Fear Not

April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

What do I fear?  Lots of things I suppose, depending on the season of life and the circumstances I find myself facing.  I fear looking bad when I lead a meeting or have to give a presentation.  I fear not being able to make enough money to provide for my family.  I fear that maybe my faith isn’t authentic or that the God I embrace isn’t true.  None of these is overwhelming, though the one that’s probably the most real is the fear of financial provision—what if I lose my job and can’t find another good job?  What if I have to work for half of what I make now?  What if I have to take a manual labor job?  I don’t want to do such things and I pray for God’s mercy that I won’t be placed is such situations.

During the Lenten season, which is penitential by nature, the hymns of the Church focus on how we have turned away from God and squandered our rich heritage.  Now while not being literally true (all of the time), all of us, to some degree or another, has turned away from God.  We don’t love God was we should.  We don’t walk in peace and trust.  We don’t believe the Word of God.  We don’t love our neighbor as God desires.  We don’t pick up our cross and follow Christ passionately.  In short, we have wandered from God’s original intent and design for humanity.  Someone once said that the most repeated command in Scripture is ‘fear not.’  If this is true, then fear is certainly a result of our separation from God and never meant to be a part of God’s original vocabulary.  By the grace of God he has shown us the path to wholeness by becoming Wholeness himself.  Let us not fear the One who faced—and conquered—the greatest of all fears: death itself.  Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through His Son, amen.

On Repentance

March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Justification in the New Testament does not mean a transaction – a kind of deal; and repentance defies mechanical definition. It is a continual enactment of freedom, a movement forward, deriving from renewed choice and leading to restoration. The aim of the Christian is not even justification but a re-entry by sinner and saint alike into communion in which God and man meet once again and personal experience of divine life becomes possible. Both prodigal and saint are “repenting sinners.”

Repentance is not to be confused with mere remorse, with a self-regarding feeling of being sorry for a wrong done. It is not a state but a stage, a beginning. Rather, it is an invitation to new life, an opening up of new horizons, the gaining of a new vision. Christianity testifies that the past can be undone. It knows the mystery of obliterating or rather renewing memory, of forgiveness and regenera­tion, eschewing the fixed division between the “good” and the “wicked,” the pious and the rebellious, the believers and the unbelievers. Indeed, “the last” can be “the first,” the sin­ner can reach out to holiness. Passions are conquered by stronger passions; love is overcome by more abundant love. One repents not because one is virtuous, but because human nature can change, because what is impossible for man is possible for God. The motive for repentance is at all times humility, unself-sufficiency – not a means of justification for oneself, or of realizing some abstract idea of goodness, or of receiving a reward in some future life. Just as the strength of God is revealed in the extreme vulnerability of His Son on the Cross, so also the greatest strength of man is to embrace his weakness: “for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I render glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12.9). To be flawed is the illogical, perhaps supernatural characteristic of humanity in which one en­counters God.”

Read the entire article on Repentance and Confession – An Introduction

Friday, 2nd Week of Lent

February 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Matins, Canticle Five
“Crucified, Thou dost release me from corruption; pierced by a lance, Thou makest me immortal.  I glorify Thine ineffable mercy, O Christ, for Thou hast come to save me” (Lenten Triodion Supplement, 110).

Matins, Canticle Nine
“Through Thy Crucifixion Thou doest open Paradise again and deliver me from the eternal death of disobedience.  With rejoicing I partake of life, and magnify Thee as my God, O Thou who lovest mankind.

O Lord, Thy lifecreating Cross has turned the instrument of the curse into a seal of blessing.  Beholding Thee upon it, we who before were dead are brought back to life, and singing Thy praises we magnify Thee as our Master” (Lenten Triodion Supplement, 113).

Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

February 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Matins, Canticle One

“O Thou who alone art full of love, fountain of mercy, Lamb of God, who in Thy divine power takest away the transgressions of the world, save me, for I am sinking in the waves of sin, and guide me to the haven of repentance” (The Lenten Triodion Supplement, 75).

Metropolitan Jonah on Great Lent 2010

February 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy,
Monastics, and Faithful of
The Orthodox Church in America

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The gateway to divine repentance has been opened: let us enter eagerly, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ who has called the world into the heavenly Kingdom. Let us offer to the King of all a tenth part of the whole year, that we may look with love upon His Resurrection. [Cheesefare Monday, Matins sessional hymn]

We approach the Great Fast as our preparation to celebrate the life-giving Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Great Lent is a time of great beauty and profundity, a time which the Church calls the “tithe of the year” which we give to Christ in a spirit of fasting and self-denial. We fast, we pray, we go to services, and we give alms. But what is different in us the very day after Pascha? Have we attained inner peace? Have we come to self-control over our passions? Has my soul been healed, even a little?

Lent is the time for repentance. But that repentance does not simply mean feeling sorry for our sins, much less trying to do some kind of penitential acts to atone for them. Rather, the goal of repentance is the transformation of our minds and hearts, our very consciousness. It means a transformation of our whole life. To engage it means that we have to embrace change. This change not only affects our diet for a few weeks, or abstaining from some bad habits. It means a different way of behaving, of perceiving God, ourselves, our neighbors. It means a rejection and renunciation of the ways we have been living and treating others, and the adoption of a new way of life. We have to come to the recognition that how we have been living and behaving does not lead us deeper into communion with God and our neighbors, but rather alienates us from both, and from our very self.

So often we become trapped by our own self-righteousness and pride, thinking that we do not have to change. This is delusion. If we are so sure of ourselves, how have we left room for God to even show us our shortcomings? We fall into the trap of the Pharisee. This is especially the case when we let ourselves criticize and judge our neighbors. If we allow ourselves to judge and criticize, then we can be sure that we have cast God out of our lives. Who needs Him, if I can judge everyone and everything? We pick and pick at our neighbors, from external appearances to deep judgments about their integrity. And in so doing, we destroy our own souls. We project all our own insecurities on those around us, not caring whose feelings we hurt or whose lives we destroy. And in reality, it has nothing to do with that other person; our judgment is only an image of myself and my insecurities, and the sins we don’t want to admit to ourselves.

If we judge and criticize our neighbor, our fasting is in vain. Our repentance is hypocrisy. And we make a mockery of Jesus Christ. We receive the Eucharist unto damnation. And we are oblivious to it, in our own self-righteousness.

Repentance, being “transformed in the renewal of our minds,” means that, like the Prodigal, we have “come to ourselves,” and recognized that our minds and hearts have taken the wrong road. We can perhaps see some of the damage we are causing to ourselves and others. We recognize that our minds are filled with angry, suspicious, judgmental, and self-righteous thoughts, and that we have no inner peace.

How do we repent? The first thing we must do is withdraw from the stimulus: to stop exposing ourselves — temporarily — to the issues and people that bring up these angry thoughts and judgments. We have to stop ourselves from rehearsing the wrongs done to us (and hence our judgment and condemnation of the person who wronged us), and realize this is just our own self-justification rooted in pride and vainglory. Then we need to pray that God will forgive us for our anger and pride, and forgive the other for what he or she has done. Then we can let it go. So long as we are provoked by thoughts of the remembrance of wrongs (resentments), and react with anger, we have not worked it through. But when the remembrance of something no longer disturbs our peace, we know that God has worked in our hearts.

Great Lent can be a clinic, a hospital, for our souls that are sick with the passions. Have we been healed? We can have our minds and hearts lifted up to heaven itself, if we want. We can use Great Lent to lay the foundational stones of discipline, and build habits that will stay with us the rest of the year. We can emerge from Lent with our hearts illumined and our minds cleansed, with a new way of being. Will we allow ourselves to change and be transformed in repentance?

It is only this transformation that will open our spiritual eyes, that in our hearts and with all our being we will be able to shout with joy, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

With love in our Merciful Savior,

+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Homily for Forgiveness Vespers

February 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

by Fr. John Parker

“I thought it might be helpful to us if we began the fast with an exhortation which matched the beautiful    Paschal Sermon of our Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom.  May the Lord bless our ascetical effort   and sanctify us all thereby!”

“If anyone be devout and love God,

Let him commence this radiant fast with joy!

If anyone be a wise servant,

Let him, rejoicing, enter into the school of repentance.

We who have wallowed long in sin,

Let us now begin our return.

If anyone has strayed from the first hour,

Let him today repent with zeal.

If anyone has sinned from the third hour,

Let him with gratitude embrace the fast.

If anyone has fled God from the sixth hour,

Let him have no misgivings about his prompt return;

Because he shall in nowise be turned away therefore.

If anyone has indulged the flesh since the ninth hour,

Let him draw near, fearing God alone and trusting in His mercy.

And if anyone has turned away only at the eleventh hour, Let him also not hesitate to turn back with haste.

For the Lord, who is longsuffering and full of compassion and mercy, will accept the last even as the first.

He restores him who repents at the first hour,

As He does him who turns back at the eleventh.

And He shows mercy upon the last,

And cares for the first;

And to the one He gives,

And upon the other He bestows gifts.

And He both accepts the confession,

And welcomes the intention,

And honors the contrite heart and rejoices in the return.

Wherefore, enter all of you into the holiness of your Lord;

Offer your repentance,

Both the last, and likewise the first.

You rich and poor together, repent, for today we stand outside the closed gates of paradise.

You sober and you heedless, prostrate yourselves before your King!

Return to the Lord today, both you who have sinned with knowledge and those who have done so in ignorance.

Your pantries are full; empty them to the hungry.

The belly enslaves us, let no one be dominated thereby.

Enter all of you into the Great Fast;

Stripped of heavenly wealth by sin, all draw near to God’s rich loving-kindness!

Let no one despair in his sinfulness,

For the Bridegroom comes at midnight.

Weep all of you for your iniquities,

And draw near to the life-giving Cross of our Lord.

Let no one put confidence in the flesh,

For the Devil has deceived us all thereby, and therewith enslaves us to sin.

By turning from God, we are made captives.

We have called good evil and evil good, and put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.

And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:

Woe to those who put darkness for light, and light for darkness!

We are embittered, for we are banned from Eden.

We are embittered, but it is we who have mocked God.

We are embittered, for now we shall surely die.

We are embittered, for we have succumbed to the serpent.

We are embittered, for we are fettered in chains.

We partook of a fruit, and met the deceiver.

We were entrusted with paradise, but we chose Hell.

Our eyes were opened to see the nakedness of sin.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver us!

O Lord, make haste to help us!

This is the acceptable time, let us repent!

This is the day of salvation, let us crucify the passions!

The end is at hand and destruction hangs over us!

The end draws nigh, let us come again to our senses!

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, what first-fruit shall we offer?

Let us delay not, lest we remain dead in the grave, sold under sin!

For God desires not the death of the sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live!

So, let us choose life, and live, for the mercy of God endures forever!

To Him be glory and dominion, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

HT: Fr. Steven Freeman

The Third Sunday in Lent

March 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

lententriodion

The Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (pg 335)

“O Christ our God, of Thine own will Thou has accepted Crucifixion, that all mankind might be restored to life.  Taking the quill of the Cross, out of love for man in the red ink of royalty with bloody fingers Thou has signed our absolution.”

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