Tuesday Evening of Holy Week

On Tuesday evening of Holy Week, we commemorate the anointing of Jesus’ feet by the sinful woman.  The hymns for this service contrast the beauty of her humility and repentance with the betrayal of Judas.  Of all of the hymns that we chant throughout the year, I think tonight’s hymns are the most beautiful and profound. The harlot came to You who love humanity.  She poured perfume and tears over your feet,…

Monday Evening of Holy Week

On Monday evening of Holy Week, we remember that on this day the religious leaders, motivated by envy, strike a deal with Judas, motivated by love of money, to betray Jesus.  The hymns, however, reflect mostly on the parables of Matthew 25.  These parables are the heart of the Orthodox Christian understanding of how we ought to relate to God and neighbour in order to cooperate with God’s saving Grace.  Consider, for…

Sunday Evening of Holy Week

Tonight we pray the first of three Bridegroom Matins.  For Holy Week all of the services are done half a day earlier than normal out of heightened anticipation (for example, on Sunday evening we are praying the service for Monday morning).  The main hymn of Bridegroom Matins is a reflection based on Matthew 24:42, “Watch therefore for you know not the hour when the Lord will come,” and Matthew 25:6, “At midnight…

Palm Sunday Reflection

After rising Lazarus in Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus sends two of his disciples into Jerusalem to get the untamed colt of a donkey for him to ride into the city.  That Jesus rode and didn’t walk showed his royal status, but that he rode a donkey and not a horse showed that he came as a peacemaker and not a conquer.  However, the hymns for Palm Sunday also emphasize…

Raising Lazarus and Seeing with Faith

I wrote a series of commentaries on the hymns and themes of Holy Week.  Since this year we were kept from church by the social distancing practice due to COVID-19, I thought I would reflect on some of the themes of Holy Week with our unprecedented situation in mind. Here’s the first one. Tonight and tomorrow morning we celebrate the raising of Lazarus from the dead after he had been ‘asleep’ in…

A Mormon Prayer

A little while ago I ran across a self-help book written by a Mormon.  I read through it quickly and found nothing particularly interesting or novel in it, just standard, good self-help advice.  Then I came across this prayer: “Lord, help me to forgive those who sin differently than I do.” That line has stayed with me.  I can’t say that I have actually prayed it much, but I have thought a…

Transformation, Conformation, Shame and Sexual Desire

When I first began visiting the monastery, after I had developed something of a friendship with the monks, I asked the brothers if they experienced any particular problems repressing their sexual urges.  They told me that they do not repress, but redirect.  That is, the desire and longing that, in the world, is generally expressed in sexual longing, they turn toward God as the One they long for most. When they told…

Lustful Thoughts

Many do not realize that the ancient Church Fathers deal rather specifically with the problem of unwanted sexual thoughts, albeit from a man’s perspective.  Unfortunately, there were very few women in the ancient world who were able or had the leisure to read and write, so there is a dearth of information about the inner life of women in the early centuries of the Church.  Consequently, women have to translate the struggles…

Holy Embezzlement

Luke 16 contains one of the most difficult to understand parables of Jesus.  It is commonly called the parable of the Unjust Steward.  For most of my life the parable offended me.  Like the Pharisees in 16:14, I want to deride Jesus for telling a parable that, on the face of it, advocates embezzlement.  The servant in the parable gets sacked for “wasting” his master’s goods, so the servant decides to earn…

Indifference and Trying Harder

In my last post, Finding Peace Despite Sinful Thoughts, I spoke of the struggle to accept the struggle, to be at peace despite ongoing sinful thought.  I compared this struggle to the battle I have in my garden with bindweed. One of the readers of that article wrote the following comment, and I thought that I would share my response with everyone.  Here’s the comment: Thank you Father, One of the problems…