How Bright Is Your Bulb?

Over the years I have installed a lot of light fixtures. Some of the installations have been to replace a light fixture that was broken and leaving people in the dark. Some of the fixtures I have installed were purchased to change the ambiance or look of a room. But here lately I have been installing more efficient fixtures that use LED bulbs and use less power.  

I have also repaired many light fixtures as well. In troubleshooting a broken light, sometimes the fixture is bad, the bulb is broken, the light switch is burned out or there is a problem with the circuit breaker or wiring. Nevertheless, the fixture has left us in the dark!

Our body is also a light-fixture. If we energize our body with Christ, it will be like a beacon piercing through the thick darkness, unquenchable. (Mt. 6:22-23) In this world today it so easy to get unplugged or disconnected from the narrow road that energizes our salvation and we then experience a dim or unworkable light. There are some troubleshooting techniques we can use as well to repair our broken spiritual light. But you will need some tools to repair your broken light! To be concise, listen to the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose: “Orthodoxy is life. If we don’t live Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox, no matter what formal beliefs we might hold. (Fr. Seraphim Rose, Living the Orthodox World View -A talk delivered by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) at the St. Herman Pilgrimage, August 1982, St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California)

There it is! Practice what the Holy Tradition teaches and watch yourself glow! Do not glow from the created light from your smart phone or flat screen but glow from being energized by the Word of God from a light uncreated! Glow from living the commandments! Flip your switch on by saying your prayers, no excuses! Glow from cleaning the dirt and scum off of your dim bulb through repentance and confession. And most of all, receive the Body and Blood of the Great Illuminator, our Lord, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). As Fr. Seraphim Rose says, if you are not doing these things, you are not Orthodox, no excuses!

There is a great cost to being Orthodox, it will cost you your life! By I tell you that it will be the greatest thing you ever do, but it is a life-long commitment! Surrender it all, every day, every hour! Life on Earth will be over for us very soon, don’t delay. What in the world is keeping you away? Hear the words of Saint Theophan the Recluse: “Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God;” (From Unseen Warfare, St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain)

There is still time to repair your light-fixture! You have the tools and know-how available to you. Follow the footsteps of the Saints of the church. If your bulb is not brilliant and flickering light a lightning bug, you are most likely plugged into to the great deceiver. St. Leonid of Optina warns us: “Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever.” (St. Leonid of Optina)

Be about your Fathers’ business and keep your light shining! Glory to Thee who has shown us the Light, Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-27-2020

DEDICATED

 Sadly this year St. Seraphim’s camp has been cancelled. Folks have come from all over the east coast to attend this youth camp for the last 25 years. There are so many activities and new friendships that blossom from this week of camping spent in the mountains of the Poconos. But with so many restrictions and unknowns, it just is to complex this year and we will have to count the days until next year when we can be awakened to that good morning siren!

As I reflect on previous camp years, I smile as memories flood my mind of the tug of war competition, the capture the flag battles, the Olympic Games, and of course the crafts and so many other activities. You come to realize that the folks on your team and in your camp will try their best not to let you down so you can claim that victory!

Instead of being deep in the woods of Pennsylvania, we campers find ourselves in the midst of a lot of crazy stuff going on around us and all over the world. In today’s Gospel reading our Lord is asking you, can He count on you? If there has ever been a time of confusion and uncertainty, it is happening right now. Can He still count on you or will you let Him down (cock-a-doodle-do)? (Mathew 26:34)

Do we love our neighbor when we don’t love folks that are not part of our blood-line? Do we love our neighbor when we turn our backs on oppression? Do we love our neighbor with looting and destruction of property? I ask these questions as we want to know where we should be as Christians in the midst of this turmoil. I think Archbishop Peter answers this well when he recently wrote: “Since the day of Her foundation, the Holy Church always defended and cared for the oppressed, widows, orphans, and homeless. (Acts: III, 45; IV, 34-35; VI, 1-3) Besides, all charity was of free will and non-compulsory. (Acts: V, 4) And so it was throughout the ages… The Holy Church was always against any kind of revolutions or forceful overturning of power. Instead, She supported civil evolution. For example, being persecuted, She peacefully, without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it. The same was done by Orthodox Christian missionaries, who spread the Holy Gospel among different nations. Now we are experiencing great turmoil in our United States. Attempts are made to destroy all foundations of law and order. In the name of “justice” we see looting, destruction, and mayhem. The Holy Church was always against such actions, and Orthodox Christians cannot participate or support them. Apostle Paul writes that we should pray for the land we live in and its authorities. If there is peace in the land, so will the Church and Her children live in peace and prosperity. Therefore, we should enforce our prayers for our American land and its peace and tranquility.”(His Grace Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America)

Just as when Christ was surrounded and betrayed in the midst of a great conflict, He asked Peter to sheath his sword (John 18:11), we too must show Christ-like love without causing harm in the midst of this strife. “Everyone therefore who shall confess in Me before men, I also will confess in him before My Father Who is in the heavens. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Who is in the heavens.” [Mt. 10:32-33] I pray that I won’t fail you now as we navigate these new troubled waters (but I am sure I will). And I pray that you will continue to be a part of our loving family, and hope we can weave our bond of love even stronger through never ending prayer and sacrificial love.

 

“O Lord Jesus Christ our God, do Thou calm the agitation and discord in our American land, banish from us slander and conflict, murder and drunkenness, bitter disputes and scandals, and burn out of our hearts every impurity, conflict and evil, that again we all may love one another and abide, as one, in Thee, O Lord, our God, as Thou has commanded and directed us. Grant peace to Thy Church and to Her children, that with one heart and one mouth we may glorify Thee, our Lord and Savior, unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-14-2020

Holy Myrrhbearers

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 very early in the morning 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 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 needed to tend to the body of our Lord. Jesus’ 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 city 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 Roman guards would certainly have used any force necessary to prevent them from entering the tomb. But they were not paralyzed with the danger and risk, and they took action!

There is a powerful lesson here for all of us. For all of us profess our faith in Christ, but do we possess the fearless, trusting, unhesitating faith of the Holy Myrrhbearers? Too often, despite our initial good intentions, we allow ourselves to be hindered 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! 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 Gospel. Pride, Vainglory and Perversion of our created sexuality have been the demise of many great civilizations and have 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 total acceptance! It is a yes we love you but we must separate ourselves from warped teachings. We cannot marinate in sewage and place our youth on a path of self-destruction and emptiness. We need to speak out loudly and we need to speak out now, and we must take action!

And in this time of pandemic, we need to put our prayer time first and foremost. Even if we can’t be at church, we can be the church where we are. Don’t get lazy or allow this to be the new norm, it is a time when we must increase, we must deliberately make time to separate us from the goats. And we must remember how precious our time here is, as one family, seeking the Kingdom of heaven!

Pray to God for us, Holy Myrrhbearers!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-3-2020

Quiver Full of Excuses

“A kiss thou gavest Me not, but she from the time that I entered did not cease from ardently kissing My feet. With oil thou didst not anoint My head, but she anointed My feet with perfumed ointment. For which reason I say to thee, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”  [Lk. 7:45-47]

 

Are you right with the Lord? We read that even in the Gospel of Saint Luke this morning, not even the Apostles were zealously attending to our Lord. Perhaps at that time, they too had not surrendered all that they were to the Lord of lords. (Deuteronomy 10:17) Perhaps they were distracted with some things in this life. Perhaps they too had taken for granted what Jesus is offering. Excuses are like flies at a summer picnic; they are plentiful and only eat a little. Of course, I have never been fond of eating food after a fly claimed his share, and so my food is wasted. Research published in Science Reports in November 2017 shows that houseflies and blowflies carry several bacteria on their bodies that are harmful to humans. If you don’t swat away those flies, you will be a food basket short of a picnic.

 

Excuses and wasted opportunities are what separate me from salvation! If you are like me, there is always tomorrow or another picnic! I fail to make the most out of my opportunities with a quiver full of excuses. I, just like the Apostles, am failing to attend to my Saviors needs. I too seem to be more about life on Earth and not attentive enough to the health of my soul. I too am less concerned about by sinfulness and more concerned about my stomach, or my bills, or my schedule. Or as Saint Mary of Egypt stated it: “May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us.” (St. Mary of Egypt)

 

When I was younger I always figured I had plenty of time to make things right with the Lord. Once I had things figured out and established a safe haven and steady income, I knew there would be plenty of opportunities available to me later, when I had time. That was my plan, but not His! It takes quite an effort to quit being a piddly demigod and ingest the triune God deep into my soul.

Rather than letting myself blow to and fro with the great infectious gusts of life, instead safely anchoring my ship of salvation to the very Rock that does not waiver and does not hate me or thirst for my destruction, but yearns for my surrender and yearns for my repentance and for my attention, for with my attention He can teach me salvation! We only have one life of choices to make for the next life will be decided for us. Won’t you come? Won’t you surrender all the dark waters you are sailing through and let down your anchor and willingly secure your future and your salvation on the Rock of Golgotha? No more excuses, there just isn’t time!   

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-5-2020

CAST OUT

We heard in the Gospel reading this morning: And after He entered into a house, His disciples were questioning Him privately, “Why were we not able to cast it out?” And He said to them, “This kind can come forth by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.” [Mk. 9:28-29]

Faith can only be understood when one is in communion with God. Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: The soul cannot live unless it is ineffably and without confusion united to God, who is truly the life eternal (cf. 1 John 5:20).” (Saint Symeon the New Theologian Source : The Discourses, pp. 182-184) We are all born outside of Paradise. Because of Adam and Eve’s choices, we struggle daily to have that life supporting connection with our Creator. When we chose to miss church, hate our neighbor, be stingy with our money, and live for the world and all of its rust and stench, we have closed the doors to paradise and cast ourselves out into the darkness of death. We remember the words recorded by Moses: And He cast out Adam and caused him to dwell over against the garden of Delight, and stationed the cherubs and the fiery sword that turns about to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)

St. John Climacus writes on renunciation of the world: “Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate any one; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness; and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”’(THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT by St. John Climacus, page 4)

We all possess the very tools necessary to overcome death! St. John Climacus reminds us: “The Fathers have laid down that psalmody is a weapon, and prayer is a wall, and honest tears are a bath; but blessed obedience in their judgment is confession of faith, without which no one subject to passions will see the Lord.” (THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT by St. John Climacus, page 12)

Now, In the midst of this Corona virus epidemic, many Christians are feeling “cast out” and separated from God. At this point in Virginia, only a handful of worshippers can attend services and this number is likely to decline at anytime. Gov. Northam, in his executive order, declared: “Violations of paragraph 1” — which states that “all public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited” Thus, under Virginia law, they are Class 1 misdemeanors. The Code of Virginia spells out the punishment in § 18.2-11. It says: “The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are: (a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” Holy Liturgy will continue, in some form. So maybe we will be shut out of church and shut up in the jailhouse.

Did you ever think you would see the day that here in the USA you were being prohibited to attend a Christian worship service? Perhaps it is a violation of our Constitutional right under the 1st Amendment but it is of a greater authority that we should love our neighbors more than ourselves. Those that are more susceptible to catch this new virus are of greater value than our momentary loss of freedom. What a great example of what lent is supposed to be about! But rather a spirit of humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.

You may currently be “cast out” of the celebration of the resurrection of Christ but rest assured you are with us in our preparatory prayers at the table of oblation. You are with us in the many litanies chanted on your behalf of all and for all. You are with us through your Holy Baptism in which the door that had been shut by the sin of Adam is opened and we become true children of God.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-29-2020

THE PROWLER

When I read St. John’s scripture today (John 10:9-16), I heard the word “thief”, it sprang out at me! Being an electronic security professional, I immediately thought of our slogan “We’ll keep an eye on the creeps, so you can get your sleep”! The word “thief” aroused a tangible sense of vulnerability within me. We for the most part, have no control over what a creep or a thief will do. Our defense is to merely protect our families and belongings by adding obstacles to the freewill of the bandit. We lock our doors, we plant sticker bushes in front of our accessible windows, we install timers on our lights, we hide our valuables, we install electronic security systems with protection signs on our mailboxes, we keep guard dogs, and so on and so on. In our great country today, there are some people that chose to steal, rather than work.

When someone experiences a break-in, they normally have a story that falls into the category of surprise. A business owner will tell us that they normally don’t keep extra cash overnight, but…. A homeowner will struggle with the violation of their sanctuary. What they deemed a safe-haven has been torn-asunder. In the Gospel this morning, we too find Christ reminding us of our salvation and its fragility. Our salvation is of great value and should not be left to chance!

We need to keep our lampadas burning, for light deters a prowling bandit. Our prayer closets need to show continual signs of wear and tear for they will act as sticker bushes, deterring the prowling creeps’ attention. We need to keep our doors locked by attending church services and receiving the Holy Communion which will protect our hearts. We need to place a barrier of protection around our homes by having our priests come and bless are homes annually. And finally, we must not store up treasures on this earth. Our treasure must only be God.

We must protect and maintain what belongs to God. You are what belongs to God! “The thief cometh not, except that he might steal, and slay, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. [Jn. 10:10)  St. Gregory Palamas writes: “Adam chose the treason of the serpent, the originator of evil, in preference to God’s commandment and counsel, and broke the decreed fast. Instead of eternal life he received death and instead of the place of unsullied joy he received this sinful place full of passions and misfortunes, or rather, he was sentenced to Hades and nether darkness. Our nature would have stayed in the infernal regions below the lurking places of the serpent who initially beguiled it, had not Christ come. He started off by fasting (cf. Mk. 1:13) and in the end abolished the serpent’s tyranny, set us free and brought us back to life.” (St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies Vol. II)

The remainder of the Lenten fast is yet before us, although with the threat of the virus it will change our normal routines. We don’t know the extent or the severity of this prowling threat, but perhaps this is the time that you will get your life right with the Lord! This can be the greatest climax for you as we travel to Jerusalem and to the most precious Holy Pascha. Most of us have new opportunities and ways we can increase our faith which will keep our vigil lamps burning brightly. The only thing that will keep us from the warm love of God is our failure to repent and our failure to forgive! Our President can’t save us, our Congress can’t save us, the CDC (Centers for disease control and prevention) can’t save us, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies can’t save us! For it is only His grace and love that saves us! And that salvation is eternity, not here! For our bodies can be very ill but our souls can be very much alive and healthy!

Let us commit ourselves, and one another, and surrender all of our life unto the Alpha and the Omega. And through the prayers of St. Gregory Palamas and all the Saints, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, and save us! Amen

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-2020

NO TRESPASSING

The sign at the corner of my neighbor’s yard reads “No Trespassing”! In the past, my neighbors had some problems with thugs coming to visit and threatening their family’s safety, so they posted the sign so if the need arose, they could have unwanted visitors arrested and hauled away!

The sign seems a quite unfriendly to passers by that don’t know the whole story. It is definitely not a warm welcome or a “let’s sit down and have a glass of ice tea” invitation, but the sign is effective and is easy to read with its’ big reflective letters! Signs provide for us information. Even here in our church we use signs. We have a street sign, donation sign and an infant care sign, just to name a few!  And at times here at the church we all wear a “No Trespassing” sign around our necks! When we are hurt and offended when someone crosses our property line of safety or if someone hurls insults at us with their slingshot tongue of oppression, we become less hospitable and tolerant! We immediately put up our “No Trespassing” sign and close and lock the door

Here in this hospital of Orthodoxy, we all fall short of perfection. We are all here because we are sick, injured and hurt. Sin can be an immobilizing life-threatening infection. But we are called to try to nurture and love others despite our bleeding wounds. We do not want to seem unwelcoming to passer-bys on this road to salvation! Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic, a former bishop in Serbia said: “He who has no patience with us when we sin does not love us.”  He further states, “Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love … Without these three characteristics love is not love. If you give the name love to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name sheep to a goat or a pig.” 

All of mankind needs the forgiveness of our loving God and we must seek it! Our God is a merciful God and we must offer thanksgiving and praise and make a healthy salvific attempt to live a righteous lifestyle!  Suffering and dying on the cross, Christ says these words: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:34]  What better example do we need? Why do we delay when it comes to forgiveness?

Elder Paisios of Mount Athos says it like this: “When we are wronged and accept this injustice, then in fact we gain. For example, am I wrongfully accused of having committed a crime and imprisoned unjustly? That’s fine. My conscience is clear since I have not committed that crime, and on top of that, I have a heavenly reward. Is there a greater benevolence? I don’t complain to God; instead, I glorify God, “How can I thank you, my Lord, that I didn’t commit that crime? If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to bear pangs (painful emotion) of remorse.” That’s when jail can become Paradise. Has someone struck me unjustly? “Glory be to you, O lord! Perhaps I may be able to pay off a sin; I, too, had once struck someone.” Have I been insulted unjustly? “Glory be to Thee, O Lord! I accept out of love for You, for You. Too, were struck and slandered for me.”“(Spiritual Struggle pg 88, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels III)

Forgive those armed with double-barrel tongues of malice and may the aching blood seeping from your wounds be the healing blood of Christ to all humanity. And hopefully the reflective letters on our sign will no longer read “No Trespassing” but will read a hearty “WELCOME”.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller revisited 2/2020

Gladiator Bowl

This weekend is the mega weekend of sports for football fans as Super bowl 54 kicks off Sunday afternoon. We humans like to be entertained and we are willing to pay for it!  Super Bowl LIV is expected to have a 500 million dollar economic impact to the region that will pour into South Florida restaurants, hotels, airports, transportation services and small businesses as over 100, 000 visitors go to experience the game. However there is an expense involved as well. Miami-Dade County is expected to spend more than $14 million of taxpayer funds to subsidize expenses tied to hosting the game. That includes $10 million for event preparations, police and fire department expenses, and a $4 million payment to the Miami Dolphins for attracting the sporting event to South Florida.

What is this great thing they call the Super-Bowl? I often reflect on this one game which is the highlight of the NFL season as the gladiator bowl, drawing a comparison to the bloody entertainment of the ancient Romans and a remembrance of the great slave Spartacus fighting for his freedom!  And then I ponder about how much of my time and energy are invested in this type of behavior while people are still cold and hungry, and yet I am easily distracted by this form of entertainment, just like the Romans. Sometimes I must admit it is just about me as I distract myself into my comfortable shell, oblivious of my neighbor!  

I saw a meme this week that stated: “Church should be your excuse for missing things, not vice versa! We heard in the Gospel reading this morning: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which hath been lost.” [Lk. 19:10] Currently 40 million people struggle with hunger in our nation and 15 million folks live in homes that are identified as food insecure, meaning that they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle, according to data released by the USDA in September 2017. The USDA found 1 in 6 American children may not know where their next meal is coming from. 

Yet in this Nation, sixty-five percent of Americans still identify themselves as Christians. (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/) Have we as “Christians” become removed and distant from our fellow man or as Christ phrased it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ [Mt. 19:19]  Is this why Christianity is on the decline? I know for a fact that This-self is not hungry or in need, but I am no so confident about you which is exactly my point!? Have we become accustomed to letting our government and it’s failing social programs that just do not encompass all those ta are in need, replace our responsibility from embracing the poor and separating us from our neighbor? We don’t care enough to communicate and pride disables some folks from seeking help. Are we family?

When Jesus goes to the home of Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus who had not been living a Godly life promised he would give half of all his goods to the poor and make right anyone he had cheated fulfilling the beatitude: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.[Mt. 5:6] Through the love of Christ a transformation of a self-seeking heart into someone that will no longer be a spectator in life, but fully invested in the super-bowl of Christianity, not just for one great game or the last game at the end of the season, but every day and every hour! Dearest Lord, may we hunger to be more like Zacchaeus!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/2/2020

Make Your Christmas Light Brighter!

Here in the Valley, a lot of us begin the season of the Nativity by transforming our homes into a festive reminder. It takes some work, butthat is the point. All transformations take some work! I don’t want to get into the debates over trees, decorations and lights and their origin, I just want to reflect for a minute on our local seasonal tradition that helps us center our life on Christ and His birth!

Now my wife is the driving force to my many hours of decorating. It simply brings us joy. When I say us, as a martyr we are one, but her half does enjoy the results of decorating more! Happy spouse, happy house! In the decorating season, since we celebrate the Nativity on the old calendar, we are able to purchase decoration replacements and such at a heavily discounted price after the Pope celebrates his!! Each year I replace more of the old incandescent lights with more efficient and much brighter led lights and they even now seem to do all kinds of light shows and sequences and they normally stay up till February.

Back in the day we would spend hours troubleshooting our strings and strings of lights to replace the burned out bulbs and reuse them year after year. Now they last longer and are bargain priced at the end of the season so if they are too time consuming to repair, we toss them. I don’t think we have over-done it, but you can actually walk around the outside of our mountain home in the darkest of nights and have your path illuminated by our festive Christmas lights. Maybe the Whos from Whoville would give their approval!

However, there is some darkness in a corner of our home that I am still working on! It needs some festive light! This darkness is somewhere woven into my soul and I have yet to spend the effort to transform it to a brilliant light. We heard in the epistle today: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. [Eph. 5:11] Saint John Chrysostom says: For just as when a candle is set, all are brought to light, and the robber cannot enter, so if your light shine, the evil being scrutinized shall be easy to capture. So then it is needful to expose them….Paul did not say ‘judge,’ he said ‘reprove’ (ejlevgcete)….What Paul is saying is of this sort. As a wound, so long as it is imbedded and concealed, running beneath the surface, it enjoys not a bit of attention, so also sin, as long as it is hidden, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed with full license. But as soon as it is made manifest, it becomes light; not indeed the sin itself—for how could that be?—but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his darkness? Hast thou not then healed his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? Either this is the meaning or else what I said above, that your life being manifest is light. For no one hides an irreproachable life; whereas things which are hidden, are hidden by darkness covering them.” [Hom. 18, P.G. 62:127 (col. 122); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:408 CD (col. 1108).]

The Gospel writer John says it this way: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcome it not.”(John 1:5) We have a choice, to keep our wounds and sinfulness hidden in the dark, forever chained to the chill of death, or we can transform those thorns in our flesh by exposing them to His warm brilliant healing light. St John Chrysostom words it this way: “Since then neither death nor error can overcome it, since it is bright everywhere and shines by its proper strength, he says, ‘The darkness overcame it not.’ For it cannot be overcome, and will not dwell in souls which wish not to be enlightened.” [Hom. 5, P.G. 59:39, 40 (col. 58) A dark soul creates a shadow like a tall wall blocking the light. In this festive season, make your life with Christ brighter by replacing those burned out broken bulbs with His renewing light illumining your path to salvation.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-15-2019

Fear Not Little Flock!

Tuesday as we stood in the chilled morning air, facing east awaiting the Son to arise, The Mother of God encouraged us: “Fear not little flock! I am with you and no one is against you!”(Luke 12:32) And what a majestic sunrise it was. Build His Church!

You know, as a good Protestant I struggled with all the emphasis placed on this virgin. I knew the Romans made her divine but I could not find a path to believe in that practice. So where is the truth? Why does the true church hold her in such esteem?  Saint Paul instructs us: “Therefore brethren stand fast and keep the traditions which you have been taught whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). That is where we find the fullness of faith including the epistles and continuing the traditions as handed down since the Christian church came into existence as they were taught.

The One who walked on water and performed such healings that the Gospel of Saint John records: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)

However, hear the word that was recorded in Scripture! While Christ was teaching “a certain woman out of the crowd lifted up her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts which Thou didst suck.” [Lk. 11:27] And also to her the Archangel Gabriel came to honor and called her full of grace and blessed among women and Mother of my Lord (Luke 1:40-45). Blessed, or made holy is the womb, I often ask my friends, how can this be? Christ, fully divine and fully human, sharing oxygen, blood and nutrients while ever present in the womb with his mother, not somehow change her? Think about it, that which could not be contained was contained, and the Virgin lived to be ripe old age!

We do know when God’s presence was contained in the ark, precautions had to be taken. We certainly remember 2 Samuel Chapter 6, “Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.  7The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” And we also have in Leviticus the instructions to the high priests, the sons of Levi concerning their actions around the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 10:1-7, 16:2-34).

And we read in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke: “If a tree be known of by its fruit, and a good tree beareth good fruit (Mt. 7: 17; Lk. 6: 44)”. Saint Gregory Palamas asks us: “ then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself and the Birth-Giver of Eternal Beauty incomparably more excellent than any good, situated within the world of the natural or the supernatural?” (Saint Gregory Palamas, ArchBishop of Thessalonika)

From my un-orthodox upbringing I assumed our Lord was born unto a woman in the usual way but no, listen to the prophet Ezekiel: “Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:2) How is this possible scientifically? With God, Creator of science, all things are possible!

We read from the psalmist King David foretelling the coming of the Blessed Virgin: “and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple (Ps. 44/45:14-15). And it was also prophesied by the profit Jeremiah that it will be the virgin who will be the intercessor for the entry to the world of the Savior Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:2-23).

And even much earlier we find in the Book of Genesis that “woman”—a virgin who shall through her Son crush the head of the snake (Gen 3:15). Even in the beginning chapters of Genesis, God puts in place His plan to save us from our sins! This was written carefully to emphasis the role of the Virgin Mary. Saint John Chrysostom writes: And not only this, but “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” I’m not even content with this that you slide on the earth: I will make the woman your implacable enemy, and not simply her, but her seed as well I will cause to be perpetually at odds with your seed. “He will watch for your head, and you will watch for his heel.” That is to say, I will supply him with such force that he will constantly threaten your head, whereas you will be trodden under his feet. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis)

 And the apostolic writer John records her in the Book of Revelation 12:1-9: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:  And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” 

That is why we Orthodox place so much emphasis on the Theotokos or “God-Bearer”. This is why we highly respect womanhood, the birth givers and the Holy Ark which contains our salvation. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). She is the Mother of all Christians imitating thy Son and God in love! Through her obedience and demeanor, she has delivered us true hope!

Fear not little flock! I am with you and no one is against you!”(Luke 12:32)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-8-2019