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.