Losing Our Lives for Christ in Our Hardships

For the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Church both prepares us for the feast with a special reading the Sunday before, and also, today, sends us off from the feast with a special reading the Sunday after. This past Sunday’s gospel reading, for the Sunday after the feast of the Cross, is what our holy Fathers want us to take away from the feast.

And actually, there was a reading the day before, too, for the Saturday after the feast, with the same theme. The theme of both of these passages is the practical application of the Cross of Christ to our lives. In Saturday’s gospel reading, Jesus says: When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.

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Going the “Extra Mile” in Forgiveness

The Gospel passage mentioned in the last post said, …if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. But, going the “extra mile” in forgiveness, in his first epistle, St. Peter says:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. And James echoes this same idea of “covering” the sins of others: …whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This covering others’ sins is something we don’t think about much, though it has been around a while…in Proverbs, love covers all offenses, and elsewhere in Proverbs,
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,…

We not only are called to forgive, but to actively use love to cover sins.

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Women in Orthodox Hymnography

Without a doubt, the spirit and tone of some of our hymnography comes across wrong to today’s hearer, especially when it comes to women. I do not condone the rewriting of hymns to just to pacify modern sensitivities, but rewording (and even just re-punctuating) can often bring out the original, beautiful intent of the text.

Here is one example and how I reworded it:

The tears of Mary were not shed in vain; for, behold! she was counted worthy of having angels instruct her and Jesus Himself appear to her. But, as a weak woman, she thought earthly thoughts. Wherefore, she was turned away and commanded not to touch Christ. Yet was she sent as a herald to Thy disciples, bearing glad tidings to them and announcing Thine ascension to the portion of the Father. With her count us worthy, 0 Lord and Master, of Thine appearance. (The 8th Evangelical Sticheron from Sunday Matins)

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Our Daily Offerings

The Gospel passage this past Sunday was the Matthew passage of the feeding of the five thousand. What struck me most was the concern of the disciples. Their hearts are in the right place. The multitudes are out in this deserted place, and the disciples are concerned about their welfare.

Jesus surprises them by suggesting they find something for the multitudes to eat. Not at all out of stinginess, but just seeing the impossibility of the situation, the disciples say they only have five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes this meager offering, and does the impossible.

Christ is not asking us to do more than we are able, not asking us to give more than we have, not asking us to be more than we are. He is just asking for our five loaves and two fish.

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How to Pray for Ukraine

Ukraine’s top Church leader, Metropolitan Onufriy, not only called on his people to pray (early on in the war), but gave them a prayer rule. It is short and simple, and he asked them to pray it at least once a day.

Pray Psalm 90 (91) with twelve prostrations or bows. “He who dwells in the help of the most high shall abide in the shelter of heaven’s God.”…

Bishop Daniel of Chicago, who spoke to one of the Ukrainian bishops in those first few days, suggested we all join them in their prayer rule, as well as fasting for them. The war started right on the verge of Great Lent, and with such a disruption of daily life, many Ukrainians likely could not keep to the fast as they normally would have. Now, we are on the verge of another fast, the fast in preparation for the Dormition of the Mother of God on August, 15th. So, this is an opportunity to take up our brother’s burden and carry it for him.

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