The Zeal of the Forerunner

Today we celebrate the Beheading of the Forerunner, one of only three great feasts of the Church year not dedicated either to the Lord or the Mother of God. And despite the sorrowful nature of this day’s events, nevertheless it remains a celebration — albeit one which we keep with great spiritual sobriety, observing a strict fast even when it falls (as it does this year) on a Sunday. Why do we…

The Missionary Life of Prayer

One week ago we celebrated the Feast of All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost, noetically beholding the sanctification of mankind that has been continuously underway for two thousand years through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Now, on the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the feast of all the saints of the Local Church of which we are a part. Although all of us are Americans — and our…

Heroes of the Last Days

We celebrate today the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. In the icon in the center of the church we truly behold a host of heroes no less glorious than any who have ever walked upon the earth, though they are men and women of a time neither very far nor very different from our own. Despite the fact that they were born into a world of nearly universal spiritual…

To Love God Above All

Today we celebrate the memory of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, the patron saint of North America. There is so much that is praiseworthy in the life of this man of God that one hardly knows where to begin. He was an ascetic who dwelt as an anchorite in the forests from the time of his early childhood. He was a zealous missionary who, like the righteous Abraham, left his home and…

Become as Little Children

We celebrate today the Feast of Pokrov — the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God — with great faith and heartfelt joy. Though not numbered among the Twelve Great Feasts, nevertheless it is kept as one of the chief and most beloved feast-days of the entire Church year. Most of us are familiar with the story of the feast’s origins in the 10th century: the imperial city of Constantinople was threatened…

American Sanctity

We have reached today the Third Sunday after Pentecost, the third Sunday after the feast on which the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the apostles of Christ, and the great missionary work of the Church was begun. On the first Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate all the saints who have shown forth throughout the entire world, while the second Sunday is set aside for each local church to keep the…

Seeking to See Jesus

Today, as we stand at the threshold of Great Lent, the Holy Church gives to us in the Gospel story of Zaccheus an icon of the Lenten journey which lies ahead. It is precisely an icon, because everything happens as it were in a flash, in one single image passing before our eyes. We hear nothing of Zaccheus’ past, and after these few short verses he never again appears on the pages…

On Obedience and the Gifts of God

In the Gospel reading appointed for this Sunday, we hear a story of the greatest importance, both for ourselves and for all Christianity: we hear the story of the beginning of the conversion of the holy chief of the Apostles, St. Peter himself. This was not the first encounter of St. Peter with Christ; his brother, St. Andrew, had brought St. Peter to Jesus in Bethabara and told him that he was…

Menpleasing and Murder: A Homily for the Beheading of the Forerunner

The memory of the righteous is praised, says King Solomon (Proverbs 10:7 LXX); but the Lord’s testimony suffices the righteous one we remember today. What testimony? Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist(Matthew 11:11). What honor can our praises add to one who boasts such an eminent witness? How can the life that today is crowned with a glorious death be fittingly…

What Modern Churches Are Missing

Recently, a well-known Orthodox monastic and academic shared some of her thoughts on 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, which passage I will now quote: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually-immoral people; not at all meaning the sexually-immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to depart from the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any…