OrthoAnalytika

Homily: The Demoniac at Gardenes

Introduction – the context of the story

Our Lord had just come across the water with his disciples.  They had faced one kind of fear when they were on the water: a fear of the chaos of a storm.  A great wind had come up while Jesus slept, and the disciples panicked.  They woke Jesus up and he calmed the wind and rebuked them for their lack of faith. 

When they got to the other side, they faced a new kind of fear: the fear of ghosts.  The demons in this man at Gardenese had driven him into the graveyard to play on men’s superstitions about ghosts.  In different parts of the Gospels, the disciples had shown themselves to be subject to this superstition.  But the Lord identified the demoniac for what he was: not a ghost haunting the cemetery, but a man possessed by a legion of demons.

There are three main points I would have us learn here. 

The first has to do with fear. 

Fear is a strong instinct, and it is one that the powers of the air and marketers of this world like to use to manipulate us.  Fear is a strong instinct, but for we who have given our lives to Christ and to His peace and to His power, it is not a rational one.  Do we fear for our bodies?  Why, when Our Lord Himself said that we should be more concerned with the state of our souls?  When He has given us proof of the resurrection of His sons and daughters into new bodies in the world to come?  Do we fear for the health of others?  Why?  Do we believe that we love them more than God does?  There are dangers in this world and we need to be aware of them; but fear does not help us see and react to these dangers more effectively.  Quite the opposite.  The only laudable fear that Scripture speaks of is the fear of God – and this is the fear that brings His peace and power to bear in the most difficult of times.  We should not fear the storms.  God can bring calm to us even when they blow around us.  We should not fear the ghosts.  They are the illusions of the world created to scare and control us.  We should not even fear the demons.  They have no hold over the righteous and God has granted His Church His power over them.  We should only fear the Lord and trust in His power and love.   

The second has to do with how this man got there in the first place.

[How did that man end up running through the graveyard naked?]  Temptations.  Fascination.  Obsession.  Possession.  Both good and bad thoughts can lead us down this sorrowful road.  Example of a bad thought: remembrance of wrongs.   Example of a good thought: the protection of children.  Even the latter can become perverted so that the parent becomes a curse to himself, to his children, and to everyone around him (other examples: health, work, church/religion).  In these times, it is important to realize that even thoughts that begin from a good place – a desire for another’s safety or a desire for justice – can lead us down this road if we lose perspective and grounding.  The media is designed to feed this obsession.  The real danger for us as Christians is that we are trained by our faith to care for the good and to hate all that is evil; without discernment and peace, our feelings can open us to the kind of manipulation that can lead to the kind of madness that will have us all running crazy through the graveyards.

The third and concluding point is to remind you that this is place where miracles happen. 

This is where God works to bring peace to our souls, to our families, to our community, and to our world.  This is where God roots out the demons and obsessions that have all but ruined our lives.  This is where God brings joy to those who have oppressed by the wickedness of a fallen world.  We have all seen it happen.  We are here because we know this to be a place of peace and power.

Conclusion:  Give your life to Christ

God will not force His miracles on us.  Remember in the story that the demoniacs were not the only ones possessed: there was a whole town nearby that loved their swine and the money those pigs made them so much that they could neither rejoice in the healing of their brothers nor embrace the one God who brought him healing; much less see the demons in their own hearts and seek his mercy themselves.  Instead, they ran Christ out of town. 

We all need healing.  We are all obsessed.  We need to let go of [and renounce] “the devil and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels, and all his pomp.” 

We must unite ourselves completely to Christ; as St. Paul put it this morning, we need to confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead.  This is the way out of fear, this is the way out of madness, this is the only Way to perfect peace and joy.

 

Direct download: 20200712-H-ModernDemonography.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:24pm EDT

This is a recording of Fr. Anthony Perkins' YouTube Livestream from 7/6/2020.  After talking about the (Liturgical) Summer Solstice, he talks about identity politics and the greatest patriotic sf movie ever.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20200706-YT-HappySummerSolstace.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This is a recording of Fr. Anthony Perkins' Livestream from his back porch in Hartwell, Georgia on 30 June 2020.  He talks about how the modern troubles play on the lowest part of our minds and why "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" is incomplete and misleading.

Direct download: 20200630-YT-EmotionsandAliens.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily for the third Sunday after Pentecost (Romans 5:1-10; Matthew 6:22-33).  Do we have anxiety or peace?  Are our tribulations bringing us anger and despondency or hope?  In this homily, Fr. Anthony makes the case that we are suffering from the chaos around us because we skipped a step: we went straight to virtue without first seeking God and His righteousness.  This was Fr. Anthony's audible homily; it's not polished, but there you go.  Enjoy the show!

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

This talk was recorded and streamed at 10AM EST on 22 June 2020 on Fr. Anthony Perkins' Youtube Channel.  In it, Fr. Anthony talks about what St. Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches us about the utility of feelings and science for discerning and healing the world’s pain.  Enjoy the show!

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

Fr. Anthony preaches on the epistle reading (Romans 2:10-16), explaining St. Paul's take on the utility of The Law (for the Jews) vs. the Conscience (for the Gentiles) and what it means for us now.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-AllLocalSaints.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:38pm EDT

Homily for All Saints 2020
Continuing on the theme of Division

Call to unity.  But we experience division.  The devil loves to divide us [and to solve that division with hedonism and tyranny]. 

[Review the three parts of the mind]

Rather than taking the unity of God into our minds (through the heart), and spreading it through our families, friendships, communities and the world; we do the opposite: we take the divisions and tyrannies of the devil in the world, bring them into our minds (through our emotions; justified by our brains), and spread them through our families and friendships and communities and the world [giving it back with usury].

We have entire industries devoted to sowing this division through our emotions, under the guise of entertainment and news.

 Everything is turned upside down (in the theater). Who is it that plots against our marriages? Is it not the theater?  Don’t you see how this makes it impossible for women to love their husbands?  Don’t you see how this leads husbands to disdain their wives?  Don’t you see how this encourages insatiability, adultery, and divorce?  This is how it is not just with the theater itself; the theater-goers themselves are subversive of our families and community; they bring a grievous tyranny among themselves and into our midst.  St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 37”.

[Restate that in terms of race.  It also works for politics, sex, etc.]

The media make money by playing up our divisions [and then offering hedonism and tyranny as a solution].  They know how to use the emotions that the images and stories they craft generate to manipulate us to watch more news.  That’s their model for making money.  They devil rejoices in this because it takes people who have SO MUCH in common to distrust and even hate one another.  This is true of the entire news and media system.  We can’t think that we have opted out because we have found an unbiased source or balanced one set against another.  They are still manipulating us and dividing us for market share.

So what is the solution?

God gave us our psychology for our salvation.  The evil one uses it to manipulate and divide us; the Church works with our psychology to save and unite us.

  • First. Cut way back on our screen time, to include news and social media.  Don’t let them feed the emotions.
  • Second.  Pray.  Read pious and useful literature.  Watch pious and useful entertainment.
  • Third.  Love.  Don’t judge.  Be charitable.

It is easier for Christians who actually pray the prayers of the Church in their daily prayer rules, surrounds themselves with icons, and avoid the excesses of the media to live well because they know from the depths of their heart that they live in a beautiful world among the saints.  Such people have has set themselves up for success.

One final thought [drawing on the parallel between marriage and the Church]:

What would you think of a married man who spent more time hanging out at the bar with his bachelor and adulterous friends than with his wife?

What would you think of a wife who spent more time complaining about men with her friends than nurturing her marriage?

How long would you expect their marriages to last?  And if they lasted, how happy would you expect that marriages to be?

[Restate this with regard to our nation and community.]

We have to be intentional about our relationships with one another in order to find peace and joy within them.  It is the same for our relationship with Christ.  We cannot live healthy Christian lives without nurturing our relationship with Him.  He is Incarnate in His Church.  That means that we must devote ourselves to the life of Christ here in this God-protected parish.

Direct download: Homily-AllSaints2020.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:58pm EDT

At Pentecost we celebrate the Holy Trinity and the restoration of unity from the division of Babel.  How are we to understand the present division within that frame?  Fr. Anthony provides some context and gives three pieces of advice for these difficult times:  1) cultivate peace in the heart and in relations 2) be charitable towards the intentions of others and 3) trust God's plan on redemption for all of us.  

Direct download: Homily-Pentecost.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:03pm EDT

This homily was given on the Sunday after the Ascension (St. John 17:1-13; Acts 20:16-18, 28-36) and after a week of our shared outrage over police brutality and a growing concern about the rioting that has occurred in response to that brutality.  God wants us to be one; how are we doing with that?!

Direct download: 2200531-HomilyonUnity.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:36pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony on his back porch in Hartwell, Georgia, as he talks with author, priest, professor, and canonist, Fr. Harry Linsinbigler about Orthodox Ecclesiology and Ukraine.  There's at least a little in here for everyone to be challenged by.

Direct download: 2200527-EcclesiologyandUkraine.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Join Fr. Anthony Perkins on his back porch in Hartwell, GA as he talks with author, canonist, and professor, Fr. Harry Linsinbigler about his new book on ecclesiology, "In Every Church" (also "Orthodox Ecclesiology") and how it helps us understand today's ecclesial challenges.  They also talk about how ecclesiology expresses itself in the responses to the coronavirus.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 2200526-EcclesiologyII.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

Join Fr. Anthony on his back porch in Hartwell, Georgia, as talks with priest, professor, and canonist, Fr. Harry, about his new books ("In Every Church" and "Orthodox Ecclesiology") and why it’s important to get ecclesiology right.  This is a recording from https://www.youtube.com/user/74snipe/videos.

Direct download: 2200512-EcclesiologyI.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

Homily on Romans 12:6-14, St. Volodymyr (it was his day), and Fr. Richard Jendras' ordination (which took place the previous day).  He shares the relationship of culture to virtue to the spread of all things good, focusing on the pivotal role of kindness.

Direct download: Homily-ConstantinopletoKyivtoAllentown.mp3
Category:general -- 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

Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52; 8:12.

God is love; the Father is love when He creates us and the world we are called to serve; the Son is love when He sacrifices Himself for our salvation; the Holy Spirit is love when He comforts, sustains, and strengthens us so that we can live in imitation of and in participation with them in this unifying love.

In our tradition, Pentecost is also known as Trinity Sunday, and it is important that we celebrate not just the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the way that all three persons of the Holy Trinity act out of one will, one essence, one “love” if you will. It is this love, variously referred to as grace or energy or gifts or living water, that allows us to grow beyond our fallen nature and selfishness and become vessels of that grace so that can unify ourselves with and in it and then share it with others. We acquire that grace not for ourselves only – for selfishness and the hoarding of love separates us from its source – but rather so that we can share it with others and draw them into this same transformation; the transformation of fallen and separated humanity, divided by passions and greed, into the family of God, the Christian nation, people who have become one in love as God is One in love. Not losing our individuality, but with all our blessed gifts directed efficiently towards their proper purposes.

Looking at the Epistle reading for today, it is worth asking what languages have to do with any of this. In general, a common language represents the healing of Babel.

But what is that language? Is it Hebrew? English? Binary code? Enochian? None of these are good enough. It isn't about the language, it is about the unity it allows. The pre-Babel language united the people, but it did not make them holy. That is the whole point: their unity was evil so God divided them so that the would have to work their evil separately, thus limited the damage it could do.

But there is something more we can learn from the focus on language and the ability of the Apostles to speak in ways that their hearers could understand.

Understanding is more than grammar. It's more than vocabulary. It's even more than learning the stories of the people who speak it. Understanding requires quieting our own minds and learning to hear the things people say. Listening is hard thing, it requires incredible humility. Without that, we hear only enough to manipulate, to demonize, to justify, to argue; but never enough to really know. Never enough to really love.

And this is why the Holy Spirit is tied into this process. We acquire the Holy Spirit when we empty ourselves of our passions and completely give our lives over to knowing and loving the other. And when we do that, we are able to communicate – commune! - with them at the deepest level.

In that love, we can share the source of love. This is what the apostles did at Pentecost. And because grace motivated and sustained their efforts, they were able to share the most important thing of all to the people around them: the Gospel. The words of transformation. The words of redemption. The words of love.

And when they heard it – when they were loved and drawn into its source, they separated themselves form all the things in their lives that were not good and holy, and joined themselves to the new humanity – the family of God (also known as the Church) – through through Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (the mysteries of union!).

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

It is hard to really listen. It is hard to really know someone else. It is so hard to love. One day, it will come naturally, through the grace of God.

But for now, we have some rules to guide us, most especially, the golden rule; “love your neighbor as yourself”. When we recognize that this call to imagine ourselves as not just our neighbor, but our enemies as well, and then treat them the way we want to be treated, then we have a guide to behavior that will allow us to live the life of love as we are being perfected by God's grace through the mysteries of repentance, and Eucharist.

 

May God strengthen us as we learn to love through the grace of God.

Direct download: Homily-Pentecost_and_the_Unifying_Language.mp3
Category:general -- 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

Homily on Belief
St. John 20:19-31

Does God hate doubt? Did he shame doubters? No, He had a different approach.

He wants us to know the truth; but this is MUCH less about facts than it is about us knowing Him as the God. In St. John 14:6, He says “I am the Truth...”

He does not want us to remain in doubt about Him, His power, or His redeeming love for us. He wants us to believe in Him. Again, in John (11:26), He describes how important this belief is: it is the only way to have real life. But He is patient and will draw the earnest seeker into belief.

But what does it mean to believe in someone? It means that you can trust that person, trust their intentions, and trust their power to do what it is they are saying they will do.

In a healthy marriage, a husband believes in his wife and the wife believes in her husband. In a healthy home, children grow up believing in their parents; they trust them, their intentions, and their power.

When that belief is gone, no actions are going to be able to save the relationship. A spouse that is convinced their partner is going to find evidence – even if the mind has to make it up – to support that. And so the whole dynamic changes; without belief their can be no connection; no blessed unity; no harmony; no “life”.

Christ is worthy of our Trust. His intentions towards us are clear: He loves us and desires us to have eternal joy with Him and each other. His power to do what He has promised is similarly clear: He has risen from the dead. And He has given us reminders of all this: we share in His Body and Blood in part to keep the reality of His promise alive in us. To help us drive away the doubt.

You have united yourself to Christ. You believe in His love and you have accepted that love. You believe in His power and you have accepted that power.

The mind will still come up with doubts; but that is what the mind does. It comes up with ideas. Over time, as we learn to really trust Him, these doubt will trouble us less. But in the meantime, don't be afraid of your doubts. As in any good relationship, bring them out into the open. This is the safe place to do that; not here during worship, but here in this community. I guarantee you that you won't be the first to express the ideas your mind has come up with; incredibly intelligent and well-educated people and experienced people have thought those thoughts.

If those thoughts were generated out of love and a genuine desire to know, then working out the answers here in God's presence will be a holy act. History shows this without exception. The answers may be hard to hear, but being good isn't always easy.

History also shows that if we use questions out of malice or a desire to mock God or His children, that we will learn nothing from our dialogue with Him. But malice is a poison; the only way to cure it is by pulling out the poison. Facts don't help at all.

One last note about doubt. When you believe, do it gently, patiently, and with love as you share it with others. God did not mind people who came to Him with questions because He knew the connection of honest dialogue would bring them into a relationship – that is to say, a belief – in Him.

But He had no patience with people who believed so strongly in the wrong things that they hurt others for it, especially when they did this in His name. (Pharisees)

So believe in Christ; believe in His love for you, and His power to bring you into the only life worth living.

Direct download: Homily-StThomasSunday2019.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm 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

St. Mark 10:32-45.  In this homily, Fr. Anthony shared three lessons from the life of St. Mary: the distinction between worldly happiness and an anti-fragile joy; how our sin alienates us from knowing and loving God and neighbor; and the difficult need to trust God with our transformation into divine children through and in His grace.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-TheWitnessofStMaryofEgypt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm 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

The Publican and the Pharisee
St. Luke 18:9-14

The theme of Great Lent is repentance.

  • More than learning to say “sorry” (although this is important)

  • More than promising to “do better next time” (although this is important)

  • It is the process of making a real change; of becoming something else – something even better

  • Review of creating a soldier. Undo even things they may have been good at (shooting!)

This is hard work, it takes more than just a desire to “do better”. Our psychology: our ego – pride – digs in to defend itself and resist meaningful change.

  • We are very smart – we have blessed us with big and powerful brains. Scientists have argued – pretty convincingly – that they are hard-wired to protect our self-image rather than doing what we might expect a brain to do

    • We think of it like a computer or a good assistant: we give it orders and it does the math to figure out how to make it happen

    • Rather, it's default setting is to protect our definition of self from alteration, both by others, and this is one of the most powerful findings – from ourselves.

    • When we realize

      • First: that our concepts of self are flawed - at the very least by our genes and history (and healthy introspection and guided therapy is designed to uncover these things)

      • Second: that these flaws are setting us up for failure in things like relationships and the simple goal of enjoying life

      • Then we recognize both how important this work of repentance is AND because our incredibly brilliant and devious brains will be working to subvert the process... we begin to see HOW MUCH WORK IS AHEAD OF US.

    • An example of this subversion: trusting the system – any system - to get well.

      • We are instinctively disinclined to change – the ego is afraid – and while we consciously tell our brains that we want to change, the ego gives counter-orders and tells the brain to provide data that will subvert the process – CONFIRMATION BIAS. The result is a litany of reasons why any given system isn't worth investing time or energy in.

      • [Even when we select a system and supposedly commit to it, our ego will continually work in the background to undermine participation.]

      • And when the system is part of a religion – a religion staffed by fallible humans – then its not hard for our brains to find reasons why it is not worthy of our trust!

    • [example of fasting, of confession, of defining love]

Great Lent – and here I would include these preperatory weeks – is the “boot camp” system to jump start the process of healing and rebuilding our brokenness.

Today: the example of what we look like – a pharisee. Completely prey to his ego. It justifies himself and degrades the other. Classic. Almost as if Christ understood how our psychology worked!

Turns prayer – and religion itself – into blasphemy. It works directly against its original intent:

  • A life of joyful contentedness that brings that same blessing to those around them

  • This is what we do! We justify ourselves and demonize the other. Think about how we use even our religious ideas of virtue to define and attack others – at least we're not like them! And puff up ourselves.

  • Wait a second, don't do that – I will always see how others do it. What I won't notice is how I do it. That's the point.

  • We need to start paying attention to how and why we think the way we do – why we react to people and events – the way we do so that we can take the whole structure of brokenness that sets up for failure and rebuild it according to the truth.

Until then:

  • We cannot truly know and love ourselves.

  • We cannot truly know and love our neighbor.

  • And we cannot truly love God.

  • Nor can we receive His love – or that of our neighbor.

We need to get out of our own way. Trust the process. Buy into it. The “You” you get back will be worth the effort.

Direct download: Homily-PublicanPsychology.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm 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 18:35-43, the healing of the blind man.  How does faith in Christ heal our blindness?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-LearningtoSee.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:43pm 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

Sunday after Nativity - Matthew 2:13-23
Christ is Born!  Xhristos Razhdayetsya!

Many of us are still glowing from the joyous celebration of our Lord’s Nativity this past week. And for good reason! It is a time to celebrate with family, sharing stories, laughter, good food, and gifts. But mainly we celebrate the Incarnation - the Nativity of Christ - the birth of God in the flesh as a newborn child. The results of this event are enormous for us and a great cause for elation. Our Redeemer, the One who has come to save us from death, has been born. What could possibly be more worthy of celebration? There is a Romanian priest back in Rhode Island who, upon entering any gathering at any time of year will sing: Joy to the world!! We share his joy at the coming of Our Lord at Christmas.

On the day of Nativity, during the Divine Liturgy, the Gospel tells us about the wise men bringing gifts and offering them to the Christ child. We understand this as the proper way to respond to our Savior’s birth. We continue the tradition of giving each other gifts to this very day.

Yet today, on the first Sunday after Nativity, the Gospel strikes a very different tone. Herod doesn’t respond to Christ’s birth in quite the same way as the Magi, or as we do today. Instead of elation and joy, his response to the news of the Christ child’s birth is jealousy and murder. We hear of Rachel weeping inconsolably because her children are no more. Many of us are parents and can, or possibly can’t, imagine how Rachel felt. And let’s face it, you don’t have to be a parent to feel the gut-wrenching horror of this event. This is a devastating story.

Why, after celebrating one of the most sacred and joyous feasts of the year, and of all human history, does the church give us this story today?

The answer may be found in some of the names we use to refer to Christ:

  • In the Troparion for Nativity we heard this morning:

    • The Light of Wisdom

    • The Sun of Righteousness

  • Light of the World

  • Our Illuminator

  • Toward the end of Liturgy, in response to receiving Communion, we sing “We have seen the True Light”

One of the hymns we sing during the Nativity season describes Christ’s birth poetically:

Our Savior, the Dayspring from the east, has visited us from on high. And we who were in darkness have found the truth.”

Christ is the light that reveals what was once shrouded in darkness.

Now then, how many of us are afraid of the dark? Maybe when we were kids… It’s not hard to figure out why. Darkness conceals. It hides the unknown. Darkness is where scary things can lurk. Even if no actual evil is present, we imagine the worst when we are surrounded by darkness: the monster that lives under the bed, the mugger that waits near the ATM at night, and the judgment that we keep hidden within ourselves or that we fear others secretly hide from us.

And when you shine a light on the dark places it can be a harsh awakening for those who desired to remain concealed. Think of the way interrogators shine bright lights into the eyes of their suspects. That light can be blinding. For Herod, the light of Christ entering into the world had the same effect - the darkness within Herod was revealed in his murderous jealousy, and resulted in the slaughter of thousands of innocent children.

You might being thinking, “I am not Herod!” Indeed, we would never murder thousands of children in a jealous rage to preserve our own authority and power. But as with everything in Scripture, we are challenged to discern how this story DOES apply to us. In what ways do we act like Herod, rebelling against the light which would reveal the darkness within us?

 

Met Anthony Bloom once said “God can save the sinner that you are, but not the saint you pretend to be.”

Allowing the light of Christ into the deepest, darkest crevices of our hearts and minds, into our very souls, is hard. Making ourselves vulnerable by admitting our failings can be painful. But that pain is only the result of God’s healing energy. As with the stinging antiseptic we spray onto our fleshly wounds to clean them and prevent infection, God’s healing can initially feel even worse than the spiritual disease that has metastasized within us: our jealousy, our judgment, our hatred of people who disagree with us politically, the way we belittle people and gossip about them, our lack of patience, our covetousness, our lust, our greed, and our pride. And it is only through repentance and confession that we can be made well.

If we are truly open to receiving that light, this can’t only be done secretly in our own private prayer. While this is a good start, it is not enough to secretly acknowledge our fears and sins. Confession with a priest we trust is where we can truly open the doors to our heart and welcome Christ and His forgiveness in, and be restored to spiritual health! Even opening ourselves just a little bit can let enough of that light in to dispel the darkness lurking in our hearts.

St Porphyrios famously said, “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Instead open a tiny aperture for light to enter and the darkness will disappear”

But we must be willing to open that door and acknowledge our brokenness, the ways in which we, like all, have fallen short of the glory of God. We must allow Christ’s birth to reveal the effects of sin and death in our hearts, just as His birth revealed the broken and distorted effects of sin and death in the world.

The Dayspring from the east is not just an infant who has the potential to grow into our Lord Jesus Christ. He IS Our Lord, and his incarnation sent shockwaves through the world. We often attribute the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry to His baptism, which we will celebrate this coming Saturday. However, His incarnation, His appearing on earth, in every way possible announced the beginning of an assault on sin and death. The coming of the Christ child is at once a cause for celebration by those who wish for salvation, and a call to arms against the forces of evil. When we hear of a “call to arms” we likely picture soldiers heading to the armory to grab their swords, bows and arrows, shields, rifles, and cannons. But how can this possibly relate to our celebration of Christmas?

Think about the names we heard for Christ earlier: they revolved around the theme of Christ being the Light of the world. There is another time of year when we here a Gospel message that describes Christ, the God-man, as the light that shines in the darkness. Does anyone remember when we hear this?

From the beginning of the Gospel of St John, on Pascha.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [a]comprehend it.

This is the Gospel the church puts at the center of our Liturgical celebration on Pascha, the feast of feasts. The culmination of our Liturgical worship for the entire year occurs on Pascha. The culmination of our entire understanding of salvation is revealed at Pascha. And the culmination of God’s plan for all of us and for each of us is made a reality on Pascha.

Christmas is ONLY relevant because of Pascha. All the feasts of the church, all of the events of Christ’s life, of Mary, the Birthgiver of God’s life, of the saints’ lives, and of OUR lives, derive their ultimate meaning from Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. And herein lies the answer to the question of how Christmas is a call to arms: it is not the call to equip ourselves with physical metal and fire. Instead, Christ calls us to sacrifice ourselves, as He did. The call to arms is a call to surrender myself, my ego, my fear, my self-justification, my lustful desires, my pride, NOT to double-down on those things in the vain hope that they will protect me from losing my identity. If I am a Christian, my identity is contained within Christ, who destroyed death by His death. Christmas is a declaration of war against death. And we already know who wins!

So, my brothers and sisters. I don’t know where each of you are on your spiritual journey. But I encourage you - if you go to confession frequently, God bless you! If you haven’t been to confession in the last year, make a point to go before Pascha. If you have gone to confession and been afraid or embarrassed to admit something that has been weighing on your heart, allow yourself to be vulnerable - trust your priest and trust in God - that by surrendering your pride and letting the light shine into your heart, you will not be destroyed, but instead you will destroy your sin.

Let us have the courage to emulate Christ, surrender ourselves to the warmth of His healing light, confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and rejoice in His birth, baptism, and ultimate Resurrection as we proclaim CHRIST IS BORN! Xhristos Razhdayetsya!

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

Direct download: 20190113-LightEradicatesDarkness.mp3
Category:general -- 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