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.