We Exalt the Cross by Ascending It

My brothers and sisters, we celebrate today the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ, the feastday of our monastery and the second of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church year. It is remarkable that at the outset of the Church new year, not a single day passes between the afterfeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos and the forefeast of the Exaltation of the Cross. This is by…

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 Forgotten Virtue of Stability

When people think about the vows that a monk or a nun takes before God (if they think about such things at all), three likely come to mind: chastity, poverty, and obedience. Such vows are quite striking, since in the modern world these three things are no longer generally considered to be virtues common to the life of all Christians, exemplified in monasticism chiefly by the degree to which they are put…

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…

Making Angels Out of Men

We celebrate today the Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers, the feast-day of all the holy angels, from their Chief Commanders Michael and Gabriel to each of the guardian angels whom the Lord God appointed to watch over every one of us — throughout all our lives — at Holy Baptism. Today should therefore be a day of great joy and profound gratitude for every Christian, no less than our namesday on which…

A Shortcut to Heaven and a Shortcut to Hell

My brothers and sisters, we have just heard one of the most important Gospel parables which the Lord ever spoke. At the heart of the Christian religion is forgiveness — and how our hearts yearn for such forgiveness! For who among us does not know — at least somewhere in the depths of our heart — that we too owe just such an immeasurable debt as did the servant in today’s Gospel?…

Made Perfect Through Sufferings

After several weeks of almost unprecedented temptations of both soul and body here at the monastery, we have just heard these beautiful and inspiring words from St. Paul in today’s Epistle lesson: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). And in today’s Gospel reading we are being given an earnest of this comfort and…

Strangers in a Strange Land

Several months ago a landmark Gallup poll found that for the first time in American history, as of 2020 fewer than 50% of Americans belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Ever since 1937 when the survey was first conducted, that percentage remained fairly constant at around 70% until the turn of the century, when the number began its plummet all the way down to 47% in only two short decades. And…

What Kind of Triumph Do We Seek?

We celebrate today the Great Feast of the Triumphal Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. Today Christ enters openly and boldly into the holy city, no longer in secret, no longer hiding Himself to forestall the fury of the Jews, for He knows that His hour to be glorified is now at hand. And so on this day He makes his entry into Jerusalem with glory — at least, in a certain…