KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

I recently watched a show about people roughing it deep, deep in the woods of virtually unexplored territory. On a week-long excursion, the folks began to set up camp as darkness closed in around them. One of the men was given the task of gathering enough firewood to cook with

and to add warmth and light to their secluded site. After a meal and some cleanup, the group prepared to get some sleep after a very long and tiring day. One of the men was stoking up the fire as best he could before retiring and as he looked into the camera he said these words: If the fire goes out, the predators come in!”

 
Here in the city, we just experienced the Paschal fire where the great Light crippled the darkness of hell. We had prepared by spending our time fasting and praying before Pascha and reciting the prophecies and Gospel drama leading up to the salvific event. And at midnight, in total darkness, the light of Christ filled the room. We took our candles and went out the door into the city proclaiming the victory of Christ over death! We celebrated that victory by receiving the Body and Blood of our Savior! And then some of us broke the fast at the IHOP.

 
The greatest feast day of the Christian church has come and gone for another year, so now, what? Don’t let your fire go out! The resurrection of Christ is always present! The Book of Revelations says: The gates of hell are shut and locked and Christ holds the key! (Rev 1:17-18)

 
We read in 1 Peter: Be sober, watch; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he might devour. [1 Pe. 5:8] You see, the great deceiver is a predator and wants to separate you from God. He tells you that you are doing great and all of these church services are not necessary! You don’t need to come to church Saturday evenings! He tells you your daily prayers are not necessary and it is okay to miss a day or two! He stirs up a cloud of pride as he tries to separate you from other sinners here at the church! He tells you that all of your earnings are yours and you do not need to tithe! He steals away all of our precious time and you are unable to read your bibles! He keeps you away from the confessional and the Great Healing Gifts of Christ! The evil one is hunting for your soul! He is the most ruthless, vicious, flesh-eater on the face of the Earth! Do not listen to that liar, keep the fire burning!

 
The Apostle James states it most clearly: faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17) Keep you and your family safe by stoking the Pascal campfire by personally increasing the amount of time you spend working on your salvation, and the light of Christ will increase in you and will keep the predator out of your camp and home! Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tomb bestowing life!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/23/17

Holy Myrrhbearers Feast Day

The Holy Myrrhbearers: Saints Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome (daughter of Joseph), Mary (Joseph’s sister) the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha (Lazarus’s sisters), Obedient to the observance of the Sabbath, the women waited until the following sunrise after the Sabbath to launch their plan into action. They were going to do something costly, something dangerous, something maybe even foolish in the eyes of many others, but they knew in their hearts that it was the right thing to do.
The Holy Myrrhbearers were poor peasant housewives with the exception of St. Joanna, who was the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza. Yet the Evangelist Mark tells us they purchased large amounts of pricey myrrh, ointments, and perfumes with which to anoint the body of the Lord. These humble servants sacrificed the little they had saved up for their own families for ‘a rainy day’ because they realized they could not put a value on God’s love. Christ’s presence in their lives had been priceless and they were not going to spare any expense to anoint the body of the One who loves without measure.

 
The Holy Myrrhbearers literally put their lives at risk to accomplish their goal. Cities in the ancient world were walled for good reason – the territory outside the walls was an unsafe area and the domain of wild animals and thieves, especially after dark. Since our Savior’s tomb was in the garden near Golgotha, it was beyond the safety of the city walls. The women deliberately and knowingly stepped out into this vulnerability in order to express their love, in order to do what their heart commanded of them. Even more, assuming if they made it safely to the tomb, the elite Roman guards would certainly have used any force necessary to prevent them from entering the tomb. But the lovers of Christ were not paralyzed with the danger and great risk, and they took action!

 
There is a powerful lesson here for all of us. For all of us profess our faith in Christ, do we possess the fearless, trusting, unhesitating faith of the Holy Myrrhbearers? Too often, despite our initial good intentions, we allow ourselves to be discouraged from expressing or acting out our faith. We fear the COST of living as Christians, whether in actual financial terms, or in terms of the time and energy or emotion it takes to sacrificially offer ourselves to others, out of love for Christ. We fear the DANGER of living as Christians – it always seems so much easier to maintain the status quo, so much safer to keep doing the same old things in the same old way, even if it means passing up the opportunities to allow Christ to manifest in our little corner of the world. We fear looking FOOLISH by living as Christians, in a world that holds values and priorities that too often are very different from the teachings of the Gospel.

 
Pride, Vainglory and Perversion of our created sexuality have been the demise of many great civilizations and have now seemed to be the most sought out activities here in this once great nation. No, the love of Christ is not always a yes with wide open arms, it is a yes we love you but we must separate ourselves from marinating in Lucifer’s sewage and placing our youth on a path of self-destruction. We need to speak out loudly and we need to speak out now. Do not hide your light under a bushel but be the salt of the earth, seasoning everything you encounter with the teachings of the Holy Church!

Pray to God for us, Holy Myrrhbearers!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-15-16

PRO-LIFE SUNDAY (Palm Sunday)

“And on the morrow, after they came out from Bethany, He hungered. And having seen from afar a fig tree having leaves, He came, if perhaps He might find something on it. And after He came to it, He found nothing except leaves; for it was not the season of figs. And Jesus began to speak and said to it, “May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever.” [Mk. 11:12-14]

 
I start here with this Gospel reading hopefully placing our feet on the road Palm Sunday4from Bethany as we make our way to Jerusalem, the Great City of Peace. Jesus comes upon a fig tree along the trip and Saint Kyril of Jerusalem writes: “The first act after the fall was that of Adam and Eve clothing themselves with fig leaves [Gen. 3:7]. So now Jesus is making fig tree the very last of His wondrous signs. Just as He was headed towards the Cross, He cursed the fig tree—not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic significance—saying, ‘May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever’. In this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was being reversed.” [Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 13(18), in FC, 64:16.] .

 
And in the Gospel today, we hear more about Lazarus. He had been dead for four days. His body was decaying and then Jesus said: Lazarus, come forth”. And the one who was dead came forth. “Jesus saith to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” [Jn. 11:43-44] Christ has power over life and death. Just as Christ restored to life Lazarus, so too can he also heal our deadness in sin, just as he withered up the dormant fig tree.

 
We heard in the vigil service last night: “And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, toward the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent forth two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village, the one opposite you; and straightway ye shall find an ass which hath been tied, and a colt with her.”… Now all this came to pass in order that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Sion, ‘Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek, and mounted on an ass, and a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” And the disciples went and did even as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments upon them, and He sat down upon them. And the greater part of the crowd spread their garments in the way; and others were cutting branches from the trees and were strewing them in the way. And the crowds, those going before and those following, were crying out, saying, “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And after He entered into Jerusalem, all the city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is Jesus the Prophet, the One from Nazareth of Galilee.” [Mt. 21:1-11]

 
The very One who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, healed and restored life to Lazarus is now coming to Jerusalem as a sacrificial lamb. “As a sheep He was led to slaughter; and as a lamb dumb before him who sheareth him, thus He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation, His judgment was taken away; but who shall describe His generation? For His life is being taken away from the earth” [Acts 8:32-33]

 
On Palm Sunday, we use palm branches and pussy willows to signify a great victory. So what is this great victory? We will hear later this week on Great Friday: “You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.” (Great Friday Evening Service, Fifth Ode) And Saint John writes: “And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not.” [Jn. 1:5]

 

 

“When You, the Immortal Life descended to Death, it was then, that You put Hades to death by the lightning of the Godhead; and when You raised up the dead from the infernal depths, all the Heavenly Powers cried aloud: “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You.” (Matins of the Resurrection) Death can no longer restrain mankind! Jesus conquers death by death!

 
Jesus is on His way to free us from death! We will hear later this week about the suffering he endured for us! Notice how I use the word us? You say that was over 2000 years ago, how could it be so personal? Jesus Christ knew us personally and chose to be crucified for me, and for you! You see we hear the Creator telling the prophet Jeremiah in Chapter one: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee!” That is why you should be PRO-LIFE because it is not the man and woman that make a baby, it is the Creator! Now I can take lumber and build a deck but I did not make the trees! I can take flour and water and make communion bread, but man did not create water or wheat! God knew us before we formed! He chose us! And the Lamb knew that I would have a tendency to be attracted to sin like a big magnet at the metal-scrap yard and yet He loves me so much that He gives His life for me!

 
Dearest Lord, is this soul of such a sinful man really worth your absolute love and your long-suffering? “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”Glory to Thee, oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/24/16