Tuesday, March 6, 2012


This divine Father, who was from Asia Minor, was from childhood reared in the royal court of Constantinople, where he was instructed in both religious and secular wisdom. Later, while still a youth, he left the imperial court and struggled in asceticism on Mount Athos, and in the Skete at Beroea. He spent some time in Thessalonica being treated for an illness that came from his harsh manner of life. He was present in Constantinople at the Council that was convened in 1341 against Barlaam of Calabria, and at the Council of 1347 against Acindynus, who was of like mind with Barlaam; Barlaam and Acindynus claimed that the grace of God is created. At both these Councils, the Saint contended courageously for the true dogmas of the Church of Christ, teaching in particular that divine grace is not created, but is the uncreated energies of God which are poured forth throughout creation: otherwise it would be impossible, if grace were created, for man to have genuine communion with the uncreated God. In 1347 he was appointed Metropolitan of Thessalonica. He tended his flock in an apostolic manner for some twelve years, and wrote many books and treatises on the most exalted doctrines of our Faith; and having lived for a total of sixty-three years, he reposed in the Lord in 1359.

“When we strive with diligent sobriety to keep watch over our rational faculties, to control and correct them, how else can we succeed in this task except by collecting our mind, which is dispersed abroad through the senses, and bringing it back into the world within, into the heart itself, which is the storehouse of all our thoughts?”
- St. Gregory Palamas

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday of the Forefathers

Today is the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. Every year, two Sundays before we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we remember His forefathers, His relatives according to the flesh. This remembrance is given to us for a very specific reason, which is mentioned by our holy father Gregory Palamas in one of his homilies for this very Sunday. This Sunday is given to us, St. Gregory writes, so that we can know that the Hebrews were not cut off by God, nor were the Christians grafted on (as St. Paul writes) in a way that was unjust or unreasonable. There is an inner continuation between the Old and the New Covenants. And in learning this, we’re offered a warning from the history of God’s chosen people.

The forefathers of Christ were, for the most part, Jews. They were from the Chosen People of God - one of the very reasons that God had chosen a people was to prepare that people and eventually to bring forth the Messiah from that people. The Fathers of the Church are very careful to make sure we understand that being a chosen people doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone else. The Chosen People are chosen by an all- knowing God to fulfill His purposes. And that’s it. So the relatives of Christ were obviously from among the Jews. All of Hebrew people were the Chosen People, but only some of the people are recognized to be the forefathers of Christ.

This is where the great importance of this day for us is seen. It is a reminder that our relationship with God, as members of the New Covenant, is based on the same factor as those members of the Old Covenant - the true members of Christ are those who do the will of God. Outward membership in the Church is not enough. What we learn on this Sunday is the fact that to be chosen by God is an inner transformation. Through the history of God’s dealing with us, it was not outward but inward obedience that indicates chosen-ness. In our understanding of the New Testament to be chosen by God for salvation means that we choose God. The Church is the New Covenant, the chosen people…but we choose to be her members. The question put before us by the Church today - are we living as true members of the Body of Christ? That’s the most important questions we’ll consider today.

Through faith You justified the Forefathers, betrothing through them the Church of the gentiles. These saints exult in glory, for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: She who bore You without seed. So by their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Pattern in Making Disciples

1) Christ teaches the Word of God, and the Word of God stirs listeners to initial faith.

2) Christ involves the new believer in a specific challenge, and the new believer personally experiences the grace of God; he or she feels unworthy, yet amazed.

3) Christ calls the new believer to become a permanent disciple and co-worker with God. The new believer freely and totally gives over his or her life to the Lord and has a new sense of mission as Christ’s disciple.

We too, are called to DISCIPLESHIP and to lower our nets for that “great catch”. Consider, for a moment, the state of the world around us. Consider this city we are in, and the cities and towns nearby. Consider the frightful nature of the world, of the overflowing cup of evil all around us. Consider the huge numbers of confused and frightened people, darting this way and that, like frightened fishes in a great dark sea. Some, though perhaps not all, would doubtless find peace and joy if they could but find Christ, in the fullness in which we find Him in our Holy Church. We need only lower our nets, as Christ bids us, and we can catch them for Him. How do we do this?

We can do it by witnessing for Christ through the lives that we lead. If we are kind, patient, and generous towards our neighbors, that in itself is the beginning of our witness. If we are models of Christian piety in our lives, praying, keeping the fasts, attending Liturgy, and remaining close to the Church, that too is a witness and will attract a larger catch. Finally, we must not be ashamed of Christ’s Church by hiding it from those around us. If neighbors or friends or acquaintances have no religious life, or if they are dissatisfied in their current religion, we can invite them to attend Divine Liturgy and introduce them to our Holy Church and our community of faithful. So, let us not be apprehensive in sharing the beauty of our Eastern Church with others. Let each of us strive to follow in the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter, James, and John, by becoming catchers of souls for Christ. Let each of us also put aside all those things that distract us from our real purpose in this life, let us leave those things, as the Gospel says, and, like the apostles, follow Christ. Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

On the day we remember the Cross, we must pay particular attention to what Divine Love is. God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son unto death, so that no-one, no-one should be forgotten and left aside.

But if that is true, how should we look at one another and treat one another? If each of us is so meaningful to God, if He loves him to such an extent that His life is given, His death is accepted - how should we treat our neighbor?! There are people whom we love in a natural way, who are akin to us in mind, in emotion, in so many ways - but is that love? Does that mean that we love this person as the most precious person in the eyes of God and the most precious person in my eyes, because I want to be with God, share His thoughts, His attitude to life?

And how many there are whom we treat with indifference: we wish them no evil - they don’t exist for us! Let us look around, here, in this congregation, now and week after week, and ask ourselves, “What does this person mean to me?” - Nothing; just someone who attends the same church, who believes in the same God, who receives the same communion - and we forget that those who have received this same communion have become part of the body of Christ, that God Himself lives in them, and that we should turn to them, look at them and see in them the temples of the Holy Spirit, an extension of the Incarnation.

Let us ask ourselves severe, pertinent questions about the way in which we treat our neighbor and we see our neighbor. Let us devote a whole week perhaps to thinking of one person after the other and ask ourselves, ‘Is there any love in me for this person?’ Not a sentimental love, but the kind of love which in the light of God makes this person precious, - precious to the point that I should be prepared, ultimately, yes, to give my life for this person. This is not asked day after day, but what is asked is that we should give some warmth, some compassion, some understanding, some recognition to the existence of this person. And when we come to confession next week, let us bring that, among other things, to God: does my neighbor exist for me? Who is he to me? To God he is everything; if he is nothing to me, where do I stand before God? Amen.

- Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom)


The Tree of the Holy Cross and the site where it grew are sanctified in ecclesiastical sources. In legends and ancient tradition they are linked back to the biblical patriarch Abraham or earlier still to Seth, the son of Adam, planting a twig by his father’s tomb.

The legend recounts that the three Angels who visited Abraham (Genesis 18) left him their staffs before proceeding to Sodom. After Lot sinned with his daughters at Sodom, he confessed to Abraham who instructed him to plant the staffs in the environs of Jerusalem and give them water from the Jordan River – their blossoming would signify that God accepted his penance.

Lot planted the staffs in the valley outside Jerusalem where the Monastery of the Cross stands today. His unceasing attempts to haul water from the Jordan were stymied by Satan for 40 years before he finally managed to water the staffs, and they immediately blossomed and grew into a triplet pine/cypress/cedar Tree. During King Solomon’s reign, the Tree was felled for timber in the building of the Judaic Temple, however, the beams would fit nowhere and were cast aside as cursed – the very ones that would make Jesus Christ’s Cross in later times.

The Fathers Speak…

Abba John used to say that the saints are like a group of trees, each bearing different fruit, but all watered from the same source. The practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit that works in all of them.

- The Desert Fathers

Blessed is the one who knows his own weakness, because awareness of this becomes for him the foundation and beginning of all that is good and beautiful. Love sinners but hate their works; and do not despise them for their faults, lest you also be tempted.

- St. Isaac the Syrian

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

In today’s Gospel Christ tells us about a man who owed a vast sum of money to his overlord but had no means of repaying and his lord forgave him all because he had pity on him. After leaving his overlord’s presence this man met another who owed him a small amount, and began demanding payment without mercy. Hearing this the overlord said: I forgave you your enormous debt, so how could you not forgive your debtor his small indebtedness? In the same way we expect that through one word of God’s mercy, the gates of eternal life will be opened for us, yet we close these very doors - no, the small doors of this temporal life in the face of another person. What can we hope for?

The Gospel says in another place: with what measure you measure it shall be measured unto you. In the Beatitudes it says: blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy, and in the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us as we forgive. How simple it all seems, and yet how difficult we find it. It would be simple if our hearts responded to sorrow, to need; it is difficult because our hearts are silent. But why is this so? May it not be because when someone behaves badly we always think he must be a bad man, without realizing that often the man so much wants to be good, so much wants every word of his to be pure, his thoughts and his heart pure, his actions worthy ones, but he simply has not the strength, he is enmeshed by old habits, by the pressures of his environment, by false shame and so many other things. And he continues to act wrongly; but we could disentangle him. We could look at him as God looks at him, with pity, as one might look at a sick man dying of a disease that could be cured if only he were given the right treatment.

And each one of us could do what is necessary for someone. Look at a man and pity him for being wicked, angry, vengeful, and bad in one way or another. Have pity on him and turn the bright side of your soul towards him, tell him that his actions and his words will not deceive you, however wicked they may be, because you know that he is an image, an icon of God, besmirched and disfigured, and yet in him you bow down to God, and love him as a brother. To do this may cost you a great deal, but if you can do it once or twice and see how a person changes because you have faith in him, because you have rested God’s hope on him, what a world we should live in - a world of mutual trust.

- Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

And they cried out for fear. But immediately He spoke to them, saying “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”

The Sea of Galilee is actually a rather small lake (only thirteen by eight miles) which is almost completely surrounded by mountains. When the northern winds are funneled through the mountain peaks, they sweep violently across the lake, causing fierce waves. It was in the midst of such a violent storm that Christ Our Savior manifested His power to the disciples by walking on the water.

Just prior to this event, Jesus had performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. One would think that the disciples, having just seen this demonstration of Jesus’ power, would have been confident that Jesus surely could save them from the fury of the storm. Like them, we too tend to forget or misunderstand the significance of Jesus’ work in our lives.

In this incident, Peter’s faith was both tested and strengthened; he experienced the trials and growth of a true disciple of Christ. Having seen the power of Our Lord’s words and actions, Peter put his faith in him and began to walk across the waves toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29).

By stepping out of the boat at the Lord’s invitation, Peter demonstrated at least some degree of realization that Jesus was the Messiah. Even when his faith faltered and he began to sink, it was still to Jesus that he cried out: “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). After the Lord had returned Peter to the safety of the boat, all the disciples worshipped Jesus in awe saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

Day after day, we are confronted with situations which put our faith in the Son of God to the test. Perhaps there has been a sudden death in the family, an unexpected financial burden, or some other crisis in the family that seems too hard to bear. At times like these, our faith may falter; we can doubt that God cares for us or even that he exists. Yet it is in these very situations that our faith can be strengthened by calling out to Christ Our Savior.