life lesson from St. John Chrysostom: We must persevere, even when there is no clear solution.  A moral lesson from St. Augustine: There is a time for being cared for and healed, but there is also a time for healing others. A theological lesson from St. John Chrysostom: God set it up this strange way to prepare us to understand the real healing that would come through baptism.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ParalyticSunday2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

The Lamentations/Praises from the Matins service of Holy Saturday.  Rdr. Nicholas Perkins sang the verses; Fr. Anthony Perkins (his father) sang the Psalm verses.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Holy_Saturday_Lamentations.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Palm Sunday Homily.  

Where do we get our spiritual strength? What is the source?  Is our spiritual health fragile and dependent on the circumstances, or is it robust?

Do the events and people in our lives “damage our calm”, or do we have the kind of “peace that passes all understanding” guarding our hearts?

The default setting is for our calm to be defined by the state of our ego; our pride.

  • When we feel insulted or taken for granted, our peace is threatened and our joy diminishes.

  • When people show appreciation for us, or praise us, we feel serenity and our joy abounds.

This really is a litmus test for our spiritual maturity: how do we respond to insults and a lack of appreciation; and how do we respond to praise.

If deepest state of being is offset by these things, then we have work to do.

The easy way: surround ourselves with the right kind of people! (safe places?)

A bit harder: mental games. Learn to write off or ignore criticism and look for positive things to cling to. This can include using theological ideas: “If God be for me, then who can be against me”; “I am a child of God; it's not my fault if these sinners don't see that.” Also games for praise.  Another way is to just check out - lots of ways to protect our ego.

But learning to hear criticism and praise objectively (and not through the needs of our ego) is necessary for our improvement!

God wants to have joy, and to have that joy in abundance; irrespective of our situation.

The God-man Jesus Christ demonstrated this in the events we are now celebrating:

  • Praise: Palm Sunday

  • Criticism: His Trial and Passion.

In neither case was He altered by them. His emotions were affected, but His sense of self and His sense of purpose was unchanged. Because He was never separated Himself from the Light and Truth that are themselves unchanging.

AND THAT IS THE ANSWER FOR US TO. To have Christ in us and us in Him; because no matter how much we work on them and no matter how we change our environment to make it easier for us to be content and happy, there is one even that our ego's can NEVER be strong enough to overcome...

Death. It faces us all. It faced Jesus. But He overcame it and through Him we can overcome it, too.

But only if we rely on Him and not our egos. And we can test how we are doing by looking at how our joy is affected by criticism and praise.

May God give us the courage to live in Him and Him in us so that we may overcome death and sin.

Direct download: Homily-PalmSunday2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:45pm EDT

Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross.

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

Christ is talking as if “coming after” or “following” Him is something good. What is that all about? Where is He going? Where is He leading us?

Christ talks about “denying” ourselves. In the next verse He ties that to being willing to die.

This sounds important. We need to get it right.

Great lie: all religions are the same – but the devil himself can appear as an angel of light! (2 Corinthians 11:14).

  • Don't think that just having faith in SOMETHING is enough.

  • Why in the world are there so many warnings in the Bible about idolatry?

  • Some people focus on sexual sin, but even that is used as a metaphor for worshipping false gods (one is bad, but the other is worse; just as marriage is good but union with God in the Church is even better).

We need to get this cross thing right.

Is it just about perseverance? Everyone has their own cross to bear? Kind of, but even that needs to be grounded. We aren't just stoics, we are stoics of a certain type.

What is the cross? Pain. But just any pain?

Look to the prototype: we are Christians, and He is our standard. His cross was painful, but it was pain put to a certain use. It was sacrificial. He gave Himself as a sacrifice. All sacrifice is of something valuable, something hard. Pain is like that.

The cross was Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the people and world that He loved.

This gives us enough to work on: taking up our cross means doing things that are hard on behalf of others. It means denying what we might prefer so that others can thrive.

For Christ, that meant leaving the place where He was given the glory and honor that was His due to go live in a place where He would be disrespected, misunderstood, and even tortured; and He did it so that we – the ones He loves – could join Him in eternal glory.

When we voluntarily sacrifice our time, putting up with people who may misunderstand us, who may not value us, and who may never really appreciate what we are doing; and we do it out of a desire for their health and salvation...

Then we are taking up our cross and following Christ into glory.

So be patient when your ego tells you to lash out; be courageous when your instincts tell you to hide; figure out what love requires in each moment – and then dedicate yourself to it. THAT requires listening to the needs of the moment.

That is the cup that our Lord accepted in the Garden of Gethsemene that led to the salvation of the world – and drinking of that cup unites us to Him through His passion on the Cross into everlasting life with all the saints.

Direct download: Homily-TheCrossisSacrificingforOthers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

Notes:

So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Spirit, through the mysterious visitation of perfecting illuminations—then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendour; just as the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For “the glory which the Father gave Him”, He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, as the Gospel says, and “He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory” (John 17:22,24). St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads, I, iii, 5.

 

The problem with words.

  • We need them, but...

The problem with words about God.

  • We need them, but...

  • Even the best words about God (scripture, prayer, Creed)

    • Always about us, wanting something, looking for answers to specific questions, challenging

    • This is like listening to someone only so you can figure out how to argue with them, or manipulate them, or figure out how much they can be trusted.

Go in and meet God as He really is

  • Not the puppet we have created (from last week) with our words

  • “Do you not know that you are the temple of God”; 1 Corinthians 3:16.

  • Our heart – that is to say, the best and most central part of our mind – is the altar, the place where God means to live and where we can go to meet Him.

  • Actually meet HIM, not our image of Him.

  • But the only way to see and know Him and the way to experience His grace is to let go of the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that we build between us

    • I mean, it would be very strange for God to give us a place where we could meet Him, and then for us to build a wall to keep us from Him (like an iconostas with no doors!).

  • St. Gregory knew that it was possible to experience the grace of God when He went in silence into the Altar of His Mind. He knew this because this is described in Scripture, it is taught by the Church, and because just his thing was a regular part of his life. It took years of training to strip away the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments so that he could do it, but through constant effort and an apprenticeship with a good elder monk, he was able to do it.

  • This experience is available to us as well. Just as the grace of God comes so that we can be blessed by the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, the Eucharist and so on; so too can we be blessed by the silent prayer in the presence of God.

Go out and meet our neighbor

 

There is another way that is related to the way of silence, and that is the way of service. Whenever we serve someone, we are serving Christ. Whenever we gather in His name – and this includes anything we do in the name of sacrificial Love – He is there. Christ God Himself told us this.

Here, the way of meeting is different, but the same discipline is required. We talked about this some last week; about how we need to transform the absurd theater of our mind – populated by terrible caricatures of our enemies and ridiculously over-wrought images of ourselves and our friends – and turn it into a fitting temple; adorned by icons that show the people in our lives in the light of Christ rather than in the light of our own biases and brokenness.

Note how much this picture of our mind fits with what we do here: we have this Church, a place designed for us to meet God – and we have it adorned with the images of men and women, and these images are intentionally done in a way that shows the way God loves and blesses them. We don't portray them in their sin, nor to we overdo or romanticize their beauty – it's not about them, it's about the Christ in them. Our minds can be the same. We go there to meet God and we bring the images of our loved ones – both friends and enemies – into His presence so that they can shine in His love.

And surely this is an act of love on our behalf. But if we really love our neighbor, this can only be part of the way we serve him. Just as we have to go out of this temple to take the Gospel to the world, so to do we have to take the love that we experience in the temple of our heart and mind to the people in our lives.

But remember how St. Gregory spent years tearing down the words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that were the bricks in the wall keeping Him from seeing and meeting God as He really was in the altar of the temple of our mind?

We have to do the same thing so that we can see and love the people in our lives as they really are. Even the best words we use to describe them; “wife”, “husband”, “son”, “daughter”, “father”, “mother”, and “friend” carry so much baggage and extra accumulated meaning and emotion that they distract us from the truth of the child of God before our eyes.

And so, just as we work to approach God in simplicity and awe and reverence; without words, and without judgment and without wanting anything but all that He is waiting and willing to give; let us do the same for our neighbor. And then the grace will transform us into holy images of His glory.

Direct download: Homily-HesychasmandLove.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Turning the Absurd Theater of our Mind into a Temple of God
Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy

Triumph of Orthodoxy. Yay Church (back from oppression)! Yay Theology (protected from heresy)! It's good, but to what end? They allow us to experience the love of God – and through it the salvation of our souls – in its purest form. Undiluted by lies and corruption.

We don't accept lies when it comes to the food we eat or the medicine we take. If a company put a good label on bad food or medicine, we would be outraged; whether they did it out of greed or ignorance. Why? Because we value our health AND because we value the truth. Everything breaks down once everyone gets to have their own version of truth. The wrong labels get put on things and we lose sight that there is even a reality to be known. When this happens, we cannot tell good from bad, right from wrong, healthy from disease, food from rubbish, medicine from snake oil. We fall prey to the chaos of our divisions.

The Irish poet Yeats nailed it when he wrote in his poem “The Second Coming”; “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a celebration of the bulwark against that anarchy: there is a Truth; there is a Unity, there is sanity and goodness in the world. We celebrate the victory of the Church because it is there to restore the pattern of love and unity; we celebrate the victory of Orthodox theology because it describes that pattern – it tells us The Way that the source of all goodness and health and power can work within our lives to bring healing and salvation.

The Truth is one as God is One; The Truth is One as He desires us to be One. This Truth has a label. That label is the Gospel. That label is Holy Orthodoxy.

But what does that all mean for us? We can mouth the words of perfect theology, we can surround ourselves with the images of perfect iconography, but how does that help us to live? How does it help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling? (Philippians 2:12) How does it help us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves? How does it help our bodies and souls become temples of the Living God, with His grace perfecting and enlivening us?

It comes down to love – for without that, even the best theology and best iconography is noise and corruption, but in order to love, there is some work to be done. Today I want to continue on the theme of discernment, using today's theme of iconography to help us.

The Absurd Theater of our Mind.

The relationship between what goes on in our minds and the actual state of the world is a bit dodgy.

This is true when it comes to the puppets of our neighbors that populate the theater of our mind. Think about how we create the images of people. Get data. Add data. But we don't do it well. It's always filtered and shaped by the story we are telling ourselves.

Over time, the play that goes on in our mind ends up bearing little resemblance to what is really going on. We end up hating and loving images, not the people they are supposed to represent. This is true even of the people that are closest to us. It's like in the art world: we often learn more about the artist than we do about the thing being portrayed. But it isn't even a good way to understand the artist, because the image he has of himself – that is shaping the image he is painting – is also distorted.

We cannot love others if we cannot know them. We cannot love ourselves if we do not know ourselves.

The practice of iconography: everything in the light of Christ. We have icons of Christ because God became human and we can paint him as the perfect human. We have icons of saints because they have been transformed in Christ. Love became man in Jesus Christ; and now love becomes in incarnate in all the saints.

We restore Truth and sanity to the theater of our mind when we paint the icons of our neighbor using the light of love. This requires charity. It requires patience. It requires continually adjusting the lines and the colors through forgiveness and humility.

When we retouch the image of ourselves so that they better match reality – and through this participate in our transformation from broken creatures into sons and daughters of God - we call it repentance. We repaint repainting the image of ourselves in our mind and the way we project ourselves in the world so that the reality, light, and love of Christ shines through us.

Matthew 6:22-23. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, our whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

When we continually improve the images in our minds according to the light of Christ and away from the chaos of our pride and brokenness, we transform our minds from a theater of the absurd into a temple of God, adorned with icons of His beloved children rather than puppets of our own madness.

The celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy is a celebration of just this thing. And this is something we can all proclaim with gladness.

Direct download: Homily-TheaterofourMind.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:58pm EDT

he 2019 Great Lent Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

To the God-beloved Pastors, Monastics, and all Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and Ukraine,

Beloved in the Lord: CHRIST IS AMONG US!

The Holy and Sacred Season of Great Lent is upon us! Each year, the Church offers us the Lenten season as a time of repentance and renewal. As for us, Orthodox Christians, the contemplation on this beautiful season of the Church year is a cause for much of spiritual joy!

There is real confusion in today’s world about the meaning of joy. Like happiness, joy is often seen as something that we can physically buy. We may be able to buy something that brings temporary pleasure: but we cannot buy joy. They must not be confused. Joy is a free gift from God.

This surreal and joyful season of Great Lent is an opportunity to be graced afresh by contemplating the presence of Christ in our lives. All our efforts to evangelize in our new millennium here in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in North America, Western Europe, Australia, South America and throughout Diaspora would be fruitless unless we ourselves have first contemplated on the presence of Christ in our relationship with the world around us. It is the presence of the One who has suffered, died and risen from the dead out of love for us. To be so loved by the God of love in the midst of all our sinfulness and human limitations, indeed, is a joyful experience. This is surely the starting point for the Lenten season and the key point in our reflection upon our path to salvation. It is all summarized in one word: conversion.

It resonates with a deep yearning and recognition within us. As we make our first prostrations, we are reminded of our own sinfulness.  Throughout the next 40 days we are called to repent and believe the Good News: God loves us. He sent His Beloved Son to suffer and die for us. He has risen from the dead and shares his new life with us. This is the heart of the Gospel. Lent refocuses our attention on this message of salvation, this good news through our ability to recognize and consider our identity as children of God.

Searching for our identity is part of life. We identify our “self” as a family member, spouse, sibling, clergyman, carpenter, farmer, doctor, entertainer or clerk. We also identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians, or as members of a parish. Identity involves discovering who we are as persons and what our role is by answering these questions: who am I, and why am I here? Growth in the awareness of our Christian identity is a lifelong process that shifts as we change. It is rooted in our Baptism, where we are transformed into our true identity as sons and daughters of the God. Holy Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (“You should put away the old self of your former way of life . . . and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:22, 24), challenges us to put away our former life and put on a new self. In other words, he tells us to turn from sinful ways and take on our new life in Christ. In so doing, we become one with Christ, where we find our true identity. We accept this challenge during the Great Lent, as we journey with Christ through life’s difficulties to eternal life.

In the Church’s Tradition the season of Great and Holy Lent has always been accompanied by the Lenten efforts of prayer, fasting and acts of charity. We know that parishes will be providing many extra opportunities for prayer over the days of Lenten journey. We call upon you to greater attendance at liturgical services of the season. We hope that the participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance over this time will be a real priority in your lives and in all parishes. We hope that the prayers of the Church will offer people an invitation to be touched, healed, forgiven, comforted and strengthened by our Lord. Also, at home we recommend a closer attention to times of prayer and fasting and moments of genuine devotion in family life.  

Secondly, our journey through Lent and preparation to more fitting celebration of Pascha – the Resurrection of our Lord - includes “willing service to our neighbor”. All Christian true conversion starts in the heart but never stays there. True spiritual conversion always seeks out acts of charity to give practical help to our neighbor in need. This is a vital aspect of who we are as children of God. 

We also encourage practical gestures of prayerful compassion to children. In this Lenten period, we must remember that our children are so often victims of human selfishness in today’s world and deserve special attention.During this Lent, perhaps we could find ways in our neighborhoods to share something of the importance of Christ Jesus to those who do not believe in Him. Such efforts can start so simply: with a kind word and gentle smile in His Name.

As we embark upon this Lenten journey, it is the time to renew ourselves as Orthodox Christians. Upon baptism we assumed the obligation of sharing the Good News of Christ with others, of defending the Holy Orthodox faith from persecution and of living a Christ-centered life of love for others. This six-week journey entails striving for humility and contrition before God in our repentance, seeking mutual forgiveness from others and contemplating our renewal in our prayers. Let us open our hearts to let in that, which is eternal, that which is Truth and not be blinded by the temporal world around us. Where there is light there is hope. Through His life and suffering for our salvation, we gain renewed hope in the light of Christ’s glorious victory over death and in eternal life. 

May our All-Merciful and Almighty Lord assist us on our journey through this Great Fast with humility and reverence so that we may be worthy to greet the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

With Hierarchical Blessings,

† YURIJ, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

† ANTONY, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and in the Diaspora

† JEREMIAH, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Brazil and South America

† DANIEL, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

† ILARION, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

†ANDRIY, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Direct download: Homily-UOC-USA-Lenten_Epistle_.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

March's "Spiritually Speaking" was on how we, as Orthodox Christians - called to be God's imagers in the world - can solve the problems of the world and end its pain.  In this talk, Fr. Anthony looks at three strategies Christians use: the cultural warrior, the virtuous warrior, and the relationship builder.  Enjoy the talk!

Direct download: SS-FixingtheWorld.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

Homily on the Sunday of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).  How do we miss seeing the need of the people around us?  How do we not respond to them with love?  It's tragic.  But in Christ we CAN see them and we CAN respond to their need... with the One Thing Needful.  [Want to know what a homily given right after a 12 hour (overnight) shift as part of the Trauma Team at the local hospital?  This is it..]

Direct download: Homily-HowCouldWeNotSeeThemandtheirNeed.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

Class covers Tito Colliander’s Way of the Ascetics, chapter 6.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-WayofAscetics02.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Prodigal Son
St. Luke 15:11-32

We are called to live a life of love; to bring healing, reconciliation, and harmonious joy to the world. This is the goal of every good person, and the reason we gather here every Sunday.

So why is it that the world is still broken? Even harder, why do we – who are committed to this way of life – still find our own lives so troubling and chaotic; often devoid of the peace we crave?

We are devoted to Christ, to His Gospel of light and love; why do we not enjoy the resilient joy that God promised to us, His children? We can understand why the people outside these doors are troubled by chaos, but us? We are not like them. They do not go to Church the way we do, they do not honor marriage the way we do, they do not work hard the way we do. They bring the chaos into their lives through the bad choices they make; but us? We have chosen a different way.

Oops.

Yes, that is right, as we discussed last week: we are the Pharisee. Because we have grown up with the parable of the Publican and Pharisee, we often dress our self-righteous piety up in the clothes of the Publican (“Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”, we say as we wear our long phylacteries - I mean prayer ropes - so everyone can note our holiness). And when we reject the accusation that we are Pharisees (“I am not like them; I do this, I do that”!), we are sincere; we are not acting.

Our egos are protesting in earnest, defending us from the kind of painful introspection and sacrifice that is required for true repentance. Unfortunately, that same painful introspection, hard work, and repentance have to happen in order for the grace of God to stay with us, to bring us lasting peace, and to allow us to bring that peace to others.

Until then, even our words of peace are just more weapons that cause damage to those around us; they are clanging gongs that bring even more noise and spiritual pollution to a world that is already so heavy with it.

Last week, the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee challenged us to look at all our actions and reactions so that we can begin to see the way we are the Pharisee. I challenged us to look at how our egos work to blind us to the truth about ourselves. Today I encourage us to continue that work, but I want to add another discipline: to notice how our pride (our brokenness) blinds us to the truth about the people around us. The people we are called to serve. The people we are called to love and harmonize with.

Last week, the Pharisee's pride allowed him only to focus on the Publican's profession and miss the most important part of his constitution – his humility – and what was going on in his life – he was in the midst of such a profound change that he left “justified” and open to God's grace. How could he miss that? The same way we miss such things every moment of every day. And as a result, we are closed off to really enjoying – much less spreading – God's grace.

This week we have the same lesson; the Older Brother could only see his brother – the brother being saved! - through his own self-righteousness, for what it meant to him.

We are the Pharisee in last week's Gospel. We are the Older Brother in today's.

We aren't alone. This parable is part of a series of lessons Jesus gave after he heard the people of his day complaining that; He – Jesus Christ; “receives sinners and eats with them.” Looking back, we find it hard to believe that these people would be so selfish that they would not want God – or anyone who claimed to act in His name - to bring His love to people who they knew darn well did not deserve it.

We see that and, knowing that we are the ones He came to eat with, thank Him for sharing His meal with us. We see the grumbling of the scribes and Pharisees for what it is; self-satisfying judgment designed to prop up their own sense of holiness. Lord have mercy, how could they be so blind? Thank you, Jesus, that we are not like them!

Oh wait. We've done it again.

Christ used to parables of searching out and finding the lost sheep and the lost coin; as well as the parables of the Publican and the Pharisee and the parable of the Prodigal Son to teach the Scribes and Pharisees to see the people they were complaining about with new eyes and to see – and celebrated and help with - what He was trying to accomplish in their lives. We saw them as they were. He knew them. He loved them. And He worked for their salvation.

He is now trying to do the same thing for us.

We have accepted Christ. We have lived the life of the Prodigal and come back home. We are so thankful that He has forgiven us and given us a new life. This is the story of our lives, right? Well, it is ... but as soon as we are back our egos try to come back and we become the older brother. The one who feels at home in his father's house and is so selfish that he cannot see his own bitterness or celebrate the return of his lost brother, much less participate in his continuing salvation now that he was back. A sane and loving brother would have run out with the father and shared in the joy of their reunion and would have sacrificed to make him welcome.

We notice all the times that we are not welcomed, but do we notice the way that we judge and reject people in need? We notice the times that the world is hard and how much joy we have when we ourselves find comfort in the Lord, but do we notice the suffering of our brother and celebrate when he finds similar comfort? Do we offer that same comfort to him? If we only think of ourselves as the Prodigal, we will be stuck in an endless cycle of falling down and getting up. There is a sense in which this is the essence of the life in Christ, but it is not the goal. The goal is not to be the Prodigal Son; the goal isn't even to stop being a Pharisee or the older brother. The goal is – through the tears of the Publican and the repentance of Prodigal - to become like the Father.

To become like the Father who is so secure in Grace that He is constantly looks for opportunities to share that grace with others. Who sees everyone as a person to be loved and gently but persistently works for their good and He is the one who celebrates every time that good is achieved.

The religious people of Christ's day had a hard time getting this message. They continued to see themselves as righteous and thus keeping their hearts closed to the changes they needed to make. We are like that, too. And until we recognize that, until we see ourselves as being the Pharisee as much as we are the Publican, and as much Older Brother as Prodigal Son, we deceive ourselves and miss the opportunity to live and share a life of joy.

The Lord is here now. He sees us as we really are. He knows us, and He loves us. He wants to eat with us and all the other sinners here; so that we may be saved.

Despite the fact that we have been like the Publican by cooperating with the fallen powers of this world to oppress others; and like the Prodigal by squandering so many opportunities; and like the Publican and Older Brother in our selfishness and willful blindness;

He is here and He is running out to us, celebrating our willingness to reject our sins, our blindness, and our self-righteousness and our desire to live the kind of perfect life that our Father – His Father does; the kind of life that is made possible through Christ our Lord.

Direct download: Homily-ProdigalOlderSonPsychology.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:42pm EDT

Class covers Tito Colliander's Way of the Ascetics, chapters 1-5.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-WayofAscetics01_.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on Zacchaeus Sunday (St. Luke 19:1-10).  Christ brought salvation to Zachaeus "and his house"; He wants to do the same for us.  How can we get Him there - and how can we get Him to stay?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ChristintheHome.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 18:18-27.  What would you do for eternal life?  Transhumanists and quantified selfers are willing to sacrifice A LOT in hopes of living a few extra decades.  Fr. Anthony discusses this and why the option Christ offers works (i.e. the mechanism) and why it is the best option.  Enjoy the show!  

Direct download: Homily-becominggodnottranshuman.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:24pm EDT

Matthew 4:12-17; Ephesians 4:7-13

The Baptism of John was the Baptism of repentance; we tend to distinguish his ministry from the ministry of Christ. But today we are reminded that Christ – the God who is love – also preached repentance. Why would He do this? Yes, for the forgiveness of sins. But there is more. Start over ... for what?

Today's epistle (Ephesians 4:7-13) reminds us of our goal: to become as Christ (i.e. “until we come... to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”). This certainly requires a lot of growth, but first it requires undoing, re-examining, and then re-building a lot of the habits that we have acquired. Especially the habits of our mind.

Love? How can we love without knowing? How can we love when our understand is imperfect? We may have the impulse of love – to help, to serve – but we are likely to make things worse. The advice of Hippocrates is vital: FIRST, DO NOT HARM.

Some of us are so strong in our desire to help that we impose ourself – and our ignorance – on others at every opportunity. This is so wrong.

It takes real effort – beginning and constantly sustained by repentance – to gain discernment.

Discernment isn't a fruit of reading books or taking classes or even of Chrismation or ordination. Nor does it come through a force of will, but through quieting the mind and learning to listen. Discernment is the fruit of a particular kind of attentiveness, a peaceful attentiveness that listens not to judge or to offer advice or even to help, but first to understand. When we work on this skill, and when we pay attention to the workings of our mind as we do this, we will soon learn how our misconceptions and prejudiced assumptions distort our understanding, how mistaken our diagnoses often are, and how much damage we can do when we follow our instincts. Moreover, as we work on this kenotic and peaceful attentiveness, we are likely to learn that even our desires to assist are the result of mixed motives that themselves need to be evaluated and re-created.

Al of this, this process of discovery and the purification of our senses and mind – is what is meant by this deeper kind of repentance or change of heart.

The result of it is a great patience and calm and the ability to love without reservation.

It also brings humility and the recognition that often times the best action is no action at all (other than prayer) and that the best judgment is to reserve judgment.

So this is the challenge that we get today: repent!

So let's pause before offering judgment or advice. Let us be humble enough to realize that the world will continue to spin without us sharing our wisdom or immediately rolling up our sleeves to fix someone. Let's spend time questioning our motives and intent.

And as we do this action of repentance, let's notice the way the Kingdom of Heaven Christ promises today opens up to us.

“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

 

Direct download: Homily-RepentanceandtheKingdom.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Paper presented at the International Orthodox Theological Association on 9-12 January 2019 in Iasi, Romania., 2019.
 
What is the relationship between ritual actions and moral development? How does Orthopraxis mold believers into virtuous people? More specifically, what role do common Orthodox practices like prostrations, prayer rules, fasting, and kissing the hands of priests and bishops play in the strengthening of certain "conservative" moral instincts (i.e. sanctity, respect for authority/tradition, and loyalty)? Answering these questions is of more than just academic interest: it can help us more successfully foster a parish and family life that creates authentic and well-rounded saints. This paper uses findings from the field of psychology and examples from parish life to discern the link between Orthodox rituals and Orthodox morality, making the case that Orthodox rituals play a role in training all three parts of the mind, but that it plays a special role in training the instincts or gut.
Direct download: IOTA-Talk-Perkins.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily: Luke 17:11-19 (28th Sunday after Pentecost)
Written by Sdn. David Murphy (edited by Fr. Anthony Perkins)
Given at St. Mary's (Pokrova) on 23 December 2018

The Gospel text before us today is a strange one. It is a miracle of the Lord, but not one where he touches someone, or tells them to get up, or even tells them that they are healed. He doesn’t do any of those things. In fact, the account of St. Luke does not even describe the actual healing at all. We are simply told that “as they went, they were cleansed.”

That’s it. No word of power, no command to rise and walk, no making mud and rubbing it on the eyes, no nothing. According to text, the only thing the Lord says to them at all is “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

And then there is this powerful line, the one that we are focusing on today;

And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”

As they went, they were cleansed.”

Jesus tells them what to do, they go off to do it, and somewhere along the way between Jesus and the priests, they are healed. The went and were made whole! After who knows how many years in isolation because they were lepers, they are miraculously cleansed and thus restored to their communities. They can now rejoin their families, loved ones, friends, neighbors, — everything they have missed. Their humanity is restored. The weight of sickness and separation is gone. They are able to live a life of joy and freedom. The kind of life that God desires for all His children.

This truly is a miracle: the restoration of community and communion between people long separated! Few things are more miraculous than this.

We could use a miracle. We are so heavily burdened by the weight of our oppression and suffer mightily in our loneliness and estrangement from our dearly beloved; an angst that is felt most heavily during this holiday season.

So how do we get our miracle? How do we get our healing? We know, like these ten lepers, that it can only come from Christ. There is no question about that, if for no other reason than that we have tried every thing else. Healing and reconciliation are found in Him.

The question is: How do we get him to heal us? It's not like we can imitate the lepers, find out where He will be, and cry out to Him as He comes by.

Or is it?

Christ is as much in our midst as He was in the midst of those lepers two thousand years ago in northern Israel. Moreover, the Good News is that He has already told us so many times what we need to do to be healed – we just haven't really had the ears to hear it! Moreover, we don't have to hope or wait for a miracle, there is a real sense in which it has already been accomplished – it just waits for us to become part of it.

After all, Jesus ‘finished’ everything on the Cross and then triumphed over death, hell, and the grave. And He extends the promise and the power of His resurrection life – to everyone who will unite themselves to Him and follow His commands.

We have given our lives to Him, now what is it that He is trying to tell us to do? We have cried out to Him as He is here in our midst saying the same words of longing that the lepers said in today's Gospel lesson; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

He is the High Priest who knows the pain of our sickness and separation and He is the One with the power to heal it. And what does He command? As we silence our minds and open our ears to hear His command, what does He ask of us?

Again, think back for a moment to our ten lepers. It was as they were on their way to do what Christ told them to do that they were healed. When they started out to go find the priests, they were still lepers. They acted in obedience to Christ before any healing had taken place at all. They trusted Him at His word and demonstrated that faith by being obedient to Him.

So what is the Lord asking us to do today so that we might be healed? He is ready and waiting, merciful and loving, extending His healing touch. What do we need to do so that we can receive that healing? So that we can know His joy?

  • Who are we angry with, or against whom who have we been holding a grudge?

  • Is there someone we know we have wronged, but just can’t make ourselves apologize and come clean?

  • Do we have patterns of sin in our lives that we are allowing to go unchecked and untreated?

  • Is there a hard but needed conversation that we have been avoiding for a long time?

  • Are we part of patterns of behavior in our families that are unhealthy?

  • Am we avoiding major changes in our lives that we know we need to make but are just too afraid or too lazy to do?

It is important for us to remember that as Christ calls us to obedience, He also equips us and makes us able - by His grace - to do what He has asked of us. We aren’t in this alone. He is always with us, and He has also given us one another.

The Lord told the lepers to go and make their way to the priests. When they left they were still lepers, but on the way they were made clean and restored to their community.

He has told us to take our own sins, to confess and repent of them – and show ourselves to the priests.

Let us make the story of the lepers our own story, especially this most crucial part;

And so it was that as they went, they were healed.” And then, like them, may we also find healing, reconciliation, and joy through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Direct download: Homily_on_Joining_the_Lepers_on_The_Way.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:03pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 18:18-30.
Notes.

When one first become a soldier, they take away everything: hair,  clothes, identification, money. Relationships. Why?

So that The Mission will become our mission.

Can't you just add the mission to what was already there? No.  Mercenaries are always unreliable. Their loyalty is based on a calculation.  The soldier's is instinctive.

Think of marriage; what happens if the new life as “shared flesh” starts with all the baggage of the old life?

The training of a soldier and the building of a new life in marriage are great metaphors for how to live in Christ. It's not enough to just add the mission of God – virtuous life, evangelism, sacrifice – on top of our old selves. You end up trying to balance these things against everything else. Doing good becomes a calculation rather than a way of life.

As Christ God puts it in St. Matthew (6:24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

We empty ourselves of everything we have; this is what allows us to receive everything good He has prepared for us.

This includes our cares:

1 Peter 5:6-7. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your cares and concerns on him, for he cares about you.

Psalm 55:22. Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

But that's not all: creating a new life in Christ is not like playing Go Fish. “I don't want these – you take them.”  It's everything. Otherwise our loyalty remains divided. Giving up our cares will make us feel better for a while, but being reborn as a little “g” god – and this is the God's intent – feels better forever. So we can't stop with giving up our anxiety.

It includes our family.  Christ's words about this are found in Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37. We have to be willing to give up our family.

It includes our money.  Today's lesson.

Our very lives.  Christ in John 12:25 points out that this need for sacrifice includes our very own lives. 

The interpretation of this radical sense of sacrifice; of giving things up; of starting fresh and new is confirmed in our baptismal service in which put do death the old man (in the water) and rise up as a new one in Christ. We have given up our life; but the life we get back – one comprised of the very same skin, bones, heart, and brain – is a better one. It is one that is remade in Christ and pledged to service of God, His children, and His world.

  • Family done poorly... family done well...
  • Money done poorly... money done well...
  • Attention and caring done poorly... attention done well...

The yoke of the world (slavery to the world) that is oppressive, hard to bear, and leads to death. So we give it up! Give it all up! And then take up the yoke of virtue and righteousness – we take up the yoke of the Lord. And pledged to him and the carrying out of his will, we are no longer slaves or mercenaries whose joy lasts only as long as circumstances allow, but sons and daughters of the living god, deified and divinized through his grace.

This new way is, to quote Christ God “easy and light.”

Matthew 11:29-30. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

So let's not be like the rich man who went away sad. Let's lay everything, our cares and concerns, our family, our riches, even our life itself, at the foot of God.

Those things that are holy and true will be part of our new life in Christ (as He showed us at our baptism); and they will be part of our strength rather than things that potential divide us from God and the carrying out of His will that all become saved. They will become a blessing because they will take on their proper function.

Direct download: Homily_on_Becoming_a_New_Man_in_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

28th Sunday after Pentecost.
Luke 24:36-53 and Colossians 1:12-18.
Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_on_Finding_Life_in_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Luke 12:16-21 (The Rich Man and His Granaries)

Until we figure out who we are, our actions have no purpose. We will end up doing one thing one day, and something contrary the next.

Because we are fallen, our default purpose is selfish and egoistic and sees other people based on what they can do for us. Some days we see benefit in working with and helping other people, but other days we see no benefit from helping them and so we ignore them or even work against them.

So it is with all of our riches, whether they are material or spiritual. Our default setting, in our selfishness, is to dole them out tactically – if at all – based on our feelings will bring the greatest security, influence, pleasure, or the most of whatever will satisfy the emotional impulse that is dominating us at the time. People with friendly emotions will share more, people who are dominated by fear will invest in protection, people who are more epicurean will invest in luxuries, people who crave status will use their resources to show off, and so on.

This has a certain kind of logic, but it is the logic of the world, not the logic of the Logos; nor is it the way to live a joyful life here or in the eternal life that is to come.

We need to know who we are. We are certainly more than our emotions. They are a poor guide to living well and a poor guide for making sound decisions.

So who are we? What were we made for? We are sons and daughters of the Most-High, created to accomplish God's will that humans and humanity are healed and brought into a joyful fellowship with one another and with Him now and in the world to come.

Understanding this allows us to rise above our captivity to our feelings and act in ways that are productive.

The rich man in today's Gospel didn't get this. He made the decision about how to use his extra grain based on his feelings rather than on who he was called to be.

It isn't just that the grain that could have been used to feed the poor will now rot and be stolen; it is that it could have been used to create and sustain connections with the poor to create a bond with them that would have pulled the rich man out of his existential loneliness and completely selfish concerns.

It would have opened a world of fellowship and virtue to him; a world that is denied to all who confine themselves to serving just their feelings; a world that would have transformed him into something greater, something that would have transcended the simple creature his genes and environment alone would have allowed.

Spiritual resources are the same. If we hoard or spend them just according to our feelings, we are no better than the rich man in the parable. They will rot and fester and disappear when they could have become the thing that feeds the hungry, connects us to them, and draws us all up into the glory of God.

We – as individuals, as a parish, and as the Orthodox Church - have an abundance of material and spiritual goods. Far more than we need for our comfort and sustenance. This bounty was not meant to be hoarded, but to be shared; not because we are nice or because we want more friends, but because it is our calling to serve others, to draw us all into unity with God through Christ Jesus. This is the only way to change the wealth of this world – both material and spiritual – into an internal inheritance.

Direct download: Homily_-_We_Need_Purpose.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #46: The Life of David III
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 29 November 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 22. David gathers an army; Saul has the prophets killed.

St. Ambrose. It's not great to run. For the just engage in many struggles. Does an athlete contend only once? How often, after he has won many victor’s crowns, is he overcome in another contest! How often it happens that one who has frequently gained the victory sometimes hesitates and is held fast in uncertainty! And it frequently comes to pass that a brave man is contending with brave men and greater struggles arise, where proofs of strength are greater. Thus, when David sought to flee to avoid the adversary, he also did not find his wings. He was driven here and there in an uncertain struggle.… But David is still in the cave—that is, in the flesh—in the cavern of his body, as it were, as he fights with King Saul, the son of hardness, and with the power of that spiritual prince who is not visible but is comprehensible.

St. Athanasius. But it is better than tyranny. For if it is a bad thing to flee, it is much worse to persecute. The one party hides himself to escape death, the other persecutes with a desire to kill. It is written in the Scriptures that we ought to flee; but he that seeks to destroy transgresses the law and also is himself the occasion of the other’s flight. If then they [the Arians] reproach me with my flight, let them be more ashamed of their own persecution. Let them cease to conspire, and those who flee will immediately cease to do so. But they, instead of giving up their wickedness, are employing every means to obtain possession of my person, not perceiving that the flight of those who are persecuted is a strong argument against those who persecute. For no one flees from the gentle and the humane, but from the cruel and the evil-minded. “Every one that was in distress and every one that was in debt” fled from Saul and took refuge with David. But this is the reason why these men [those persecuting Athanasius] desire to cut off those who are in concealment, that there may be no evidence forthcoming of their own wickedness. But in this their minds seem to be blinded with their usual error. For the more the flight of their enemies becomes known, so much the more notorious will be the destruction or the banishment which their treachery has brought upon them. So whether they kill them outright, their death will be the more loudly noised abroad against them, or whether they drive them into banishment, they will but be sending forth everywhere monuments of their own iniquity.

St. Ephraim the Syrian. David as a Christ, Saul as a Herod, the prophets as the babes.

Indeed, when Saul heard that the priests had helped David unwittingly, he had them brought to him, and he killed them. It was fitting for you too that innocent blood be hung about your neck, as was Saul’s case. But the Son of David escaped from your hands amid the Gentiles. David was persecuted by Saul, just as the Son was by Herod. The priests were slain because of David, and the infants because of our Lord. Abiathar escaped from the priests, as John did from the infants.7 In [the person of] Abiathar the priesthood of the house of Eli was brought to an end, and in John the prophecy of the sons of Jacob was terminated. =

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 23. David wins a battle, consults the Lord, then hides again

Note that David is confirmed as a type of priest (eating the show bread), prophet (consulting the ephod), and warrior-king (goliath's sword).

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 24. David spares Saul's life and Saul prophecies about David's future.

St. Jerome. Psalm 141 is the fruit of this persecution.

Saul, unaware of David’s hiding place, also entered the cave in order to take care of his needs, I presume.… Accordingly, this psalm of David is accepted for certain in the name of the Lord; Saul appears as the devil, and the cave becomes this world. The devil, furthermore, does not discharge any good into this world, but only dung and corruption. Then, too, the cave symbolizes this world because its light is very imperfect when compared with the light of the future world, albeit the Lord, on coming into this world as light, brightens it up considerably. That is why the apostle, in relation to the Father, speaks of him “who is the brightness of his glory.” (Hebrews 1:3) Now just as David entered the cave in his flight from Saul, the Lord, too, has come into this world and has suffered persecution.

St. Gregory of Nyssa. David is a model of self control.

This is why the coming together of Saul, who was in pursuit of murder, and of David, who was shunning murder, in the cave is described after many events which it had preceded. The authority to kill was reversed in this event, since the one who was being pursued for execution had authority over the slaughter of his killer, and although he had the right, so far as retribution against his enemy was concerned, he stayed his power so far as consisted with the right and killed his own anger in himself instead of his enemy.

St. Augustine. This self-control is out of respect for Saul's anointing.

The very oil with which he was anointed (the chrism by token of which he was called a “Christ”) must be understood symbolically as pointing to a profound mystery. David himself so religiously respected this anointed state that he was conscience-stricken when, in a dark cave where Saul had entered to ease himself, David came up, unseen, from behind and cut off a tiny piece of Saul’s robe. David did this merely to have evidence later how he had spared Saul when he could have killed him, thus hoping to disabuse Saul of the idea which drove him implacably to pursue David as his foe. Nevertheless, David quaked with fear that perhaps merely by so touching Saul’s garments he was guilty of sacrilege.… Such deep religious reverence was paid to this foreshadowing figure, not for what it was in itself but precisely because of the reality it typified.

St. Ambrose. What goes around comes around.

What a virtuous action that was, when David wished rather to spare the king his enemy, though he could have injured him! How useful, too, it was, for it helped him when he succeeded to the throne. For all learned to be faithful to their king and not to seize the kingdom but to fear and reverence him. Thus what is virtuous was preferred to what was useful, and then usefulness followed on what was virtuous.

St. Basil the Great. Even kindness cannot defeat envy.

Not even this act of benevolence moved Saul, however. Again he gathered an army and again he set out in pursuit, until he was a second time apprehended by David in the cave where he more clearly revealed his own iniquity and made the virtue of David even more resplendent. Envy is the most savage form of hatred. Favors render those who are hostile to us for any other reason more tractable, but kind treatment shown to an envious and spiteful person only aggravates his dislike. The greater the favors he receives, the more displeased and vexed and ill-disposed he becomes.

Next week: more hide and seek, evil deeds by Saul, and finally his death.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20181129-LifeofDavid3.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ephesians 4:1-6

Live worthily; live up to your high calling!

What is this calling? We are made in God's image and have been given power to change the world for a specific purpose: to heal the divisions among us and to raise all mankind up into the glory of God. The Gospel is that this has been made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus-Christ. But the Lord has entrusted us, to continue the work that He began. That is our calling, and St. Paul is reminding us that we need to work to be “worthy” of it.

This is not the way we usually talk, so let me put it another way:

The boss has given us a job to do and has given us the tools to do it. We need to commit ourselves to the work and to using the tools well.

Have you ever worked in a place where there were people who shirked? Where people didn't care about the quality of their work? What was that like? Did the work get done? What about them?

That's what it is like in our world. We have a job, we have tools, the question is – what kind of workers are we going to be?

St. Paul doesn't stop there. He tells us how to use the tools. Fantastic. He's got experience on the job and is giving us some advice. This is how it should be. Not all jobs are like that; some just make you figure it all out on your own. So what kind of advice does he give?

Be humble and be patient.

Why?

The goal is unity. We have been given power: why not wield it?! We know the right ways, why not impose them?! We want people to stop fighting, why not subdue and control them?

NO! Freedom. The unity must be voluntary. In the end, the kind of team built this way is much stronger than any other and because it is peaceful, it is able to bring peace. It conquers the nations not through force or coercion, but because it models the kind of life that others want and then invites them to share in it.

You can attain unity through threats, and you can attain unity through bribes. But that is a false unity.

God wants a unity of friends, united not by force, or place of birth, or kinship ties but by what he calls the bond of peace. Peace not as the absence of violence or disagreement, but as a positive force that keeps things together. It is the kind of peace that flows through things and strengthens them. It is the uniting energy that we often call love.

May God now strengthen us through His Body and Blood so that we can lead lives worthy of this calling.

Direct download: Homily_on_Our_High_Calling.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Peace of the Cross and the Safety of the State
Ephesians 2:14-22

Christ has “broken down the dividing wall of hostility” between us; reconciling all his believing children to God and one another “through the cross, thereby bringing an end to hostility.”

The Cross – sacrifice to the point of death – is the way that this is achieved. An emptying of the self so that others might be saved and that the will of God might be achieved. Two humble souls can enjoy union and continual growth in Christ. They can be reconciled to one another and to God. They enjoy a taste of the Kingdom to come here on earth. We get this appetizer (as it were) in healthy marriages, friendships, and parishes; but it is also the destiny of nations. In the age to come there is only one nation – sundered peoples brought into a single humanity – a new nation in Christ. But in order for this union to happen, there must be real humility.

Without all sides surrendering to love and the will of God, there can be no true peace; only an end to violence. This is the Gospel of the Cross. Death to sin and a new life in Christ.

And this is where we find ourselves today. As with death, we know that Christ has brought an end to our division and allows us to be One as He is One; joyous, peaceful, and continually progressing through the endless stages of perfection in peace ... but still living in a world where lives come to an end and violence between nations ceases only so long as strength and vigilance are maintained.

And so we come to the juxtaposition of this Epistle with our celebration of Veteran's Day.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I. And yet we still have war. People and nations still prey on and threaten one another. Even when we are between wars, we no not have the peace of Christ, but the peace of strength. And where we do not have the peace of strength, we have war and the lessons of martyrdom. Our Church prays and works for the Peace of Christ; and as that peace is worked for and anticipated, we pray for and support the peace that comes from military might. This is the practice and teaching of the Church.

Right after the anaphora we pray:
We also offer You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and for all those who live in purity and holiness. And for those in public service; permit them, Lord, to serve and govern in peace, that in their tranquility we may lead a calm and quiet life, in all Godliness and purity.

From our Morning Prayers:
Lord, save and have mercy on our civil authorities; protect our nation with peace, subduing our every foe and adversary. Fill the hearts of our leaders with peaceful, benevolent thoughts for your Holy Church and for all Your people so that we, in their tranquility, may lead a peaceful and quiet life in true faith and in all godliness and purity.

And from St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:1-2):
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

And how is this peace that we pray for maintained? Through the sacrifice of men and women in our armed forces and police who are willing to put our security and comfort ahead of their own.

It is obtained and maintained by soldiers, sailors, marines, and first responders who are willing to suffer, to fight, to die, and yes, even to kill - not out of glory or any kind of sinful passion; but only so that we – in the peaceful space their efforts create and sustain - might pursue perfection in Christ, and through this an end to all wars achieved not through military victory or a well thought out and executed set of treaties and institutions; but through the union of all people and nations into one humanity, humbled and perfected in Christ. [how's that for a run-on sentence?! Ed.]

We thank all of our veterans and those serving now for your willingness to live the kind of life that allows us the freedom to pursue true and lasting peace.

We pray that Lord our God grant that we always be so blessed with men and women [like these] who are willing to sacrifice their lives for us and we pray that He gives us, the civilians, the strength and commitment to live in such a way that their efforts are not squandered through our impiety, selfishness, and unwillingness to live and spread the Gospel.

Allow all of us to surrender ourselves to you, Lord, through the Cross, so that our Union may be eternal and the peace between us become real and unending.

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Security_of_the_State_vs_the_Peace_of_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:26pm EDT

Bible Study #44: David the Vagabond
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 08 November 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 18. Saul hates David and tries to get him killed. It doesn't work.

St. John Chrysostom: Envy is bad. But now notice in this incident how much trouble the passion of envy caused: when the king saw this young man enjoying such popularity and the dancing crowds calling out, “Saul’s conquests ran into thousands, David’s into tens of thousands,” he didn’t take kindly to their words … but overwhelmed by envy, he now repaid his benefactor with the opposite treatment, and the one whom he should have recognized as his savior and benefactor he endeavored to do away with. What an extraordinary degree of frenzy! What excess of madness! The man who had won him the gift of life and had freed his whole army from the foreigner’s rage he now suspected as an enemy, and, instead of the man’s good deeds remaining fresh in his memory and prevailing over passion, the clarity of his thinking was dulled with envy as though by a kind of drunkenness, and he regarded his benefactor as his enemy. That is what the evil of this passion is like, you see: it first has a bad effect on the person giving birth to it.

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 19. Saul keeps trying to kill David, but he keeps failing (with help). Fun with prophets at Ramah.

St. John Chrysostom: Sometimes deceit really is best. And not in war only, but also in peace the need of deceit may be found, not merely in reference to the affairs of the state but also in private life, in the dealings of husband with wife and wife with husband, son with father, friend with friend, and also children with a parent. For the daughter of Saul would not have been able to rescue her husband out of Saul’s hands except by deceiving her father. And her brother, wishing to save him whom she had rescued when he was again in danger, made use of the same weapon as the wife.

St. Augustine: Giving prophecies isn't a sign of saintliness. When they delayed and what Saul had ordered wasn’t done, he came himself. Was he too innocent? Was he also sent by some authority, and not ill-intentioned of his own free will? Yet the Spirit of God leaped on him too, and he began to prophesy. There you are, Saul is prophesying, he has the gift of prophecy, but he has not got charity. He has become a kind of instrument to be touched by the Spirit, not one to be cleansed by the Spirit. The Spirit of God, you see, touches some hearts to set them prophesying, and yet does not cleanse them.… And so the Spirit of God did not cleanse Saul the persecutor, but all the same it touched him to make him prophesy. Caiaphas, the chief priest, was a persecutor of Christ; and yet he uttered a prophecy when he said, “It is right and proper that one man should die, and not the whole nation perish.” The Evangelist went on to explain this as a prophecy and said, “He did not, however, say this of himself, but being high priest, he prophesied.” Caiaphas prophesied, Saul prophesied; they had the gift of prophecy, but they didn’t have charity. Did Caiaphas have charity, considering he persecuted the Son of God, who was brought to us by charity? Did Saul have charity, who persecuted the one by whose hand he had been delivered from his enemies, so that he was guilty not only of envy but also of ingratitude? So we have proved that it is possible for you to have prophesy and not to have charity. But prophecy does you no good, according to the apostle: “If I do not have charity,” he says, “I am nothing.”He doesn’t say, “Prophesy is nothing,” or “Faith is nothing,” but “I myself am nothing, if I don’t have charity.”

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 20. Intrigue at the Palace; Jonathan is loyal to David.

St. Ambrose: good friendships are awesome. For that commendable friendship which maintains virtue is to be preferred most certainly to wealth or honors or power. It is not apt to be preferred to virtue indeed, but to follow after it. So it was with Jonathan, who for his affection’s sake avoided neither his father’s displeasure nor the danger to his own safety.

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 21. David and the showbread; David the lunatic.

St. John Chrysostom: God, not circumstances, provide security. In similar fashion, whenever we have God on our side, even if we are utterly alone, we will live more securely than those who dwell in the cities. After all, the grace of God is the greatest security and the most impregnable fortification. To prove to you how the person who, in fact, lives utterly alone turns out to be more secure and efficacious than a person living in the middle of cities and enjoying plenty of human assistance, let us see how David, though shifting from place to place and living like a nomad, was protected by the hand from above, whereas Saul, who in fact was in the middle of cities and had armies at his command, bodyguards and shieldbearers as well, still spent each day in fear and dread of enemy assaults. Whereas the one man, although alone and with no one else in his company, had no need of assistance from human beings, the other, by contrast, needed his help, despite wearing a diadem and being clad in purple. The king stood in need of the shepherd; the wearer of the crown had need of the peasant.

St. John Cassian: Just because it was okay for David doesn't make it okay for us.

No wonder that these dispensations were uprightly made use of in the Old Testament and that holy men sometimes lied in praiseworthy or at least in pardonable fashion, since we see that far greater things were permitted them because it was a time of beginnings. For what is there to wonder at that when the blessed David was fleeing Saul and Ahimelech the priest asked him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” he replied and said, “The king gave me a commission and said, Let no one know the reason why you were sent, for I have also appointed my servants to such and such a place”? And again: “Do you have a spear or a sword at hand? For I did not bring my sword and my weapons with me because the king’s business was urgent”? Or what happened when he was brought to Achish, the king of Gath, and made believe that he was insane and raging, and “changed his countenance before them, and fell down between their hands, and dashed himself against the door of the gate, and his spittle ran down his beard”? For, after all, they lawfully enjoyed flocks of wives and concubines, and no sin was imputed to them on this account. Besides that, they also frequently spilled their enemies’ blood with their own hands, and this was held not only to be irreprehensible but even praiseworthy.

We see that, in the light of the gospel, these things have been utterly forbidden, such that none of them can be committed without very serious sin and sacrilege. Likewise we believe that no lie, in however pious a form, can be made use of by anyone in a pardonable way, to say nothing of praiseworthily, according to the words of the Lord: “Let your speech be yes, yes, no, no. Whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” The apostle also agrees with this: “Do not lie to one another.”

St Ambrose: But some laws really have been abrogated. If they accuse, yet Christ excuses, and he makes the souls that he wishes, that follow him, similar to David, who ate the loaves of proposition outside of the law—for even then he foresaw in his mind the prophetic mysteries of a new grace.

Christ Himself: I am Lord (St. Luke 6:1-5). On a sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath?” And Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.”

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181108-LifeofDavid1.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
St. Luke 16:19-31

So much to learn here. Focus on a lesson it gives to us as members of a parish that has been given the fullness of the faith.

For us: We are the Rich Man and this is the place where we feast scrumptiously and wear kingly garments.

  • The Eucharist – it is the great feast, a feast without end. Always a banquet and there is always more.

  • Our Kingly Robes – we have put on Christ. Our baptismal garments transform us into sons of God, ones who act in the “Name of God”, and rulers of the age to come.

  • The place of our feasting is beautiful, separated from the cares and disasters of the world. When we come through the gates of this temple we are entering into a special place and special time. A place of beauty and song and fellowship that contrasts so starkly with the disharmony and ugliness that seems to dominate life outside the gates.

It is an amazing fact. We are beyond rich, beyond blessed. This feast, the transformation, the protection and beauty. Isn't this the way life is meant to be lived?

Yes it is. But putting this beauty into the context of the parable helps us realize how badly we have failed.

The Rich Man is the main player in the parable, the one whose example we are meant to learn from.

But it is not a good example. It is a look in the mirror that is designed to move us to change. To get us to appreciate the purpose of the blessings we receive and to see the great evil if we horde these blessings.

There is more than enough here for us to share, but we have hoarded our blessings so long that we know no other way. We bemoan the loss of our loved ones and the empty pews around us, but fail to notice and help the many Lazarus' at our door.

Nor is it just a matter of finding ways to invite the spiritually malnourished to this banquet, we have to break out of the habits of our personal and parish lives that isolate us from them; the many ways that we ourselves segregate our life in Christ that we experience and love here at St. Mary's from the way we live in our homes, our friendships, and all of our other activities. We do not see Lazarus outside our gates to the extent that we only look for God here in this Church and only look for spiritual nourishment within these walls.

The “food of which we know not” that Christ speaks of is not just Eucharistic or His union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the nourishment that we receive when we share our lives with others, and especially those in need. This is one of the constituent motivations behind the Eucharist: Christ offering Himself, His time, His attention – His very life – so that people who are suffering might be saved. We have the opportunity to make this same sacrifice to the people in our families, our friendships, and our lives every moment of every day.

When we begin to see God in every person in our life and not just in the icons and experiences within these walls, when we begin to see that the it is our love and service that can help nourish them and bring them to the banquet, then we will have begun to learn the lesson of the Parable of the Rich Man.

 

Direct download: Homily_on_Seeing_and_Feasting_with_Lazarus.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Fr. Anthony shares an encounter he had after Thursday's Bible Study class and describes how Christianity addresses the three existential crises of humanity: meaning, loneliness, and death.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: SS-XCandourOurExistentialCrises.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 8:4-15 (the Parable of the Sower)

Love God, love your neighbor. Simple, right? We all do and now enjoy a blissful life, free of all stress, and strong with ability to easily overcome all challenges. Class dismissed. Nope.

The command is easy, but for most people this love simply doesn't seem to take root. For some, it doesn't ever even seem to have started sprouting at all!

The parable of the seeds and the different soils is so apt.

But why is it so hard to love God? To love our neighbor? Love is awesome; God is awesome, our neighbor is, if not completely awesome, at least a human being, deserving of our support, encouragement, and sacrifice. Didn't our hearts break yesterday when we heard of strangers being massacred at the synagogue yesterday? Isn't that proof that we, at the very least, have the instinct and capacity to follow these two simple commandments – to love?

Yes, it does. But odds are, the loss and outrage we feel will not last. History suggests that our desire to create a more peaceful society will last about as long as the media stokes our outrage and that the outrage will not provide the motivation to make the sacrifices necessary foe us to make the changes in our lives that will allow us to become the kind of peaceful people that can reliably counter violence.

We are the seeds on the rocks; who “sprang up,” then “withered away because they lacked moisture.” We received the word with joy; but have no root; we believe for a while but then when actual work is required – when it comes time to change ourselves rather than just criticizing the world, we fall away.

We shouldn't be surprised that we fail at loving God and loving our neighbor. Look at how we do with romance and even marriage. We don't love. We have strong feelings then refuse to make the sacrifices and changes to ourselves to allow love to flourish even in the face of temptations.

We aren't serious about love. We are serious about our feelings. Our feelings of outrage at our enemies, our feelings of outrage at our neighbors; our warm and fuzzy feelings of devotion to our flavor-of-the-day romantic partners, both real and virtual. Our alternating feelings of outrage and towards thankfulness towards our God (as if we had ever really taken the time to know Him).

We are Christians. Better yet, we are human beings. Made in the image of God. With the power to be His hands and heart and the calling to bring peace and prosperity to the world. But we refuse to take the challenge of love seriously.

There are always excuses not to engage. To stay home. To horde our spiritual and material resources. To keep our roots from going deep.

Am I being too harsh? After all, all of us here have offered up these, the very best hours of the week. We could have done anything with them, but we have gathered here to offer them to God or, at the very least, to sacrifice them for the peace and support of our family. This is good, but it's not magic. If the rest of our week isn't dedicated to making those same kind of sacrifices – made within the contexts of family life, work life, and friendships, then the roots won't take.

Even if you take Communion. Again, it's not magic. The goal is to have Christ is us and us in Him, but He won't turn you into his meat puppet. He wants friends to work with Him, not slaves. He wants to be strong and courageous, patient and kind because you are living a live of strength, courage, patience and kindness; not because He has given you some kind of magic pill on a spoon. Communion is real and the grace is real. But putting this grace into someone who isn't serious about love – about real sacrificial love – is like putting premium gas into broke down car with a leaky tank. It won't somehow transform a rusty POS into a performance car, ready for the weekend show. That kind of change takes work AND gasoline.

We're here at this Liturgy and we're here in this life. Let's not waste our time and let's not waste the time we have to to good. Let's deny our selfishness, our laziness, and our pride... and learn to love.

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Harvest_of_Nothing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:57pm EDT

Bible Study #41: Saul and His Downfall (1 Kingdom/Samuel 11-15)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 18 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Chapter 11. Saul leads like a boss.

Venerable Bede. The Evil One wants to distort our vision. Some of the faithful people in the church often consented to be genuinely and lovingly allied with and to serve obediently teachers whom they deemed to be as “wise as serpents” in their frequent meditation on the Scriptures, but these preservers of peace in the church did not know that these teachers were not as “innocent as doves.” But because there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed these “creators of falsehoods” and “worshipers of false doctrines” immediately showed themselves not to have the eyes of their heart illuminated. They were unable to say, “Our eyes are like doves,” but on the contrary they long to take away the right eyes of their hearers, that is, the perception of heavenly and supernal contemplation, and to turn them aside to view only evil and perverse matters and to render them powerless in the war which we wage “against spiritual powers of iniquity in heavenly places.” Nahash wanted to deprive the men of Jabesh of their right eyes so that they would not be able to see anything they needed to see for their defense against the enemy since they would have covered the left side of their face with their shields in battle.

Chapter 12. Samuel rains on Saul's coronation.

St. John Chrysostom. Samuel knows how to work the crowd and get them to hear the stakes. For Samuel also put together a high panegyric upon himself, when he anointed Saul, saying, “Whose ass have I taken, or calf, or shoes? Or have I oppressed any of you?” And yet no one finds fault with him. And the reason is because he did not say it by way of setting off himself, but because he was going to appoint a king, he wishes under the form of a defense [of himself] to instruct him to be meek and gentle.… But when he saw that they [the people] would not be hindered by any of these things [the ways of the king] but were incurably distempered, he thus both spared them and composed their king to gentleness. Therefore he also takes him to witness. For indeed no one was then bringing suit or charge against Saul that he needed to defend himself, but Samuel said those things in order to make him better. And therefore also he added, to take down his pride, “If you will listen, you and your king,” such and such good things shall be yours, “but if you will not listen, then the reverse of all.”

Chapter 13. Saul ruins his chance; Samuel prophesies a new leader “after God's own heart.”

St. John Chrysostom. How Saul's madness went from small to great. And mark it, he [the devil] desired to bring Saul into [the] superstition of witchcraft. But if he had counseled this at the beginning, the other would not have given heed; for how should he, who was even driving them out? Therefore gently and by little and little he leads him on to it. For when he had disobeyed Samuel and had caused the burnt offering to be offered, when he was not present, being blamed for it, he says, “The compulsion from the enemy was too great,” and when he ought to have bewailed, he felt as though he had done nothing. Again God gave him the commands about the Amalekites, but he transgressed these too. Then he proceeded to his crimes about David, and thus slipping easily and little by little he did not stop, until he came to the very pit of destruction and cast himself in.

Apostolic Constitutions. Each order has its own role. As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop; for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, “It will not avail for you,” so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labors in vain.

Venerable Bede. Don't go to battle without your weapons. Because Israel did not have arms, it abandoned the country to its enemies. We too grant our enemy an opportunity by our laziness in reading or consulting spiritual teachers, just as the Israelites did by their neglect of making arms or seeking Israelite smiths for them. Consequently, the enemy uses the opportunity to bring in their weapons of godlessness against the other virtues, just as the Philistines invaded the boundaries of the holy land.

Chapter 14. Jonathan is a hero; Saul continues to show his lack of wisdom.

St. Jerome. Don't neglect the fasts! Saul, as it is written in the first book of Kings [Samuel], pronounced a curse on him who ate bread before the evening, and until he had avenged himself upon his enemies. So none of his troops tasted any food while all the people of the land ate. And so binding was a solemn fast once it was proclaimed to the Lord, that Jonathan, to whom the victory was due, was taken by lot and could not escape the charge of sinning in ignorance, and his father’s hand was raised against him, and the prayers of the people barely saved him.

Chapter 15. The Lord removes his blessing from Saul for disobedience.

Apostolic Constitutions. On the sin of indulgence (not mercy). But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, and Eli his sons, “who knew not the Lord.” Such a one profanes his own dignity and that church of God which is in his parish. Such a one is esteemed unjust before God and holy men, as affording occasion of scandal to many of the newly baptized and to the catechumens; as also to the youth of both sexes, to whom a woe belongs, add “a millstone about his neck,” and drowning, on account of his guilt.

St. Gregory the Great. On the need for humility. Thus Saul, after merit of humility, became swollen with pride, when in the height of power: for his humility he was preferred, for his pride rejected; as the Lord attests, who says, “When you were little in your own sight, did I not make you the head of the tribes of Israel?” He had before seen himself little in his own eyes, but, when propped up by temporal power, he no longer saw himself little. For, preferring himself in comparison with others because he had more power than all, he esteemed himself great above all. Yet in a wonderful way, when he was little with himself, he was great with God; but, when he appeared great with himself, he was little with God. Thus commonly, while the mind is inflated from an affluence of subordinates, it becomes corrupted to a flux of pride, the very summit of power being pander to desire.

St. Augustine. Not everyone who says they are sorry means it. Saul, too, when he was reproved by Samuel, said, “I have sinned.” Why, then, was he not considered fit to be told, as David was, that the Lord had pardoned his sin? Is there favoritism with God? Far from it. While to the human ear the words were the same, the divine eye saw a difference in the heart. The lesson for us to learn from these things is that the kingdom of heaven is within us and that we must worship God from our inmost feelings, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak, instead of honoring him with our lips, like the people of old, while our hearts are far from him. We may learn also to judge people, whose hearts we cannot see, only as God judges, who sees what we cannot, and who cannot be biased or misled.

Next Week: David is anointed and tames a demon.

Bibliography
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 242-258).IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181018-SaulsPoorChoices.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #40: A King Like the Other Nations
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 11 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Some News. The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has established Communion with the UAOC and the UOC-KP.

1 Kingdoms (1 Samuel) 7. The Arc and Samuel help bring orthodoxy and peace to the Hebrews for twenty years.

St. Gregory the Great. On the Twenty Years. Now what does it mean when it is said that all Israel “lay at rest after the Lord in the twentieth year,” except that the height of the perfection of the elect does not consist in the might of a good work but in the virtue of contemplation? To rest after the Lord is to cling to the imitation of our Redeemer with invincible love. And, if someone contemplates those inexpressible joys of our citizenship above but does not learn to love mightily—for often he can be diverted to love of the world—he by no means rests for the Lord. Thus, when the ark remained in Kiriath-jearim and the days were prolonged, all of Israel rested after the Lord. Surely, while the knowledge of the mind of the elect was raised up into the experience of divine delight, and while the lights of the spiritual virtues gathered beneath the light of restored glory, Israel was able to hold on all the more tenaciously to the imitation of our Lord, to the degree that they, illuminated by the immense lights of virtue, were not able to perceive those shadows by which they were divided from the light.

St. Basil the Great. On God and the gods. In Scripture “one” and “only” are not predicated of God to mark distinction from the Son and the Holy Spirit but to exclude the unreal gods falsely so called. As for instance, “The Lord alone did lead them and there was no strange god with them,” (Deuteronomy 32:12) and “then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only (1 Kings 7:4). and again the words of Paul: “Just as there be gods many, and lords many, yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things. (1 Corinthians 8:5-6)”

St. Leo the Great. The Role of Fasting in Repentance and Victory. At one time the Hebrew people and all the Israelite tribes, because of the offensiveness of their sins, were held under the heavy domination of the Philistines. In order to be able to overcome their enemies, as the sacred history shows, they restored strength of soul and body with a self-imposed fast. They had judged rightly that they deserved that hard and wretched subjection because of neglect of God’s commandments and the corruption of their lives, and that in vain did they fight with weapons unless they had first made war on their sins. By abstaining, therefore, from food and drink they imposed the penalty of severe punishment on themselves, and to conquer their enemies, they first conquered the enticement of gluttony in themselves. In this way it happened that the fierce adversaries and harsh masters yielded to those who were fasting whom they had overcome when they had been full.

1 Kingdoms 8-10. The Hebrews Demand and Get a King.

8. St. Cyprian of Carthage. Don't Grumble against Your Priests! And that we may know that this voice of God came forth with his true and greatest majesty to honor and avenge his priests.… In the book of Kings [Samuel] also when Samuel, the priest, was despised, as you know, by the people of the Jews on account of his old age, the angry Lord cried out and said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.” And to avenge this, he raised over them King Saul, who afflicted them with grave injuries and trod under foot and pressed the proud people with all insults and punishments that the priest scorned might be avenged on the proud people by divine vengeance.(See also the Apostolic Constitutions)

9. St. John Chrysostom. Don't Blame God – or Responsibility – for Your Sin. Saul, that son of Kish, was not himself at all ambitious of becoming a king but was going in quest of his asses and came to ask the prophet about them. The prophet, however, proceeded to speak to him of the kingdom, but not even then did he run greedily after it, though he heard about it from a prophet, but drew back and deprecated it, saying, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house?” What then? When he made a bad use of the honor which had been given him by God, were those words of his able to rescue him from the wrath of him who had made him king? … [A]ll such arguments are weak as excuses, and not only weak but perilous, inasmuch as they rather kindle the wrath of God. For he who has been promoted to great honor by God must not advance the greatness of his honor as an excuse for his errors but should make God’s special favor toward him the motive for further improvement … we ought to be ... ambitious at all times to make the most of such powers as we have, and to be reverent both in speech and thought.

10. St. John Chrysostom. On Chrismation. Furthermore, whenever someone had to be chosen and anointed, the grace of the Spirit would wing its way down and the oil would run on the forehead of the elect. Prophets fulfilled these ministries.

10. St. Gregory the Great. On the Temptations of Power. It is common experience that in the school of adversity the heart is forced to discipline itself; but when one has achieved supreme rule, it is at once changed and puffed up by the experience of his high estate. It was thus that Saul, realizing at first his unworthiness, fled from the honor of governing but presently assumed it and was puffed up with pride. By his desire for honor before the people and wishing not to be blamed before them, he alienated him who had anointed him to be king.

10. St. Augustine. On Discernment and the Spirit. First, you ask that I explain how it can be said in the first book of Kings [Samuel], “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul,” when it is said elsewhere “There was an evil spirit from the Lord in Saul.” … “The Spirit blows where he wills,” and no one’s soul can be fouled by contact with the Spirit of prophecy, for it extends everywhere on account of its purity. Yet, it does not affect everyone in the same way; the Spirit’s infusion in some people confers images of things, others are granted the mental fruit of understanding, others are given both by inspiration, and still others know nothing. But the Spirit works through infusion in two ways. … One way is through the mental fruit of understanding, when the significance and relevance of the things demonstrated through images is revealed, which is a more certain prophecy [and the other is through ecstatic visions].

Bibliography

Basil of Caesarea. Saint Basil: The Letters. (E. Capps, T. E. Page, W. H. D. Rouse, & G. P. Goold, Eds., R. J. Deferrari & M. R. P. McGuire, Trans.) (Vol. 1, p. 59). London; New York; Cambridge, MA: William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Harvard University Press.”

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20181011-AKingLiketheNations.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Spiritually Speaking - 07 October 2018
Fr. Anthony Perkins

Funerals –helping the grieving, helping the departed and trusting God.

Main Sources: Mark Bailey & Fr. Paul Meyendorff (SVS Lecture, 2006)

We do not live in a death denying Church. Liturgy deals multi-dimensionally with the image of death through the poems and structure of the service.

  • According to Prof. Bailey, there is a Macro-problem: some themes seem to be missing (Baptism and Resurrection). An exception is Bright Week. Why are these subdued/missing?

  • Micro-problem: How can we arrange and perform it so that it serves people best?

  • Micro-problem: there is very little planning for funerals. Often very little advanced notice. Chanters (or choir directors) and priest MUST plan ahead to avoid stress and pressure and ensure that the services are done well. What does that mean? What is a “good service”?

Worship is a mystery: good liturgy should change the worshippers. They should be different – stronger, less anxious, more trusting – after the service than before.

  • The funeral service should take the worshipers through the occasion of death into a living appreciation of the resurrection, with all the peace, hope, and repentance that this entails.

  • We face the reality of the loss – often with very difficult images (e.g. “Why are you silent, my friend?”), but place that within the context of God’s mercy and joy.

  • We can either serve the funeral so that it helps or hinders the process of transition.

  • Don’t turn it into a choral concert where the music overshadows the service. Must understand the purpose in order to perform it well

  • Don’t sing it mundanely or matter of factly. The singers are not detached from the occasion. They are participants. The funeral is for all the living, exerting them to prepare. It is as much for the living as the dead.

  • Don’t infuse the service with contrived “sad-sounding music”. Sadness is one of the emotions that is right, but solemnity, progression, and repentance are also appropriate.

  • Don’t abbreviate the service so much that it keeps the Psalms and hymns from serving their designed purpose. They balance themes and work with the Gospel and Epistle to address the necessary questions and provide the useful context and understanding. They go from difficult to comforting; from confrontational to reassuring; and we need it all!

  • Here are some themes prominent in the funeral service:

    • Those who trust God are under His protection

    • The life that comes from following God’s commandments

    • The necessity of remission/forgiveness of sins

    • Eternal rest and tranquility (e.g. green pastures)

    • Final Judgment, and a request for mercy from a just sentence

    • Achieving a place of refreshment

    • The soul continues though the body does not (for now)

    • The sacrifice of the martyrs and their place in the Heavenly Choir

    • Grief of death – and it pointing to repentance and God’s mercy

    • Christ as Savior; Conqueror of Death

The service is not a one-time shot. Not only is it part of a life-time (eternity!) of individual and communal worship, there are other services that radiate out from the moment of death.

  • Before death: prayers for wellness, prayers to prepare the soul to separate from the body (i.e. for a good death).

  • After death: Prayer at the departure of the soul from the body. Psalms. Panakhida at the wake. Funeral. 3, 9, 40 day and yearly memorials. Memorial Liturgies.

Doing the Funeral Service(s) Well: Redundancy vs. Reiteration:

Challenge: the service is repetitive, but is it all repetition to be avoided?

  • Some repetition is useful, but some is not (and was unintentional – the example of the Vigil Service). The latter should be avoided, when possible to avoid wasted energy/effort.

  • Psychologically, reiteration is probably useful for grieving people. The themes of the funeral can eventually penetrate their hearts and bring them joy.

  • But there is a lot of pressure to cut the service down. This must be done prayerfully so that the service is not a wasteful mockery. Lots of variation. Abbreviate thoughtfully.

Highlights from the Order of Service (there is MUCH variation). Based on Matins, and especially the Matins of Holy Saturday (Lamentations/Praises).

  • Psalm 90: He who dwells in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. A Psalm of protection against all enemies (to include death).

  • Psalm 118 (aka 18th Kathisma, w/ three stases) and Eulogiteria. A meditation about the life that comes from following the law (and separation that comes from transgressing it). VERY LONG.

    • We take verses 1 & 2; 72, 92, & 93; 174, 175, & 176). I consider this is the absolute minimum (although some use even fewer – or skip it altogether). The refrains go from v. 12, to Have mercy on Your servant, to Alleluia (changing w/ the Stasis).

    • Look at the words that we are singing for the departed (who has lost the use of his/hers) during Stasis 2 & 3.

    • The Eulogitera continues these themes (then goes to intercession): The Choir of the Saints have found the Fountain of Life and the Door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance. I am a lost sheep; call me, O Savior, and save me…. Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your servant…

  • Psalm 50. Psalm of Repentance. Have mercy on me O God, have mercy on me…

  • The Canon. This is often heavily cut, leaving only the framework. We put in at least one verse for each of the Odes that we sing, e.g. (taken from Ode Three): Having at first instructed me, the prodigal, with many signs and wonders, finally, as You are compassionate, You emptied Yourself. And then having found me whom you sought, You saved me.

  • The Kondak (sung as part of Ode 6): With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant, where sickness and sorrow are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. You only are immortal, Who has created and fashioned man. For out of the earth were we mortals made, and unto the same earth shall we return again, as You commanded when You made me, saying unto me: “For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.” Whither we mortals all shall go, making our lamentation into the song: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

  • The Hymns of St. John Damascus (one for each Tone; we do 1, 3, 5, & 8). These are poetic hymns that go straight to the heart, forcing us to confront the reality of death. E.g.
    (Tone 8) I weep and I wail when I think upon death, and behold our beauty, created in the likeness of God, lying in the tomb, disfigured, bereft of glory and form. O Marvel! What is this mystery concerning us? Why have we been given over unto corruption? And why have we been wedded unto death? Truly as it is written by the command of God, who giveth the departed rest.

  • The Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

  • Epistle (Thes 4:13-17) , Gospel (St. John 5: 24-30 (et al)) , associated verses, and homily.

  • The Hymns of the Last Kiss (we add Psalm 22 (23)- why?). Like Hymns of St. John, these provide brutal honesty. E.g. : Tell us now brother/sister, where do you go from us silently and without a word. Look back and console your weeping relatives and comfort your friends. Behold the grief and the tears shed for you. Where now are your relatives and friends? Behold, we part! Indeed, all human endeavor is vanity.

  • The Tropars for the Departed, Absolution, Memory Eternal.

 

Question: How does this differ from other funerals? Is the brutality of the hymns good?

Direct download: Spiritually_Speaking_-_On_the_Funeral_Service.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:45pm EDT

Throw down your net!
Homily on St. Luke 5:1-11

Who knew better about how to catch fish than Peter and the rest of the PROFESSIONAL FISHERMEN out in their boats? Jesus? What did He know about fishing?

We see the reasonableness of His suggestion because we see it within the context of His success and His power over water, His power over fish, and that it wasn't really about catching fish anyways. But more on that later.

All of us are experts in certain things, and we really are called to put our expertise in service to the church. We are blessed by your voices, your organizational skills, your accounting acumen, and, of course, your mastery of the culinary arts. You share this with us and we are better for it and God is glorified in it.

But what about when it comes to the main way that we are called to show our love for God and one another? The one thing that all of us, no matter our age or profession, are called to make the center of our lives, the thing that defines – or should define- our routines and our parish culture?

The Sunday Liturgy. Just as the evening meal should be the center of family life, so to should this Holy Supper be the center of our life. It is the primary way we feed ourselves, the primary way we evangelize our community, and the primary way we transform this world. In other words, it is the main way we become better people – with Christ in us and us in Him; that our community becomes more patient and loving and eager to share the Gospel with others, and it becomes the way that the Uncreated Energies of God work to bring peace and joy to the world that groans in agony.

But sometimes it can leave us feeling a lot like the disciples did after fishing all night without catching anything.

And like them, when we are called to “do it again,” we have our rational and well-founded responses on how it won't work and how to make it better. This is because we judge it based on our own experience and expertise.

  • Is it entertaining? What would increase its entertainment value? (it will never be able to compete with a good concert; and it certainly won't be worth the hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month that its enthusiastic supporters give). The example of language. The example of shortening it. The example of shortening it. We'll certainly do what we can to make the music good and the setting beautiful, but we can't compete with the alternatives if secular entertainment is our standard.

  • Is it educational? What would increase its pedagogical value? Better sermons on Youtube; certainly better lectures and Bible studies. We'll certainly do what we can, but we can't compete with the alternatives if that is our standard.

Of course, to those who have prepared for it, the Liturgy is enjoyable and educational. But that isn't really the point.

It wasn't really about catching fish. It was about living and sharing the Gospel. By following the Lord's command – in love – they did just that and the world was blessed by their work (much more than if they had just stuck to their professional opinion about fishing).

It's not about filling our pews or about filling our coffers. It's about loving one another and the Lord in joy. He has told us to do that here together each Sunday morning – and to invite others to join us (even if it hasn't worked before).

In hindsight it was obvious that it was right to follow the Lord's instruction when came to catching fish; it is no less obvious that it is right now when it comes to living and spreading the Gospel.

Direct download: Homily_on_Casting_the_Net.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:21pm EDT

Bible Study #39: The Ark and the (Personal) Ontology of Holiness (1 Kingdoms 4-6)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 04 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Intro on the Effect of Holiness and Evil.

1 Kingdom 4. How the Israelites lost the Arc of the Covenant!

1 Kingdom 4:3-4. Note from the OSB: The people did not realize that their defeat came from the hand of God. But rather than discovering why God allowed them to be defeated and repenting of their unfaithfulness, they think that having the ark with them will ensure that God is with them. God is NOT to be manipulated or objectified!

Note that 30,000 Israelite soldiers died, as did Hophni and Phinehas. It's all related. Just because we are the priests and chosen people of the Great God does NOT make us better at worldly things (like war) than those around us. St. Jerome notes that Eli, the equivalent of a bishop, was punished for his sons lack of chastity and points out that all the children of bishops need to be chaste.

1 Kingdom 5. Fun with Dagon.

More on Dagon. Of the remaining Biblical references to Dagan/Dagon, note may be made of other passages which confirm the association of the god with the Philistines. In Judges 16:23 the Philistine chiefs assemble, presumably in the temple of Dagon, to offer sacrifice of thanksgiving to Dagon for their capture of Samson. Dagon is called ‘their/our god’ and he receives a zebaḥ gādōl, ‘a great sacrifice’. Although it is not explicitly stated here that there was a Dagon temple at Gaza, no change of locale is implied and it seems likely that there was such a temple, since there appear to have been many temples of the god. Joshua 15:41 and 19:27, where the placename Beth-Dagon occurs, imply there were such temples in Judah and in Asher. According to 1 Chronicles 10:10 the head of Saul was initially displayed by the Philistines as a trophy of war in a temple of Dagon. This appears to have been at Beth-Shan (1 Samuel 31:10). That the cult of Dagon persisted into the intertestamental period is clear from 1 Macc 10:83–84, according to which the High Priest Jonathan burned down the temple of Dagon in Azotus, i.e. Ashdod, which had become the place of refuge of the cavalry of Apollonius, governor of Coele-Syria.

St. John Chrysostom. In short, if you believe the place is holy because the law and the books of prophets are there, then it is time for you to believe that idols and the temples of idols are holy. Once, when the Jews were at war, the people of Ashdod conquered them, took their ark and brought it into their own temple. Did the fact that it contained the ark make their temple a holy place? By no means! It continued to be profane and unclean, as the events immediately proved. For God wanted to teach the enemies of the Jews that the defeat was not due to God’s weakness but to the transgressions of those who worshiped him. And so the ark, which had been taken as booty in war, gave proof of its own power in an alien land by twice throwing the idol to the ground so that the idol was broken. The ark was so far from making that temple a holy place that it even openly attacked it.

The Venerable Bede. When those who delight in idolatry see the power of Christ against their own gods, they do not wish to embrace faith in him, lest on account of their faith alone they be compelled to reject the whole pantheon of their gods. When false Christians see that because of their faith in Christ the sins which they love are now forbidden to them, they ward off with all their might the very piety called forth by their faith, so that they might not end up being ordered at the behest of their faith to quench the desires they serve instead of God. … They do not understand that there is a great difference between simply being ignorant and refusing to learn what you have studied and ought to know.

Note: they moved the ark to three different cities, hoping that one of the local deities would be able to overcome the power of the Ark. It didn't work.

1Kingdom 6. Getting the Arc back to the Israelites. Samuel takes charge.

Even after the Philistines decided to send the Ark back, they were punished for their disrespect.

Cassiodorius. We read in the first book of Kings [Samuel] that because of the damage done to the consecrated ark the foreigners were smitten on their hinder parts, so that they even suffered the dreadful fate of being gnawed alive by mice. This remains a perennial reproach on them, because no other was punished in this way. Similarly he afflicts sinners in the afterlife … they are so devoured by mice when the devil’s hostile troop surrounds them.

St. Gregory the Great. For observe, when the calves were shut up at home, the cows, which are fastened to the wagon bearing the ark of the Lord, moan and go their way, they give forth lowings from deep within, and yet [they] never alter their steps from following the path. They feel love indeed shown by compassion but never bend their necks behind. Thus, they must go on their way, who, being placed under the yoke of the sacred law, henceforth carry the Lord’s ark in interior knowledge, so as never to deviate from the course of righteousness which they have entered upon, in order to take compassion on the necessities of relatives. For Beth-shemesh is rendered “the house of the sun.” Thus to go to Beth-shemesh with the ark of the Lord placed on them is in company with heavenly knowledge to draw near to the seat of light eternal. But we are then really going on toward Beth-shemesh when, in walking the path of righteousness, we never turn aside onto the adjoining side-paths of error, not even for the sake of the affection we bear for our offspring.

St. Justin Martyr. In the execution of this plan, the cows, without any human guidance, proceeded not to the place from where the tabernacle had been taken but to the farm of a man named Hoshea (the same name as his whose name was changed to Jesus [Joshua], as was said above, and who led your people into the promised land and distributed it among them by lot). When the cows came to this farm, they halted. Thus it was shown to you that they were guided by the powerful name [of Jesus], just as the survivors among your people who fled Egypt were guided into the promised land by him whose name was changed from Hoshea to Jesus [Joshua].

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Healey, J. F. (1999). Dagon. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 218). Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.


Direct download: BS-20181004-SupernaturalCageMatch.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

On Fostering and Defending a Culture of Cheerful Giving

St. Paul says today that we should not give grudgingly or out of coercion, but out of his heart – because God loves a cheerful giver.

It is tempting to think of this in purely utilitarian terms: if we do this, more money will be given to charity, whether that is in support of the poor, in support of evangelism, or whatever.

And it is true that this would have an effect.  But this is NOT the only – or even the main – purpose of St. Paul's teaching.

St. John Chrysostom (a great friend of the poor and admonisher of the rich);  “God appointed almsgiving not only for the nourishment of the needy but also for the benefit of the providers, and much more so for the latter than for the former.”

And it is certainly true that this will improve the disposition of the giver. Attitude may not be everything, but it is a lot; especially when it is tied to actions that benefit others.  This turns an excuse for grumbling into the exercise of virtue; of an opportunity to just dig a deeper grave to a chance to climb up just a little higher on the ladder towards perfection and lasting joy.

But even that doesn't exhaust the great benefit of cheerful giving; you see this virtue of cheerful action is generalizable past the giving of money into every action of our lives. MOREOVER, it's benefits go beyond the individuals directly involved to the culture they are a part of.

Robert Putnum: Making Democracy Work:  Culture of Trust vs. Culture of Patronage.

What would happen if we could relax and just be good to one another? If we gave without thinking of what we might get in return? If we could sacrifice without having to worry about being cheated or taken advantage of. If we could give knowing that everyone else was doing the same; and that our attitude as much as our efforts were creating an icon of the Kingdom of God here on earth?

Compare that to the opposite: Giving out of coercion, knowing that if I gave selflessly it would just disappear because others were too lazy; that …

Families and parishes are designed to be icons of the Kingdom; not of tyranny, but of cheerful giving in all things. But it can only work if there is a critical mass of people who are willing to live this way.

Axelrod “The Evolution of Cooperation” How many predators and shirkers to transform a trusting culture into the broken one?

The equivalent in parish life? A few trying to sustain everything. The temptation? USE COERSION!  Higher dues, shaming, exhaustion, “checking out”.

The real answer: cheerful giving. As individuals – always (it's the winning stragtegy no matter what – martyr or evangelist). As a parish? Coercive parishes die. Joyful parishes live. Which one?

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Culture_of_Cheerful_Giving.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:49pm EDT

Bible Study #38 – Hannah and the Cost of Bad Priests
St. Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 27 September 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Intro on Bad Priests – why is it so terrible, who is to blame, and how do we fix it?

1 Kingdoms (aka 1 Samuel). Written by the Prophet Samuel around 1000 BC.

On Hannah. She is barren. She promises to dedicate a son to the Lord (1 Kingdoms 1:11). Note that the Hebrew version is different.

Here is the Great Canon on this episode (from the Beatitudes on the Thursday of the Fifth Week):

Chaste Hannah when praying moved her lips in praise, while her voice was not yet heard; but yet, though barren, she bears a son her prayer deserved.

Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.

Hannah's child, the great Samuel, was reckoned among the Judges, and he was brought up in Arimathea and in the House of the Lord. Imitate him, my soul, and before judging others, judge your own actions. (I Kings 16:13. )

Remember us, O Master, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.

She is granted a son (Samuel) whom she takes to Eli when he is weaned. Her hymn of thanksgiving and dedication is wonderful (1 Kingdoms 2:1-10).

St. Augustine says this of her hymn;

Are these words going to be regarded as simply the words of one mere woman giving thanks for the birth of her son? Are people’s minds so turned away from the light of truth that they do not feel that the words poured out by this woman transcend the limit of her own thoughts? Surely, anyone who is appropriately moved by the events whose fulfillment has already begun, even in this earthly pilgrimage, must listen to these words and observe and recognize that through this woman (whose very name, Hannah, means “God’s grace”), there speaks, by the spirit of prophecy, the Christian religion itself, the City of God itself, whose king and founder is Christ.

Samuel really is a man of God from his youth up. Even when he is young, his purity and piety is contrasted with the wickedness of the “Priests of the Lord” (who “did not know the Lord”) Hophni and Phinehas, Eli's sons. Their doom, along with that of their father, is proclaimed by “a man of God” (1 Samuel 2:27-36).

The Canon says this about Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas (Beatitudes & Song 5);

You, my soul, for lack of understanding have drawn upon yourself the priest Eli's condemnation, by allowing the passions to act sinfully in you, as he allowed his children.

Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely and on My account.

Aaron offered to God the fire pure and undefiled; but Hophni and Phinehas, like you, my soul, offered to God a foul and rebellious life.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Note the comparison with Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Eli was a prophet and Hophni and Phinehas were priests. The priests were wicked, but Eli shares their condemnation. What was his sin?

St. Chrysostom describes one of the reasons bad priests are such a burden.

When rulers are honored by their people, this too is reckoned against them; as in the case of Eli it is said, “Did I not choose him out of his father’s house?” But when they are insulted, as in the instance of Samuel, God said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.” Therefore insult is their gain, honor their burden. What I say, therefore, is for your sakes, not for theirs. He that honors the priest will honor God also; and he who has learned to despise the priest will sooner or later insult God.

St. John Chrysostom recognizes the danger of following Eli's example of excessive lenience;

Hence I beg you to offer a hand to our children lest we ourselves become liable for what is committed by them. Are you not aware of what happened to old Eli for not properly correcting his sons’ shortcomings? I mean, when a disease requires surgery, it rapidly becomes incurable if the physician is bent on treating it with skin ointments and does not apply the appropriate remedy. In just the same way it behooved that old man to take appropriate action regarding his sons’ failing, but by being guilty of excessive tolerance he too shared in their punishment.

St. Basil the Great puts it all into perspective and sets the stage for next week:

Because their father [Eli] did not chastise them with enough severity … he moved the forbearance of God to wrath so great that foreign peoples rose up against them and killed those sons of his in war in one day. His entire nation, furthermore, was vanquished, and a considerable number of his people fell. Now, this happened even with the ark of the holy covenant of God nearby—an unheard of thing—so that the ark, which it was not lawful at any time for the Israelites or even for all their priests themselves to touch and which was kept in a special place, was carried hither and yon by impious hands and was put in the shrines of idols instead of the holy temples. Under such circumstances one can readily conjecture the amount of laughter and mockery that was inflicted upon the very name of God by these foreigners. Add to this, also, that Eli himself is recorded to have met a most pitiable end after hearing the threat that his seed would be removed from the priestly dignity; and so it happened.

Such, then, were the disasters which befell that nation. Such griefs did the father suffer because of the iniquity of his sons, even though no accusation was ever made against Eli’s personal life. Moreover, he did not bear with those sons of his silence, but he earnestly exhorted them not to persist longer in those same wicked deeds, saying, “Do not act this way, my sons; for I hear no good report concerning you.” And to stress the enormity of their sin, he confronted them with an alarming view of their perilous state. “If one man shall sin against another,” he said, “they will pray for him to the Lord; but if a man shall sin against God, who shall pray for him?” Yet, as I said, because he did not exercise a suitable rigor of zeal in their regard, the disaster recounted above took place. And so I find throughout the Old Testament a great many instances of this kind illustrating the condemnation of all disobedience.

Bibliography

St. Andrew of Crete. The Great Canon.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20180927-HannahandBadPriests.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. John 3:13-17 (Sunday before the Cross).

Are we open to an experience of God in the Holy Liturgy? Much of our dissatisfaction with “Church” comes from the fact that we are not. But this is what we were made for. The movements, ritual, music, and theology are all perfectly designed to make the Divine Liturgy the perfect medium for us to experience God. But it's not automatic. It takes preparation: is there anything worth having that doesn't?

We are used to an easy fix. Quick entertainment. Quick results. “Hard work? No! We're entitled to easy! In fact, we don't even need Church. It's too hard and boring.” But if that is what we think, then it is a sure sign that either the parish is not offering the fullness of the faith (which is rare but does happen) or that we ourselves have all but lost – through our own neglect - our ability to experience God at all.

So how do we prepare?

It's not really about being “good”, at least not in the way that we think about about it. That's like taking a test. “How did I do this week”. “I had a good week”. Go through the list. It's not about that kind of evaluation, it's about holiness (being “perfect as God is perfect” - Matthew 5:48). Holiness is not an attribute that we can ever have on our own. It only comes from our proximity to God, from the extent we have allowed his uncreated energies, his Grace, to reside in us and change us.

This requires that we refuse to have dealings with things, ideas, and actions that would distance us from God AND that we continually renew our connection with him through attentiveness, gratitude, and prayer.

If we have worked on this all week, then when we come to Liturgy on Sunday, we are ready to really experience Him in and with us; we will be transported to heaven just as He comes to us on earth; and we will truly have become his sons and daughters.

This is the requirement of belief in today's Gospel and this is how God works through that belief to save us.

Direct download: Homily_on_Holiness_and_the_Experience_of_God.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:46pm EDT

In this, the first class of the new Liturgical Year (given on the Eve of the Nativity of the Birthgiver of God), Fr. Anthony talks about the need to keep everything, to include Scripture, connected to God through the Church.  He also shares a reflection Fr. Harry Linsenbigler wrote on the Wisdom of Solomon and Autocephaly in Ukraine.

Direct download: BS-20180920-ContextisEverything.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT