140. Guns in Church, Part One – 2009, Now, Statistics, Back in the Old Days

In summer 2009, when I was still pastor of Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, I posted this notice at the three entrances to the church. Firearms are not permitted at Saint Nicholas Church. The Church is a sanctuary of peace. Here’s what brought this on: All churches and businesses in town had just received a letter from the Cedarburg Police Department stating that the Attorney General of Wisconsin had (rather suddenly) determined that the Constitution…

139. Why do we honor the Mother of God? Because the Bible says so! – Part Two

Last week we saw how often the Virgin Mary is mentioned in the New Testament. Nobody except her Son comes close. Then… well, go back and read it for yourself. We stopped in the middle this section. What the Bible teaches about Mary 5 Does the New Testament tell us that Mary is the Mother of Christians, the Mother of the Church? Yes. There is, of course, no distinction between the titles, since the…

138. Why do we honor the Mother of God? Because the Bible says so! – Part One

The Virgin Mary…? Those of you who were raised Orthodox or Roman Catholic cannot imagine how hard it was for most of us former Protestants to accept the Mother of God. I know, because when we try to describe it, you just look at us with puzzled looks on your faces! For most Protestants Mary is tabu. There’s no other word for it. She is just unacceptable, forbidden for reasons that cannot be…

137. The Transfiguration – The Other Great Forgotten Feast

The Holy Transfiguration, August 6, is one of the Great Feasts of the Church –  but I’ll bet if you asked Americans, “What is the Transfiguration?”, ninety nine out of a hundred would say “Eh?” Or maybe some might think it was the latest super-hero movie. This is our second forgotten Feast. The first is the Epiphany (I’ve complained about this before – see Post 46), which gets ignored because it comes…

136. Old Testament Saints of August: The Holy Maccabees, the Holy Prophets Micah and Samuel

Old Testament Saints? Yes! God created saints, holy men and women, long before the coming of Christ, and “martyrs before the Martyrs” as our hymn says. We Orthodox commemorate them. Probably you know the Prophet Elias/Elijah from July 20, since many Orthodox men are named after him. But there are many more, whose wonderful stories and teachings once were well known among us. Now, not so much – and that’s sad. Let’s…

135. Last of the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Part Two – How to Recover

“What a gnawing worm of the soul it is – to envy someone for his virtue or for his happiness; to make others’ good into our own evil; to be tortured by the prosperity of the famous. To the envious, no food brings joy, no drink is cheerful. They are always sighing, groaning, and weeping. And since the envious never set their envy aside, the heart possessed by envy is ripped apart…

134. Last of the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Part One – Beware!

Saint Basil the Great said it well: “There is no other passion engendered in human souls more pernicious than envy. It does less harm to strangers, but is the chief homegrown evil for whomever possesses it. As rust eats away at iron, so envy eats away at the soul in which it lives. Envy is grief over a neighbor’s wellbeing. Therefore the envious man never has a lack of sorrows and afflictions.…

133. A Late-Twentieth-Century Saint: The Holy Elder Paisios

People had known for years that Paisios was a saint. Here is how the Orthodox system works: Veneration of a holy man or woman grows and grows and sometimes there are miracles, till finally somebody at the top says OK, it’s obvious we’ve got a saint here. So finally on January 13, 2015, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos was formally canonized by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Saint Paisios, in his unique way, was…

132. The Holy Apostles Rocky Johnson and Paul

On June 29 we celebrate the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The usual icon for the feast shows them united, embracing in a kiss of peace. But they were not always at peace. In fact, in this icon I think they look as if they could be a bit happier with each other! Peter I’m sure you’ve figured this out already: “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah” – Simon, son of John,…

131. 2011 Trip, Part Three: Athens, Saint Nektarios does it again (possibly), and Reflections on Re-entry

This has been a long vacation, folks. I see from the Blog stats that some have headed home already. Understandable. However, I think you who are still hanging in here will enjoy our last week in Greece. Today it’s… Back to the Mainland and Saint Nektarios We wanted to visit Saint Nektarios again, so on Wednesday September 28 we flew into Athens. Ever since that first remarkable visit to him in 2002, Nektarios…