Monday, December 29, 2014


" A certain man made a great supper and invited many...."  Now who would decline such a gracious invitation--unless his reason for doing so was very compelling, such as "I have just been run over by an ox cart and lie in bed a-dying....I beg to be excused."  For surely it is an insult to the host--who has provided the supper free of charge--when everyone declines on flimsy pretexts.  I am reminded of a friend who said he could not attend my wedding because he had to help his father install a water softener--well, I was rather hurt. 

The excuses given in this parable are just as lame.  It seems that none of the guests invited to the great supper had legitimate excuses not to attend.  But of course in the context of the parable, the stakes are much higher.  The Great Supper is the Kingdom of Heaven, and all the faithful who have been baptized into Christ are invited.  But if we were truly serious about accepting this invitation, we should gladly devote our whole life to serving Christ and His Church, denying ourselves and taking up the cross of sacrificial suffering.

Instead, we all too often make excuses why it is impossible for us to make such a total commitment--at least for now.  We have too many worldly concerns that need to be attended to--and they just can't wait!  And so we spend much of our lives in a vain and futile attempt to secure our place in the earthly kingdom of man.

Yet we are commanded by Christ to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added unto you."  And surely God is true to His word.  So let us, at least for today, "lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


St. Paul writes, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light...."  It is, however, unfortunate that we too often take for granted the blessings of God--either because we do not fully comprehend at what great a price our Lord has wrought our salvation, or--our stony hearts are impervious to the blessings which God continually showers upon us.

Ingratitude is a grave sin that we too often tend to overlook.  We generally focus on "major" sins such as murder or adultery.  Meanwhile, we pray to God for all sorts of needs, but seldom do we simply prostrate ourselves before Him, our hearts--humble and contrite--overflowing with praise and thanksgiving.

Luke records in his Gospel that Jesus cleansed ten lepers, but only one returned to thank Him--and he was a Samaritan...a member of a despised and oppressed race, with whom the Jews would have no dealings.  As such, he was one of the "poor"--"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.  And indeed, this thankful Samaritan perceived the Divinity of Christ, falling before Him and worshipping Him.  Likewise do we Orthodox Christians perceive Christ's Divinity in the Body and Blood of the Eucharist (which means "thanksgiving").

Every good thing in this earthly life proceeds from above, from the Father of Lights, Who is the sole source of every blessing.  We are but paupers before God, without Whom all of our pretended righteousness is but filthy rags. 

Monday, December 15, 2014


"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  Indeed!  St. Paul is talking about you and me, poor miserable sinners living in the 21st Century, on the very eve of the final manifestation of the Antichrist.  As I see it, time is speeding up and evil is growing at an exponential rate.  So how can we hope to endure unto the end, when the flow of time shall come to a screeching halt and we shall all stand naked before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ?....Only by the grace of God, which is given to all those who strive and struggle for salvation.

In today's Gospel, the rich ruler turned sorrowfully away when he was told there was one thing lacking: he must sell everything he owns, give the money to the poor...and come follow Jesus.  This was the one thing he could not do, however, because he was so enraptured and caught up in this transitory, earthly life that he could no longer break free from the bonds that enslaved him.

But just consider: while it is true that none of us are rich in worldly possessions, we are, nevertheless, no less bound to the distractions of this earthly life than the rich ruler.  But Christ's command that we give up all that we apparently have for the sake of His Kingdom applies to every one of us.

It is impossible to serve two masters: either we dedicate our lives totally to Christ and His heavenly Kingdom, putting on the whole armor of God and fighting against the powers of darkness, or else our faith is a mere pretense and we shall in the end be cast from the presence of God.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as foolish but as wise, redeeming the time."  But exactly what is time?....It is a mystery that as far as I know, no one had yet been able to adequately define.  What we can say is: time and eternity are mutually exclusive.  God created time, along with the whole material universe.  It is the tyranny of time that binds us to the tragic reality of this fallen world.

The truth is, the fallen human mind can barely conceive of existence apart from time.  To truly transcend the bounds (and bonds) of time and space, what does this mean?  Enough said, however, about such metaphysical speculations.  In this world we live in, time is a given.  So how do we redeem the time?....The simple answer is, by using it wisely rather than foolishly squandering it.

For you see, it was God Who created time in the "beginning," and it is given to us as a gift--that we might be granted the opportunity to work out our own salvation "with fear and trembling."  But the unfortunate fact is, we tend to take this gift for granted, as though there were an unlimited quantity of time at our disposal.  But like every creation of God, time has both a beginning and an end.  The time that has passed is gone forever, and there can be no second chance.  One cannot recycle wasted time....One can only redeem it. 

The fact is, it is only within the God-ordained limits of time that we can choose to set our feet upon the path of salvation.  Now is the time for repentance--once we have passed on from this earthly  life and escaped from the shackles of time, it will be too late. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


In today's Gospel parable, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully"--so as we see, the man was already rich, and now...he has acquired to many earthly goods that he no longer has enough space to store them all.  The obvious solution, of course, is to tear down the old barns and to build bigger ones--then to spend the rest of his life enjoying the goods he has accumulated--to  "eat, drink and be merry."

Probably most contemporary Americans would consider this to be a good plan, the achievement of the American dream.  Truly we are inundated in our consumerist culture by get rich schemes--"How to Prosper in the Coming Hard Times"--how to achieve financial security and to retire early.  In fact, the dignity of work has been denigrated and the cult of worldly pleasures and selfish pursuits raised to a high level.

But back to the parable:  was it not God who blessed the rich man with such an abundance of goods?  Rather than thanking God, however, and praising Him, the rich man considers this abundance to be his due, while thinking only of himself and the sensual enjoyment of this transient life.

Unfortunately, the one thing the rich man left out of his equation was the sure and certain fact that we are mortal--one day we must all die, and no one knows the day nor hour when God will demand our soul.  It behooves us, therefore, to acquire treasures in heaven--to become rich toward God--because all things earthly shall surely pass away.

We are all but pilgrims and wanderers upon this earth, and whatever we possess is the gift of God.  We are but stewards of these material blessings, and we must therefore strive to use them wisely--not to serve our own needs, but rather the needs of others.  In this way we glorify God and acquire for ourselves treasure in heaven--which neither rust nor moths can consume.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


"The Lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  And our Lord answers, What do you think?  How do you read the Law?  And the Lawyer answers rightly, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind--and thy neighbor as thyself."

Ah, but it is easy to say we love God, but...what precisely does this mean?  It is a glib response that requires from us no real commitment.  It is a cop out, really, because for most of us, God is little more than an abstract concept, not a living Reality that permeates our whole life--and how can we truly love an abstract concept? 

That is why the second commandment--that we love our neighbor as our very own self--that we love our neighbor as though he or she truly is our self--is so essential to our Christian Faith.  And it is exactly at this point that the question arises--just who is our neighbor?  The answer given within the corrupt, pharisaical tradition was that one's neighbor is one's fellow Jew.  As the Parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates, however, our neighbor is everyone. 

For truly, how can we say we love the God Whom we have not seen, when we place our own needs and desires before those of our fellow man?  If you profess to love God while hating your neighbor, your so-called love is a lie.  If we are unwilling to express our love in a concrete way even to our worst enemy--our supposed love for God is a sham and we are in fact unbelievers.

The gift of love God bestows upon us is, after all, neither a feeling nor an emotion--it is rather the willingness to put to death our own egotistic desires for the sake of the other.  In this sense, our neighbor truly is our salvation.  It is only by mortifying our own self-centered thoughts and actions that we can hope to be granted salvation in God's eternal Kingdom.

Monday, November 17, 2014


St. Paul clearly affirms that it is by the grace of God that we are saved, through faith, and our faith itself is a gift of God.  So then: does this mean we are mere automatons lacking the free will to choose the path of Salvation?  Are the Calvinists right after all when they proclaim that God willy nilly predestines souls to heaven or hell?

God forbid!  By grace we are saved, through faith, the Holy Apostle says elsewhere, "Faith without works is dead."  For we are all called to become co-workers with God.  Truly God's grace is sufficient for our salvation, but the grace of God simply cannot penetrate a stony heart that is darkened by the passions.

God's grace is only given to those who strive and struggle for salvation, praying for the gift of humility and a spirit of ongoing repentance.  If salvation were so simple and easy that all it requires is saying "I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior,"  it wouldn't be worth much, would it? 

The truth is, we are infinitely precious in the sight of God, created in His image and destined to become gods by grace.  So let us not receive the  gift of God in vain, nor take for granted the salvation He has wrought for us upon the Cross. Rather, let us deny ourselves, take up the Cross of Christ and follow Him, emulating the holy martyrs who have suffered and died for His sake. 

Let us stand aright, let us attend, that through our martyric struggles, strengthened by the grace of God, we may in the end finally attain unto the fullness of glory in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"As a man soweth...."

"As a man soweth, so shall he reap...."  This biblical principle has nothing to do with the Hindu concept of karma....It is rather the law of natural consequences as it exists in this fallen world.  If I stick my face in a fan, it will be cut--and it is going to hurt! 

In a similar fashion, if I chose to live my life apart from God--striving only to receive the "good things" in this life--it is inevitable that I shall be tormented in the future life by the bitter knowledge of my separation from God.

For truly there has to be more to this life than the accumulation of the things of this corruptible world--and that includes not only material objects, but also honor, glory and human recognition. 

The rich man in the Gospel was condemned to hell not because he was rich, nor because he enjoyed the good blessings of God in this life.  It was rather because he was so engrossed in this transitory, earthly life that he forgot about God.  While dining sumptuously, he did not give a thought concerning the real purpose and meaning of life--nor did he give thanks to God for the blessings he had received.

Lazarus, on the other hand, patiently endured the circumstances into which he had been placed, being grateful for the crumbs which  fell from the rich man's table and the dogs that licked his wounds.  Truly, God cannot be a mere afterthought in our day to day lives.  We must strive always to live a life of sacrificial love, affirming with St. Paul, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but God liveth within me."

Friday, October 24, 2014


"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me", says the Holy Apostle--because "The power of God is made perfect in weakness."  Now if you are like me, you may be wondering: if this is so, why do I so seldom feel the power of God at work in my life?  For I am, indeed, most painfully aware of my weakness and my failure to live according to the lofty standards set by our Lord.

But the key to this dilemma no doubt lies in what I have just said: I am painfully aware.  So why the pain?....It is because my apparent humility is really a subtle form of pride.  Perhaps the power of God in not made perfect in my life because I do not truly acknowledge my weakness.  Or rather, I do not gracefully accept it, casting my sinful soul onto the mercy of God.  Due to my overweening pride, I feel I should indeed be perfect--even apart from the grace of God.

St. Paul, on the other hand, gloried in his infirmities.  Three times he entreated the Lord to remove the thorn from his side, but our Lord did not answer his prayer.  Instead, he proclaimed that "My power is made perfect in weakness."  The Holy Apostle declared that he was the greatest of sinners and the least of the Apostles, because he had persecuted the Church of God.  Yet by the grace of God, he declared, "I am what I am."  And so, if the Holy Apostle confessed his total reliance of the grace of God--should we not all strive to emulate his holy example? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


"For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God."  Foolish indeed is the preaching of the Cross to those who believe in Disneyworld and the power of malls: those who believe that happiness is our highest goal in life, who put their trust in things that money can buy, who believe that suffering is a great evil that must be eliminated at any cost. 

But for those of us who believe, the Cross which we bear on our shoulders is the means to salvation, the only path by which we shall be delivered from the power of sin, death and the Devil.  Let us rejoice, therefore, and be exceeding glad, for by the power of the Cross our enemies are vanquished and we are granted abundant life in God's heavenly Kingdom. 

And so, as our Lord assures us, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me."  And again (as the Lord relates in the Parable of the Talents) "For everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance : but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."

This is contrary, of course, to the modern political idea of "income redistribution," according to which those who have are compelled to give to those who have not, lest "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."  Of course, Jesus wasn't preaching politics... nor am I.  But the truth is (in the spiritual sense) those who through fear or laziness or foolish complacency do nothing to increase the talent God has given them--that is, whatever gifts and abilities God has bestowed upon us, however small and insignificant they may seem--shall surely be judged unworthy to share in the joy of God's eternal Kingdom.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Holy Church celebrates September 1/14 as the ecclesiastical New Year.  The world was created in September, and so the traditional Orthodox Calendar calculates the date--not according to the birth of Christ (AD/BC), but according to the day of the creation of the world.  It is significant that I cannot  find this date on the internet.  I think it is eight thousand and something, but of course most Orthodox today avoid like the plague any suggestion that they are not "in step with the times."  Modern "science" postulates many millions (or BILLIONS) of years since the creation (or, I should say, spontaneous manifestation) of the cosmos.  Lest we become known as obscurantists, we gladly accept the Darwinian theory of evolution as though it were the revelation of God, rather than an insidious distortion of the Truth by the Evil One. 

As was His custom, our Lord entered the synagogue and read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, "The spirit of the Lord if upon preach the acceptable year of the Lord....This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."  We pray to God, "Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness"--for it is God alone Who has set the times and seasons for all things.

God created time in "the beginning" that our earthly life might be measured out according to His providential Plan.  Nevertheless, today is the day of salvation.  Since the coming of Christ, every year is the acceptable year of the Lord.   For God dwells in eternity, in which the is neither day nor night, summer nor winter.  Indeed, He totally transcends this world of death and  decay.

Our allotted time in this world is meant to be a preparation for eternity in God's heavenly Kingdom, where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, nor any more sighing...but life everlasting.  Meanwhile, we are trapped in time, awaiting the day our deliverance.  May God grant us all many, many years, that we might strive and struggle ceaselessly for the eternal salvation of our souls.


IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?....I actually don't know if anybody is reading these posts. Any feedback or comments would be appreciated.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Recently I caught the tail end of a discussion on Facebook ("Ask about the Orthodox Faith") with a man who was obviously some sort of Protestant.  As such, he had little patience for those of us who honor and exalt the Theotokos as our fervent intercessor and protector as we traverse the storm tossed waters of this earthly life. 

This man-- his spiritual sight darkened by the delusions engendered by the Babylonian Captivity of the Western "Church"--insisted that Mary was merely a mortal human being "like the rest of us," and so she died and was buried and will not arise again until the General Resurrection--when our Lord returns to judge the living and the dead.

So then...where are her relics?  After all, relics have been preserved down through the centuries of virtually every saint on the Church calendar.  Yet there are and never have been any pilgrimages organized to venerate the relics at the tomb of the Mother of God.  As for the assumption that all human flesh must await the General Resurrection, I ask...what of the Holy Prophet Elijah, who ascended from this earth in a chariot?  What of Enoch, who was "translated" by the power of God?  Scripture affirms that both of these saints will return in the End Times to bare bold witness against the Antichrist in Jerusalem.

In any case, the Orthodox Church does not teach that Mary did not die.  Dormition means "falling asleep."  As a mortal being, Mary truly died and was buried, but she was subsequently translated into heaven body and soul by the power of God.  After all, it was the same God Who created all things out of nothing Who raised Lazarus the Four Days Dead from the tomb and Who raised the bodies of the saints around Jerusalem at His Crucifixion, that they might bear witness to His glorious Resurrection. 

Nor should we say that the Theotokos was "just" an ordinary mortal like the rest of us.  As the Mother of God, she is the perfect flower of the human race--more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.  She who preserved her virginity while giving birth--the Panagia (all pure)--was surely preserved from corruption in the grave. 

The Dormition reveals to us the glory and honor God has bestowed upon the entire human race--the crown of His creation.  We are all called to the same perfection achieved by the Theotokos, to become gods by grace.  Though she is indeed human like the rest of us, she has been granted the authority to intercede for us sinners before the Throne of God, covering with her mantle of protection all those who call upon her with faith.

Monday, August 18, 2014


"If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."  What are we to make of this passage?  Is Jesus exaggerating a bit, or is what He says literally true?  Indeed, it does sound rather like the "magical thinking" characteristic of childhood: if we believe something strongly enough, it will surely happen.

As we mature into adulthood, however, we learn very soon that no matter how strongly we desire something and how firm our belief that it will happen, things seldom work out in our lives according to our expectations. 

Obviously Jesus isn't say that if only we believe something strongly enough, it will happen. True Christian faith isn't simply a matter of believing, or "claiming the promise," according to certain "possibility" cults.  Faith is the product of our relationship with the living God.

Genuine faith presupposes that we are living our lives (or at least striving to) in communion with the triune God, aligning our personal desires with His perfect will, so that in the end we "cease to exist" as self centered individuals, saying with  St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ liveth in me."

Unfortunately, we too often behave like little children in the thralls of magical thinking, wanting what we want because we think we want it....but if truth be told, we seldom really know what we want.  As the saying goes, Be careful what you wish may get it.

If our faith in God is genuine, we will never consider that He bend His perfect will to our own self-centered desires.  Rather, we must cast aside our egocentric thoughts and desires, affirming with the Theotokos, " "Let it be unto me according to Thy word."  Only then can our faith work miracles: when that which we desire conforms to the perfect will of God.

Monday, August 11, 2014


"For other foundation  can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."  Now it is  obvious that if we are to construct a building, the first and most essential  task  is to dig a deep and solid foundation.  Otherwise the structure will, over the course of time, crack and crumble--and eventually it will collapse.

So it is concerning the life we build for ourselves here on earth: if we choose to build upon the shifting sands of worldly values and deceptions, the temple that we built (for we are  the temple of the Holy Spirit) will sooner or later fall apart--no matter how beautiful and imposing the structure may appear from the outside. 

So our only sure and certain foundation in this ever changing world is our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Even so, it behooves us to gather only the finest and most enduring materials to build with, arranging them together most carefully and harmoniously, because--as St. Paul reminds us--our work will one day be tested as though by fire.  Especially must we strive to acquire all the virtues: patience, courage,  humility, longsuffering, meekness, and--above all else--the gift of love in our hearts.

The truth is, if our foundation is Christ, we can easily walk with confidence across the raging and tumultuous sea of this temporal life with no fear of drowning.  If only our faith is firm and deeply rooted, God will surely sustain us and lead us to the safe harbor of His heavenly Kingdom within His holy Church--the only Ark of Salvation.

It is essential, however, that we keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus, ignoring the tumult of worldly distractions--which is, in the end, nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Otherwise we will--like St. Peter--begin to sink.  But even then, we shall surely be saved if only we cry out from the depths of our hearts--as did the Holy Apostle--"Lord, save me!"

Monday, July 21, 2014


"And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed...."  And Jesus, seeing the faith of his friends, says to the man, "Son, be of good cheer: thy sins are forgiven thee."  Then certain scribes who were present accused Jesus in their hearts of blasphemy--for God alone has the power to forgive sins (which is not the same as forgiving a person who has offended us, which we are commanded to do).    

But as the Godman, Jesus discerned the secret thoughts of their hearts and asks, which is easier: to say "Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk?"  And to prove that He really does have the power and authority to forgive sins, he commands the sick of the palsy  to "Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house."

But it might well be asked: wasn't the whole reason for bringing the man to Jesus that he might be healed of the palsy?  And could not Jesus have done just that, without first forgiving his sins?  Of course He might have, but then the man would have departed in a worst state than when he had arrived.  For the crucial issue here was not the ailment itself, but rather the underlying cause.  After all, sickness and disease are unpleasant and inconvenient, but there is, nevertheless, an inevitable cure for every human infirmity: death, which is the natural limit God had set for all of our physical pain and suffering.

The consequences of sin, however--unless we sincerely repent--extend into all eternity.  For it is sin alone that breaks our communion with God, and apart from His grace, we shall be consigned forever to a hell of our own making.  Thus the Mysteries of the Church are appointed for the salvation of soul and body, for as a psychosomatic unity, a man's soul and body must either be saved together, or else he is lost forever. 

This is why God so often allows sickness and disease to fall upon us.  It is either a wake-up call--that all is not as it should be in our lives--or else it can become the very means by which we work out our salvation through patient endurance.  In any case, it behooves us to endure with gratitude whatever circumstances God allows in our lives, that by these means we may be proved worthy of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


As Jesus entered into the region of the Gergesenes, He encountered two men possessed of fierce devils that cried out, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, the Son of God?  art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?"  So....The devils bear testimony: first, that they are indeed destined to suffer eternal torment on that Great Day when our Lord shall return with glory to judge the living and the dead.  Until that Day, God has allowed Satan and his fallen angels (the demons) to tempt the faithful, that by resisting this temptation we might prove ourselves worthy of the heavenly Kingdom.

But by the providence of God, Satan's days are numbered, and the demons are painfully aware of that.  They are desperate, therefore, to destroy as many human souls are they possibly can within the allotted time.  Thus, Satan prowls the earth like a ravenous lion, "seeking whom he may devour."

Secondly, the devils confess that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God, Who shall begin His eternal reign at the end of time.  It is significant, then, that "even the devils believe...and tremble," while the atheist foolishly claims to deny God's very existence.  As the Psalmist declares, "The fool says in his heart, there is no God."  There are, however, very few true atheists.  Those who claim to be such have for the most part willfully blinded themselves to His presence, using their alleged atheism as a cloak for their sinful and self-indulgent way of life.  For as Dostoyevsky said, if there is no God, all is permitted.

Of course, if we don't believe in God, it makes no sense to believe in Satan either.  Yet many folk who claim to believe in God deny the existence of Satan, and thus become easy prey for the insidious suggestions of the demons.  Moreover, the deceptive lies of the demons are often so subtle that they are well nigh impossible to detect unless are hearts have been purified by divine grace and we have attained at least a modicum level of discernment.  In The Screwtape Letters,  the senior devil explains to his pupil that Satan's greatest triumph in modern times has been to convince the vast majority of people that Satan does no exist, or that he is merely a comic figure with a long tail and a pitchfork.

As Christians, we are called to put on the whole armor of God, that we might stand aright, resisting by the grace of God every temptation of the Evil One.  We are called to spiritual warfare as soldiers in the militia of Christ.  If we truly believe in God and strive to obey His commandments, Satan can have no power over us...unless we voluntarily give him this power.  Still, demons have thousands of years of experience and their deceptions are so subtle, we can so very easily be led astray without even knowing it.  We must be ever vigilant, therefore, and not let down our guard even for a moment...lest we become like those swine who were driven by the demons to run heedlessly over the cliff unto their own destruction.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," writes the Holy Apostle.  This is so because according to its very definition, sin is any thought, word, deed or desire that separates us from God--and God is the one and only Source of life.  It stands to reason, then, that apart from God, we are truly dead spiritually--nothing but walking corpses--though we may enjoy the very best of physical health.

There is a lot of emphasis nowadays on healthy living--with the emphasis on good food and exercise--and this is good, considering that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Nevertheless, how are we profited by good health if we shall in the end be cast into that place of outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth?  Repent, therefore, while there is still time, and turn from the darkness of this world to the light of Christ, who alone can grant us the gift of eternal life.

Now there are various definitions of sin prevalent in today's world.  Some only consider it to be an act that directly causes harm to another.  Others regard it  merely as "breaking the rules" decreed by God, as when we violate the laws of the land and are sentenced by the judge to a term of imprisonment or the payment of a fine.  But as St. John the Evangelist affirms, God is love--not some sort of vengeful judge who demands satisfaction for our wrongdoing and delights in casting sinners into hell.

Indeed, God does not desire the death of any man, but rather that he turn from his evil ways and live.  He created us out of love and for love, and so--as St. Augustine taught--"Our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."  No matter how sinful we may be, God will never reject us--it is we ourselves who reject Him, thoughtlessly spurning the gift of love He desires to bestow upon us.

The centurion in the Gospel who approached Jesus for the healing of his servant knew that he was not worthy that the Lord should come under the roof of his house, but he was nevertheless convinced that our Lord possessed the power and authority to fulfill his petition.  And so--if we are humble like the centurion and strive always (however inadequately) to nurture the love of God in our hearts, He will surely grant to us healing of soul and body and all things whatsoever needful for salvation.

Monday, June 30, 2014


"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God," the Holy Apostle assures us, and again..."If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Therefore, our Lord counsels us to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness," and all things whatsoever needful in this earthly life shall be added unto us. 

It is a sure and certain truth that all who strive to live godly lives, bearing bold witness to our faith in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution and tribulation, and it is only through our patient endurance unto the end that we shall be saved--because it is only by means of suffering that we can acquire the abundant grace of God to strengthen and confirm us in the Faith. 

But his means that if we truly desire salvation, we cannot serve two masters.  Unfortunately, many who consider themselves faithful Orthodox Christians--while professing to love Christ and His commandments--seek at the same time to pursue a worldly life, striving to avoid at any cost the pain and discomfort that is natural for those who are committed  to a God fearing life.  Thus, they allow themselves to become enslaved to the demands of a consumer society according to which the acquisition of material goods and the false sense of security they bring becomes the main goal of our earthly sojourn.

We must, however, avoid casting aspersions on others--especially the rich and powerful of this world.  The truth is, we have all to some extent become entrapped in this delusion.  When Constantinople finally fell to the Turks in 1453, many Christians succumbed to the temptation of apostasy, embracing Islam for the sake of receiving material and social benefits.  Others--while remaining outwardly faithful--nevertheless feared the consequences of bearing bold witness to the truth of Orthodoxy.  Finally, there were those who went underground--remaining faithful inwardly while outwardly pretending to accept Islam.  (May God alone judge them according to the secret contents of their hearts).

The New Martyrs, on the other hand, not only refused to renounce Christ, but they were willing (strengthened by the grace of God) to suffer torture, imprisonment and death for His sake.  Thus, they were "more than conquerors" through Him Who loved them, "and nothing was able to separate them from the love of God."

If the radical Muslims of our own day and age have their way, history could repeat itself in Europe and America.  Or if the Muslims fail in their attempt to enslave the world, it seems likely that oppression and persecution will eventually come at the hands of a secular, humanistic, authoritarian New World Order.  So the question remains for all of us: are we prepared to remain firm and faithful in our profession of Orthodoxy no matter the consequences, or shall we in the end capitulate to the Powers that Be and risk eternal damnation in the fires of hell?   

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The Greek word for saint--hagia--means "holy."  And so, by definition, a saint is not merely an exceptionally good person, but rather someone who possesses the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will--naturally--love God above all created things, and likewise he will love his neighbor as his very own self.  Having taken up his cross and followed Christ, the saint has ceased to exist as an ego-centered entity, and so he can say with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me."

A saint is, therefore, the proof and confirmation of our Faith.  The most logical and persuasive argument concerning the existence of God will not convince the skeptic, but a saint--by his or her very life and example--bears living witness to those truths revealed by Christ and preserved in the Holy Tradition of the Church.

That is why--for us ordinary Christians--the Lives of the Saints are so inspiring and edifying, and the reason why the veneration of the saints holds such a central place in the ongoing life of the Church.  The truth is, we are all called to be saints, to become gods by grace, transformed and deified by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the whole purpose of the Incarnation of Christ and the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost.

Od course, striving for the ideal of sanctity involves a life-long struggle against the sinful passions, and the willingness to endure sacrificial suffering on Christ's behalf.  There is, therefore, no place for the Protestant idea that "Christ has already done it all."  Of course, in the ultimate sense, He has, but we are, nevertheless, called to become co-workers with God in the great work of sanctification--not of our own souls only, but of the entire created universe.  Let us pray ceaselessly that we may prove worthy of such a high calling.

Monday, June 9, 2014


We read in the Acts of the Apostles, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."  Thus it came to pass that there was the sound as of rushing wind and a tongue of fire rested on the head of each disciple.  Thereby was the Church established through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the Apostles--who had aforetime cowered behind a closed door "for fear of the Jews"--were emboldened to go forth into all the world to preach the Good News of salvation.

The important thing to note here is that the Holy Spirit was given to the ecclesia ('gathering' or 'assembly'), not to individual believers scattered here and there.  It is first and foremost to the Church that God reveals Himself, contrary to the Protestant concept so prevalent nowadays that God inspires the individual believer with knowledge of the Truth.  Thus, each Christian is considered competent to interpret Scripture according to his personal inspiration, while Holy Tradition (which is God's continuing revelation to the Church through the Holy Spirit) is generally cast aside as irrelevant.

It is, of course, true that we all received the Gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and Chrismation, and that our goal in life (as St. Seraphim of Sarov affirms) is to acquire ever more of the Holy Spirit of God.  It is, however, only within the Church, as members of Christ's Body, that we receive this Gift. Certainly no private revelation can ever contradict those truths taught by the Fathers and preserved in the Holy Tradition of the Church.  Truly, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth, and our only Ark of Salvation upon the billowing waves of this storm-tossed life.

There truly is but "one Church, one Faith, one Baptism, and one God and Father of us all."  Though it may be that we are damned alone, we can only be saved within the communion of the Faith.  It is true that a separate tongue of fire rested upon each one present on the day of Pentecost, which testifies that we have all been granted unique gifts and a unique place within the Church.  Nevertheless, it is only within the context of the Church that we are enabled to fulfill our true potential as sons and daughters of God.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Jesus said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."  Take note: He doesn't say we must merely believe in God, or know things about Him ( such as we might learn from a theology textbook).  He says, rather, that we must know Him.

Biblically, when it is said that a man "knows" a woman, what is meant is that the two have intimate relations together.  It is the union of two souls and bodies, wherein "the two become one flesh."  Likewise, to know God requires an actual union/communion with Him.  And because God is at the same time eternal and the Source of Life, to know Him is life eternal.

Of course, it is impossible to enter into communion with God unless we struggle against the sinful passions while striving to fulfill His commandments, and this is possible only when we are strengthened by the grace of God--and the fullness of grace is only available within the one true Church that our Lord established on the day of Pentecost.

Christ prays further for His disciples "that they may be one, as We are," and herein lies the foundation for the unity and ultimate authority of the Church and the refutation of the Latin heresy of papism.  The Church is conciliar.  The bishops at an ecumenical council are empowered to proclaim the truth unanimously  according to what seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles did at the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem.  Thus, the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council justly condemned the heresy of Arius and cast him from the Church.

This is precisely because Arius taught that Christ is a creature, and thus He could not truly be one with the Father.  Nor could we the faithful enter  into eternal life through union with a creature who did not possess the fullness of Divinity.  Christ ascended that He might--on the day of Pentecost--send down upon us the life-giving Spirit, through Whom we are all truly united to Christ.  May we all strive to purify our hearts of every egotistical thought and desire, that we may be proved worthy of this Gift. 

Monday, May 26, 2014


Today's Gospel poses a perennial question: Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why are some of us born with various infirmities--such as blindness--while others are born whole? There was actually a book written a number of years ago by a Jewish rabbi called Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?  I never read it, but it was a bestseller--New York Times, Time Magazine, your name it, yet the review I read (surprise!) concluded that though the book was intriguing, it offered no definitive answer to the question posed. 

Consider Job, a truly righteous man, who lost all he possessed and ended up sitting on a dung hill scraping his puss filled boils with potsherds--and yet, by his proverbial patience and longsuffering endurance, could exclaim, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!"

Our Lord assured His disciples that neither the blind man himself nor his parents sinned that he should be born blind, but rather that the glory of God should be revealed.  Still we ask, Why me and not him?  Why was I born in a ghetto and she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth?  Some people get all the luck....With my luck, things are bound to turn out bad....I was abused....I am a victim....I can't help it, I was born that  way!

These are common ways of thinking nowadays, but such an attitude is futile and gets us nowhere.  It is a product of our egocentrism and our unwillingness to accept reality as it is, according to the unfathomable Providence of God.  The spirit of the age is that we should all be equal, that the good things of this world should be equally distributed and that no one should be left out in any way.  But like I told my own children when they were teenagers, life isn't fair.  And though we are all equal in the eyes of God in the sense that we are infinitely precious in His sight, there is no spiritual law that says we must be inherently equal.  Some are rich and some are poor.  Some are sick and disabled, while others are healthy and whole.  Some tend to be lazy while others are consumed by the ambition to get ahead.  And, of course, some of us are intelligent and possess various talents, while others possibly possess gifts of an entirely different order.

In any case, evil circumstances are inevitable in this fallen world.  Bad things happen along with the good, and we cannot always control the impact outside forces exert on the course of our lives.  We can, however, choose to glorify God whatever our circumstances, to be profoundly thankful to God for all things, knowing that--as St. Paul reminds us--all things work together for the good for those who love God and strive to fulfill His commandments.   

Monday, May 19, 2014


Jesus said unto the Samaritan Woman at the well, "whoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I give him shall never thirst again."  Truly these words apply to all things whatsoever that men may seek in this fallen world--apart from God--in pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.

Whether it be the latest electronic toy, a big house with fancy furniture, dining sumptuously in gourmet restaurants--and all things whatsoever that constitute the so-called "good life"--sooner or later, every worldly attraction will lose its luster and cease to satisfy our insatiable thirst, so that we find ourselves constantly seeking to acquire more of the same, until in the end we are left with a God-sized hole that simply cannot be filled with the fleeting pleasures and satisfactions of this world.

I suspect that the Samaritan Woman had thought, If only I can find the right man who can provide for me security and all the pleasures of the marital life, then I shall be happy.  But sadly she had already gone through five husbands, and by the time of this encounter at the well, the man she lived with was not her husband.  She was--as the supposedly quaint and old fashioned expression has it--"living in sin."

The truth is, nothing in this temporal life is permanent.  The latest novelty or fad might entice us for awhile, providing a false sense of fulfillment, but soon enough these attractions begin to weary us and we are off to find a still newer and more promising source of distraction. 

Jesus told the Samaritan Woman that if only she knew the gift of God and Who it was Who offered it, she would have asked, and He would have given her living waters.  By this He means the Holy Spirit, who is indeed the gift of God Himself to the thirsting human soul.  St. Seraphim said that the whole purpose of our life on earth is to acquire the Holy Spirit, for it is by this means that we are united to God and become partakers of the divine nature.  The Samaritan Woman (St. Photini) was slow to understand, but once she opened her heart at last to God's gift, she was filled to overflowing with the living waters of eternal life.  May we also--having set aside all vain and frivolous pursuits--prove ourselves worthy to receive this gift.


I encourage my readers to check out my latest novel--THE CHANGELING--at Amazon Books.  "Following her third miscarriage, Tatiana Anderson is devastated and teeters on the edge of insanity. Her wounds only begin to heal after her husband, Alex, arranges for the adoption of a twelve year old girl named Charitina ("Charley") from his place of employment--the mysterious quasi-governmental institution known as The Castle.  Charley is a delightful girl who immediately steals her parents' hearts, but then--three years later--her soul is apparently snatched away in the night and all that remains is a shell.  What follows is a harrowing adventure in which one dream sequence is succeeded by another.  The question is: shall the light finally prevail over the darkness?"

Saturday, May 17, 2014


It came to pass that Jesus came to the Pool of Bethesda, where a multitude of "impotent folk" were gathered, waiting to be cured.  For it was widely believed that from time to time an angel would descend from above and stir the waters, and that whoever had the good fortune to enter first after the stirring would be cured of his infirmity.

Now there was a man there who had been a paralytic for thirty eight years.  When Jesus approached him and asked if he truly desired to be healed, the man responded that whenever the water was stirred, he "had no man" to lift him into the pool, so that someone else always got there before him.  It was at this point that Jesus told the man to lift up his bed and walk, cautioning that he should sin no more lest he should be afflicted with something even worse than paralysis.

The question is....Are we not all "impotent folk" (the word means "lacking power") paralyzed by those sinful passions that bind us?  And so we hope against hope that somehow a miracle will occur to heal our infirmities.  The truth is, we are--humanly speaking--powerless to save ourselves.  Try as we might, we simply cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps--and we "have no man" to lift us when the hour of deliverance is at hand.

Yet there is indeed a Man--the Godman Jesus Christ--who can by a single word set us free from our wretched condition.  We must, however, first of all truly desire to be healed.  But who, you might well ask, would not desire deliverance from their sinful condition?  Yet the sad truth is that many would rather choose to remain paralyzed than to "sin no more"--that is, to consciously renounce their attachment to the sinful passions and to live a life of ongoing repentance.

However, there simply is no magical cure that will grant us healing and salvation apart from a lifelong struggle against our sinful passions and desires and a genuine commitment to change and to be changed.  Apart from the abundant grace of God, it is impossible to be set free from those infirmities that bind us to this world.  Only beware that having once been healed, you become negligent and complacent, so that in the end something even worse should befall you. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


While the Holy Apostles cowered behind closed doors "for fear of the Jews," the Noble Joseph fearlessly approached Pilate to claim the body of Jesus, which he took down from the Cross, wrapped in fine linen and placed in a rock hewn tomb.  Finally he rolled a large boulder to seal the entrance.  What courage, faith and devotion Joseph demonstrates, while those who had been most intimate with our Lord over the course of His three year mission are seemingly paralyzed by depression and a loss of hope. 

The Myrrhbearing Women likewise seek to fulfill their service of love, rising early in the morning to anoint the body of our Lord with sweet smelling spices--though the whole situation does at the moment seem hopeless.  Besides--"Who shall roll us away the stone?" the grieving women ask.  Nevertheless, they persist in completing their self-appointed task--and a moment later, their persistence is rewarded.  As soon as they raise their eyes from the earth and behold the tomb, they are astonished to see that the stone has already been rolled aside--not by any human agency, but rather by the power of God Himself.  Even more incredible, an angel reveals to the women that Christ has indeed arisen, just as he foretold.

Now this stone can also symbolize our own unbelief and spiritual blindness.  We profess to believe, joyously proclaiming, "Christ is risen!", yet too often our attitude and behavior would seem to suggest that our Lord still lies in the tomb, that despite the words of the angel, we persist in seeking the living among the dead.  On one level we believe, but on a deeper level, His death and Resurrection seem to have had no significant impact on our everyday lives.

So we too might ask, "Who shall roll away the stone?", because it is indeed--from our human perspective--very large and immovable.  The answer is, of course, that it is God alone Who can roll away the stone of our unbelief.  But if this is to occur, we must--like the Myrrhbearing Women--set aside our sorrow and despair, persisting to fulfill our own service of love toward God and our fellow man.  Only then shall God roll away the stone from our passionate, hardened hearts that we might behold the empty tomb and receive the promise of eternal life in the heavenly Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


"Seeing is believing," as the saying goes, yet Jesus says, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe."  Well, the disciples who cowered behind closed doors on the evening of the first day--"for fear of the Jews"--only believed because our Lord appeared to them and showed them His hands and side.  And while Thomas had insisted he would only believe if he thrusts his hand into our Lord's side, as soon as Jesus appears, he exclaims, "My Lord and my God!"

So why, then, is St. Thomas singled out as the doubting one?--It is because he did not believe the testimony of his fellow Apostles who had already beheld the risen Lord a week earlier.  Well, neither has any one of us here today seen our Lord with our physical eyes--nor has anyone else since our Lord's Ascension--yet numerous saints and Holy Fathers have indeed "seen" Him with their spiritual eyes, while innumerable Christians down through the ages have experienced His presence in their lives.

So we are indeed encompassed by a "great cloud of witnesses" whose irrefutable testimonies confirm for us all the continuing and abiding presence of Christ in His Church--and in the hearts of the faithful.  And so there is no excuse for those who willfully harden their hearts, refusing to acknowledge Christ as their Savior and to proclaim with St. Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"

Perhaps we have allowed our spiritual eyes to be darkened by sin; or maybe we were physically blind from birth; but neither of these circumstances (nor any power whatsoever in heaven or on earth) need separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  And if, indeed, the love of God abides in our hearts--even the smallest flame of this love--He shall surely reveal Himself to us according to the measure of our faith, that we too might exclaim with St. Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"

Friday, April 25, 2014


"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried with Him therefore by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead,...we too might walk in newness of life."  Simply put, baptism is our death and resurrection in Christ--not merely in symbol or figure, but in reality.  The "old man"--our self-centered ego--is put to death.  Truly it ceases to exist!  Thus--having put on Christ--death is transformed into life through the power of our Lord's glorious Resurrection. 

Today is the blessed Sabbath, whereon Christ rested from His redemptive work.  As the priest says while censing the Altar Table before every Divine Liturgy, "In the tomb with the body, in hell with the soul, in paradise with the thief, and on the Throne with the Father and the Holy Spirit..." Thus, even while our Lord's body lies in the tomb awaiting His Resurrection on the third day, His soul descends into Hades, where He tramples down death by death.

And so....Just as death is transformed into life, so is the profound sorrow of Holy Friday transformed into joy.  Thus, while it is inevitable that our bodies must die and be laid to rest in the earth, the seeds of resurrection have already been implanted--and truly we shall rise again on the Last Day to eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom.

Likewise, though our earthly sojourn is a time of sorrow, the seeds of joy implanted in our souls even now blossom forth at unexpected moments.  Thus we experience what the Holy Fathers term "joyful sorrow"--which is a foretaste of that eternal joy that awaits all who love Christ and strive at all times to do His will.


"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body," says the Holy Apostle.  What a dreadful thought!  that by receiving Holy Communion carelessly--while not even attempting to cleanse our hearts of evil thoughts and desires--we eat and drink to our own condemnation. 

Consider Judas, who was present at the Mystical Supper and dared to partake of our Lord's most precious Body and Blood even while he was plotting to betray Him.  And so it behooves us all to examine ourselves carefully before approaching the holy chalice.  We profess to love Christ, and like the Apostle Peter, we loudly proclaim that we would never betray Him.  Yet are we not guilty time and again of betraying our Lord's love by our thoughts, words, deeds and actions?

Truly none of us are worthy to partake of our Lord's most precious Body and Blood.  Nevertheless, if we sincerely repent of our sins and strive to purify our hearts of those sinful passions that separate us from God, He can make us worthy.  Even Judas--though he betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver--could have been saved, had he truly repented and humbly beseeched our Lord for forgiveness.  Instead, he fell into despair--the unforgiveable sin--and hung himself, thereby condemning his wretched soul to hell.

Truly this is why the repentant harlots and publicans enter the Kingdom, while the self-righteous Pharisees are left outside in that place of darkness "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  Indeed... it is not the multitude of our sins that condemn us, but rather our failure to repent.

Monday, April 14, 2014


"Jesus sayeth unto [Martha], I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."  Jesus knew from the first that he would raise Lazarus from the dead--which is why He waited two days before going to Bethany--that the glory of God might be fully revealed.  For who could imagine that a putrefying corpse already four days dead could be brought back to life? 

Even so, this is the only place in the Gospels where it is recorded that "Jesus wept."  But why did He weep if He knew full well the mighty miracle He was about to accomplish?  Jesus wept--according to His human nature--over the tragedy of death, which was--and remains to this day--the root cause of all the suffering and violence in this fallen world.  Lazarus, after all--unlike the Most Holy Theotokos--was not raised in a glorified body that would live forever.  Though our Lord truly has "trampled down death by death," the tragedy of death overshadows our entire earthly life, from cradle to grave, and shall continue to do so until the final consummation at the end of time.

Our sojourn in this fallen world is indeed bittersweet: the stark reality of death and corruption is interwoven with the bright rays of Christ's resurrection and the promise of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom, "where there shall be neither sickness nor sorrow, nor any more sighing, but life everlasting."  The only hope for salvation from this "body of death" is in and through our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, who assures us, "whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The Holy  Apostles James and John approach our Lord with the bold request: "Master, we would that Thou shouldst do for us whatsoever we desire."  Specifically, what they desire is to be granted the honor of sitting at the right and left hand of Christ when He comes in His glory.  Jesus replies, "You know not what you ask."  How true...for all of us!  Are we not often likewise guilty of expecting God to cater to our personal will and desires, while we only pretend  to seek the will of God in our lives?

Because--let's face it--that which God wills for the sake of out salvation may be a bitter pill to swallow.  What Our Lord asks us to do is to take upon our shoulders His Cross of sacrificial suffering and self-denial, but this is an inconvenient truth we would sooner forget.

Oh, is easy enough to pay lip service to the Gospel commandments, but when push comes to shove, it is so much easier to deceive ourselves into thinking that our self-centered and egotistic desires somehow reflect the will of God. 

The bottom line is, the will of God is always and everywhere the same: that we come to the knowledge of the Truth and be saved.  This can only happen, though, when we cease to exist as self-centered egos.  Only then can our hearts be filled with His abundant love.  But of course this is a slow and painful process, not something most of us can achieve overnight.  And so it is tempting to give up even trying, to allow ourselves to fall into a state of denial and complacency, figuring that our feeble efforts to follow external rules will be enough to carry us over into the Kingdom.

But salvation is so much more than a legal pardon from God for whatever sins we have committed.  Simply put, it is our union and communion with the living God of Love, in Whom and through Whom we shall be transformed--if we are willing--into children of Light and citizens of His heavenly Kingdom.

Friday, April 4, 2014


St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, "Awake thou that sleepeth, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee the light.  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  Indeed, the days are  evil.  According to Holy Writ, one of the signs that the End is drawing near is that the love of many shall grow cold--and it is, I believe, abundantly clear that this prophecy is already coming to pass.  I do not intend, however, to pass judgment on the vast number of cold and indifferent unbelievers (whether in or outside the Church) "out there" in the world.

If we truly desire to understand what's wrong with this crazy, topsy turvy world, let us begin (if we dare) by turning inward and examining our own hearts, to determine whether or not there remains there even a shred   of that fervent love of God that is absolutely essential for anyone who desires salvation in God's eternal Kingdom.

But in order to plumb the depth of the barren wasteland of our own souls, we must first awaken from our deadly slumber of complacency and worldly attachments, beseeching God to enlighten our spiritual eyes--before it's too late.  We must redeem the time God has so graciously allotted us  that we might work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because once the curtain is drawn, there can be no second chance. 

It would, of course, be easier in the short term to sleep and dream our lives away, because once we awaken, we must face the harsh light of a new day, admitting that we have indeed wandered far from the divinely appointed path of salvation.  Like the father of the demoniac in the Gospel, we lack that saving faith that can move the mountain of our own pride and egotism and cast it into the sea, but we can, at least, pray "Lord, I thou my unbelief."

And if, by chance, we are truly sincere in our desire to be released from the shackles of delusion and despair and a world in bondage to the demons, God will indeed enlighten our souls, granting to us the gift of love and life eternal in His heavenly Kingdom.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Today we arrive at the crux of our Christian Faith: the Cross of our Lord, God and savior Jesus Christ.  (Crux is, indeed, the Latin word for Cross).  For if we were to eliminate the Cross (as, for example, do the Jehovah's Witnesses, who refer to it as the "torture stake"), then our Faith would be simply one more vain philosophy among the many that have arisen over the course of the ages: serving, perhaps, as a helpful guide for those seeking happiness in this world, but having no power to transform our fallen human natures.

Our Lord Himself shows us the way, though of course He would never impose His will on anyone, having granted to us all the gift (or according to Dostoyevski's Grand Inquisitor, the insupportable burden)  of freewill.  He merely suggests, if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross...and follow Me.

So, what it comes down to in the end is that we must deny our selves--which goes radically beyond what we usually think of as "self-denial"--as when we deny ourselves that second piece of chocolate we would so much enjoy.  Rather, we are called upon to deny completely each and every claim of that false ego that has supplanted the place of Christ in our hearts.  We must, in a very real sense, cease to exist (which is what my fictional character Angel finally succeeds in doing in my novel Many Mansions). 

Because it is only when we cease to exist as self-centered egos that we are truly free to follow Christ and Him alone, to joyfully take up our own cross of sacrificial love and suffering and to follow Him.  Only then can we say with the holy apostle  St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ liveth in  me," because it is the Cross that crosses out the I, so that henceforth we live not for ourselves, but for Christ alone, serving His image revealed to us in our neighbor.

The fact is, the more we strive to save our self-centered lives in this fallen world, the more we shall lose our true identity in God.  Only if we are willing to take the plunge--to set aside our false egos that we might immerse ourselves totally in the love of God--only then shall we be granted the gift of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.  This, indeed, is the ultimate sacrifice, and every fiber of our fallen selves will rise up in protest if we choose this path.  But if we persevere unto the end, the grace of God will surely sustain us, and we shall discover that the yoke of Christ is indeed easy and His burden light.


The miracle working Kursk Root icon will be visiting this parish (the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in Blue River, WI) on the Monday of Holy Week.  Further details will be forthcoming.

Friday, March 14, 2014


"And Nathaniel said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?  Philip saith unto him, come and see."  Today we commemorate the victory of the Orthodox over the heretical Iconoclasts, who condemned as idolatrous all images of Christ and His saints.  By so doing, however, they denied the whole basis of our holy Orthodox Faith and the very means of our salvation: the Incarnation of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thus unto our own day, our icons are a stumbling block to many (especially Protestants) who would otherwise embrace the fullness of Truth revealed in the one, true, apostolic Faith of the Orthodox Church.  But the fact is, those who refuse to venerate the icons have already placed themselves outside the Ark of Salvation.

To deny the veneration of the icons is to deny that Christ really and truly became man, taking on our flesh from the pure blood of the Virgin.  As the Holy Fathers confess, That which is not assumed cannot be saved.  And if our Lord truly did assume our human form, then it is not only possible but indeed laudatory to depict and venerate His image, as well as all those saints that have become vessels of His grace.  We do not, of course, honor the paint and wood of the material icon, but rather the prototype that is represented.  Thus an icon becomes a "window to heaven" and a channel through which God bestows upon us His sanctifying grace. 

Friday, March 7, 2014


Have you ever said or thought, "I don't know how I can ever forgive that person...after what he (or she) has done (or said) to me...?  How frightening!  Considering the countless times we ourselves have offended God...yet He never ceases to forgive us!  It is only necessary that we acknowledge our sins and sincerely repent.  Just consider: our Lord prayed "Forgive them, for they know not what they do"--even as he suffered an agonizing death on the Cross.

Yet we--wretched sinners that we are--find it so hard to forgive others for their petty offences against us, and we dare to ask, how can I ever forgive them?  The answer--as the Beatles famously sung--"It's easy....All it takes is love!"  And herein lies the crux of the matter: our failure to forgive is fully explained by our failure to love.  Because if we were truly striving day and night to acquire the love of God in our hearts, forgiveness would be as natural to us as breathing.

Truly love covers a multitude of sins: not only our own sins in the eyes of God, but also the sins (real or imagined) of those who have supposedly offended against us. The only thing that stands in the way of acquiring this love is our deep-seated pride, which hardens our hearts and renders them impervious to the indwelling grace of God.  May this Lenten Season be for all of us an occasion to strive and struggle to acquire the grace of God, that our stony hearts might be softened by His gift of love.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


In today's Gospel, we read how when the Lord returns with all his angels on that last day at the end of time, "all nations" shall be gathered before His Throne to be judged.  On that great and dreadful day, he shall separate the "sheep" from the "goats."  On His right hand shall stand those who have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, given hospitality to strangers, visited the sick and those in prison.  These are the sheep who shall be blessed to enter into God's eternal Kingdom, because what they have done on behalf of the least of our Lord's brethren, they have done unto Him.  Those on His left hand--the goats--shall be cast into the eternal fires... because they have failed to perform these practical acts of charity.

Now it would be easy and tempting to take this passage as a "to do" list of those good deeds we must do if we desire to be saved--but such an interpretation would constitute a misunderstanding of our Lord's intent.  These are, indeed, all virtuous acts pleasing to God--but only if they truly are works of charity--that is, an outward expression of our love toward God and neighbor.  As St. Paul writes, we are saved by faith, not works.  Nevertheless, he also insists that "faith without works is dead."  God, you see, judges us not primarily according to our outward actions, but rather according to the inner disposition of our heart.

Our Lord in no way implies in this passage that we need not bother with prayer, fasting and regular participation in the  sacramental life of the Church: these are, indeed, essential means for the softening of our hearts, preparing them to receive the fullness of God's love--without which all of our good deeds are done in vain.

Good deeds done apart from God--not as a pure and spontaneous expression of the love that dwells within us--will quickly become a source of pride and a means to acquire the admiration of our fellow man.  When this happens, we have already received our reward. 

Strive, then, to acquire the love of God in your heart, and all else will follow as day follows night.  Only then shall we begin to be merciful, even as our heavenly Father is merciful.  For truly, the only insurmountable obstacle to our salvation is our failure to love.  If we truly love God with all our heart, soul and mind--and our neighbor as our very own self --we shall with joy and gladness naturally fulfill His commandments.  Only thus shall we be found worthy on that Last Day to enter into His eternal Kingdom.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Webster's defines "prodigal" as "a person who spends his money with wasteful extravagance; a spendthrift."  Having received from his father his inheritance, the Prodigal travelled to a "far country," where he recklessly wasted it on harlots and loose living.  The term "prodigal," however, does not only apply to the irresponsible spending of money.  As baptized Orthodox Christians, God has bestowed upon each and every one of us--as His beloved sons and daughters--an inconceivably great inheritance.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Have we used wisely those resources and talents God has given us for the sake of serving Him as we advance toward His heavenly Kingdom, or have we squandered them in order to indulge our sinful passions and desires?  The truth is, we too often have squandered the abundant grace and blessings He has so freely given us.  We thoughtlessly waste the precious time that has been allotted to us for the sake of "working out our own salvation with fear and trembling" for the sake of vain and frivolous pursuits, and we scatter abroad the many opportunities God has granted us in order that we might pray fervently and grow in the Faith, that we might serve Christ and our fellow man.

So it is that we so often feel that gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness. This is a profound hunger--spiritual rather than physical--like unto the famine the Prodigal Son experienced in the far country.  This happens because we have wandered so far from God, striving to receive our nourishment not at the hands of God, but rather from the dry well of worldly pleasures and occupations.

Thus it is that the Church provides for us the season of Great Lent as a time for serious reflection upon our spiritual condition, an opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer and fasting, and especially through sincere and heartfelt repentance.  May we all strive to use this God-given time wisely, that through the grace and mercy of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ we might be deemed worthy to be call sons and daughters of God.      

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived," writes the Holy Apostle to Timothy.  Thus it was in Russia under the Communist Yoke, and thus it is in America today--though the persecution we are likely to suffer in this post-Christian culture is much more subtle than what occurred in the former Soviet Union...and is, for this very reason, much more insidious, because it is so easy to be complacent, to be lulled into a false sense of security and righteousness. 

The fact is, if we were truly living the radical faith our Lord commands in the Gospels, we truly would suffer persecution from the "evil men" of this age.  When persecution does arise, however, it is the proud and self-righteous who are the first to fall, to accommodate themselves to the evil forces that strive to pervert the essential goodness of God's creation.  So it was that the Pharisees exalted themselves above other men, thinking themselves to be righteous and holy, yet they were the very ones  who conspired to put to death He Who is the source of all holiness and righteousness.

The Pharisee in the Temple wasn't praying at all--he was merely patting himself on the back, congratulating himself for being such an upright, virtuous person.  The Publican, on the other hand, was painfully aware that he was a sinner, and so he sincerely repented, casting himself down and beseeching God's mercy.  For this reason he was justified: having abased himself, he was exalted.

For those who struggle to take up their cross and to follow Christ, suffering and persecution is inevitable in this vale of tears--and truly, only those who endure unto the end will be saved.  But unless we are strengthened by the grace of God, all of our efforts will be in vain.  And it is only to the humble and contrite that this grace is given.  In this respect we should strive at all times to imitate the Publican, that having been humbled, we may in the end be exalted to the heights of heaven.

Monday, February 3, 2014


"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."  It is for this reason that Jesus is likened to the good shepherd who sets off in search of the one lost sheep while leaving the other ninety-nine behind.  Thus did the Jewish leaders condemn Him, grumbling because He had gone to eat at the table of a sinner.  Likewise did the elder brother of the Prodigal Son take offense when his father prepared a lavish feast on the occasion of the homecoming of his long lost son.

Truly is it written that the angels in heaven rejoice more over the one sinner who is saved than the many who have never fallen into the depths of iniquity.  Zacchaeus was indeed a sinner: as chief of the publicans (that is, those who collected the taxes for the despised Roman authorities) he was an oppressor of the poor and downtrodden, striving to enrich himself at the expense of those who struggled to barely survive.

So it was that Jesus sought him, picking him out from among the crowd and commanding that he come down from the sycamore tree.  The significant fact, however, is that it was Zacchaeus himself who--by his own free will--first climbed that tree, and the reason he did so was because he fervently desired to see Jesus.

On that day salvation came to Zacchaeus' household--not by some arbitrary act of God, but because he sincerely repented, voluntarily promising to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold whatever he had taken by false accusation.

The fact is, we are all sinners in need of salvation--we are all lost sheep, having wandered far away from the pasture of the good shepherd.  The only question is, shall we--like Zacchaeus--choose the path of repentance, or shall we--like the self-righteous Pharisees of old--condemn ourselves to a hell of our own making?

Sunday, January 26, 2014


"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose," St. Paul writes to the Romans.  Today we commemorate the eighty holy desert dwelling martyrs most hideously slain by bloodthirsty barbarians at Sinai and Raithu in the Fourth Century.  Truly they were angels in the flesh, having embraced a life of hardship and deprivation in this bleak and barren wilderness for the sake of Christ, their hearts totally consumed by the love of God.

And so, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"  Indeed, these grace-filled ascetics endured with superhuman courage every manner of tribulation and distress, peril and the sword, rejoicing that God should deem them worthy of two-fold martyric crowns.  "As it is written, for Thy sake we are killed all day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

This has been a harsh winter in Wisconsin, a period of suffering and tribulation for many of us.  Nevertheless, we know that while life in this vale of tears may be bitter, our Holy Faith assures us that Paradise is sweet.  It is only through many trials and hardships that our souls are purified like gold in a furnace and rendered worthy of eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom.

And so, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take courage, thanking God from the bottom of our hearts for the manifold afflictions He sends us.  Let us pray with fervent desire for the gift of patience, knowing that only he that endures unto the end shall be saved. Even so, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" However small or great our sufferings here below, our minds cannot conceive of those good things God has in store for those who love Him and strive at all times to keep His commandments.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Help Thou My Unbelief!

When the Apostles could not cast out the demon from the possessed boy, the father approaches our Lord and beseeches His help. When Jesus says, "All things are possible to him that believes," the father replies, "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!"

Isn't this how it is for all of us? On a superficial level, we sincerely do believe, but when push comes to shove, our so-called faith proves to be weak indeed. The Holy Apostle Peter believed he could walk on water because Jesus told him to, but suddenly aware of the tumult of the waves, he began to sink.

In times of peace, it is easy to believe, because there is no cost attached. But when a time of persecution arises and our faith is put to the test by the threat of martyrdom, we shall find how deep and enduring our faith really is. The fact is, true faith is always a gift of God's grace, never an accomplishment for which we can take credit ourselves. So we must possess the humility of the father in the Gospel and pray, "Help Thou my unbelief!" or cry like Peter, "Lord, save me!"

Truly whoever dares trust in his own faith and spiritual accomplishments in times of trial will be lost. Nevertheless, God normally requires an effort on our part before He bestows a gift of grace. When the Apostles asked Him why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus replied, "This kind comes out by naught but prayer and fasting." It is true that we are saved by faith alone, yet (as the Holy Apostle affirms) "faith without works is dead." And these works include, among other things, the disciplines of an ascetic life.

The Kingdom of God is taken by violence, which is to say, we must force ourselves to do that which is contrary to our fallen human nature, ever striving for every virtue and the purification of our hearts. Only then can God give to us a deep and abiding faith that will withstand every storm and tribulation of this life. In these final days of the Great Fast, then, may we redouble our efforts to pray and fast, to deny ourselves the sinful impulses of the passions, and in every way to prepare ourselves to be made worthy to behold our Lord's glorious Resurrection.

Take up your cross

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us the three steps to discipleship, which is to say, the three steps to salvation. The first step is to deny yourself, which means crossing out the "I." This is the most difficult step, because in our fallen state we are naturally self-centered: we tend to see and to experience the whole world through the prism of our own needs and desires. This is, of course, the exact opposite what Christ did when he voluntarily ascended the Cross.

But the mere act of self-denial is not enough. After all, not only Christians practice this virtue. What self-denial means for the Christian is taking on voluntarily (without grumbling or complaining) whatever burdens God sees fit to lay upon us. As a matter of fact, everyone
has a cross--but only those who cheerfully accept their cross are considered to have taken it up. Otherwise we are simply enduring against our will something that has been imposed upon us.

Finally, having taken up our cross, we must resolve to faithfully follow Christ: otherwise we are nothing more than commendable stoics endowed with a great measure of patience and courage. Only those who endure till the end for the sake of Christ without any pride or self-interest shall be saved.

This is indeed the purpose of our whole earthly pilgrimage: it is a school, a training ground wherein we strive and struggle to become true disciples of Christ. And the season of the Great Fast is especially the time set aside to devote ourselves to this struggle. But all of our fasting, prayer and other spiritual disciplines are pointless unless they are directed toward this end. The Church provides us with all that is necessary for our salvation, but these ways and means are never intended to be ends in themselves. Our ultimate goal is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul an mind, and our neighbor as our self.

After all, even the great martyr Ignatius, having endured so much on the way to Rome where he was to be fed to the lions, wrote to his flock that he had barely begun to be a disciple. May God grant to us all such humility, meekness, courage and a spirit of repentance, that we may steadfastly carry our cross and be made worthy of salvation in God's eternal Kingdom.

The Last Judgement

"Insomuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." So speaks our Lord in the Parable of the Last Judgment to the sheep on His right hand, those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. Do you see how our Lord shares the joys and sufferings of the very least of His creatures? Unlike the Muslim God Allah, He is not a God Who stands afar off, not a mere judge, but a caring Father Who dwells in the hearts of those who love Him and strive to do His will. Truly He is closer to us than the very air we breathe.

Nor is this so hard to understand, even from our limited human point of view. As parents, do we not suffer and rejoice along with our children? Is it not our greatest happiness that they be happy? And if, as a father, I must discipline my child, I may say (and truly mean it) that it hurts me more than them. This is, of course, but a dim reflection of the unconditional love God has for each and every one of us, a love so vast we cannot begin to comprehend it in its fullness.

Yet having said all this, is this not the Sunday of the Last Judgment? And the Gospel minces no words concerning the severity of this judgment. But we must understand that God's "judgment" is neither arbitrary nor vindictive, nor does He take pleasure in swooping down upon the sinner and casting him into hell. That which we call God's judgment is rather the natural consequence of our actions (or our failure to act). "God does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that the sinner turn from his way and live."

God has, however, given us the gift of free will, and He totally respects our right to choose--either eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom or eternal darkness apart from Him. If we choose to love God and to set aside our own selfish interests and desires, it will follow as night follows day that we will love our neighbor and show compassion on those in need.

Today we also celebrate the holy New Martyrs of Russia, those faithful Christians who fell victim to the godless Soviet regime. Now the judgment of God upon Holy Russia was also the natural consequence of a falling away from God, but thanks to the steadfast love and witness of the martyrs and the repentance of the faithful, the power of evil and darkness has finally been vanquished and a new day of renewal has dawned for the Church of Russia. Let us not forget, however, the prophetic words of blessed Seraphim of Platina: "What began in Russia will end in America." We have also, as a nation, largely fallen away from God and it is likely that this same judgment will fall upon us. May we, like the New Martyrs of Russia, remain steadfast in the Faith and courageously bear witness to the truth and power of God's love.

The Prodigal Son

     In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man asks his father to be given ahead of time his share of the inheritance. The father agrees, though no doubt he knew the character of his son and realized that the course chosen would probably lead to disastrous consequences. The father in this parable, of course, represents our Heavenly Father, Who always respects the free will of his creatures and often grants that which we desire and pray for--knowing full well that we will live to regret it. (Thus the saying: "Be careful what you pray for: you may get it!")

Having received his inheritance, the son leaves his father's house and sets off for a far country (which represents life in this fallen world lived apart from God). Once he arrives, the son gives himself over to a life of riotous living--wine, women and songs. But because he doesn't get a job and has no source of income, he very soon finds himself completely broke. In spiritual terms, he does not strive to acquire those virtues necessary for salvation, that is, "treasure in heaven." To make matters worse, there arises a famine in that country so that there is nothing to eat, even if one had the money to buy it. So it is with the frivolous pleasures of this world: they soon leave us spiritually starving, since we are no longer receiving the sustenance of God's grace.

He's so destitute that he's finally forced to take a job, feeding corn husks to a local farmer's swine. Apparently this isn't much of a job, though, since he is not even allowed to eat a portion of the husks. In this dire state, he finally "comes to himself." (That is, he repents). He realizes how foolish he was to leave the security of this father's house. After all, even his father's servants have more than enough to eat and a roof over their heads. So he decides then and there that he will return to his father and ask to become one of his hired servants. He carefully rehearses what he will say to his father and sets off.

But when he is still a good distance from the house, the father sees him approaching and runs to greet him with a warm and loving embrace. Finally the son addresses his father with the words he had rehearsed, but the father reacts as though he hasn't even heard him. He orders his servants to honor his son and to organize a party to celebrate the son's return.

Now such unconditional acceptance was totally unexpected, and is in fact unlikely to occur in this fallen world. The mind of God, however, does not operate on the same level as ours. God's ways are not our ways. In Him there is no calculation, no remembrance of wrongs, no desire for revenge or reservations concerning the "worthiness" of a person. In Him there is no past to "remember," only the eternal present in which he encounters each unique person face to face. For in God the are no emotions, only a consuming love and a desire for the salvation of all His children.

The point is, we are all called to put on the mind of Christ, to strive to relate to others as God relates to us. Every one of us is a prodigal, but if we sincerely repent and resolve in our hearts to return to our heavenly homeland, God will meet us more than half way and treat us as though we had never left his presence. Indeed, there is more joy in heaven over a single sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous ones. True, we may well have to suffer certain natural consequences for our time of riotous living, but God Himself doesn't punish us, nor is His love for us in any way diminished.

So then, if God receives prodigals such as us with such unconditional love, how can we not forgive and forget the sins and offenses of an erring brother? And if he repents, shall we not joyfully embrace him and celebrate his return?

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I invite all of the readers of my Blog to check out the novels I have written and self-published on Amazon.  There are three so far: Many Mansions, The Curious Adventure of Jessica  Whittaker, and Twins.  My fourth--The Changeling--will be published shortly.