Saturday, December 24, 2016


"A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to those that were bidden, Come...."  The man in the parable is, of course, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, and the great supper is the feast of eternal joy in God's heavenly Kingdom, to be fully revealed at the end of time--a feast to which every soul ever born into this world is invited.  For truly, God desires not the death of the sinner, but rather that he repent of his sins and return to the straight and narrow path of salvation.

Nevertheless, only those who have striven to mortify (put to death) their "members which are upon earth;  fornication, uncleanness, concupiscence, and covetousness" are bidden by God to attend.  As for the others: they have to one degree or another closed their ears to the Word of God, having of their own free will rejected the grace He so freely offers. 

Yet even among those who have been bidden, the greater number have been so caught up in the worldly affairs of this transient life that their spiritual eyes have been so blinded to the truth that they fail to discern those "good things" that God has in store for those who love Him, and desire in their deepest heart to abide by His commandments.  And so it is that these unfortunate souls (among whom, if I may be so bold, you and I are included), are forever making seemingly rational excuses concerning why it is simply impossible (at this particular moment of time) to fully forsake the false promises of this world and to enter into the ineffable joy of eternal salvation.

Make no mistake: even you and I are in grave danger of falling into this temptation, this delusion that our paltry worldly affairs bear any ultimate significance in the vast scheme of things.  It is business as usual, you see, as in the days of Noah, and meanwhile the Great Flood--the inexorable judgement of God--is imminent.  And yet the measure of the saints deemed worthy of God's Kingdom must be fulfilled before the end of this age. 

And so it is that the Master of the house (our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ) instructs His servant to "go out quickly... and bring in hither "the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind"--that is, the poor of spirit, the humble, who are deep down fully aware that they are unworthy to enter the Kingdom, and therefore they do not presume to make excuses.  It is among these--the lowliest of the low, according to the wisdom of this world--that our Lord must  compel to come in. 

This is so not in the sense that He can violate a person's free will and force him to accept a salvation he has chosen to reject.  We are all perfectly free to make whatever excuses we desire, ultimately spurning God's free gift.  But if we are willing to acknowledge our weakness, casting ourselves at the feet of God without expectation and beseeching His mercy, we shall fully experience the truth of St. Paul's words, "the power of God is made perfect in weakness."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Saturday, December 10, 2016


The theme of today's epistle if unity.  St. Paul exhorts us to endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  And why is this so?....  Because there is "one body, and one Spirit....  One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all."  Therefore do we confess in the Creed (the Symbol of Faith), "one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

As Orthodox Christians, we are united to Christ in Baptism, and thus we are bound together in the unity of the same Faith.  As the Psalmist proclaims, "how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"  Indeed, this unity is a precious treasure, a gift of grace, that we are obliged to guard and preserve--whatever the cost. 

According to the popular saying, "United we stand--divided we fall."  But this unity we the faithful are called to attain can be achieved only in and through the True Church of God, established on the day of Pentecost, when our Lord sent down upon His apostles the heavenly comforter, the Spirit of truth, that we all might become one, even as He and the Father are one.  This Church--the holy Orthodox Church--"is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," the Faith that has established the universe.  The Church is the Body of Christ and the Ark of Salvation.  Only so long as we remain within this Ark, enduring together whatever storms and tumults of this world may come upon us, can we hope to weather the storm-tossed waves of this transitory life and to find at last a place of refuge in the harbor of salvation.  It would be foolish indeed were we to set forth on our own in a flimsy rowboat that is bound to be dashed to pieces before reaching the safe haven of God's heavenly Kingdom. 

"The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord," as Christ proclaims.  Persecutions and trials are bound to come--even from members of our own household.  And this is why we the faithful, who profess to belong to the  same household of faith, must ever strive to maintain that precious unity, that we might "love one another, that in faith and the fear of God we may confess" that True Faith once delivered to the apostles and sealed by the blood of the martyrs.

Even in the days of St. Paul, the spirit of the Antichrist had already entered into the world, but the day of reckoning is fast approaching.  Only those who are resolved to remain steadfast in the Faith, willing to remain faithful unto the end, can hope to survive amidst the deception and apostasy of this age, clinging to the sure and certain promise that the gates of hades shall not prevail against the Church of Christ.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


In today's Gospel, the rich man (having received God's blessing of abundant crops) thought within himself, "What shall I do?"  And so he thought it over and decided that he would tear down the old barns and build bigger and better ones in order to store his goods, saying to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." 

Now, what is wrong with this picture?.... There are three things here I would like to point out.  First of all, the man merely "thought within himself."  Though it was clearly God Who had so blessed him, he apparently did not consider praying for guidance, seeking to  discern what God's will might be in the matter.  And I daresay we all do the same, more times than not.  Too often we rely less on God than upon our own (often defective) logic and our self-centered desires when it comes to making significant life decisions.  Then we end up wondering why our "best laid plans" so often come to naught.

Second, the rich man seems to think that the primary purpose of life is to enjoy as much ease and pleasure as possible--while at all costs avoiding pain and suffering.  This is indeed the philosophy of many in today's materialistic, consumeristic, effectively Godless society.  I've often heard people say something like, "I wish I would win the lottery, then I'd be set for life and wouldn't ever have to work another day in my life!"  Yet it precisely honest work that gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  What would we do otherwise all day, every day?  Go fishing, watch Packers games,  drink beer, and above all... have fun?  How dismal and boring!  Truth is, here we have no continuing city, but we wait with patience the revelation of the Jerusalem on high.  We are but pilgrims upon this earth: this transitory earthly life is but preparation for eternal life in God's Kingdom.

Third:  the rich man assumes he has "many years" in which to enjoy the material pleasures of this life, when in reality God could claim our soul this very night.  It was, after all, God Who created us and determined our circumstances in this world, and it is He alone Who determines the measure of our allotted years on earth.  And in the end, no amount of fame or fortune can deliver us from the consequences of a futile and pointless life lived apart from God. 

Today we celebrate the Great Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple.  From the age of three, the holy Virgin was totally dedicated to God, while her whole life was consecrated to the fulfillment of her destined role in God's plan for the salvation of the human race.  May we, too, every strive to follow her holy example, setting our sights not on the things of this earth, but rather upon those good things God has in store for those who love Him and abide by His commandments.


Saturday, November 12, 2016


 St. James writes in his epistle, ""Thou believeth that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"  It was on the basis of this verse that Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, excised this book from the Holy Scriptures, calling it a "straw epistle."  St. Paul does declare that we are "justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law."  But he also writes, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."  For while the Law of Moses is insufficient in itself to restore to us our broken communion with God, the Law of Love revealed in and through our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ demands that the faithful Christian struggle to overcome every sinful passion while acquiring those virtues by which we are made worthy of entering into God's eternal Kingdom.  As our Lord Himself declares, "from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

In today's Gospel, the demoniac cries out, "what have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou son of God most high?  I beseech Thee, torment me not!"  How remarkable!  The devil itself confesses its belief in God, and acknowledges Jesus as His Son.  The devil truly believes, and yet it trembles in fear, fully aware that God is All-Powerful--and therefore the demon's days are clearly numbered. 

It is for this reason that St. Peter cautions us in his epistle: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."  Satan and his minions know full well that their days are short, and so they are desperate to drag down into hell as many souls as they can, by whatever means, until that final day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.  The fact is, Satan and his army of demons hate the human race with a white hot hatred far exceeding our comprehension.  Had God not set limits upon what the demons can do in their effort to draw us away from God, they would surely do unto us exactly what they did to the swine, killing us outright.  Yes, the demons truly do believe in God--and they are, therefore, dead set on destroying and perverting by whatever means God's good creation. 

And what of you and I, miserable sinners that we are?  No doubt we do believe in God, and surely our intentions are good... we are, after all, basically "good people," right?  Except it is not by "goodness" that we are saved, but rather by holiness... which is gained, as St. Seraphim of Sarov explains, through acquiring within ourselves the Holy Spirit of God.  And this means going beyond bare belief and basic human decency, striving through a martyric struggle to fulfill the Gospel commandments, that our love for God and neighbor might be made fully manifest in all of our thoughts, words and deeds, and that we might--by God's grace--gain victory over the forces of evil that seek to destroy us.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


In today's Gospel, our Lord relates a parable concerning "a certain rich man" (no name given), and "a certain beggar named lazarus."  Now it comes to pass that "the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom,"   while  "the rich man  also died, and was buried." 

As Orthodox Christians, when we are baptized, receive Holy Communion, or partake of any other sacramental rite of the Church, we are called by name.  Likewise, when the particles are taken from the prosphora during the proskomide in order to commemorate the living and the dead, a name must be pronounced.  And not just any name, but rather the name of that saint with whom we share a sacred bond.  Thus, it is improper for a convert to use a secular name in the world, while reserving their "church name" for "religious" occasions. 

As individuals striving to achieve personhood in and through Christ, we are known to God by name.  This name signifies our inner essence and our personal connection to God.  The rich man--being totally absorbed by the "good things" of this life rather than the love of God--essentially has no name, and therefore he has set himself apart from those eternal, heavenly good things God has in store for those who love Him and abide by His commandments. 

Thus Lazarus--having patiently endured the trials and tribulations of this earthly life--finds himself worthy to ascend to a place of eternal rest, while the rich man--having been simply buried in the earth like an irrational beast--has placed himself outside the sphere of God's grace, where he experiences the fiery torment of a hell of his own making.

Yet it is neither the case that God rewards the righteous by allowing him to go to heaven, nor does He punish the  sinner by "sending" him to a place of eternal torment.  That impassible gulf that separates the one from the other is a natural consequence of those choices we have freely made in this life: either we strive by the grace of God to become partakers of the divine nature, or we choose instead to live a self-centered, worldly, and passionate life.  May we all, therefore, choose wisely while there is still time, lest we find ourselves in the end trapped eternally in a place of eternal darkness--where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


The Holy Apostle Paul writes to the Hebrews, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.  Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines."  For truly Jesus Christ is--as the Holy Fathers teach with one accord--of one essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, the Holy Fathers who came together at the Ecumenical Councils to speak with one voice the Mind of the Church were trumpets of the Holy Spirit, inspired to proclaim that eternal and unchangeable Truth once delivered by the Apostles and sealed by the blood of the martyrs. 

Nevertheless, the prevailing "wisdom" nowadays is that truth is relative, that it changes over the course of time according to the spirit of the age and the whims and fancies of each individual.  For this reason, innumerable "divers and strange doctrines" have made their appearance throughout the world, contradicting not only one another, but--more importantly--the divine Revelation entrusted to the Church and preserved as Holy Tradition throughout the ages.  But if Truth is firmly grounded in the unchangeable God and therefore reflects the reality of things as they truly are--how could it be subject to change? 

Here we should consider as well the current preoccupation  with the phenomenon  of "virtual reality."  We need only place over our heads an electronic device and we can fashion for ourselves an alternate (but false) reality, that we might--according our own inner thoughts and desires, which have been utterly distorted by the Fall--determine what is, for us, the Truth.  What madness!  Yet this belief that the Truth is malleable and in continual flux, dependent upon the godlike potential of each individual to choose for himself his own destiny, is in fact a disease that infects not only the so-called
"churches," but even threatens to distort and to pervert the teachings of the one, true Church of God, the Orthodox Church--that foundation upon which the universe has been established!

Nor is this spirit of Antichrist anything new: from the earliest day, such heretic as Arius and Nestorius have sought to impose their own perverted, rationalistic understanding of God's revelation upon the faithful--deceiving, if possible, even the elect.  It was for this reason that the Fathers were compelled to boldly proclaim the Truth to the whole world, to cast out of the Church those wolves in sheep's clothing, that the gates of hell shall not, unto the end of time, prevail against the Church of God.  It behooves us, then--as faithful Orthodox Christians--to remain firm in our Faith unto the bitter end, lest Satan snatch our souls, and we find ourselves eternally bereft of hope in a hell of our own making, in that place of darkness, where there shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Sunday, October 9, 2016


"And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God," our Lord entered Peter's fishing boat and spoke to the multitudes.  Then--after he had finished his sermon--he said to Peter, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught."  Peter replied that though he and his companions had already been fishing all night and caught nothing, "nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net."  And so it was that such a multitude of fish was caught, that two boats could barely contain them, and were on the verge of sinking.

It was because Peter was willing to take such a leap of faith--acting in obedience to a command that some might consider to be contrary to common sense--that he is deemed worthy by our Lord to become a fisher of men.  Having proved himself faithful in small things, Peter is empowered by the grace of God to become the foremost of apostles.

But alas... I find myself woefully lacking in that boldness exemplified by St. Peter.  You see, I (like many of us) much prefer to remain in my comfort zone, to play it safe, content to remain in the shallows, where there may indeed be fewer fish and no prospect for adventure... but at least I won't face the risk of going too far in my zeal for the Faith.  After all, this religious stuff is all very fine as far as it goes, but one must (according to the worldly way of thinking) be practical.  Trusting God is one thing, but there's got to be a limit as to how far I'm willing to go out onto a limb. 

But Peter was anything but practical.  He was impulsive, fervent, fiercely loyal, and totally dedicated, willing to cast caution to the wind, serving Christ unto the bitter end--whatever the consequences!  And it should be noted as well that his conviction was based not on some abstract devotion to a cause--his faith was not ideological, but rather personal, based upon his relationship with the Person of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who is the Son of the Living God and one of the Holy Trinity.  His unconditional loyalty was inspired by love, which is the Source and Foundation of our Faith.

As the Holy Apostle, Evangelist, and Theologian John (whose memory we commemorate today) so eloquently expresses in his epistle, "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwellest in God, and God in him."  Herein lies the essence of the Christian Faith: that "we love Him, because He first loved us."  And again, "perfect love casteth out fear."  For truly... if God is for us, who or what can ever be against us?  If the love of God in Christ Jesus dwells in our hearts, then we are truly empowered to become conquerors against every machination of the Devil, and to become inheritors of eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


In the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, we read of a rich man who plants a vineyard and hires workmen to tend it, then sets forth on an extended journey.  When the time comes to gather in the fruits, the lord of the vineyard sends servants to collect that which is due to him as the owner.  When these servants are abused and beaten by the workmen, the lord sends his only son, considering that surely the workmen will respect him.  But alas, no:  the son is brutally beaten and slain, then cast out of the vineyard.  At this point, our Lord asks his listeners, "When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"  And "they say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men...."  And we read as well in today's Gospel Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of hell?"

These clear words of the Gospel contradict the modern sentiment, "God doesn't judge, so we shouldn't judge either."  But obviously God does pass judgment on hypocrites and liars, on those who profess to be pious and Godfearing while they willingly transgress against the spirit of the Law.  As I have insisted so often in my sermons, God is love, and the law of love is the very essence of our Faith.  So then, the question is:  how can the God of Love say such mean things?  And if He does indeed love us as creatures created in His image, how can He condemn so severely those who have gone astray from the path of salvation?

Take note, however:  He is not condemning ordinary sinners such as you and I, who have, due to the weakness of their fallen human nature, fallen into sinfulness and depravity.  Rather, His condemnation falls squarely upon those to whom the truth has been revealed, yet they persist in violating that law of love that is the very source and foundation of the created order.

The truth is, however-- our Lord merely confirms that condemnation we ourselves have fallen into as a result of our willful rejection of the love of God revealed through Christ's sacrificial suffering upon the Cross.  The Pharisees rejected this unconditional love, being too proud to humble themselves before this perfect love and to bear the fruits of repentance.  They preferred instead to seek their own righteousness--which is, in the end, a false righteousness which has been likened to filthy rags.  We are, nevertheless, neither punished nor rewarded for our faithfulness (or lack thereof) to His commandments.  Heaven or hell, in the end, is merely the natural consequence of the way we have chosen to live our lives in this fallen world.

But the sad part is: the Pharisee that lives within us all fully embraces the lawless rebellion against God, so that we freely chose of our own free will to set ourselves upon that broad path that leads to perdition.  In other words, God condemns us only because we have already condemned ourselves. Rather than humbly bending our knees, imploring the boundless mercy of God, we proudly seek to set up for ourselves an impregnable fortress of self-righteousness.  

So it is that we are condemned already, you and I.  Nevertheless, if we--unlike the Pharisees of old--condemn ourselves here and now, then--and only then--shall we avoid falling into that condemnation that leads to eternal death.  And it is through repentance alone that the greatest sinner (even you and I) can hope to be released from the bondage of sin into the eternal light of God's heavenly Kingdom.

Monday, September 12, 2016


"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly."  And yet... because of a foolish, ill-considered oath uttered in the midst of a drunken feast, while his base passions were inflamed by the lascivious dancing of his stepdaughter, he orders the beheading of the prophet whom our Lord declares to be the greatest of those born of woman.  And truly he shall live to regret his moment of weakness for the rest of his ill-fated life.

So then....  Who is ultimately responsible for this atrocity?  Who bears the burden of the blame?  It was, of course, Herodias' daughter who (after consulting with her mother) requests the head of the Baptist on a platter in fulfillment of Herod's oath.  But after all: she is nothing more than a damaged, dysfunctional girl, entangled in an unhealthy relationship with her evil mother.  She is, perhaps, worthy of condemnation, but really--given her background and formation-- we could hardly expect her to discern the moral bankruptcy of her request. 

And yes, Herodias is indeed an evil woman, consumed by the passion of lust, and burning with hatred toward the prophet who sought to thwart her self-centered desires.  But again, one wonders... had she ever, from her earliest childhood, been exposed to a moral and God-centered perspective on life?

And so it was Herod alone who seems, for whatever reason, to possess a conscience, having developed a genuine respect for St. John and to understand, on however rudimentary a level, that the life choices he had made were wrong and morally repugnant to God.  And yet it was he himself who actually orders the beheading of the Baptist.  And he does so... even though he was "exceedingly sorry!"  And so it is that the greatest guilt for this horrendous act falls squarely upon his shoulders.

There is, in this episode, a lesson to be gleaned concerning our everyday lives as Orthodox Christians:  it is so easy to point the finger at others, to decry all the evil at work in the world today, while we--who have been enlightened in the waters of Baptism and sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit-- fall short time and again from fulfilling the commandment of love Christ has so clearly enjoined upon us.  Those who have been nurtured in our pagan, post Christian society do not know any better (though perhaps, to some extent, they should), but we have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit--as we sing at every Divine Liturgy.  We surely know the difference between good and evil, and yet--like Herod--we continually give in to the temptation to do those things we know in our hearts to be contrary to the Law of God.  The fact is, we know better, but still we do not cease to willingly offend God in thought, word and deed.

Fortunately, Christ has given us through His Church the medicine of repentance as our means of redemption--the very means through which Herod himself might have been saved, had he so desired.  So let us sincerely repent of our evil deeds, imploring our merciful God that He grant unto us forgiveness of sins and eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


In that prayer which our Lord taught His disciples, we beseech God that He "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."  Because (as the beloved disciple, St. John the Theologian, assures us), "God is love," and the very essence of love is forgiveness.  If we claim to love God but refuse to forgive those who offend us, we are liars.  And so we are commanded to love our enemies, and to do good to those who persecute.  (And it should be mentioned, parenthetically, that it is impossible to love God and our neighbor if we do not first love ourselves, as God loves us, having created us out of love and placed within us his own image).

And so we know that we are at all times and in all places the object of God's unconditional love, but the fact is... it is simply impossible for God's grace to penetrate a heart hardened by bitterness and resentment.  So how could we possibly have fellowship with an all-loving God while we set ourselves apart from a brother or sister who is, like us, created in the image of God, presuming to pass judgment upon one who shares with us the fallen human nature?

In today's Gospel, we read of a servant who owes his master an incredibly vast sum of money.  When, however, he prostrates himself before his master and pleads for mercy, he is frankly forgiven the entire debt and his slate is wiped clean.  So what does this wretched servant do immediately afterwards?....  He goes forth at once and demands of a fellow servant the immediate repayment of a paltry sum.  Shameful, we say--and rightfully so--that having been forgiven so much by his compassionate master, he should insist that his fellow servant should be cast into jail until his debt is repaid.  Surely the ungrateful servant  deserves the just punishment he receives at the hands of his master.  Yet all the while we ourselves so often take for granted the unconditional love and forgiveness our all-merciful God has so abundantly poured out upon us, while we stubbornly seek to justify our total failure of love towards our neighbor, all the while refusing to cast aside our petty grudges and resentments. 

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life," while we are unwilling to offer up upon the altar of sacrificial love, for the sake of the other, our pathetic, self-centered egos.  Only when we can say with St. Paul:"it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me," that the gates of Paradise are opened and we can begin to tread the straight and narrow path of salvation, putting to death within ourselves those egotistical thoughts and desires that separate us from the love of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand from two fish and five loaves of bread, Jesus ascends a mountain that He might pray in solitude.  Meanwhile, He has commanded His disciples to get into a ship and to cross over to the other side of the sea.  But (to use a common phrase) as luck would have it (of course there is no such thing as "luck"--only divine providence), they found themselves "in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves."  And it was at this moment of seeming crisis that "Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea."

And so is was that those very disciples who would later on hide behind closed doors "for fear of the Jews" cry out in abject terror "It is a spirit!"  The ever impulsive Peter, however--who recently blurted out the silly suggestion that they might build three tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration--cries out to the Lord, "if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water."  And so it was in that instant that the Pre-eminent Apostle is granted the faith and the courage to do just that... but only for so long as he can keep his gaze focused on Jesus, setting aside his natural, self-centered fear. 

But alas!  Like most of us modern day, lukewarm Christians, he is soon enough overwhelmed by worldly distractions.  As soon as he takes his eyes off Jesus, his faith wavers, and he is overcome by fear of the wind and the waves.  But even then, he possesses the presence of mind to cry out in desperation, "Lord, save me!"  And so he is delivered at once from the seemingly inescapable peril set before him: Jesus reaches out His hand and pulls him to safety. 

"O ye of little faith!" our Lord scolds--and this accusation is directed not just to Peter, but to you and I as well.  Like Peter, our faith is weak, and ineffectual to deliver us from the inevitable trials and tribulations of this world, and we find ourselves set adrift without the anchor of hope upon the turbulent sea of life, having lost our way upon the path of salvation and wandered--like the Prodigal Son--into a far country, where we must endure for a time a famine of the life-giving Word of God.

But as St. Paul reminds us--if God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?  The love of God casts out all fear, and if this love abides within our heart, nothing whatsoever can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  If only we keep our spiritual eyes focused on Him--the Author and Finisher of our faith--we shall surely be delivered from every apparent danger in this storm-tossed life and be guided into the safe harbor of salvation.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


When Jesus ascended Mount Tabor with His chosen disciples Peter, James and John, He "was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was bright as the light."  It was in the midst of this epiphany that Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.  "Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  But even while the pre-eminent apostle spoke, the glory of God overshadowed the mount in the form of a luminous cloud, and the voice of the Father was heard, proclaiming Jesus as the only-begotten Son, in Whom He was well pleased. 

This was, for the three disciples, the prototype of the so-called "mountaintop experience":  a direct and first-hand encounter with the numinous and ineffable presence of God.  As such, it was a transcendent moment outside the bounds of space and time, an experiential foretaste of eternity.  It was this overwhelming and sublime experience that the ever-impulsive Peter desired to enshrine within the bounds of this temporal world, suggesting that they should build concrete and material tabernacles to contain that which is in its essence uncontainable.

It seems to me that this particular temptation is one that we all face.  Rather than striving to ascend with Christ into the heavenly realm wherein He dwells, that we might become (in the words of St. Peter) partakers of the divine nature, we desire instead to drag Christ down to our own level, to confine within the bounds of time and space that which transcends the limits of all things conceivable to the human mind.  Thus, our Lord becomes "Jesus, meek and mild," our bosom pal and buddy, rather than the Pantocrator--the supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe!

Our earthly temples do indeed reflect the glory of God and His heavenly Kingdom, and our churches are in a very real sense houses of God, while the sacraments are true channels of divine grace.  Nevertheless, all such earthy rites and structures are but the material means through which the glory and presence of God is revealed.  If we focus on these outward conduits of grace rather than on the Grace of God itself, our Faith is in danger of becoming idolatrous.  By the same token, the Bible itself can easily become an idol if we forget that Christ Himself is the Word of God, while the words of Scripture are nothing more than symbols and tokens of that ultimate reality we seek. 

Truly there is no temple on earth that can adequately contain the essence of the divine nature.  Rather, it is we ourselves who are called to become living temples of God, to be transformed and transfigured by the uncreated light of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  And so may we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as we tread the path of salvation--disregarding the tumults and temptations of this fallen world.

Monday, August 15, 2016


"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God....  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness."  The Cross is, indeed, the power of God, because God is love--and therefore it is obvious that love is the most powerful force in the entire created order.  For it is by means of the Cross that the love of God is expressed most fully and completely.

This world, however (submerged in the darkness of sin and despair) cannot endure the light of such a pure and unadulterated love--a love that offers itself unconditionally as an unblemished sacrifice for the sake of us men and our salvation, on behalf of all, and for all.  Herein lies the very essence of our Faith: that we might proclaim with the Holy Apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."  In other words, our false ego must be put to death that we might rise with Christ into a life eternal and incorruptible. 

It is, nevertheless, much easier by far to seek after signs and miracles, while regarding the truly radical message of the Cross to be sheer folly.  In a society that encourages us in every way to strive above all else for an elusive "happiness," for so-called "self-fulfillment," the continuous acquisition of material possessions, and deliverance at any cost from all manner of pain and suffering... why should anyone in his right mind voluntarily choose the path of martyrdom?   Yet it is precisely martyrdom (bearing bold witness to Christ) that our Lord demands of his true disciples: that we deny ourselves, take up our cross... and follow Him.

Consider the holy martyrs of old, who made wise commerce, trading their own blood in exchange for the eternal good things God has in store for those who love Him: most of us nowadays can barely conceive of how they were able endure the cruel tortures and deprivations we read about in the lives of the saints... while we ourselves are likely to scream bloody murder of we so much as stub our little toe!

What we perhaps fail to understand is that it was through the grace of God--that is, His abundant love poured into the  hearts of the faithful believers--that they could consider their temporal sufferings to be of no consequence compared to the heavenly rewards that awaited them.  Besides... a person consumed by the fire of divine love   no longer counts the cost, but would rather die a thousand deaths for Christ than to forsake Him.

It would, of course, be presumptuous to think that we feeble Christians of these latter days might be capable of enduring the same degree of pain and suffering as did the martyrs of old.  Nevertheless, through the power of the Cross and the love that God bestows into our hearts, we might indeed endure unto the end whatever measure of martyrdom God has appointed us for the sake of our salvation.  Nor will God ever require us to take upon ourselves a burden greater than we can endure.   

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


"To whoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" (Luke 8:18).  Recall the parable of the talents: the servant to whom his master had entrusted one talent buries it in the ground, so that when the master returns from his journey, he hands over intact the one talent he had been given.  And so, the master is wroth.  The servant might, after all, had at least deposited the money in the bank, in order to gain a bit of interest.  But apparently he was just too lazy and didn't care that much.  And so, the master takes that one talent and hands it over to the servant who had converted the five talents he had been given into ten.  Meanwhile, the hapless servant who had been entrusted with the single talent is seized and thrust into that place of outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and  gnashing of teeth!

To the modern, secularized, egalitarian mind, perhaps this turn of events just doesn't seem fair.  Is it just that he who has the least should hand over what little he has to he who has the most?  Yet one might consider that he who had received the five talents no doubt worked hard to make such a profit, while it takes no initiative at all to bury one's treasure in the ground (or to hide one's light under a bushel, where it cannot be seen).  In order to "get ahead" in this fallen world, it is necessary first of all to take risks, while applying whatever natural intelligence we have been given to the task at hand.  It is true that the saying "God helps those who help themselves" is found nowhere in the Scriptures...but it is a true saying nevertheless.

Of course, on a personal level, he who has been blessed by God with abundance is obliged to show compassion on those less fortunate.  Almsgiving is a cardinal virtue of the Christian faith, being a natural expression of that unconditional love God has vouchsafed to all who strive to fulfill his commandments.  In fact, he who gives is more blessed than he who receives: a beggar may be given a gold coin, while the benefactor receives treasure in heaven.  Nevertheless, the passage under consideration should be understood above all in spiritual sense. 

For if a Christian possesses even a grain of faith and trust in God and strives however feebly to do His will, then surely God's grace will strengthen him, fulfilling within him whatever may be lacking.  If, on the other hand, our hearts are hardened and turned away from God, we shall in the end discover that whatever shred of goodness and virtue we may think we possess shall slip through our fingers as dust and ashes. God can indeed transform even sinners such as you and I into his sons and daughters: but only if he has the material at hand.  And the material required is nothing less than heartfelt humility, a desire to repent,  and a contrite heart that is open at least a crack to the grace of God. 

If, on the contrary, we are found to be full of pride and self-love, believing ourselves to be "good enough" already, and if we lack a genuine desire to live a life of sacrificial love centered on Christ, then whatever good we think we have shall surely be taken  away, and we shall find ourselves cast into that place of outer darkness--where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


The Holy Apostle Paul boldly proclaims in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night if far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light."  The night of dark ignorance and submission to the spirits of evil in this fallen world has been dispelled by our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who enlightens our darkened minds through the revelation of the Good News of salvation.  He awakens in our soul the glorious knowledge of the Truth and delivers us from bondage to the minions of the Evil One, who ever strive to cast us bodily into a hell of our own making.

The Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John appeared in the wilderness, preaching, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!"  And this is, and always has been, the crucial, the critical message proclaimed by the Church to every generation--ever since the Son of God took flesh from the pure blood of a Virgin and became man, the Kingdom within us is always at hand, closer to us than the very air we breathe.  We are invited to enter this Kingdom even now, during our earthly sojourn, that our hearts might be purified and rendered worthy to partake of eternal life in the Age to Come.

Unfortunately, most people nowadays--even many who profess to be Orthodox Christians--have been lulled into a deadly sleep by a secular, Godless, consumeristic society that corrodes the soul and blinds our spiritual eyes to the vision of the splendor of God that permeates the very fabric of this created universe.  Rather than striving to seek the one thing needful--the eternal Kingdom prepared for those who love God and abide by His commandments--we feverishly pursue senseless distractions and an elusive "happiness" that can never fill the God-sized hole in our soul.  For the masses, it's "bread and circuses"--while the spirit within us withers away.  For indeed (as St. Augustine wrote), "Our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."

This parish was established and dedicated to the Nativity of St. John the Baptist that we might become, through the grace of God, "a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!", that we might in the dark days to come be revealed as a place of refuge and safety in this storm-tossed world, bearing bold witness to He Who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."  May our community become a beacon of hope and faithfulness amidst the soul-destroying darkness and apostasy of this world, a bulwark against every wile of the Antichrist in these final days. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016


"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me," according to the Gospel words of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Apart from the cross, there is no Christianity--only a system of moral philosophy based upon nothing more than human reason and logic and therefore powerless to save the fallen human race from the pit of hopeless despair.  It is only through the cross that we can hope to be delivered from the destructive power of sin, death and the Devil. 

If Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God begotten of the Father before the ages, having assumed our flesh through the pure blood of the Virgin that by His life giving death and Resurrection He might redeem us from the ancient curse, then our entire Faith--from beginning to end--can only be considered a cruel sham, merely one religion among many, an ultimately futile attempt to make sense of the chaos, corruption and absurdity of a world seemingly consigned to senseless suffering and destined for nothing more than the eternal darkness of the abyss of nonbeing. 

It is only through the shining witness of the saints of God--those men and woman who have acquired through the power of the cross the fullness of the Holy Spirit that was sent down upon the Church on the day of Pentecost--that the revelation of God's eternal Kingdom in this broken and fallen world is made manifest. 

To be a saint means to be fully illumined by the grace of the Holy and Life Creating Spirit, to be transfigured by the uncreated Light of God, that we might become gods by grace, partakers of the divine nature.  This, indeed, is the goal and destiny of every Christian--though few attain it in this earthly life.  Nevertheless, we are all called to be saints, which is why--according to St. Seraphim of Sarov--the whole aim of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit of God.  How this is accomplished depends upon the unique talents and dispositions God has given to each individual soul.  Upon the path of salvation set forth by our Lord, it is clear that one size does not fit all.  Nevertheless, it is only by means of enduring with patience the pain and suffering He Himself endured for our salvation that we may hope to attain the fullness of eternal life in God's eternal Kingdom.

Monday, June 13, 2016


"Holy Father," prays our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, "keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are."  This is the theme of unity that runs like a golden thread throughout the Gospel and is, indeed, the underlying principle of all reality--whether uncreated or created.  God Himself--revealed as a Holy Trinity--is the perfect, incomprehensible and ineffable union of three Persons in one Divine Nature; the Church--Christ's Body--is proclaimed in the Creed as one, holy and catholic; while the human race consists of innumerable persons sharing a  common human nature. 

It was the arch heretic Arius who strove to break asunder the unity of the Holy Trinity, rending the seamless robe of our Lord and thereby sowing division and disharmony within the Church--but Christ assures us that against the Church, the gates of hell shall never prevail.  And so it was that the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council gathered together in the God preserved city of Nicaea in order to refute this pernicious heresy and to cast Arius out of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, declaring with one voice, "Thus it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit...."

When Christ ascended into the heavens, He sent down upon the Church the Holy and Life Giving Spirit that all men might be drawn together into a unity that reflects that of the Holy Trinity, while the ancient enemy of the human race--Satan--ceaselessly strives to sow the seeds of discord and fragmentation.  And while we hear much nowadays about the necessity of restoring the supposedly lost unity of the Church, the Holy Fathers unequivocally teach us that the Church is, always has been, and always will be undivided and indivisible. 

There has been a good deal of hoopla of late concerning the long planned and forthcoming Pan Orthodox Council, which is to be convened not in order to condemn a new heresy that threatens to distort the inspired dogma of the Church, but rather to promote--through cunning and deceit--the pan-heresy of ecumenism.  Do not be deceived, my friends--the ultimate goal of this pernicious heresy is to unite the One True Church to the heretical Roman confession, and (eventually) to bring together all so-called Christians into the one world religion  of the  Antichrist.  It is therefore vital that we, as true Orthodox Christians, stand firmly rooted in that Faith once delivered unto the Apostles and sealed by the blood of the martyrs, that we might until the end of time remain truly one... even as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one.  Maranatha!  Lord come!

Monday, June 6, 2016


"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth.  And his disciples asked him, saying, Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  So... it's a matter of either-or, right?  Call it karma or God's just retribution, but someone must have sinned to explain the reason why such a tragedy had occurred. (Though unless we invoke the fallacious concept of reincarnation,
it is difficult to understand how this man might have sinned before his birth).

So why, then, did God permit Herod's slaughter of the Holy Innocents?  For what reason or purpose did the 3000 innocent victims perish when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11?  Why did hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have to die when the tsunami hit the Asian coasts in December, 2004?  I could go on and on, of course, considering that the human race has been subjected to innumerable tragedies and seemingly senseless suffering from the very beginning unto this present day.  But consider those eighteen men upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, crushing them to death.  Jesus rightly asks his interlocutors, "Think they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, nay: but, except you repent, ye shall all likewise perish."  (Luke 13: 4-5).

But why, why, why has so much seemingly senseless and arbitrary (according to human reasoning) death and suffering afflicted both the just and the unjust, both the righteous and the unrighteous, over the whole course of human history?  Yet... who do we think we are that we should expect to fathom the depths of divine providence?  Or do we really think we can calculate by means of a divine calculus an explanation for the distribution of death and suffering that occurs in this world?  In the instance of the blind man of the Gospel, at least, our Lord gives us the answer: "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."  And so... what more do we require?

The truth is, God is not the author of sin, death and suffering--nor do these provisional facts of our existence in this fallen world possess an ultimate meaning or reality.  They are, rather, the consequences of our rebellion against God, according to the free will He has so graciously bestowed upon us.  In this world of corruption and violence we ourselves have created, sin and suffering are inevitable... and in the end, we must all die.  We shall all, however, be judged at the end of time according to the measure of love we have acquired in our hearts during our earthly sojourn. So let us all--no matter how far we may have wondered from God and defiled in our own lives the essential goodness of His creation--beseech our All-Compassionate Creator that He might grant unto us the gift of love in our hearts, that we might in the end--by His grace--prove worthy of the gift of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

Monday, May 30, 2016


In today's Gospel, Jesus enters the city of Sychar in Samaria and sits on Jacob's well.  Weary and thirsty from His journey, when he encounters a woman approaching to draw water, he says to her, "Give me to drink."  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this Samaritan Woman is literal and earthly minded.   When she expresses her surprise that Jesus, being a Jew, should make such a request of a woman of Samaria, our Lord responds, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that sayest to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." 

Now she is skeptical, idly noting that Jesus has nothing with which to draw up the water.  Then--when He declares that "whoever drinkest of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst," her interest is piqued--and she thinks in very practical terms of how convenient it  would be if she should never again have to trudge her way to the well in order to draw water.  Surely she hears Jesus' words, but she has no comprehension of their depth. 

It is only when He reveals to the woman her marital history (concerning which, by the way, He does not condemn her), does she perceive at last that this is no ordinary man, but some sort of prophet--though even then she does not request those living waters of which He has spoken, but rather changes the subject--attempting to engage our Lord in a theological discussion.  She does not, though, seem to be quite convinced by Jesus' response, replying in effect: "Oh well, never mind: when Messiah comes, he will explain it all."

What then?....   When Jesus declares plainly that He is that long awaited Messiah, suddenly the scales fall away from her eyes and she runs off (not merely saunters away) to bear witness to Christ before her fellow villagers.  She--a mere Samaritan woman and a sinner to boot (for she is living with a man out of wedlock)--is enlightened, perceiving the truth that the Jewish leaders stubbornly denied unto the very end.  Thus she is, according to Orthodox tradition, St. Photini (her name means "light").

But there had to be more at work here than the mere fact that Jesus had told her all things that she ever did (which was, of course, an exaggeration).  Though she was initially confused and skeptical, her humble heart was open and receptive to our Lord's salvific revelation.  Deep down, she had known all along that the happiness and fulfillment she had sought through marriage and material comforts was shallow and ephemeral, and that (as St. Augustine once wrote) "our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."  And so it happened that by the grace of God, Jesus' words struck a chord in her soul, lifting her beyond the threshold toward a truly spiritual life (that is, a life permeated by the "living waters" of the Holy Spirit of God).  May we all likewise respond to our Lord's words with an open and contrite heart, freely forsaking all things earthly in exchange for God's gift of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Jesus said to the hypocritical Jewish leaders, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."  It is common nowadays to be admonished that as Christians, we should not judge.  Of course, on the level of personal morality, this is true... we must first remove the plank from our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from our neighbor's.  Yet surely the Church Fathers did pass judgment upon the heretics--anathematizing them until they should repent of their false and pernicious doctrine. 

This was done, of course, not out of a spirit of hatred, spite or arrogance, but rather out of love--lest the faithful should be deceived by these wolves in sheep's clothing and thus be tempted to fall away from the true path of salvation.  Nor did the Fathers speak according to their own personal opinions (as, indeed, did the heretics), but according to the Mind of the Church, declaring in unity, "It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit"--the very same Spirit that our Lord sent down upon His disciples on the day of Pentecost, the Comforter Who would lead the Church into the fullness of Truth. 

As Orthodox Christians, we are called to pass judgment, to discern according to the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Contrary to modern secular thinking, there is an absolute truth, which is revealed to us in and through the Church--which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the true Orthodox Church that has (as we proclaim on the Sunday of Orthodoxy) established the universe.

This is the very Faith we are called to boldly confess to a world that considers all truth to be relative and all "churches" and religions to be equally valid, that we may be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to bear witness to that faith once delivered to the Apostles and sealed by the blood of the martyrs.  Having been granted (though no merit of our own) to see "the true light," having by virtue of our Baptism been enlightened by the heavenly Spirit, we must (with the utmost love and humility)
strive to share this Faith.  May God therefore strengthen us all, that we may be enabled to declare to the world that Faith we have received--to the glory of Christ God and the Holy Orthodox Church He has established for the sake of the salvation of the human race.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Just imagine the scene: crowded within the five porches of the pool of Bethesda, there "lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water."  For it so happened that at various times impossible to predict, an angel would descend and stir the water, and whoever was lucky enough to enter the pool at that precise moment... would be healed!

Unfortunately, with so many seeking the cure, it was rather like the lottery: except one was not required to merely buy a ticket and wait to see if one had the winning number.  It was necessary, rather, that a person needed to push and shove his way into the pool at the very moment the angel descended, ahead of all the others.  If such a thing existed today, it seems to me it could provide the basis for a very popular TV reality show....

Unfortunately, though, only a favored few were, over the course of time, granted the gift of healing so fervently desired, and I suspect that most of those had someone--friend or family--to assist them.  The paralytic who had suffered his infirmity for thirty eight long years, though, lost out every time.  When Jesus approaches this man, he asks him, "Wilt thou be made whole?"  What a question... of course he does.  Nevertheless, an affirmative answer is not a foregone conclusion.  The truth is, there are many persons who do  not, deep down, want to be made whole, who actually prefer the dubious pleasure of being a victim of their infirmity.  But in this case, "The impotent man answers, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool."

Little does he realize, however, that with Jesus' approach, he has such a Man--not just any man, though, but the Godman--the incarnate Son of God Who has come to earth and taken flesh from the pure blood of the Virgin, that by His salvific death and resurrection, He might grant healing to the fallen nature of humanity, that all who believe in Him might be made worthy of eternal life and salvation in His heavenly Kingdom.

And so Jesus commands the paralytic, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."  But why, we may well ask, was it this man in particular, and not all the others who continued to languish by the pool?  Was this man especially virtuous and deserving?--Not at all!  We know, in fact, that he was a sinner, because Jesus later tells him, "Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon thee."  Yet it was this man alone who was healed, for no obvious reason we can fathom.  It all came to pass as recorded in the Gospels according to the inscrutable providence of God. 

How often do we ourselves bemoan the seemingly unfair and evil circumstances of our lives, crying out to the Heavens, WHY ME?  Nevertheless, no matter how much it may be appointed unto us to suffer the "slings and arrows" of misfortune and seemingly unjust persecution at the hands of our enemies, one thing is sure and certain:  in the words of the Holy Apostle, "All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose."  There is a purpose for everything God allows to enter into our lives, and that purpose always involves our salvation--that through whatever suffering we may be called to endure during this brief earthly life, our souls and bodies might be refined like pure gold in the furnace, that we may in the end be made worthy of the gift of eternal life in the Age to Come.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the Myrrhbearing Women came to the sepulcher to anoint our Lord with sweet smelling spices.  No doubt downcast and sorrowful, they wondered, "Who shall roll away the stone?"  For the stone was, in fact, very large, and they were mere women unaccustomed to hard physical labor.  But behold!  When they looked, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away.  And so they were vouchsafed to behold the angel who announced unto them, "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; He is risen; He is not here...."

Indeed....  How often have you and I failed to step forward on that path of salvation God has appointed for us, because... well... there are just too many obstacles!  Ideally, of course, it would be great if we could step out in faith and bear bold witness in some way to the love of God in Christ Jesus, but... we've got to be realistic!  Who shall roll away the stone?

And yet, perhaps--were we to take courage and to cast aside every fainthearted doubt--if we just lifted up our eyes and looked, we would see (as did the Myrrhbearing Women) that the stone has been rolled away already, that God Himself has removed every obstacle along the path of our salvation, that if only we have faith, nothing shall be impossible.  With the Myrrhbearing Women, however, it was less a matter of faith than of love. They bought the spices and set forth for the tomb very early in the morning not so much because they had faith, but because the love for Jesus that burned in their hearts compelled  them to do so.

It is true that through faith in Christ we can accomplish miracles... but the love He engenders in our hearts is the greatest miracle of them all.  It is through love alone that we can acquire that living faith that can remove mountains--because God is love, and it is by love alone that every obstacle on the path of our salvation can be vanquished. 

After our Lord's crucifixion, the apostles were cowering behind closed doors--but it is sure and certain that perfect love casts out all fear.  Moreover, it is because we have loved much that our sins--though they be many--shall be forgiven.  Apart from love, we may indeed work miracles of faith and accomplish things worthy of esteem in the eyes of the world--but love alone is the key that unlocks the gate leading into the eternal Kingdom of God.  Let us, therefore, pray ceaselessly that we may be granted the gift of love in our hearts--that we may in the end prove worthy to partake of our Lord's glorious Resurrection.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


In the evening of the first day of the week, upon which Jesus had risen from the dead--casting off the bonds of mortality in a brilliant flash of light that illumined the whole created order unto the very depths of Hades--"when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews," Jesus appeared unto them in His body of transfigured flesh.  They saw and believed... but St. Thomas was not with them.  This is the bare fact recorded in the Gospel, but one may be so bold as to ask, Where was he?  Why was he not cowering behind closed doors along with his fellow Apostles?

Today being Mother's Day, it occurs to me that he may have been visiting his mother.  In any case, it appears he was not quite so intimidated and fearful as were his companions.  Nor was he so readily inclined to believe the second-hand testimony regarding our Lord's appearance.  He demanded evidence--that he might see and feel for himself that Jesus had truly risen in the flesh. 

This circumstance occurred, of course, according to Divine Providence--that through Thomas' blessed unbelief, many thereafter might come to believe.  When Jesus appears again eight days later, Thomas is with them--and when our Lord graciously provides for him the evidence he demands, he proclaims with great joy, "My Lord and my God!"  It is true that Jesus mildly rebukes him: "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."  Yet merely believing that Jesus is the eternal Son of God does not guarantee us a passport to heaven.  After all... even the demons believe, and tremble, while it is a well known fact that Satan himself can appear as an angel of light.  Perhaps St. Thomas' faith was less than perfect, but at least it was established upon a firm and unshakable foundation... and in the end, this apostle was vouchsafed a martyr's death preaching the Gospel to the demonically oppressed people of India.

As for feeble and lukewarm Christians such as ourselves, called to bear witness to the Truth in this faithless and perverse generation: we are enjoined to "taste and see that the Lord is good," to experience the presence of the Risen Lord not through the eyes of the soul alone, but also through the perception of our physical senses.  First and foremost, our faith is strengthened through partaking of the most precious Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist--but also through such manifestations of divine grace as myrrh-streaming icons, the Holy Fire in Jerusalem, and other miraculous events too numerous to mention--while the heavens themselves declare the glory of the Lord!

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where a supper was prepared.  Lazarus the Four Days Dead was present, as were his sisters Martha and Mary.  Many Jews attended as well--"not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead."

Indeed, Jesus performed His most famous miracle when He raised Lazarus--and it is a well known fact that everyone loves a miracle!  Unto this very day, the faithful (as well as the merely curious) will flock to see a myrrh-steaming icon, or to receive a blessing from a holy man reputed to possess the gift of healing.  Through the revelation of miracles, we hope to catch a glimpse of a dimension of reality that transcends the dull, humdrum experience of our everyday lives.  At the same time, we also harbor the expectation that we ourselves might be vouchsafed a miracle of our own... and what greater miracle can we conceive of than our deliverance from the power of death and the seemingly inevitable progression of all things earthly toward decay and corruption?

And so it came to pass that the Jews eagerly converged to witness our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem... we could say, in fact, that Jesus had achieved overnight the status of Israel's most popular celebrity!  And it was, after all, difficult not to participate in the jubilant celebration: everyone, it seemed, was cheering for Him. 

But it is obvious how superficial this adulation actually was when we consider the fact that just a few days later, the crowd could be so easily manipulated into crying, "Crucify Him!"  Martha and Mary, you see, truly loved our Lord--not primarily because He was a miracle worker Who possessed the power to raise their brother from the tomb, but simply because He was Who He was!  It was from the abundance of love that overflowed her heart that Mary anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair--expecting nothing in return.

You and I may indeed profess to love Jesus--but if we were perfectly honest, we would be forced to admit that our so-called love is neither pure nor unconditional--that deep down, we are always expecting something in return.  Our love, however, is never a true reflection of the love of God so long as there are strings attached: and the same applies when we consider our human relationships.  Authentic love is never constrained: it implies the willingness to suffer and even to die for the sake of the beloved.  It implies, in fact, our eager desire to ascend the cross of sacrificial suffering.  Only then shall we be deemed worthy to behold the glorious Resurrection of Christ.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


In today's Gospel, a Pharisee invites Jesus to eat at his house.  "And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner,... brought an alabaster box of ointment."  Weeping profusely, she washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, then kissed and anointed them. It should be pointed out that such ointment was quite costly and was customarily set aside as a precious commodity reserved by a woman to be used to anoint the head of her bridegroom on the day of her wedding.  In the case of this woman, however, it was doubtful that any respectable man would be willing to marry her.

For she was, you see, a sinner....  Interesting, is it not, that we know at once that this woman's sins were primarily sexual in nature--if she was not actually a prostitute, then she was at least an adulterer--or at the very least, a fornicator.  (Back then, apparently, the only sins a woman was capable of committing were sexual).  For all we know, she might otherwise have been a kind and compassionate woman, meek and humble, but she had (for whatever reason) fallen into sins of the flesh.  She was, indeed, a "fallen woman" (though one cannot help but wonder why one never hears of a "fallen man?"

Still....  She was, no doubt, a sinner, but nevertheless... God had opened unto her the gates of repentance.  Her heart having been filled to overflowing with the fire of God's love,  she yearned fervently to be forgiven and set free from the bondage of her passions.  So it is that Jesus says to the Pharisee, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much...."

Likewise did St. Mary of Egypt--though she was indeed a flagrant prostitute--repent from the depths of her heart when she was forbidden to enter the church in order to venerate the Life Giving Cross of our Savior.  Though she had in the beginning joined this pilgrimage for the purpose of seduction, she was made worthy by the grace of God to complete the remainder of her life repenting in the wilderness, denying herself even the most basic of human comforts.

St. Irene, Empress of Byzantium, ordered her own son to be blinded as part of a political intrigue.  I was told this in seminary, and one of my fellow students was dumbfounded: how could a hard hearted woman who committed such an atrocity be worthy of sainthood?  The simple answer given by the professor was: she spent the rest of her life repenting in a monastery, and to doubt this possibility is to doubt the power of repentance--and thus to doubt the power of God Himself.  Sainthood is not, in fact, an honor conferred upon a person in consideration of their lifelong achievements and merits--it is, rather, the recognition that this person has, in the end, received the fullness of grace from the Holy Spirit, and therefore has been granted eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom. There are numerous examples in the history of the Church of those who have committed grave sins, and have nevertheless achieved sanctity.  Indeed, we shall on that dreadful day of judgement that awaits us all be condemned not according to the multitude of our sins... but rather by our failure to repent.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016


"Master," says the distraught father in today's Gospel, "I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit....  And I spake to Thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not."  And Jesus replies, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, I believe; help thou my unbelief."  Whereupon Jesus--as the eternal and omnipotent Son of God--casts out the demon.

When afterwards the disciples privately enquire of our Lord why they were unable to cast it out, He replies, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."  Truly the power of faith can work miracles--and even though our faith may at times seem weak and ineffectual, we need only cry out, "Help Thou my unbelief!" and God can, by His grace, fulfill within us whatever is lacking. 

Yet even so, simply believing is not always sufficient.  As Orthodox Christians, we are called to an ascetic, disciplined way of life founded upon prayer, fasting and self-denial. It follows, therefore, that only those who are willing to do violence to their own fallen human natures can hope to "take by storm" the Kingdom of Heaven.  Thus, we must strive at all times to "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." 

By virtue of our Baptism, we have all been enrolled as soldiers in the Militia of Christ: and we are, therefore, engaged in spiritual warfare against the principalities and powers that rule this present age.  Perilous and narrow is the path that leads to salvation, and only those who have taken care to put on the whole armor of God will emerge as victors--having endured unto the end.

Today we call to remembrance St. John Climacus, a venerable Seventh Century hermit at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai, who wrote The Ladder of Divine ascent: an ascetical treatise on the avoidance of vice and the practice of virtue.  Though the treatise was initially intended for monastics, it has over the years been embraced as a handbook of ascetical practice for those who are "still of this world."  The aim of St. John was to guide the faithful toward the attainment of a life completely and wholly devoted to God. 

This is, of course, the aim  of all Orthodox Christians-- not monastics alone.  Even though those of us who are living in the world are beset by manifold distractions and temptations, we are enabled, by God's grace, to aspire toward a life of holiness, striving at all times to acquire the Holy Spirit of God, which is--as St. Seraphim of Sarov assures us--the ultimate aim and purpose of the Christian life. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Our Lord proclaimed, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."  Indeed, self-denial is the essential goal set before us during the time allotted for  our earthly pilgrimage. Without self-denial, in fact, it is impossible to be saved.  The meaning   of self-denial, however, is nowadays generally misunderstood. It is not simply denying ourselves that second piece of chocolate cake or choosing to visit a sick friend rather than going to a movie.  Self-denial is, quite literally, the denial of the self: that false ego we have constructed as an idol and have placed at the center of our life. 

If we truly desire to follow Christ, it is necessary that we "cease to exist" as an egotistic entity, so that we might say with St. Paul, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me."  This is, of course, a painful process, requiring as it does that we voluntarily take upon ourselves the cross of sacrificial suffering.  "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever  shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it."

In  this sense, every Orthodox Christian is called to become a martyr: ever striving to bear witness to Christ, Who truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life of all created reality.  It is through Him alone that our fallen human nature can be reconciled to God the Father, transformed by grace, and restored to our rightful inheritance as sons and daughters of God, heirs of eternal life in the heavenly Kingdom.

The truth is: our Lord did not endure suffering and death upon the Cross in our stead, but rather on our behalf:  that we might share with Him the cross of sacrificial suffering and self-denial.  We may or may not be called to endure  a literal martyrdom, but our lives should nevertheless bear witness to the all-consuming love of God, a love that can only be--in this broken and fallen world in which we live--a suffering love.  Thus it is sure and certain that it is only through the power of the Cross that we may hope to attain unto those eternal good things that God has in store for those who love Him and who strive above all else to follow His commandments.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


St. Paul writes to the Hebrews, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first came to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him...."  My friends, there can be no escape from the eternal separation from God in a hell of our own making, the natural consequence of our careless, self-willed neglect.  One might reasonably ask, however: exactly what is the nature of this salvation the living God has so graciously bestowed upon His children?  It is not merely (as many think) that Christ died on the Cross in order that our manifold sins might be forgiven.  For the Orthodox Christian, salvation means much more than some sort of legal pardon, assuring us that we can go to heaven when we die. 

When the man sick of the palsy was lowered through the roof into the house where our Lord was teaching, He beheld the faith of his friends and readily forgave the sins of the afflicted.  Then--when certain scribes grumbled that only God can forgive sins--Jesus demanded to know which is easier, to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed and walk?"  He thereupon commanded the sick of the palsy to "Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house."  Jesus thus not only forgave the man his sins but restored him to wholeness--that he might henceforth walk in the way of holiness.

Jesus came to heal our sinful passions, that through sincere and heartfelt repentance we might become partakers of the Divine Nature, transformed by His grace into sons and daughters of God, heirs of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.  As the Good Shepherd, he proclaims, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

In the Fourteenth Century, St. Gregory Palamas struggled against the false theology of the monk Barlaam--one of the most prominent Western secularizers of his day--who taught that God is basically an abstraction, with Whom we can have no meaningful connection.  He insisted that God's grace is created, and therefore we cannot through its action be united to God.  If this were true, it would mean that the world itself cannot be considered a true Icon of God, and that there is, therefore, no real communion between our life in this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. 

St. Gregory taught otherwise, as did all the Holy Fathers of the Church who preceded him: that while the essence of God is inaccessible, He sustains the whole created universe through His uncreated energies while uniting Himself in an intimate and personal union with fallen humanity.  Thus every aspect of our lives in this world is permeated by grace--while God is closer to us than the very air we breathe.  There can be, therefore, no compartmentalization of our lives into "religious" and "secular" spheres, for (as the Holy Apostle declares) "I live: yet it is not I who live, but Christ in me."  Let us, therefore, strive to glorify God through our souls and bodies, that we might reflect in our lives the eternal Light of the Living God!

Saturday, March 19, 2016


We read in today's Gospel for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth... And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?  Philip saith unto him, Come and see." 

Orthodoxy, you see, is no mere philosophy or logical system: it is the experience of the living God revealed in the Person of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Thus a true theologian is one who attains, through prayer and fasting, first-hand, experiential knowledge of the Holy Trinity.  It follows, therefore, that great intellect is not required in order to  comprehend and to live the Orthodox Faith.  All it takes is a humble and contrite heart and the willingness to deny oneself, to take up one's cross, and to follow Him.  After all, our Lord called simple fishermen to be His disciples, while allowing little children to come unto Him.  He insisted, in fact, that if we should desire to enter the heavenly Kingdom, we must become as little children. 

It stands to reason, then, that it is not through clever arguments and learned debates that we shall succeed in drawing unbelievers to the Faith, but primarily through  an invitation to "come and see."  This involves, of course, encouraging seekers of the Truth to  experience the transcendent beauty of the Divine Liturgy... but more than this, we should so strive to live our lives that the light of Christ may through us be made manifest to the world.  And above all, it is through the love that we believers have one for another that they shall know we are Christians.  It is true that through our holy icons--as windows to heaven--many who thirst for the living waters will indeed be drawn to the Faith, but even more so shall our witness to the Truth bear fruit when we ourselves become, through the grace of God, living icons of Christ. 

And even so--if our own faith should seem to be weak and ineffectual and we find ourselves tempest tossed upon a sea of doubts--let us remember that we "are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses"--even the Holy Fathers and martyrs of all ages who were filled with the Holy Spirit and thereby were enabled to bear witness to the all-surpassing power and glory of our Faith.  Let us, therefore, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

Trail of Blood

By Fr. Thomas Kulp



It was only when I finally awakened this morning that I realized my whole life since I was fifteen has been nothing more than a very long and convoluted dream, that I had really and truly died back then—though I can barely remember the precise cause of my untimely death.  It does seem to me that something very vital had been surgically removed from my body.  Perhaps it was my heart, which would explain my total lack of feelings and emotions.  The funny thing is, though, that while I am now a living corpse and have long since ceased to exist, thoughts and memories persist.  How can this be?  I have died and ceased to exist, yet I continue to walk and breathe… which can mean only one thing… I am immortal!

So how, you may ask, had I come to know that I was dreaming?  Simple!  You see, I had come to a certain point of awareness wherein I realized that everything was so utterly absurd that it could not possibly be real.  I was walking about a city I had never to my knowledge been to before, and then I entered into a crafty type shop (I’m sure you know the type) where I bought this handsomely bound journal as a present for my husband, though as far as I know I never did have a husband (well, how could I… I was fifteen when I died).  So I returned to a house where supposedly my husband and I had been visiting, far away from home, and I realized I had left the journal I had purchased on the counter.  And so I seriously considered walking all the way back to the shop in order to retrieve my purchase, but for some reason I was loathe to do so.  But then the realization struck me that I was probably only dreaming after all, in which case there would be no need to trouble myself further.  There was a problem, though: while I was fairly convinced by then that I was dreaming, I couldn’t quite be sure, because despite it all, everything did seem to be so solid and real.  And so (clever me) I came up with an idea that might confirm my suspicions: I would run through the streets of the city as fast as I could.  I would run like the wind!  And if it was after all only a dream, I would go on and on and never tire, because it stands to reason that a dream body is not subject to exhaustion….  And that is just what I did, until I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was indeed all a dream that would very soon fade away….

And so I awoke, thoroughly convinced that whatever reports of my death there may have been had not been exaggerated.  Why I was not by now a pile of bones tucked away somewhere in a coffin six feet under I was (and still am) unable to explain, but the facts are as they are—no matter how contrary they may appear to be according to human logic and medical science.  I awoke lying in a bed with a man I had never seen before… I, the mere shade of a fifteen year-old girl! The light of dawn was just beginning to seep through the drawn drapes into a totally unfamiliar room shrouded in shadows, and suddenly I found myself racing down the hallway towards a bathroom, all the while thinking that my heart should be beating furiously, my breath labored, except I knew full well I had no heart, and that the breath of life within me had long since been extinguished.  And then—having entered into the bathroom—I twisted the faucet in the rose tinted, shell shaped wash basin and splashed cold water onto my face, feeling absolutely nothing, and when I glanced into the mirror—the image I beheld was alien, bearing not the slightest resemblance or connection to the person I might once have been.  So this is what it means to be dead, I thought… to wander about without aim or purpose in a body without substance, in a world that itself possesses no substantial reality.



It was then I heard a voice calling a name (not my name, surely, since it is impossible to name that which is non-existent)—no doubt uttered by the same man who had been lying by my side when I awakened.  Well… whoever this man might claim to be, it was certain he could have no connection with a living corpse such as I had become.  Besides, it was more than likely that my mere presence in this house would contaminate any living person unfortunate enough to encounter the residue of my previous existence. 

And so I fled at once down the hallway and out the front door into the murky shroud of fog that obscured the spectral landscape, somehow finding myself scantily clad in a silky white gown – though the damp chill of early morning could not, of course, penetrate the void where there had once existed a living and breathing soul.  I was effortlessly borne aloft upon bare feet that my confused and possibly deluded mind inexplicably perceived to be lacerated by sharp stones and an occasional shard of glass – though the oozing red blood could not, of course, have been mine – for it is obvious that a dead body cannot bleed. 

Finally, I found the place for which I had been seeking, and with great relief I passed through the gates of the cemetery into the realm of the dead.  The profound silence that enveloped the tombs consoled me at last, and I would have breathed a sigh of relief had I not been already dead for these past seventeen years.  I had, it seemed, come home at last to the place where I truly belonged, and I should have been at peace, if only….  The pitiful wail of a baby seared the space where my heart had once been like a burning ember. Having been abandoned and irretrievably lost and left to die in a limbo inaccessibly hidden away somewhere within the interstices between the worlds, the infant needed nothing more than to be embraced by the loving arms of its mother. But how can I – a mere shell of humanity encased in a rotting corpse—dredge forth even an ounce of compassion in order to soothe and to comfort the inconsolable suffering of this infant soul?

The haunting, gut wrenching cry soon faded away, and it was easy enough to convince myself that I had never really heard it at all—because I am, after all, dead, and therefore insensate as a rock.  Assuming that anything at all truly exists outside that bundle of fevered imagination that claims to be me (an impossible claim, since “I” do not exist)… if anything out there does truly exist… then that empty shell that claims to be me must in any case be impervious to its impact. 

For the briefest interval, it seemed to me that time itself had ceased to exist and I found myself poised on the edge of a dark and formless abyss of non-being – but something or someone drew me back before I could plunge into its unfathomable depths – and I observed the self I supposed myself to be approaching a solid gray stone sepulcher, its wrought iron gate swung wide open upon rusty hinges… and so I entered at once into the musty darkness of the tomb, and I knew that I had found at last the place where I most truly belong: a place of refuge and repose among the dry bones and ashes in the realm of the dead.  Only vaguely could I hear the sound of the persistent voice calling a name that in no way belonged to me.  It no longer mattered, though, because here I was safe, deeply submerged in a sea of forgetfulness and a state of peaceful oblivion….



…until a flood of blinding light burst forth and penetrated into the chamber and the peace I had thought to be so secure was shattered in an instant.  I was lying on my back upon a cold, smooth marble slab, my eyes wide open, but I was incapable of movement of any kind – which was only to be expected for one who had been so long dead.  And then… the next thing I knew…  I was being lifted aloft by the strong arms of the man from whom I had so recently fled.  What utter desecration! I screamed inwardly.  How could anyone dare to so callously disturb the peaceful slumber of the dead!  And so I was carried against my will into the bright light of day, my desiccated body stiff and unyielding.  My dearest Sheila... the man seemed to be murmuring.  I would never have found you had it not been for the trail of blood you left behind.  Only then did it occur to me that perhaps I knew this man after all… intimately.  But how could this be, if I am dead (as I most surely am) and a mere girl of fifteen?  I shuddered inwardly at the thought, unable to comprehend the enormity of all that was seemingly implied.

I felt in that moment as fragile and weightless as a paper Mache doll, and it seemed to me that I might have been easily snapped in half like a dry twig and cast to the winds.  But I am bound to admit that the man held me gently, as though I were a valuable specimen to be placed in a museum within a glass enclosed and hermetically sealed cubicle – an idea that held for me a certain appeal.  I allowed myself to imagine the perfect peace of remaining there undisturbed, drifting upon the sands of time, until the building itself crumbled into a heap of dust and finally time itself should be consumed by the bright light of eternity.

This, of course, was not to be.  Instead, I was placed not so gently in the back of a motorized vehicle and bombarded by shrill voices and poked with needles.  I wanted to tell them not to bother, that I was already dead and only required a decent burial, but of course I had no breath to form the words, and besides – my vocal cords had long since shriveled away. And so I was whisked away and conveyed to a building that I could only surmise to be a hospital, where I was placed upon a bed in a white walled room and stuck with more needles, while a flexible tube of some kind was stuck down my parchment lined throat.  It was all very confusing: did they really think it was possible that they might revive a rotting, maggot infested corpse by such means?  Or perhaps “they” were not really present at all, and the whole experience would prove to be nothing more than a disturbing dream. But then I remembered that I had long ago ceased to exist… so why after all should any of this be disturbing?  This too will pass, whispered a voice out of nowhere, and I knew with certainly that it was just a matter of time (if in fact time itself existed) before the rightful order of things would be restored.



And so I was set adrift upon a sea of fragmented dreams and memories, punctuated by brief intervals of wakefulness during which I mused that none of these phantasmagoric figments could have any sort of connection to whatever person I might once have been. A persistent thread woven throughout it all was the reverberating echo of those pathetic cries of an infant, coupled with images of bright red blood spouting and oozing from some invisible source.  I have, mind you, never believed in any religious notions of an afterlife.  Otherwise, I should surely have considered that I had somehow descended bodily into hell.  This seemed at the time as good an explanation as any for the scorching fire of desolation and loneliness I experienced while my decomposing dead body lay motionless and insensible upon the bed.  When I finally awakened from this nightmare, two things struck me as incongruous for a person who was surely dead and had long ceased to exist: first of all, I was ravenously hungry; secondly… I was apparently weeping copious tears of deeply seated sorrow. 

I was well aware, of course, that a veil of deception had descended upon me: a rotting corpse can neither hunger nor weep.  It was perfectly obvious, therefore, that I was not that person… that pathetic woman whose reflection I had glimpsed in the bathroom mirror that very morning.  It was she who hungered and wept, and so – when the nurse arrived with the tray of food – it was her, and not I, who willingly allowed herself to be spoon fed.  Meanwhile, I slipped aside and observed this woman from a distance, idly wondering what connection she could possibly have with a teenage girl who had long ceased to exist.

The nurse departed shortly thereafter, leaving me to enjoy once again my blessed solitude… but only briefly.  It wasn’t long before another presence entered the room, whom I recognized at once as the very same man who had disturbed my peaceful repose in the tomb and had arranged for my conveyance to this place of glaring white light.  He was accompanied by another man who was small and dark, and wore a white coat.  The two together approached the bed warily, as though fearing I might somehow be startled or frightened… which made no sense at all, considering that I am nothing more than an insensate bundle of decomposing matter.  And yet… and yet… I did feel a tinge of fear as I seemed to recognize the taller man as someone with whom I had once been acquainted… if only in a former life I had lived in the far distant past. 

He drew up a chair by the bed and abruptly grasped my bony hand – so tightly I could not help but wonder why the fingers did not simply snap off – and he was repeating the same name he had been calling while I stood staring at the strange image in the mirror, just before I fled the house that morning.  Sheila, he said softly but with a firm resolve.  I know you can hear me.  You are safe here, and I promise I will protect you.  Wherever you’ve gone to now…please… come back!  But of course there was no way I could have come back – even had I wanted to.  Whatever sort of person I may once have been has long ceased to exist… surely he must know that.  Besides… just who is this Sheila he seeks to summon forth from this collection of dry bones and shriveled sinews that I have become? 

Meanwhile the man in the white coat was busy murmuring words of his own, but try as I might, I could make no sense of them.  Nor did it matter in the end, because I was drifting away now, having descended into a dark and shadowy world submerged in a vast sea of profound silence and forgetfulness.



An intense surge of electrical current seared my brain, triggering waves of convulsions throughout my body, jolting me to full awareness, until I emerged at last from my slumber, a scream of white hot anger issuing from my parched throat.  I would have arisen at once to confront my torturer – to scratch his eyes out even, though I knew I should come to regret such a violent course of action – but I was like a limp rag, drained of all energy, and besides – I was apparently tightly strapped onto some sort of padded table.  Fortunately for my tormentor, the initial impulse of fury abated quickly and I slumped back helplessly against the cool, hard table.  A strange, dark man wearing a white jacket and thick horn rimmed glasses loomed over me, pulling my eyelids open while he aimed a bright beam of light into my eyes. 

“W-water, p-please,” I croaked.  The man nodded, loosening the straps at once and somehow repositioning the table, raising the top part of my body to an upright position, then offered me a plastic cup filled with chips of ice.  Despite my state of depletion, I managed to grasp the cup with both hands and began at once to greedily devour its contents.  Only then did the man speak, his thick accent unidentifiable but strangely appealing.  “My dear Sheila… welcome back to the land of the living.” (It would be too tiresome to duplicate his accent, so I won’t even try). 

“Why do you call me that?” I snapped.  “I am not Sheila! She’s nothing but a pathetic looser who thinks she’s dead, and so she is… I killed her, you see. Except for her reflection in the mirror, she has ceased to exist.  Gone at last… and good riddance to her!”

If I had expected to force a reaction out of the silly man in the white coat (a doctor of the mind, I assumed), I was wrong.  His expression remained unreadable as he calmly gazed into my eyes, like he really thought he could read my mind or something, but I wasn’t about to give anything away.  I gazed right back, daring him to deny the truth of what I had just said. 

But he did no such thing.  Instead, he just nodded and asked me point blank, “So… what is your name?”  This simple question threw me for a loop, I will admit, because honestly I had no idea what my name was… assuming I even had one.  So I blurted out the first name that popped into my head – from where, I could not have said.  “Elaine.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Elaine,” the doctor replied politely enough.  “My name, by the way, is Rama, and I’m here to help you… figure things out.  So tell me… how old are you?”

“Fifteen last September,” I said at once, because that at least I knew to be a fact, though I wasn’t at all sure what sort of things I needed help in figuring out. 

“Fifteen… yes, I see.  I would have guessed you were older than that, but of course… looks can be deceiving, can they not?...  I assume then that you – being such a young girl – still live with your parents.”

Now I was really and truly flustered and confused, because so far as I could remember, I never did live with any parents – whether mine or anyone else’s.  In fact – if truth be told – I had no memories at all of a past in which I had lived as an actual person.  “N-no,” I stammered.  “I’ve been away, you see… for years and years!  I’ve just got back, and so… I haven’t had time yet to live anywhere!

“So you were living abroad,” Rama said thoughtfully.  “What can you tell me about that?”  But I was no longer really listening, I was done playing his games.  I turned my head aside and closed my eyes tightly.  My head was pounding, and besides, I was suddenly feeling very tired… empty… hollow… lost….  All I wanted in that moment was to go home – yet I knew with an utter certainty that I had no home.



Multiple Personality Disorder… is there a cure for that?  the man was asking.

Long term treatment… complicated case… sorry, but your insurance won’t cover…. snatches of words spoken by Dr. Rama, and it was all (apparently) about me.  But why the fuss?  I could not help but wonder.  Except in a deeply buried corner of my own mind, it seemed to me that I no longer in any real sense existed.  Why was this man not willing to just cut me loose?  I was, after all, clearly a lost cause, damaged goods, already dead if not yet buried, a murderer, for heaven’s sake!  Surely he must see the blood on my hands. Stupid me, thinking that I could just wash it away, but no… the stains were permanent, and no amount of scrubbing could take care of the mess… not in a million years.

I was apparently being kicked out of the hospital, and the man who had brought me there to begin with (it seems he could no longer afford the $800 a day it cost to keep me there) was hell bent on taking me “home.”  From the snatches of conversation I had overheard, I was finally beginning to piece together the puzzle: somehow this man (whose name, if he has one, still eludes me) had somehow convinced the authorities that he was my husband.  Well… anything’s possible, of course, but it seems unlikely that a fifteen year-old girl who has willingly consented to shed the blood of an innocent child would agree to marry a middle aged man for whom she felt not the slightest degree of affection. Besides, the fact remains that I died in that very instant when the child – having emerged from the womb alive – was brutally bludgeoned to death….

So it seems that I truly am being released from this place of confinement, given over into the custody of the man who insists on calling himself my husband… driven “home,” he says, to that place still haunted by the shadows of my past, where the life I had so desperately been trying to hold together finally shattered apart into a thousand fragments that cannot possibly be put together ever again.  Sheila is convinced she is really and truly dead, that she is a walking corpse – but I know this to be a logical impossibility.  It is surely more sensible to conclude that I have simply ceased to exist. 

But somewhere along the way, as we traversed the wooded stretch of road where sun-dappled leaves fluttered in the breeze, I was struck – in a suspended moment of time – by a sudden and totally unexpected revelation: the very notion that I had “ceased to exist” is absurd.  The real truth is that my ego had been so inflated that it can conceive of no existence outside of itself.  It is not “I” who have died and withered away, but rather the all-consuming and unconditional love of God, which alone possesses the power to draw me forth from the dark abyss of hell.

My real concern, it seems to me now, was not so much for the innocent child whose life had been cut short before it had seen the light of day – but rather for my own miserable and (or so it seemed) irredeemable self.  How could I have done such a thing?  I thought, not because I desired to repent, but rather because I was ashamed and pitied myself!  Having allowed myself to sink into a dark hole of despair and hopelessness, I fervently (yet falsely) believed I could never again prove myself worthy of existence… let alone love.  I do confess that I never really believed in God – except, perhaps, as some sort of abstract concept – ultimately unrelated to that living death I imagined to be my life in this world.

Only after having come to this realization could I begin to perceive that pure and resplendent light that enlightens every soul that comes into this world, and in this light I beheld the child I had thought to be lost and abandoned forever.  The heart I believed myself to no longer possess was caressed and warmed by her serene and joyful smile, and though she did not utter a word, I knew beyond knowing that I had truly been forgiven….



Recovery means to get back something which one has lost, and over the next several months that is precisely what I did.  First of all, my memories: I was indeed a thirty-two year-old woman named Sheila, married to a remarkable man named Erik.  At the tender age of fourteen, I managed to escape from the orphanage – a dreadful place, where I had been horribly abused (both sexually and emotionally) for as long as I could remember.  Having neither family nor friends, I had nowhere to go… but I was a survivor.

I shudder now to think of the perils I faced as a child living alone on the streets amidst the squalor and decay of a big city, but I quickly learned how to be invisible (or nearly so).  Wandering about like a ghost in the shadows, I eluded the authorities while engaging in the most shameful perversions – behaving like an animal guided only by the basest of instincts.  Of course it is easy now to say that I didn’t know any better, and up to a point this is true, except… there was indeed the persistent nagging of an inner voice that could only be silenced by drugs and alcohol. Nevertheless – though it was a rough and tumble existence I had chosen for myself – I always somehow managed to land on my own two feet. That is… until a year had passed and I discovered I was pregnant, and made that fateful decision that no fifteen year-old girl should ever have to make.  Now I won’t say I considered this decision to be “right” at the time… it was simply the only decision I could conceive of making.

Nevertheless, when the child was somehow born live (despite the best efforts of the murderers) and the still living heart was brutally ripped from the body before my very eyes – it seemed to me that I too had died.  (In fact – due to the massive loss of blood – I almost did die, but soon enough they patched me together and cast me out once again onto the streets).

From that point on, my memories are jumbled and confused.  Having descended into the depths of desperation and hopelessness, I got careless, exposing myself to danger, no longer caring whether I lived or died (since in my deluded mind, I was dead already). I know I spent some time in jail, but eventually I was committed to a lunatic asylum and pumped so full of drugs I could barely function beyond the level of a zombie.  I was released, nevertheless, to a so-called “therapeutic community” – which was where I met Erik.  He was, at the time, a state inspector who found conditions in this “mental health” facility so horrendous that he demanded in the strongest possible terms that it be shut down.  Which it was… but meanwhile he had, inexplicably, fallen in love with me.

And so he rescued me and gave me shelter in his home, asking nothing in return (until, of course, he married me).  The first thing he did was to wean me off the medications – rightly considering them to be dangerous poisons.  And so I gradually got “better” – to the point where I was able to set aside (or rather, to repress) the wounds of trauma that had so plagued me in the past, and we succeeded in building for ourselves a reasonably contented life.  I even mustered the courage to take some courses at a community college and worked for a while as a dental assistant, while Erik pursued for himself a new career as a mortician (morbid, I know, but it is what he had always wanted to do).  I was profoundly grateful for all he had done for me, and though I was incapable of any sort of grand passion (not to mention the bearing of children), the rhythm our life had settled into was pleasant enough.  But though I willingly shared with him numerous details concerning my past, I never could bring myself to the point of confessing the one sin I was certain could never be atoned for.

Our relationship might have gone on like this forever (though I sincerely doubt it), had it not been for the singular event that triggered my total and complete relapse.  I had every reason to believe, you see (due to the brutal butchery of the murderers) that I was barren.  Still… after years of trying… I did somehow manage to conceive.  I knew this for certain… and both joy and fearful apprehension were intermingled in my mind in equal measure.  I did not, however, dare to share this wonderful news with Erik, for you see… I could not shake off the sense that God was somehow mocking me, setting me up for a devastation total and complete.  And so it was that my dreadful sense of foreboding was seemingly confirmed when I gushed forth blood and miscarried the night before I finally cracked apart… and apparently died. (I had considered myself irredeemably unclean – stained beyond measure by the blood I had shed – a filthy rag abhorrent to God and fit to be burned, its ashes scattered upon a dung heap.  But I had forgotten that the Blood shed by our Savior upon the Cross is more than sufficient to wash us clean of every impurity).

It occurs to me now that a single human life is worth infinitely more than all the conceivable treasures of this created universe.  It should be remembered, though, that a life not illumined by the love of God is not truly life at all, but rather a living death.  Thus, it is somewhere written by a man who was caught up into the third heaven (whether in the body or out of the body, he knew not), “Awake thou that sleepeth, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” 

“Keep thy soul in hell and despair not,” another God-illumined soul has written – and though I do not pretend to quite understand his words, I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the love of God is fully manifest even unto the those souls languishing in the depths of hell – a hell of their own making which God can, in an instant, transform into Paradise.



Cotard’s Delusion (otherwise known as Walking Corpse Syndrome) is a rare but recognized psychiatric disorder that induces in people a conviction that they are walking, rotting corpses with missing organs; or, that they have simply died and are somehow still walking around; or, on a more existential level, that they no longer exist.  Paradoxically, this conviction can co-exist with the delusion that they are immortal.  Derealisation, on the other hand, is a broader disorder that causes a feeling of disconnection from one’s environment. 

A belief that one is already dead can lead to extreme depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior.  The condition can best be described as “existence denial,” and it is sometimes accompanied by feelings of guilt, anxiety, negativity, insensibility to pain – and an inability to recognize one’s own face.  In short, this condition is an extreme expression of the plight of post-modern man – alienated, atomized, and cut adrift from the sustaining grace of God, by whose power alone we can be redeemed from the dark abyss of non-being and transferred into the Kingdom of Light – wherein we are given the potential to become partakers of the Divine Glory.

As for Sheila and Erik, well… they eventually opened up their home as a place of refuge and safety for children cast off and dehumanized by a morally bankrupt society (those whom many consider to be the off scouring of the human race) – a commodity that can easily be discarded for the sake of convenience.  The house was too small, of course, to fully encompass the requirements of a heart inflamed by the love of God, and therefore various additions were added on periodically, but in the end… the couple managed to adopt and to nurture in excess of one hundred souls – all precious beyond measure in the sight of God. 

And so, dear reader, I beseech you to consider: what have you done to “redeem the time” – a gift so graciously granted unto you by the grace of God?  For truly the end is drawing near, and the time of reckoning is at hand.  And so it behooves us all to strive in this earthly life to fulfill the commandments of God – that we might at last be accounted worthy of true and eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom.