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On Suffering and Repentance

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

This Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, there is a lot going on:  We have a lot going on in the Gospel prescribed for today, and also with the feast of St. Mary of Egypt, in our world in general, and within our personal lives, as we reach this 5th Sunday of Lent.  It is time for us to reflect once again and to ponder the state of our souls, the state of things in general and the state of the saints and those in today's Gospel reading.

The Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The divine Fathers appointed the parable of the Prodigal Son to be read for the Sunday following that of the Publican and the Pharisee for the following reason:

Many of those people who are given over from an early age to self-indulgence and licentiousness, upon falling into an abyss of evils, come to a place of despair (which, according to the Holy Fathers, is the result of arrogance). This despair deters them from turning their attention to the pursuit of virtue, and instead leads them to fall into the same and even worse evils as before, since they think that there must be no mercy for such sinners as themselves.

Saint Nectarios

Luke 8:41-56

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we read the Gospel of the woman with the issue of blood. “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stopped. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and you sayest, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.

Exaltation of the Cross

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross. Perhaps we say these words quickly to ourselves, as we do at times perhaps when we read the Holy Gospels, overlooking the importance of every single word. For within our tradition and in accordance with the Holy Gospels, not one word is wasted. There are no idle words with Christ. We hear these words in the hymnography of the Church and we repeat them to ourselves: “Life-Giving Cross.” These particular words are chosen because our very life depends on bearing our cross and our very life depends on the life lived by Jesus Christ and His dying on the Cross which gives us life. We cannot have life without the cross and I wish for us to reflect on this today.

Holy Apostles

In the Name of the Father and of the Son And of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The commemoration of Sts. Peter and Paul today and all of the Holy Apostles is an occasion for all of us to share in rejoicing and each of us who celebrate these beloved men, reap great benefit. “The memory of the just is praised”, says the wise Solomon, and again “When the righteous is praised the people will rejoice.” If a lamp is lit at night, its light shines for the service and enjoyment of everyone present. Similarly, through such commemorations, each saint's God-pleasing course, his blessed end, and the grace bestowed on him by God, because of the purity of his life, bring spiritual joy and benefit to the whole congregation, like a bright flaming torch set in our midst! By commemorating the noble deeds of the saints, we offer them that praise, which, on the one hand we owe them for the good they did our Ancestors, but which, on the other, is also fitting for us at the present time, on account of the help they give us now.

2nd Sunday of Lent - St. Gregory Palamas

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the commemoration on the second Sunday of Lent of Saint Gregory Palamas. He is a pillar of our faith and remembered today by all the faithful. Saint Gregory lived in the 14th century, and was the archbishop of the ancient apostolic Church of Thessalonica. St. Gregory became involved in a theological controversy, a controversy that deals directly with you & me. St. Gregory was involved in the teaching of the practice of the prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, and he together with others at that time, attained the heights of contemplation (contemplation meaning “union with God”) while still in this life.

Last Judgement

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

On that dreadful and amazing day, Thou shalt say to us sinners, O Lord: "You men know well what I have undergone for you...what have you suffered for Me?" What shall we say to that; we who, though penitent, are sinful and polluted? The martyrs will point to their wounds, their sufferings, the severed parts of their bodies, and to their endurance to the end. The ascetics will point to their asceticism, to their long fasts and vigils, to their liberality, their tears and their endurance to the end. But we, idle, sinful, transgressing as we are, what shall we be able to point to? Spare us, O merciful One! Spare us, O Thou Lover of mankind!" These are the words of St. Ephraim the Syrian quoted and they are words that perhaps cause us to squirm in our seats.

Synaxis of St. John The Baptist

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On Tuesday of last week, the day after Theophany, the church celebrated the synaxis of St. John the Baptist. In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior. We were not able to have a service for Saint John and so I would like to honor him by speaking about him in my sermon this morning.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

Glory to the Father ant to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. We celebrate all those who from ages past have been well-pleasing to God, beginning from Adam even unto Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, we also commemorate the Prophets and Prophetesses, and especially the Prophet Daniel and the Holy Three Children. It is fitting and right that today we ponder on the lives of the saints and the impact they made in this world while they were living. They are our example because they made the best use of their time that one can make. They took what they were given and brought forth abundant fruit. Fr. Alexander Schmemann used to say that every person is born with a different deck of cards, and that the key to one’s spiritual life is to play the best hand with the hand that one was given. We have all been given different hands: we each have our own set of circumstances, a different family of origin, diverse personality traits, different abilities and gifts.

Last Judgement

Matthew 25:31-46

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

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