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.