Thirsty CaMel

When my wife and I visited the Holy Land in 2010, one of my wife’s favorite moments was when she had the opportunity to ride a camel for a couple of hours as we navigated up Mt. Sinai. Now that is not a normal activity here around Harrisonburg and she seized the opportunity. She rode a one-huMper and I knew he liked Matushka since he kept giving me the eye and spit at me a time or two!

 
Camels are known for being low maintenance transporters in the hot desolate areas. And during winters in the desert, camels have been known to survive six or seven months without actually drinking. Very thirsty camels can drink up to 26 gallons of water during a single visit to the well. The camel seems to be designed both inside and out to hold on to any water it takes in. Its fur prevents the camel from sweating too much. Its blood cells are also tiny enough to keep circulating as the camel’s blood thickens from dehydration but elastic enough to hold lots of water. If a thirsty camel finds an oasis, its red blood cells might balloon to more than twice their size while its’ hump remains unchanged.

 
What do camels have to do with Pentecost? We too spend a lot of time in the desert. We find ourselves being pushed to our max, searching desperately for an oasis. For us modern-day Christians, our desert is the time we spend in between church services. We have all tasted the sweet waters of salvation and we are replenished from the overflowing wells each time we receive the Holy Sacraments of the Church.

 
And then, back out into the burning sands of life we travel taking with us the love that Christ has given us to share with all those thirsting and dehydrated from the storms of life. It is our opportunity as the Gospel writer instructs: “The one who believeth in Me, even as the Scripture said—rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly.” [Jn. 7:38]

 
Living water is the oasis for thirsting people everywhere. Every day we all encounter wandering nomads searching for a home, beaten down by life, awakening each day to only scorch some more. Bring them to the well! The Great Artificer who created the camel to wondersly prosper in desolate areas has created you inside and out to wondersly prosper here, rubbing elbow to elbow with folks that need our prayers and need our love.

 
And here at Pentecost we are reminded of the prophesy from Zechariah 14:8: “ And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” We remember the chant: “As many as have been baptized in to Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia.” You and I have been given everything we need to build His church and we remember Jesus’ question to Peter: “Do you love me? …Feed My sheep! (John 21:17) Take time to allow the Living Water to flow from your belly, your salvation depends on it!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6/4/2017

SEEING IS BELIEVING

I like to take people at their word or believe what it is they are saying. Maybe I am a bit too gullible! I have sat through time-share sales presentations and listened in person and on cable to all types of silver-tongued sales folks and even some election minded politicians. Perhaps these folks weren’t totally lying but at times, they sure were stretching the truth a bit. I have heard it said that you can tell if a salesman is lying if you see their mouth moving!

 
A lot of these exaggeration tactics lead us to expect more than we actually receive. We form some level of trust with what we are told and in our belief we become vulnerable and we become a victim. In my profession, I have always tried to be a straight-shooter with no closing pressure trusting more in God to provide than my ability to close the deal. I wanted to be a man of integrity! I wanted the people I was pitching to have a clear understanding of what I recommend and what we would provide. I am sure in all the years and in my different roles; I have inevitably misled a few folks.

 
As for the half-truths I tell myself, I am quite a silver-tongue salesman. After all, being a king is always more attractive than being a servant! It is always easier to find fault in others than it is to thoroughly examine my own inventory. My blindness conveniently hides my faults and I usually don’t stumble around trying to find them! Without the light of eternal vision, darkness encumbers my path to salvation! My soul is blinded by my love for Satan and the death he is promoting! We read in Paul’s letter to the Celtics in Galatia: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be walking by the Spirit.” [Gal. 5:25] I need more time in reflection, prayer and confession so that I may too wash in the pool of Siloam.

 
Maybe with the loving patience of my Father, I may one day become a great salesman for Christ! “O my plenteously merciful and all merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all. And again, O Saviour. save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou Who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy. For he that believeth in Me, Thou hast said, O my Christ, shall live and never see death. If, then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works, may it answer for, may it acquit me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory. And let Satan not seize me and boast, O Word, that he hath torn me from Thy hand and fold. But whether I desire it or not, save me, O Christ my Saviour,! forestall me quickly, quickly, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thee now as fervently as I once loved sin itself, and also to work for Thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” [Morning Prayers from the “Joranville” Prayerbook]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5/21/17

DRY MOUTH

There is nothing that satisfies me more than a cold glass of water. I always treasured the red Coleman water jug back in the summers when in the heat of the day; my uncle would stick me on the hay wagon or up in the hay mound. After all, I had to earn that dollar an hour! Back in those days, I was a lean and mean working machine. I pushed my physical abilities as I tried to increase my muscle mass and I just could not quench my thirst for water.

 
Water is so vital for our survival! Scientist say that the human body is mostly water, 50 to 70 percent depending on the individual and the climate. If we do not consume enough water, our sweat glands shut down causing toxins to get trapped in our body and we can easily overheat. Depending on the weather, a person can only live without water for as little as a few hours but in perfect conditions as a general rule, no more than 3 days.

 
We begin our lives in water swimming in our mother’s womb and we begin our life in Christ in the cleansing waters of Baptism, but what about this living water that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel reading today? The fathers of the Church have always believed this living water to be the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, establishing the Holy Church. The living water is a gift from God that flows from the cross through the Church and into Heaven. This living water requires penitence. It requires change! Otherwise, we become stagnate.

 
I have tasted much of what the world has to offer and it only leaves me with a dry mouth! Now days, I seek living water to quench my thirst. And instead of working on muscle mass as I did in my youth, I spend more time increasing my spirituality as I make an effort to be more like Christ. I however cannot say that I am pushing myself it is more like a gradual easy-going attempt. In my mind, I believe I still have plenty of time left to accomplish Theosis!

 
Oh Lord we ask that You quench the dryness of our spirituality with this living water that we may no longer be thirsting!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5/14/17

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

APRIL FOOLS

Now deep into the season of Lent, are we broken in need of the Great Healer or are we April Fools? King David wrote in Psalms 14:  “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

We too are fools when we go through the motions but forget repentance and we then mirror the Pharisee Simon in the Gospel reading today. At times we all do it! We come to church, we pray, we even serve others but we are deathly distracted!

 
The Pharisee Simon had the Alpha and the Omega reclining at his table and he was distracted. He was distracted about everybody else’s stuff instead of seeking healing for his brokenness and his lack of repentance. Instead of judging others we should be putting ourselves under the broken and lifting them up. Christianity is a team sport! Our faith is only as strong as our weakest member!

 
Loving God is joy! Joy blossoms as we help others and consider no good deed beneath ones dignity. Joy is the true belief that we will one day be kissing His feet and washing them with our tears. And until that day, we need to be on the narrow path too salvation. The sick seek healing! Why are we here? Is it visiting hours or have we come to be admitted to the hospital? Hopefully we will not wait until things get much worse and we need the emergency trauma center? Every person on this Earth has a sickness called sin. But this sickness does not have to be fatal! There is a cure and His name is Jesus!

 
The church shows and instructs us how to be on that narrow path of healing. But we must come with humility. The absence of humility is the deathly cancer called self pride. Sinless humility means that we see ourselves as we really are and according to St. Isaac, it is greater than the raising of the dead. “There is a humility that comes from the fear of God, and there is a humility that comes from the fervent love of God. One man is humbled because of his fear of God, another is humbled because of his joy. The man humbled from fear of God is possessed of modesty in his members, a right ordering of his senses, and a heart contrite at all times. But the man humbled because of joy is possessed of great exuberance and an open and insuppressible heart.” (St. Isaac of Syria)

 

Evening, morning and noonday we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, and we pray Thee, O Master of all: Direct our prayer as incense before Thee, and incline not our hearts unto words or thoughts of evil, but deliver us from all that hunt after our souls; for unto Thee, O Lord, O Lord, are our eyes, and in Thee have we hoped, let us not be put to shame, O our God. For unto Thee is due all glory, honor and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/2/2017

FOLLOW ME

We have this little fluffy dog named Emma and when I take her outside I attach a 10’ retractable leash to her collar. She has a mind of her own and likes to investigate Leashthings in the briar patch so I try to get her to follow me. After all, I am taking her for a walk and not the other way around! Well as soon as we step out the front door we encounter our first hurdle. There is a post holding up our porch roof and Emma goes left and I go right. And then when we step out onto our driveway we start to navigate around our vehicles and again she goes left and I walk to the right. Maybe she is unorthodox!

 
I think in her mind I should follow her. After all she has a much keener ability to smell and therefore knows where she wants to go. I, on the other hand, want to steer her away from water puddles, mud, thorns and briars, and big animals that may have an appetite for small fluffy dogs!

 
When it comes to following, I too struggle. In my pursuit of Theoisis I tend to trust my sense of direction more than God! Like my little fluffy dog, it seems as though I prefer the water and mud puddles of life and even an additional bur in my fur every now and then. Saint Gregory Palamas wrote: “Even when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind. When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions. This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of the cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside and the whole cup will be clean.”

 
By following God and His commandments, Saint Gregory insisted that we become united in prayer and holiness with the Lord. The paralytic in the Gospel reading today experienced Christ’s healing and strength and we too can experience the same things if we follow Him by obeying His commandments and move toward a holier life. In this pursuit we will welcome and cooperate with our Lord’s mercy.

 
There is a retractable cord connecting you to the mercy and love of God. It has a long, long cord and we can stretch it as far away from the great Sheppard as we chose too, and stretch it long enough to stick our noses in the briars of life and deep into the mud puddles of a lost world. Stay close and let our Lord lead you in your walk on this Earth the minute you awake, each and every day, and follow Him.

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-12-2017

———–I-WALK-THE-LINE———-

straight_and_narrowSome years ago when I was spending my summers on the farm with my grandparents, occasionally I would take off on my green banana bike and pedal 3 miles down the gravel road to visit my Aunt Jean. Living on a neighboring farm, Aunt Jean and her sister Aunt Josephine would take turns feeding the farm hands and I could learn a lot listening to the conversations at the dinner table. After hearing many stories and filling my belly with homemade bread and plenty of home-cooking, the farm hands would go back to their chores and I would leave the kitchen to escape dish duty and find Aunt Jean’ stack of 45’s. I’d fire up the old record player, place the vinyl on the turntable and listen to a song recorded by Johnny Cash: “I Walk the Line.”

 
In the song, ole Johnny had fallen in love and decided he would realign his life on the straight and narrow. Of course we all know saying and doing are two different things and usually it takes a lot of work! The greatest love we experience here on this earth is one of choice and to achieve this great measure of love, we have to make sacrifices.

 
As we here in the Gospel reading today, we always have a choice. Clothe me, feed me, bring me in out of the weather and give me something to drink. All of these requests ask us to sacrifice our time and money. A person with faith will want to help others. But by helping in these ways, are we just barely scratching the surface resolving their apparent needs or are we taking the time to look deeper. Have they simply had some bad breaks in life or is it their brokenness that keeps repeating these symptoms over and over again? It takes time and caring to really love! It takes mercy!

 
Along the straight and narrow path there always seems to be bumps and curves as we try to mirror the life of Christ. For someone to say that they are a Christian is to acknowledge that in life, they try to walk the line or it is say that they seek righteousness. The Lenten season offers many opportunities for sacrifice and plenty of paths for us to walk the line of righteousness. I have often said, what in the world is keeping us away? Well it is the world and its’ golden emptiness that seduces us away from the warm loving embrace of our Creator.

 
Great Lent offers each one of us a personal spiritual renewal. It is a time of struggle for us physically and spiritually. During this time of struggle we tell our stomachs no and we tell the world no, and Christ reappears as a priority in our lives. It is during this time that we embrace the words of Johnny Cash and say: I walk the line, because Jesus is mine!

 
Visit the shut-ins, volunteer at the soup kitchens and help your neighbor! And when that final time comes and we encounter our last judgment, will Jesus be ours and a life eternal or will it be obvious that we instead chose to serve the world and ourselves? “For narrow is the gate and straitened is the way that leadeth away to life, and few are they who find it. [Mt. 7:14]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-19-2017

85 lbs of baggage

I just returned from a week-long trip cross country and I drug 85 lbs of “necessary” luggage with me. It was a trip in which I needed to portray two separate identities, one as an electronic security professional and one as an eternal security clergy member of the Orthodox Church. airport bagBoth of these careers require me to dress in a certain manner and have a different style of work clothes. When I arrived at the airport, the TSA folks x-rayed and sniffed the suitcases for everyone’s safety. My little carry-on roller was free but my large suitcase cost me a twenty-five dollar fee. I took 85 lbs of baggage with me and returned with more stuff than I took!

 
Just as the airline charges me for extra baggage, in life there is a cost for maintaining all of my junk. I always seem to drag along with me scars and soreness from the past. It seems as though wherever I go and whatever I do, I am somewhat entangled with my history. My actions and reactions are mostly based upon my learned survival experiences. Even in my marriage I sometimes enter into my combat mode because a memory of hurt or distrust is still embedded in my heart and usually has nothing to do with my wife but, there it is, overreaction! Fight or flight!

 
Over the years I have been able to be rid of some of my unwanted baggage by means of confession, communion, prayer and forgiveness. But now, a year older and even more snow on my roof I still have a lot more stuff to surrender. I want to be dependent on Jesus but I seem to keep one hand clinging to my carry-on baggage.

 
As we enter into the Lenten season I ask this question, how much baggage are you dragging around? Why do we find comfort in own pity party? When I was younger and stronger, I never gave it a second thought to the amount of extra weight I was dragging around. But now I am beginning to realize how tiring it is and how much precious time I have been wasting. Remembering wrongs only injures my ability to be about my Father’s business. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” [Rom. 8:35]

 
If I continue to choose to limit my understanding of love based upon what I have experienced here on Earth I will be cheating myself of becoming the man God has called me to be. Instead of loving others as Christ does, my choice to treasure and continue to drag the baggage of mine and others sinfulness cripples my salvific attempt to draw near to the One who truly cherishes me. ‘God, be gracious to me the sinner.’ [Lk. 18:13]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/5/2017

Reflector or Refractor

Now that we are settling into our cabin we are trying to get use to the 8 foot descent of our driveway. It is somewhat gradual but none the less it is a drop. At the bottom of the driveway is our porch. There is a 12 inch thick 12 foot tall retaining wall holding our driveway and garage in place. Well, that leaves quite a drop off so we installed a guardrail to help prevent anything or anybody from going over the wall!

 

refectorWhen we arrive home at night as we descend down to our cabin, the guardrail is hard to see so I installed reflectors on the posts to readily help us identify the possible danger. The soft reflected glow of light alerts us to the possible danger and helps ensure our safety.

 
In town, reflectors are everywhere. We see them on bicycles, construction workers, vehicles, joggers and pedestrians. I even noticed them around the edge of a stop light. All of these products reflect a light source usually bouncing it back to the light source. When light is reflected, there is a loss associated with the bouncing back due to the change of direction of the light, the type of material of the reflector and the working condition of the reflector. Obstacles or dirt on the reflector, weather such as fog, snow and rain and physical damage to the device greatly affect the performance of how much light is bounced back as well.

 
We humans are also reflectors. In the epistle reading from Ephesians, we here: “walk worthily of the calling in which ye were called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We reflect the light of the Creator in our day to day walk in life. We are instructed in Eph. 5:8 to “Be walking as children of light”. The world is being seduced by darkness and desperately needs His reflectiveness.

 

For the safety and sanctity of life, we need to brilliantly reflect the Light of Christ. Not obstructed by dirt and debris by missing church services but shining as a beacon in the midst of a mighty storm, keeping our lens polished by the reading and study of the bible and writings of the church fathers, and the cleansing of our soul with confession and the Body and Blood of Christ continually washing away the layers of weathering life has applied to our heart.

 
There is a lot of danger in the world today and we are descending down a dark treacherous slope leading us farther and farther away from the safety of our great Sheppard. May the uncreated light of Christ reflect in your life brilliantly and protect you and your loved ones from the entanglements and snares of the evil one. Be a great reflector! Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-11-16

The Chance Of Monopoly

The parable in the Gospel reading this morning takes me back to a board game I use to play many years ago. When the weather was bad or darkness arrived way before bedtime, my sisters and I would play the game of monopolyMonopoly for fun. Having two older sisters kept me on my toes as they wheeled and dealed their way into financial security. Often times we had to reference the rules to ensure no one was cheating or bending the rules and taking advantage of the little guy!

 
One of things I most liked about that game was the uncertainty or chance we took with every move we made on the board. Much like life, we never know what is around the corner and what decisions we may face. Around and around the board we go as the years of our life hurry by.

 
In the game of Monopoly, the person with the most stuff wins! In reality of this life we live, the one who loves God more than stuff and more than oneself is the winner. However, “stuff” can bring blessings and bare spiritual fruit if we are thankful and use our possessions in a Godly way. There is a famous quote from a desert Father “he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it”.

 
St. John Chrysostom compares the good wealth of a man to the Manna sent by God to the Jewish people as they were wandering in the Desert of Sinai. The people were allowed to take as much as they wanted and were satisfied. We know that many of them were greedy and desired to collect more to be put into storage. They discovered that the excess food molded quickly and went to waste. Selfishness brings rot and waste to our blessings from God. St. Peter of Damaskos wrote: “when God is thanked, He gives us still further blessings, while we, by receiving His gifts, love Him all the more and through this love attain that divine wisdom whose beginning is the fear of God.”

 
In the Gospel, “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this night they demand thy soul from thee; and what thou didst prepare, for whom shall it be?’ “Thus is the one who treasureth up for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk. 12:19-21] Saint Basil instructs us in this manner: “Are you not a grasper of everything? Are you not a robber? You who treat as absolutely yours what you receive that you might dispense to others. He who strips another man of his clothing, is he not called a robber? And he who does not clothe the naked when he could, should he not be called the same? That bread you hold in your clutches that belongs to the starving. That cloak you keep locked in your wardrobe that belongs to the naked. Those shoes that are going to waste with you, they belong to the barefooted. The silver you buried away, that belongs to the needy. Whomsoever you could have helped and did not, to so many have you been unjust. I have spoken to you as best I could. For you who respond, the blessings are ready that were promised you. For you who do not respond, the sentence is already written; and I pray most earnestly that, reflecting upon this bitter counsel I am giving you, you may escape those penalties; that your riches may become instead the price of your redemption, and that you also may attain to those heavenly good things.” [Ib., III:332, §§ 7, 8.]

 
As we navigate around the board in life, we are to invest monoply-hatout gifts wisely by keeping what we need and giving generously to those in need. For if we give God control of our monopoly, there is no such thing as chance, only ample opportunity. You cannot out give God!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/4/16