HOG SLOP

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest sinner of them all? We often check our outward appearance in the mirror before we go out into public. We want people to see us at our best and really not know our inner secrets and struggles! After all, mirrors don’t lie, or do they?

 

But who needs mirrors? Our outward and inward appearance can now be sampled on the new social media channels. Back before this reality social media, it was much easier to be two-faced, giving folks only what we wanted them to see. Now, there are hard-drives recording our thoughts, choices and actions just about all the time. Who are we working for, Christ our God or the great deceiver? St. Paul instructs us: “And everything, whatsoever ye may do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God and Father through Him.” [Col. 3:17]

 

We’ve all heard the expression “You are what you eat!” In Luke 15 we read: “And he was longing to fill his belly from the husks, which the swine were eating. [Lk. 15:16] Back on the farm we called that hog slop and my impression at a young age was that only the hogs would eat it. And yet we all prodigally seek worldly death filling the last minutes of our lives with slop? After all, every minute could be our last minute! We continue rooting around in the bottom of the trough for substance when the end of our Earthly life in nearing.

 

Why do we look in the trough when our Creator has given each and every one of us great wealth? We are to inherit a great Kingdom with life never-ending! We just have to turn from our streak of independence just like the prodigal son and be about our Father’s business. Blessed Theophylact writes: [Lk. 15:17] “Then he came to himself, he became rational, and came to repent from his wanderings about outside.” [P.G. 123:407C (col. 953).]

 

A banquet has been prepared and the nutritional value is not of this world. Won’t you come? We read in the 23rd Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Won’t you come to the table that has been prepared? Turn away from the troughs of hog-slop, repent and come home. Your Father is waiting, He is longing for your embrace!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-4-18

“I’M A GONNA”

“Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire.” [Mt. 7:19] The story of the stingy tax collector Zacchaeus begins our journey towards lent. There in the ancient Canaanite city of Jericho, a man that was dead in sin crawled up out of his rut into a tree and embraced the Lord, no more hiding, no more excuses!

 
We visited this tree in 2010 in Jericho and discovered that a Sycamore tree in the Middle Eastern region is a type of fig tree, ficus sycomorus. This species is well known to have a massive root system to sustain it. And then I am reminded that when Christ begins His journey to Jerusalem to His crucifixion, he curses a similar fig tree for not bearing good fruit. In the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Let there be no more fruit from thee forever.” And forthwith the tree was withered.” [Mt. 21:19] That was a different tree at a different time but this fig tree in Jericho in our Gospel reading today bore good fruit! Repentance had come to Zacchaeus. Saint Ephraim the Syrian says: “The fig that cast its fruit, that refused fruit, offered Zacchaeos as fruit; the fruit of its own nature it gave not, but it yielded one reasonable fruit!” [Hymn III on the Nativity, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., XIII:230.]

 
Zacchaeus tells Jesus that he is GONNA CHANGE! Zacchæus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I extorted anything of anyone by false charges, I give back fourfold.” [Lk. 19:8]

 
We have read the scripture: “But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ ‘no’.[Mt. 5:37] And we know that Zaachaeus did what he said he was going to do and found repentance. He was even later made one of the Seventy Apostles. And after the Lord Ascended; he traveled with Peter and later became Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine.

 
Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Each of you, in his own way, inasmuch as he has a place in this present life, takes up the ground like a barren tree, if he does not produce the fruit of good works….A person who troubles the hearts of others is taking up the ground; a person who does not use the place he holds for good works is taking up the ground. But it is our duty to make intercession for people like this.” [Hom. 31, Forty Gospel Homilies, 251; Hom. 31, P.L. 76 (col. 1228).] We are to pray for each other to be fruity! We are to serve each other in love and action. Don’t be stingy, seek life in Christ!

 
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Climb that fig tree; pull yourselves up out of the sinful ruts that seem all too familiar and say to the Lord: “I’M A GONNA CHANGE”! And let your very existence thirst for the Lord like that invasive rooted sycamore tree seeking life-sustaining water, bearing good fruit in the middle of your desert!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-21-18

SELFISH LOVE

As my time left on this earth becomes shorter I often reflect upon what really brings me joy and happiness. Around this time year in the past, I usually had a short and long list of things I coveted and desired. But I now struggle to even give basic gift ideas when asked. After all, I already have a large collection of stuff!

 
Well, I am not ready to kick the bucket yet but material items are not as precious to me now as is inner peace and love of creation. Living in a community of blood-kin, I will always have a feeling of belonging and acceptance. Being part of a church family I will always know I am deeply cared and prayed for. But the most satisfying belief I treasure is knowing that the One who created me loves me and wants what is selfishly going to draw me closer to Him!

 
We find a similar love in “Good Parenting.” Put a coat on, look both ways before you cross the street, share your toys with your sister, do your homework, don’t pick your nose (or at least not in public), clean up your mess, eat your dinner – there are starving folks in the world, are all examples of things we heard in our developmental years and they are also things we share now with our younger generation. It is not nagging but it is a selfish genuine parental love coming from someone who deeply cares. It comes from someone who wants us to learn to love each other as Jesus has taught us!

 
We heard in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae that we must put to death everything in ourselves that prevents us from doing God’s will. “But now ye also put off from yourselves all these things: wrath, anger, malice, blasphemy, foul language out of your mouth. Cease lying to one another, since ye have put off the old man with his practice”. [Col. 3:8-9] It is so easy to misplace our sense of direction and especially when we add stress to the Nativity Season. After all, stress is deeply rooted in love of self!

 

 

 

It seems that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, as we mature we find that time is the most coveted gift we have. Visit the shut-ins, offer gifts or deeds of love, pray for everyone you encounter, especially those that irritate you and spend every last minute of your life preparing for the judgment that will soon follow. “Whenever the Christ, Who is your life, should be made manifest, then also ye shall be made manifest with Him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry, On account of which things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” [Col. 3:4-6]

 

 

 

I pray that this Nativity season will bring you heavenly peace and joy as we let loose our worldly crutches and selfishly strive to be more Christ-like in our remaining time here and now. And that in every moment someone makes us angry we cease the opportunity to recognize that we are not the most important thing in our lives, but how we selfishly spend our precious time left loving all of God’s creation is.

 

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-24-17

I BELIEVE IN PRAYER!

Boy, we have had a busy week!! My wife was released from the hospital Friday. Her sister, after have been given this kidney on Tuesday was going to have to have it removed two days later. The kidney was not working. It was not a good fit! Something was wrong! And her sister Sophia would need to stay at the hospital for several more days with the hope of a somewhat normal life being postponed, in wait of another matching kidney donor!

 
Where was God? After all, we prayed and prayed and prayed. We literally had folks all over the world praying, thanks to social media. The two sisters had confession and communion days earlier. We did akathist to the Great Surgeon and Healer St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea (1877-1961). We anointed the two sisters with oil from the lampadas of St. Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Healer, and the healer Saint Matrona, the Wonderworker of Moscow (1881-1952).

 

 
My wife offered this sacrifice knowing full well the risks to her life and health and the slight possibility that her kidney may not work for her sister. She is a very giving person, unless of course you are asking her to hand you the TV remote while she is watching her Hallmark Christmas Movies or her WWE Wrestling Divas. Don’t cross that line! But there were so many tests done and redone in the past several months to ensure success. Why then, why did we have this outcome? Where was the Great Surgeon Luke? Did he take a knee? What went wrong with our holy oil and our fervent prayers?

 

People know us by our love! They will know you by your love! We read in the Gospel this morning: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk. 12:20-21] Our prayers for others are a sacrifice of our precious time helping us to be less self-centered. Sacrifice for one another is riches. Let God be in control and allow His love through your actions to encompass those around you! And that action through your prayers was like a warm blanket wrapped around them this week! We are family!

 
Hear the words of St. John of Kronstadt: “Do not let pass any opportunity to pray for anyone, either at his request or at the request of his relatives, friends, of those who esteem him, or of his acquaintances. The Lord looks favorably upon the prayer of our love, and upon our boldness before him. Besides this, prayer for others is very beneficial to the one himself who prays for others; it purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God, and enkindles our love for God and our neighbor. When praying, say thus: ‘Lord, it is possible for Thee to do this or that to this servant of Thine; do this for him, for Thy name is the Merciful Love of Men and the Almighty.’” (St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ)

 
I believe without hesitation that Blessed St. Luke was all over that hospital at the time of the surgeries helping and guiding. I believe all your prayers were heard and the lampada oil is aiding in the healing! We all remember the words of St. Paul: “And we know that to those who love God all things work together for good.” [Rom. 8:28] The results we selfishly asked for may not have all been granted but God is in control, and I trust Him! He loves Tatiana and Sophia and He wants what is best for their salvation. And He loves you too!! Everything that is, is His! Thanks be to God in all things!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-3-17

THE RECIPE

Some of my fondest childhood memories were made by Follywood, I mean Hollywood, yep, believe it or not. Back in the day, quality television programs that taught morals and values were plentiful. Some of my early formation came from Ben Cartwright of the Bonanza,  Sheriff Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show, and Grandpa and Grandma Walton from the show entitled The Waltons, just to name a few.

 

One evening as I was watching an episode of The Waltons, Grandpa Walton was going over to visit the Baldwin sisters and hoped to sample some of their secret recipe. I wasn’t quite sure what the recipe was at that age but the characters on the show were convincing that there was something really special about this secret recipe. In today’s times, it might be compared to the secret recipe that the Irish-Setter knows about those delicious Bush Beans that we see advertised.

 

My childhood experiences created in me a longing to uncover hidden treasures and made me eager to find the secret recipe, the one right mixture of just the exact amounts of “this and that.” And to seek in life a mixture that is not lacking in anything, the blue-ribbon holder of recipes, the one recipe people yearn for.

 

Being molded into a bible thumping Pro-test-ant in my formable years, Orthodoxy was quite a pill to swallow. It was not the normal flavor I had become use to. I was trained to discount Holy Tradition because of the heresies of some of the faithful. I was equipped with the Bible with over two thousand translations and interpretations of truth to pick from, which would give me the answers to all my questions and struggles in life. I was taught that the Inspired Word was living and adapting or changing with the current social and economic conditions. These defenses and so many more made me very cautious when I peeped in the window of Orthodoxy.

 

Rest assured that the lessons I had been taught came from people that truly love the Lord. But when it comes to religion, I like my faith as thick as gravy! Finding Orthodoxy has convinced me that I had been settling for a watered down recipe of what Christ offers His faithful, one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. I am no longer a seeker. I am not hungering for the latest translation or the most recent buzz word or desert unearthing stirring up this Protestant nation. I have found true satisfaction with ancient interpretations and I do not worry if the path I am on is leading me down twisted roads that misdirect me away from the Father.

 

Saint Ambrose says that the woman that touched Christ in the Gospel reading today: “Heard the people of the Jews were sick, and began to hope for the remedy of her own salvation.” [Ib., Bk. VI, §57.] [Lk. 8:46a.] I know the church I belong to is built on a solid foundation and it will continue to stand strong against the storms of time. You and I have found the blue ribbon awarded recipe. It is truly something we need to share. Saint Symeon the New Theologian said: “that all the nations from east to west are invited…. So shall the two become one, one body with Christ, His co-participants, brothers, and co-heirs with Him.” [“The Church and the Last Things,” On the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses, Vol. I, Second Discourse,  II:95.]

 

You see, the recipe for our salvation is not a secret; it is by the sharing of the recipe that we may obtain unity. “Until we all might come to the unity of the faith, and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.” [Eph. 4:13]  Saint Chrysostom wrote: “Until we shall be shown to have all one faith. For this is unity of faith…. Till then thou must labor to this end. If for this thou hast received a gift, that thou mightest build up others….For tell me not of the difference of the spiritual gifts, but that all had one work. Now when we shall all believe alike then shall there be unity; for that this is what he calls perfect knowledge.” [Hom. 11, P.G. 62:83, 84 (col. 83).]  The gifts you have been given are the necessary ingredients or the “this and that” Christ needs to complete His recipe, the perfect recipe. All brothers and sisters hand in hand. Theosis of the faithful, thick as gravy!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11/19/17

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

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