The Two Sts. Pelagia of Antioch

On October 8, we commemorate two Sts. Pelagia of Antioch.  The first is a virgin martyr, and the second is a repentant harlot, sometimes referred to as St. Pelagia the former courtesan of Antioch. I first heard the story of St. Pelagia the virgin martyr from my bishop, shortly after he had arrived in California from Damascus.  I had just been ordained a deacon and was helping to run a large youth…

Fighting Sin

“You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a long time know that I often liken the spiritual life to gardening.  We have to take care of our soul, the garden of our thoughts.  When we care for our soul, our actions are more likely to be grace-filled and less likely to be dominated by the passions.  Or…

What Is the Mark of the Beast?

It seems whenever there is a crisis, people begin to see possible predictions and warnings about such times in the scripture.  And certainly Christ does warn us to be prepared for the End, and to recognize that various tribulations and “wars and rumours of wars” would be the ongoing signs that the End is near.  However, the scriptures themselves also tell us that we are already in the Last Days.  That is,…

Why Do We Kiss The Cross?

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  There are actually three feasts of the Cross in the Church year: Today,  the main feast of the Cross, then on the third Sunday in Lent and again on August first. When we celebrate the Cross, we are not so much remembering the Crucifixion of Christ, as much as we are remembering the salvation that Christ’s Crucifixion has brought us and all the…

Suffering According To The Will Of God

St. Peter (1 Peter 4:19) uses this expression, “those who suffer according to the will of God,” and at first glance it seems to mean that God wills some the suffering we experience and some suffering God does not will. Read this way, Peter seems to leave us with the impossible task of discerning whether or not a particular cause or experience of suffering is God’s will or (even worse) not God’s…

The First Two Weeks of August

The first two weeks of August in the Holy Orthodox Church is devoted to the Mother of God, most specifically to asking the Mother of God for her help.  The distinctive element of this period is the Paraklesis service.  The Paraklesis service is a prayer service to to the Mother of God asking for her help and protection.  The service itself is shaped like Matins, set within Compline (only the Orthodox can…

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…