Blowin In The Wind

The fall time of the year is such a colorful time in our lives. The green lush spring is now infused with trees of color. Scientist believe that leaves change color as the daylight hours draw shorter and it becomes cooler in the night. A biochemical processes in the leaves begin to paint the landscape with Nature’s autumn palette. Pretty soon the brilliant colors will become drab and the now deadened leafs will fall to the ground and blow into my yard. But it wasn’t that long ago that the days began to get longer and the brown and gray vegetation became green with life. Cultivators went to work preparing and planting. Warmth came with insects and pollination and gentle rain for nourishment. And now with the season of growth nearing its end, we look for nature’s lifeless period in its’ next season.

 
Our earthly life also has seasons. At times there is newness of life and also at times a bit drab or demise. Newness of life is at its peak when we Christians find repentance and forgiveness. This is our cultivating season and our Lord sends His grace for pollination which for us repentant is the spreading of His love through love. And His mercy rains down on us quenching our Godless drought of self-love and self-pity. And in this time of spiritual harvest, we move closer to the Divine and our healthy colors are brilliant and vibrant.

 
Forgetting to put God first in all things brings darkness over our souls and we begin our decent into the drab colorless season in our lives. Turning from God severs our eternal nutrient supply. In the last number of years my wife has noticed another color change in me. On occasion, she sees a color change in my face. Redness appears in my checks if my blood pressure is elevated. This redness occurs if I am hustling about doing tasks or if I am experiencing anger with my fellow man. As far as my health is concerned, I am getting older but I do not make time to stay in shape and I do not always take into consideration the nutritional foods that I eat. The fast will be here soon to help me with this! Maybe with all the leaves arriving in my yard I can gain some exercise by raking and gathering them.  And as far as my spiritual health, I continue to be angered by my fellow man instead of looking inward, blowing like a dead leaf in the wind. My type “A” personality blinds me and my world at times only contains me! I fail to exercise my soul as I forget my salvation. Saint John of Damaskos says: “Without practice and preparation it is not possible for anyone to attain deification (theosis) and communion with God.”

 
In my busyness, I don’t take ample time to help my brother, Lazarus (Lk 16:29). Maybe if I knew when my earthly expiration date was, I would spend more time being about my Father’s business. Maybe if I spend more time reading about Moses and the prophets than wasting my life away on electronic entertainment I would be better prepared for the next life and the judgment in which all my deeds will be made known. Rest assured, our days on this Earth are numbered and the pursuit of purple and fine linen takes away the time we have been given to be the church. We cannot allow the winds of time to blow us around where the winds will take us! We need to put our salvation as the most important task in our lives! We need to stay in the season of growth springing our souls to be more like God, finding our salvific nutrients in the deep fertile soil of Orthodoxy and becoming more vibrant in the Holy Sacraments of the church. Less of me, More of Him!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-5-17

MORTALITY

And He approached and touched the bier, and those bearing it stood still. And He said: “Young man, I say to thee, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to talk. And He gave him to his mother. [Lk.7:14-15]

 
The young man in the Gospel reading this morning was lifeless; his very heart had stopped beating. His future earthly plans were now in shambles; his mother was grieving for her great loss. And then into the emptiness of death walked the brilliance of everything that is. And those lifeless members of his body that were dead were now restored to life and humanity.

 
Both the mother and son would eventually repose in their mortality because this life that we now struggle with is just temporary. But there is another kind of death that we wrestle with that is even greater than mortality. If we spend our days and hours without Christ we will truly learn what it means to suffer. Venerable St. Bade says: “Whoever will not guard his senses, leaves open a way for death to enter!” And St. Ambrose writes: “You must not be greatly troubled about many things, but you should care for the main thing — preparing yourself for death.” St. Ambrose of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

 

 

Our body will return to the earth but not be lost, and our soul will embrace judgment. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believeth in Me, though he die, he shall live; “and everyone who liveth and believeth in Me, in no wise shall ever die. Believest thou this?” [Jn. 11:25-26] These ideas are captured in the Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief; however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the general resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or vice.” (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18)

 
Be not afraid for God is working in our lives to save us from our destruction. His grace is an invisible element in the air we breathe with visible results. His grace is the love of your Heavenly Father longing for you to come home. Christ touches our deathly bier at the Sacrament of Holy Communion, restoring that which was confessed to newness. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

 
St. Dorotheos of Gaza writes: “A man obtains the fear of God if he has the remembrance of his unavoidable death and of the eternal torments that await sinners; If he tests himself every evening as to how he has spent the day, and every morning as to how he has spent the night, and if he is not sharp in his relations with others.” (St. Dorotheos, Soul-Profiting Teachings, 4)

 
Let go of this world and its death and thirst for the next! Do not be troubled and hold on to Christ who has defeated death with death and is waiting for you to come home!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10/22/17

FRESH MEAT

I have always been fascinated with animals and their instinct of survival. Every day, their life actions and movements usually catch my attention. Nature is survival to the fittest! We all remember the survivalist hiking motto that while we are in the mountains at Reddish Knob or Big Meadows, we don’t have to be the fastest one in our group but we can’t be the slowest! If we are slow or weak, we may become the first offering to the wild and untamed carnivores!

 
At home during my cave-time, I like to watch a show on the History Channel called Mountain Men. At the beginning of each episode the announcer states: “Beyond the edges of civilization, man is not at the top of the food chain. And, nature gives no second chances to those fighting to survive…”Every week I watch these folks survive amongst extreme weather conditions, unpredictable rivers or ice, and red-blooded animals fighting to survive in their inhabitant. A sign of weakness would surely bring the predators in and a confrontation with the mountain men. To survive in these conditions, weakness will result in certain death in the midst of this natural food chain.

 
As a contrast to this theme of survival, we must become fresh meat. As Christians, we must surrender our weaknesses to the wild untamed world, becoming prey for those lost in the deep thickets of life and submissive to a life that prospers in the deathly wealth found in the darkness of our choices. St. Isaac the Syrian once said, “He who senses his sins, is greater than he who raises the dead with his prayer. He who groans one hour for his soul, is greater than he who benefits the whole world. He who is made worthy to see himself, is greater than he who is made worthy to see angels. To him who knows himself, is given the knowledge of all things. For the knowledge of ourselves is the fullness of knowledge of all things.”

 
Unlike the Mountain Men episodes, we as Christians focus not as much on our here and now human needs but more about where we will find rest after our human bodies fail to exist. Our future survival depends on us exposing our weakness and relying on Christ to strengthen us. We read in the Epistle this morning: “My grace is sufficient for thee; for My power is being made perfect in weakness.” [2 Cor. 12:9]

 
We remember the great Creator of all things in His example to us crucified upon the cross! We heard the choir sing: “He who suspended the earth upon the waters, is suspended upon a tree.” No matter how strong we are physically or emotionally we must empty ourselves so that we may be filled with the greatest survival kit available to mankind, the unfailing power of the Holy Spirit! “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” [2 Cor. 12:10]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-15-17

Our Creator loves His creation!

What was used to bring death to a condemned criminal is now used to bring life for us wayward sinners. The piece of wood that held the dead body of our Lord could not consume the Alpha, no, encompassed by the loving embrace of our Designer, the Holy Cross is our beginning of life without end. Our Creator loves His creation!

 

We celebrate the season of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at the beginning of the church year and at the beginning of another school year! The Church reminds us that only through humility can we embrace salvation. “For God did not send forth His Son into the world in order that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” [Jn. 3:17] The Lamb was slain not to pay our debt but to rescue us from our fallen condition and offer us sinners a healing relationship with God. How hard it is for this mortal man to understand the kind of love that is perfect and not flawed by our human woundedness and selfishness. Our Creator loves His creation!

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life.” [Jn. 3:16] Although I have tasted the sweetness of salvation and felt the warm embrace of God, my habitual frame of mind tends to return me to my sinfulness like a dog seeking his vomit, finding deathful rest in the comfortable surroundings of my past frequent worldly choices. And then I fall down at the cross confessing my sinfulness and lack of trust in anyone other than myself, regaining my path to eternity, and my Father welcomes me home. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”( Psalm 34:8) Our Creator loves His creation!

 

“Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is good and My burden is light.” [Mt. 11:28-30] Perhaps you too are feeling overwhelmed by the dark shadows of this world. It is time for a change! You are not alone! You are a member of this family, His family! You and I are Blood-kin! Our Creator loves His creation!

 
Glory to God who has shown us the Light!

Fr.G
9/24/17rm

TELEMARKETERS

Many years ago, I went online and registered all of my phone numbers on a do-not-call-list! I am sure that you too have experienced sales calls from a telemarketer or robocalls from an electronic source of intelligence. Before registering, we used to get called at supper time but now, it seems as though we are getting called all hours of the day even from local numbers!

 


With caller I.D., I can choose to answer the call or not but now with these folks using local numbers they have become more difficult to recognize. This week I checked on line at the Do-Not-Call registry and verified several of my numbers: Thank you for registering your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You successfully registered your phone number ending in 8777 on March 03, 2006. Well, so much for them following the rules!

 
Back in the day if I had the time, I would entertain these folks by stalling them while they had me on the phone. One poor soul spent 30 minutes with me as I continued to converse with him and then lay the phone down for a couple minutes and then come back with a question about his product and then repeat the process, he sure liked to talk! I know, it sounds mean since those folks have a living to make as well but I was being interrupted during my family time without my consent. These calls were and are unwanted! I would have to say that I have never purchased something from one of these callers but they keep calling!

 
Perhaps that habit of checking the caller I.D. before answering the call has infiltrated my life in Christ. We here in the Gospel reading today: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Mt. 22:14] Rest assured that our Creator has used every possible path to reach each and every one of us! He sends us ample opportunities to take action and answer His call. All of mankind has a longing for God but some of us turn our backs to the Creator and become our own Alpha and Omega. We put on filthy corrupt garments and His call is unwanted and unanswered!

 
We read in the letters to the Church in Rome: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye did not receive a spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye received a Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” [Rom. 8:14-16]

 
Saint John Chrysostom writes: “Great is the punishment for those who have been idle, indifferent, lazy. For even as those who showed insolence and gave injury by not coming, so also dost thou by thus reclining with a life corrupted. For the meaning of filthy garments is this: to depart hence having an unclean life. [Ib., P.G. 58:681, 682 (cols. 650, 651).]

 
When God calls you and tugs on your heart, are you answering His Call? Maybe next time, I’ll buy what He is selling!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9/10/17

CAMPFIRE

Arriving at camp this year with darkness nearing, we pulled our pop up camper up to the clergy cabin, also known as the hut of snoring, and began to situate the camper out of the way. Fr. Jonah’s joyful face appeared from his family wagon and he suggested that we arrange our camper to allow for a campfire. My wife loves campfires! In all the years attending camp we had always been to distracted or unwilling to put forth the effort needed to accomplish such a feat at the clergy cabin.

 
Did I mention that my wife loves campfires! There already existed a fire-pit surrounded with Pennsylvania rocks and there was already a little dry wood sitting on the porch. And I also happened to bring by cordless circular saw along to add dry limbs to the burn pile. So, with a little effort and some camp chairs, we were set!

 
At nightfall with flames jumping, thanks to Matushka campfire abilities, Fr. Andrei said: “There is something peaceful about watching the flames of a campfire.” We sat around the fire sharing our victories and struggles and a story or two. Seems like when I share my heavy burdens with my brothers, the load seems lighter! We sat around the fire as family. Orthodoxy is one big family. We sat around the fire watching the unharnessed flames dance about as the smoke ascended towards the stars.

 
Back home now and back to the grinder of life I miss that time sitting around the campfire. It was a time to escape. It was a time to remember that my everyday hustle and bustle entices me to love myself more than others. And so on it goes, paying bills, going to work and all of these actions that have become distractions from what I was born to be, a lover of man-kind.
We read in the instructions to the church in Hebrews, “Our God is a consuming fire.” [Heb. 12:29] And I remember how peaceful it was staring at the camp-fire but then I return to the world and fall into want. I seem to have assembled my life in a method of my control. Just as someone dipping his toe in the water to check the temperature, I have only allowed myself to admire the flames but not trusting God enough to be consumed in His fire!

 

The church Fathers say that God’s fire is actually His love. When we chose to hate our enemies as we have seen recently in the news, we experience a negative aspect of God’s fiery-love. Hate is a four-letter word that will rob you of your salvation! But in His salvific love a Reformed pastor once told me that if you are on fire for Christ, people will come from miles around to watch you burn! Maybe my kindling is too wet for that to ever happen. Perhaps I hate myself and others more than I love God? I’ll have to take an inventory of my time and see how much effort I truly spend building His church! But maybe one day with the help of God I will become a burning bush of love with flames dancing about bringing peace to a world in turmoil, with a fire that cannot be extinguished!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9/13/17

Music-On-Hold

At work and at home as I try to contact manufacturers and customer service folks, they have me press some buttons on the phone for English and some more buttons to try to route my call to the correct person. The computer answering the phone may probe me for more in-depth information about the nature of my call. Most of the time while I try to patiently wait, the companies and organizations play music or some infomercial as I hold the line. After a couple of minutes, I normally get irritated with the wait and began erratically pushing buttons, trying to circumvent the higher level of intelligence processing my call and connect with a human to converse with. Sometimes the silicone creature routing my call hangs up on me and I have to begin the process of pressing the correct buttons and begin my wait all over!

 
Why do people today need to be constantly distracted? After all isn’t that what music-on-hold is? This entertainment is taking my mind off the amount of time I am spending waiting. I remember some 25 years ago when my young son was sitting in the back seat of our Ford Tempo and he began to cry. I asked him what was wrong because he usually would nap while I drove and he said; “I don’t have anything in my hands”! He thought if he could entertain himself he would be able to stay awake! And now today everywhere we go we see things on sale to keep us entertained. I believe the latest distraction is a thing called a spinner and I am sure for folks with kids with very active minds the spinner helps keep them occupied and allows their parents some sanity.

 
Does your mind wander and seek out “music-on-hold”? We Orthodox can use the “Jesus Prayer” as a filler rather than filling that space with junk noise. And as we recite those salvific words, we draw closer to Christ we then remember our brothers and sisters and their struggles, lifting them up in prayer. Are our lives in need of constant entertaining or can we be still and move close to God? Saint Mathew recounted: And Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ [Mt. 22:37] “All thy mind” seems to be constant battle!

 
The Russian Bishop and Saint, Ignatius Brianchaninov wrote: The distracted person is like a house without doors or gates. No treasure whatsoever can be kept in such a house. It is open for thieves, robbers, and harlots. The distracted life, completely full of earthly cares, gains for a person heaviness just as gluttony and surfeiting do (cf. Luke 21: 34). Such a person is attached to the earth. He is occupied with only the temporary and vain. The service of God becomes for the distracted person an irrelevant subject. The very thought about this service is something for him wild, full of darkness, and unbearably heavy…. Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith, No. 7, Presentation of the Theotokos, November 2001, pp. 123-4

 
Our minds are an empty void waiting to be filled. Feed your mind with spiritual things! Don’t allow your life to breeze by, tolerating music-on-hold and the distractions of life that rot away your pursuit of holiness. And don’t allow your artificially intelligent phone to constantly distract you and fill that void either! Time is precious. Be about your Father’s business!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-23-17

Happily Tormented in the Pig Pen

Today we recount the story of the demon possessed men and the swine drowning in the sea. This account from the Gospel of Saint Matthew is also echoed in the Gospels of Mark and Luke as well. Swine have a vivid memory in my life! My aunt and uncle raised hogs and their home was sandwiched between a pig-pen where table scraps were often cast, and the farrowing or birthing house where little piggies played and squealed. I remember the sight and the smell all too well!

 
Let’s dive if we shall into the pig-pen! Raising swine for food is against the Jewish law so the mostly Gentile townsfolk were not welcoming a Jew sent by God. I don’t want You here in my darkness, go away. I do not want to change, go away! We don’t want to abide by the law, go away! The hogs, unlike the possessed men chose to drown themselves in the ocean rather than live with this demon. What a waste of port chops but after all, maybe the swine should not have been there in the first place amongst the Jews.

 
Most of us Christians eat pork with a few exceptions including our Eritrean and Ethiopian friends next door. Old Testament restrictions against eating pork were rules specifically governing ritual cleanliness and were intended to be applied only to the Jews. St. Paul and the Jerusalem council decided this and in Acts 21, St. Paul states that circumcision was not necessary for the Gentiles nor was the restrictions against eating pork and shellfish. Bacon, bacon, bacon!

 
We all have some things in common with the possessed tribesmen. At times we tend to keep our sins in the comfort of darkness, bathing in the rich fertile mud enticed with manure, rather than exposing our temptations to the correction and healing of Christ. St. Theophan writes: “When a man is given over to the passions, he does not see them in himself and does not fight against them, because he lives in them and by them. But when the grace of God becomes active in him, he begins to discern the passionate and sinful in himself, acknowledge them, and to repent and decide to guard against them. A struggle begins. At first, the struggle begins with deeds, but when is released from shameful deeds, then the struggle begins with shameful thoughts and feelings. And here the struggle encounters many steps … The struggle continues. The passions increasingly are torn out of the heart. It even happens that they are entirely torn out … The sign that the passions are torn out of the heart is that the soul begins to feel repulsion and hatred for the passions.” (St. Theophan the Recluse, How the Spiritual Life Proceeds)

 

We come to church with judgment and anger and look for ways to be irritated! Do we really want God or do we want the demons? Do we really want Jesus coming into our home exposing our sins and telling us what to do? Go away! I’ll cozy up to Christ when it is convenient for me.
We all say the prayer: “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one!” Saint James writes in his first chapter: “Let no one when he is tempted be saying, “I am tempted of God”; for God is incapable of being tempted of evils, and He Himself tempteth no one. But each is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desire. Then after he conceiveth the desire, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, after it is fully formed, bringeth forth death. Cease being led astray, my beloved brethren; every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the lights, with Whom is no alternation or a shadow cast by turning. [Jas. 1:13-17]

 
If we chose to continue wallowing in the darkness of sin telling the Lord to Go Away, we must be happily tormented in the pig pen of sin!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7/9/17

NOT-ME

I am sure that we all grew up with someone that usually was blamed when mom or dad recognized a bad behavior or a mess that appeared out of thin air. In early years, it usually is the youngest or most defenseless and then tends to change as we grow older. In my family, we usually blamed NOT-ME. NOT-ME never confessed to any of the malefactions and our authorities were never convinced of his guilt either. But on occasion we, the guilty ones, came clean and accepted the responsibility for our actions.

 
Blaming others for our conduct and transgressions is a very common occurrence, “If they hadn’t….” or “If only….” We certainly are shaped by our environment but we are given the ability to improve and the free-will to move towards the light. We read in Proverbs: “Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins.” (Prov.5:22) Without an effort to become more like Christ, we chose to die “Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mk 9:48)

 
Taking responsibility for our wrongs is part of growing towards the Light. A good many of our prayers are written in a way to help us reflect upon our worldliness and expose opportunities for improvement. Repentance means a true change of heart and life. Saint Ambrose wrote: “What is the outer darkness? Surely, there is not there a prison and stone cells to be endured? By no means. But whoever are outside the promises of the heavenly commandments are in the outer darkness, because God’s ordinances are light, and whoever is without Christ is in darkness, because Christ is the inner light.”

 
NOT-ME has been around since the beginning of time. He was there lurking in the Garden of Eden and he was even there with the disciples at the last supper: “And as they were eating, He said, “Verily I say to you, that one of you shall deliver Me up.” And being exceedingly grieved, they began to say to Him, each of them, “I am not the one, am I, Lord?”[Mt. 26:21-22] NOT-ME LORD, no, NOT-ME!

 

NOT-ME is a part of my programming and still taking the blame in my marriage, at work and even here in the Temple of the Lord! Perhaps I am a better habitat for the worms than a beacon of Theosis! But thanks be to God that He has not given up on me and hopefully I am not the man I used to be. I pray I can stay pliable in the hands of the Great Sculptor of life. And through the powerful prescription implemented by church tradition, release NOT-ME from his contract with the deceiver, and help me to be renewed in the Light of Christ.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7/2/2017

A CHIP OFF THE OLE BLOCK

I wish we could pick and choose what habits and behaviors we pass on to the next generation. We all adapt and mimic our surroundings and we learn behaviors from our parents and mentors. In our formative years we tend to be very keen and aware, observing, adapting and learning. I remember as a young parent my children repeating words and phrases I had said, at times awakening me to the cold hard fact that I needed to make some changes! And I can still hear Grandparents telling my children that they are a “chip off the ole block” not realizing wither they were complimenting or scolding them.

 

In Genesis we remember: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [Gen 1:26-27] That’s my goal, for folks to see God in me, to be a chip off the Divine Block! Now that would be something I would want my children and grandchildren to imitate!

 

How to we become more like our heavenly Father? We all have the examples set by the saints of the church! And we have these instructions found in the Gospel reading today: “And He saith to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [Mt. 4:19] We have the remedy and call to action found in Mathew 5:44-48: “But I say to you, keep on loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, doing well to those who hate you, and keep on praying for those who despitefully use you and are persecuting you, “so that ye might become sons of your Father Who is in the heavens; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. “For if ye love those who love you, what reward are ye having? Even the tax collectors are doing the same, are they not? “And if ye greet your brethren only, what extraordinary thing are ye doing? Even the tax collectors are so doing, are they not? “Ye shall be perfect, even as your Father who is in the heavens is perfect.” [Mt. 5:44-48]

 

Today we dedicate the liturgy to the great saints of the church and we hear the words of St. John Chrysostom: “The memory of those saints establishes and recovers the soul, which has been exhausted by ills, as a cloud that provides shade from the most flaming heat of the sun’s rays.” [Hom. 28, P.G. 63:256 (col. 193).] May the teachings given to us by our Heavenly Father help us all be an icon of Christ, and our families will be blessed to be a chip off of the ole block!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6/18/2017