Sun, 27 May 2018
Homily for Pentecost (on Confession)
Lots of powers associated with the Holy Spirit in scripture and popular culture.
But what use are those things?
No practical need for these things (except for a demonstration of God's power).
God desires that all of us have joy; and that we be one in perfection as God is [one in perfection].
What is it that causes the most pain in life? Snakes? Poison? Darkness?
No: the thing that makes life so difficult – and a living hell for many people – is that we are messed up. We are messed up as individuals and when circumstances force us together, we are even more messed up in community. The existential angst of loneliness and societal dysfunction are a result of our brokenness as people and as a people.
God sees that. He knows our pain. He feels it more keenly than we do because he knows everyone's pain that every has been, is, and will ever be.
And so He sent His His Son and the Holy Spirit to comfort and save us.
What is the super-power that the Holy Spirit gives us? Let me two fundamental powers that will make your life better and more joyful.
Because it is what we is truly necessary to bring an end to your pain and to the pain of the world's pain and confusion.
Yes, Confession is the superpower. And it is always available for you to use here at St. Mary's. Throw away the kryptonite of pride, exercise that power of the Holy Spirit through true repentance, and save the world.
Tue, 22 May 2018
May his memory be eternal!
Very Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, 62 of Bethlehem, PA., faithful servant of God who has fallen asleep this Wednesday, May 16, 2018, at his home.
Born in the Ternopil Region of Ukraine he was the son of the late Prokip Zawierucha and Jaroslawa (Drozdecka) Zawierucha. Fr. Bazyl was the husband of Anna T. (Putting) Zawierucha. He lived and studied in Rome from 1966, earning an STB at Gregorian University and SEOL at Pontificium Institutum Orientale. Entering the priesthood in April of 1981, serving as the priest of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Northampton, PA. for the past 27 years.
In addition to his responsibilities at Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary UOC, Fr. Bazyl held the title of Provost for St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary in S. Bound Brook, NJ; He was a member of Council of Metropolia (Board of Directors) of UOC of the USA. He held the position of Vice President of Consistory of UOC of USA, and Director of Consistory office of the UOC Relations.
He is survived by his wife Anna , children; Oliver, Anastasia, and Sebastian and his sister Wira, and brother Peter.
Memorial Contributions: May be offered in his memory to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Orphanage Fund C/O the funeral home. Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.schislerfuneralhomes.com
Published in Morning Call on May 18, 2018
Fr. Bazyl was a wonderful Christian priest and pastor, a gifted professor, a wise mentor, and a good and trustworthy friend. I miss him.
Sun, 13 May 2018
The Sunday of the Man Born Blind (St. John 9:1-38)
Psychologists and theologians agree: In their default setting, our minds are wired not for discerning truth but social standing. The path to objectivity involves humility, immersing ourselves in discerning communities (e.g. of science and traditional Orthodox faith), and developing a relationship with the source of all Truth, the Incarnate Logos (through whom all things are made).
Enjoy the show!
Tue, 1 May 2018
Bible Study #33: The Kherem Wars of Joshua/Jesus
Warm up question (an old one revisited):
Joshua 9: The Deception of the Gibeonites
St. Ambrose. Joshua was deceived because he was good. So sacred was one’s promised word held in those days that no one would believe that others could try to deceive. Who could find fault with the saints in this, namely, that they should consider others to have the same feelings as themselves and suppose no one would lie because truth was their own companion? They do not know what deceit is, they gladly believe of others what they themselves are, while they cannot suspect others to be what they themselves are not. Hence Solomon says, “An innocent man believes every word.” We must not blame his readiness to believe but should rather praise his goodness. To know nothing of anything that may injure another, this is to be innocent. And although he is cheated by another, still he thinks well of all, for he thinks there is good faith in all [he also uses it to teach that friendship with Christ generates hostility from others].
Joshua 10: Joshua Purifies the Southern Parts
Count how many places were given over “to destruction” with nothing “left remaining”.
St. Ambrose. But how brave was Joshua the son of Nun, who in one battle laid low five kings together with their people! Again, when he fought against the Gibeonites and feared that night might stop him from gaining the victory, he called out with deep faith and high spirit: “Let the sun stand still”; and it stood still until the victory was complete [he also uses this to compare Joshua to Moses].
St. John Chrysostom. Consider how great of value is the righteous man. Joshua the son of Nun said, “Let the sun stand still at Gibeon, the moon at the valley of Elom [Aijalon],” and it was so. Let then the whole world come, or rather two or three, or four, or ten, or twenty worlds, and let them say and do this; yet they shall not be able. But the friend of God commanded the creatures of his friend, or rather he besought his friend, and the servants yielded, and the one below gave command to those above. Do you see that these things are fulfilling their appointed course for service?
St. Jerome. five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death.
Joshua Purifies the Northern Parts
In prior readings, the king of Jerusalem had assembled four other kings with him against Jesus [Joshua] and against the sons of Israel. But now no longer does someone assemble four or five; on the contrary, see how great a multitude one person assembles.…
You see how many swarms of opposing powers and of malicious demons may be stirred up against Jesus [Joshua] and the Israelite army. Before the coming of our Lord and Savior, all those demons, undisturbed and secure, were occupying human spirits and ruled in their minds and bodies. But when “grace appeared” in the world, the mercy “of God our Savior” instructs us to live piously and purely in this world, separated from every contagion of sin, so that each soul may receive its liberty and the “image of God”3 in which it was created from the beginning. Because of this, fights and battles spring forth from their iniquitous old possessors. If the first ones are overthrown, far more rise up afterwards, and they unite into one and conspire in evil, always remote from the good. And if they are conquered for a second time, again a third time other more wicked powers will rise up. So perhaps the more the people of God are increased, and the more they thrive and are multiplied, there are that many more who conspire to assault.
What was the real target? Joshua 11:21–23 provides the answer.
St. Augustine. One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.
St. Ephraim the Syrian. Whoever believes in me will also do the works which I do, and will do even greater ones. And where is this word which he said, “The disciple is not greater than his master” [illustrated]?6 For example, Moses killed only three kings, but Joshua killed thirty. [Moses] persevered in prayer, made supplication, but did not enter [the promised land]. It was Joshua rather who entered and shared out the inheritance.8 Likewise, Samuel was greater than Eli, and Elisha received a double portion of his master’s spirit after his ascension, like the Lord our Savior, for his disciples effected twice through their signs.
Teaching Point: Note what this implies for reclaiming the sanctified territory of our hearts and bodies!
Next Week: Judges!!!
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.
Sun, 22 April 2018
Ritual, Myrrhbearers, and Dealing with Insult to Injury
Notes (that I mostly ignored)
This is what happened to the myrrhbearing women: their beloved had been killed unjustly in a ignoble and humiliating way. They were heartbroken. Then when they went to begin the time-tested rituals – mingling myrrh with tears - that would guide them through their pain into acceptance and healing... the body was gone. They were deprived even of this comfort.
This is not part of our culture, so we don't get this. We receive it as data: the stone is rolled away and the body is gone. But for them, it was much more. Not an invitation to explore the mystery, but an insult to injury.
Anointing the body was the way their culture had developed to help people to help them handle death and to work through all the emotions and temptations that the death of a loved one brings. It's not just something to do – although Lord knows “keeping busy” is useful when we are struggling with strong emotions – it's therapy. A group of friends and family tending to the body of their beloved. There is something useful to be done. All traditional cultures do things like this. To us, it sounds morbid; but to them our way of dealing with death is as impersonal as our American way of dealing with dinner (i.e. not spending time preparing it; not gathering around a table; just getting calories in while do other things). Impersonal. Clinical. Heartbreaking. An opportunity to do something well – voluntarily surrendered.
The Myrrhbearers weren't just on the way to the tomb to make sure the body was buried properly, they were participating in a cultural ritual of love. Sacrificing their time and the best that they could find to honor the life of their beloved and deepening the connection they had with him.
They had their facts wrong, but they had everything else right; and this made all the difference for them... They become the apostles to the disciples – telling them of the Lord's resurrection.
[I want you to note that the disciples did not believe them. Could it be that this was because they gathered behind closed doors out of fear whereas the myrrhbearers ignored their fear and allowed love to make them brave?
Are we afraid for ourselves? Are we afraid for the Lord? Can anything good come from fear?]
The Myrrhbearers thought they knew who their Lord was, and they were wrong – He was so much more than they could have imagined. They thought that the temple of His body was dead and empty, something to be preserved; but it was alive, not needing their care, but demanding their awe and prompting them to action. They were able to make the transition from grief to joy – from funeral dirge to alleluia (as our funeral service says) because they were there for all right reasons, even though they had the facts wrong.
We need to make that same transition, not just when it comes to death, but when it comes to our mutual life in Christ here at St. Mary's.
There is a temptation for us to believe that there is no life in Church apart from the life we bring to it; that it is in need of our care; that we must preserve it. That it will decay unless we anoint it. We have our rituals that bring us closer together as we love this, our parish, a parish that offers the fullness of the Church, the Church being the Body of Our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ.
But that is not the kind of service that the Lord requires: He is not a corpse in need of embalming; but the Living God whose very presence here demands our awe and whose love must prompt us to serve the world He died to make whole.
We are called to emulate the women in today's Gospel as they transitioned from myrrhbearers to apostles; like theirs, our tears have to change from tears of sorrow into tears of joy.
If we are afraid, we will miss the Good News of the Resurrection and will only live in fear – behind closed doors. Ignoring all the news of a better way. Insult and injury will continue to pile overtop one another as we lose the never ending battle against disappointments.
Our tithes, our work in the kitchen, our music, all the efforts that we put into our parish life are no longer done to preserve a corpse – much less a building – but given in service of the living God who is present here and fills all things. A God who cannot die. A God who has called us to join Him as He transforms this world into a more fitting place for all his children.
Let us now continue making our transition from sorrow to joy through our ritual participation in our Lord's death and resurrection, the holy Eucharist.
Sun, 15 April 2018
Trust, Magic, and the Meltdown on Aisle Three
One of the themes in today's Gospel reading is belief. We live in a world where it is hard to know what to believe. It's no longer just a matter of media spin, we cannot even agree on the facts themselves (example of gas attack). It threatens to drag us down into the hell of the man whom we heard declare last week; “what is truth?” (Pilate in John 18:38) Perhaps this is nowhere more true than when we are talking about belief in God.
Dealing with belief is hard; it has a lot of psychological baggage associated with it. Today I would like to deal with it in its purest form; not as a measurement of a person's relationship to a set of propositions, but as trust in a specific person.
Let's get even more specific and start with an example we can relate to, the example of a marriage and the trust between a husband and a wife. Even if we have never been married, we have experience with this. We know how good things are when it is there and we know how terrible – how bent, crooked, rough, and dry – things are when it is missing.
What does it mean when a husband believes in his wife? Does it mean he understands her? No. (As if!) It means that he trusts her. He knows that she is committed to her marriage and her family, that all of her decisions and actions are devoted to its health and protection, that she loves and sacrifices for it, and that they are part of the same team.
Again, it does not require that he understands her. There is always more to learn, and learning and the good listening and communication that contribute to it is important, but the main thing is trust. Without that, there is no relationship. [Recorder ran out of tape here, BTW] No peace. No real cooperation. No unity. Just, perhaps, coordinated loneliness. They are not an icon of the fulfillment of God's desire that we “all be one as He and His Father are one” (John 17), but an icon of the world's brokenness, its bentness, its roughness, and its dryness.
Similarly, we can look at the relationship of children with their parents and see the value of trust.
How wonderful is the relationship between mother and child! Love and sacrifice on the one side, and faith and obedience on the other. Has a child any other path to happiness than that of faith [trust] in its mother and obedience to her? Is there anything more monstrous than a child that has no faith [trust] in its mother, and does not obey her?
[Faith is the purest path to knowledge. Anyone who turns from this path becomes shameful and impure. Faith is the quickest path to knowledge. Anyone who turns from this path will lag on his way. Where there is faith there is counsel; where there is no faith, counsel is of no help. Where there is faith, there is dialogue; where faith is lacking, dialogue is also lacking; then doubt and temptation take the place of dialogue...
Oh what a sorry sight it is when two mortal men meet, both creatures of Him who also created the seraphim, and one speaks to the other to tempt him, and the one listens to the other with doubt! There is only one sorrier sight than this, and that is when a created man listens to the words of his Creator in the Gospel, and doubts them.]
p. 213-214, “Homily on the First Sunday after Easter” of Homilies by [St.]Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic”
What do good parents want for their children? A common answer is that parents want their children to be happy. We should be dubious about this: it is a trap. A better goal – and the one that our Father desires for us is that we be good [as He is good]. This is not about following rules, but about goodness, about sacrificing for what is right. About the development of virtue.
The parent may offer happiness as a reward for doing good. But happiness on it's own? No. That does not create trustworthy adults that are willing to sacrifice for their beloved – it creates selfish and superficial people who judge every transaction on the amount of happiness it brings them.
Come at concept sideways: magic. Magic involves is the manipulation of supernatural forces. The magician is the one who attempts to cajole, flatter, bind or bargain with them to get them to do what they want, often on behalf of a client. Magic, magicians, and their familiar spirits are all judged based on whether they deliver. It's transactional and selfish.
This is NOT the way the world is meant to work. The deeper magic is about relationships enjoyed NOT for what they deliver but for the enjoyment of love itself. It's about shared lives, grounded in mutual sacrifice and the development and exercise of virtue. It most certainly is NOT about manipulation.
To go back to the point about trust and belief, God is not judged by whether we can manipulate Him into giving us what we want or even what we believe is best for the world and its suffering people.
We cannot be like the tyrannical child that throws a fit in the grocery store because he is hungry; but rather like the good child that trusts that when the parents say a meal is waiting at home – it is there.
Let us enter now into the preparatory feast of our good Father.
Sun, 11 March 2018
Homily on the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Losing our life.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
The whole lesson began with the words “if you would follow me (come after me)...”
May God strengthen us as we travel together along The Way.
Sun, 25 February 2018
How does the Gospel transform lives? There is no enchantment that goes through parish rosters to change those listed on it into heirs of the Most High. It's not even enough for us to mutter the right theological incantation. So what does it take? Faith and works. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 18 February 2018
The homily is the Epistle of the Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops outside Ukraine on Great Lent. The extra words and music were taken from the service of forgiveness at the end of Divine Liturgy.
Tue, 13 February 2018
Today we present the third possible explanation for the cleansing of the Holy Land. It seems that the requirement for complete destruction was only directed towards those tribes that had giants in them; was this the continuation of the "war of seeds" prophesied in Genesis 3:15? Enjoy the show!