On Remaining Silent

When you squeeze an orange, you find out what’s in it: sweet, sour, or even sometimes rotten.  Stress does the same thing with most people, in my experience.  Stress reveals what is in our hearts, and it is usually not nearly as sweet as we thought it would be.  But that is a gift.  St. Isaac tells us that to know your own heart is a gift greater than the raising of…

Hope In God’s Mercy

Experiences of God’s mercy increase our hope.  However in the midst of difficult times, we don’t remember these experiences.  We don’t remember the times in the past when God saved us out of difficult circumstances.  Or worse yet, we have come to remember past deliverance from difficult or dangerous circumstances as luck, as accidental coincidence.  Or worst of all, we have come to remember past deliverance as examples of our own prudence,…

Mid-Pentecost

The feast of Mid-Pentecost falls halfway between Pascha and Pentecost.  It is a service of anticipation.  The hymns of the service focus much less on Pascha and the Resurrection as they do on the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Although Pascha is the Feast of Feasts, Pentecost is the celebration of our full participation in the Mystery of the resurrected Life.  The main metaphor used throughout the feast of Mid-Pentecost is water.…

Listening To The Least: The Myrrh-Bearing Women

On the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, it is important for us to reflect on the importance of listening to one another.   Intrepid.  That’s the word I would use to describe the Myrrh-Bearing women.  The Disciples were cowering in fear, locked behind closed doors not knowing what to do.  The Myrrh Bearers, on the other hand, were out before dawn bringing to the tomb the spices that they had prepared in…

Thomas Sunday

We are coming to the end of Bright Week during which every day is Pascha.  Every day, in monastic practice, we celebrate a Paschal Divine Liturgy.  Every day the hymns reflect on the Resurrection of Christ rehearsing what exactly happened on that Day and reflecting on what it means cosmically and personally. All things are filled with gladness, having received the proof of the Resurrection.  For Mary Magdalene came to the tomb;…

Why Don’t Temptations Go Away?

In homily 69, St. Isaac reminds us that temptations to sin come upon all people, even the “perfect.”  Quoting freely from St. Macarius of Alexandria, St. Isaac reminds us that our inner state is rather like the weather.  “There is cold, and soon after, burning heat, and then perhaps even hail, and after a little, fair weather.”   I think some of us will find this shocking, that even the perfect experience…

Holy Saturday and Glorious Pascha

On Holy Saturday, we begin the day with the Vespers of Pascha.  Christ has been active even though his Body still rests in the sealed tomb.  We cannot yet sing “Christ is risen” for to our physical eyes, Christ appears to be dead in the tomb, but our hearts know that Christ is already destroying Death and Hades.  Some of the Hymns for this service are set as the voice of Hades…

Holy Friday

On Holy Friday, we offer three services.  The first is the Royal Hours of Holy Friday, which continues the themes of last night, reflecting on the horror and injustice of Christ’s Crucifixion. When you were led to the Cross, O Lord, you cried out thus: “For which of my works do you want to crucify me, O Judeans?  For healing your paralytics? For raising your dead as from sleep? I healed the…

Thursday Evening of Holy Week

On Holy Thursday evening we commemorate the saving Passion of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ: the spiting, the scourging, the slapping in the face, the scorn, the mocking, the purple robe, the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails, the spear, and above all the Cross and Death which he willingly suffered.  Tonight are read all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, humiliation and Death on the…

Wednesday Evening of Holy Week

The usual service on Wednesday evening of Holy Week is the Holy Unction.  It replaces in parish practice the Matins service for the Last Supper.  However, this year our Bishop has asked us to pray this Matins service.  I speculate that one of the reasons it is normally replaced by Holy Unction is that the hymns for this Matins service are extremely sad.  The themes of the service are Christ’s humility in the…