I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

I’ve heard the phrase “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” so many times! It is a slogan used to sell wireless medical pendants to folks that find their physical stability to be a challenge at times. As advertised, with the push of a button, another person has been notified and will start a procedure to check on your welfare. It begins with an attempt of a conversation on the phone with a series of questions that helps the operator discern how best to help you. A neighbor or loved one can be contacted and if need be, and a medical person can be dispatched to your home to help you with your struggle. Since so many people live alone and find themselves secluded, this can be a great aide.

This is also a very orthodox phrase as well. It is the very words spoken by the great saints of the church through the course of their life as they called out for help in the midst of their struggles and asked God for help to get up! We all fall short and miss the mark at times! The writer of Ecclesiastes writes: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”(Ecclesiastes 7:20) And we read in Proverbs:”Everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins.”[Prov. 5:22] And please don’t look here for perfection as I have thick calluses on my knees, not from hours of lengthy prayers but from my frequent hard falls from the ladder of accent.

The good news for us is we have a gracious and loving Father who yearns for our return. We are never alone! Even in times when we find ourselves dreadfully tormented, there is always hope! Saint Ambrose recorded this: ‘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.”(Mathew 8:12) So for us, we need to be constantly seeking the Light. The darkness is deceiving; it is a silver-tongued salesman trying to sell us an ole clunker! And we all know that a clunker’s metal is rotting away and mechanically unable to get us where we need to go! Sometimes an ole clunker looks good but can’t even make it up the hill!

When I think of myself as an ole clunker, I am reminded of a show called Vegas Rat Rods. It is a show about reviving old clunkers into high performance vehicles. The Rat Rods still show plenty of rust and neglect, but their powertrain and drivetrain have been completely renewed and are once again, back on the road. Once the title has been surrendered and ownership changes hands, even though they still have some dents and wounds, the power house has been refreshed and with the push of a button or turn of a key, down the road they go.

You and I have some rust and some faulty parts as well. Life choices have taken their toll on us and we find ourselves rusting or scratching the deep itch from the worms of darkness eating at our flesh. We feel the pain of dents in our bodies from collisions we have had in life. Our past cannot be erased but it can be buffed and repowered to make us high performance vehicles on this bumpy road of life.

Your Father can restore that which is in you that is malfunctioning or dented. Your Father can help you if you just fall on your knees, repent and surrender your title of ownership over to Him. Stop being a little pope and get up! Come out of the scrap yard of life and let the Great Mechanic put you squarely on the road to salvation, super powered by the love of Christ and fueled by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-5-2020

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

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

GIFT CARD

 

My recent birthday presented me with some plastic money or gift cards. Gift cards have become popular as they allow the giftee the chance to pick out exactly how and when they will spend the value of the precious plastic gift.

After all when it comes to gifts of clothing, there are some folks who have a slightly different taste than mine and try to make me more urban than my fertile country roots want to allow! And of course there is always the obstacle of size variations differing from manufacturers. Although some believe the plastic gift card is too impersonal and rather a cold birthdays embrace, it has become an ever so popular convenient prize.

In the past, I have misplaced a gift card or two; maybe my value of them was not as high as it should have been. When I eventually remember where I stashed them or stumble upon them as I perhaps look for something else I safely put away; when I go to use that found gift card It still has the same value or same amount of worth as it did when I received it.

A thoughtful gift is always of great value but honestly, the greatest gift I have ever received is the gift of grace. We heard in the Epistle this morning, “But to each of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of the Christ.”[Eph. 4:7] Grace is not a manmade textile nor can it be corralled upon a plastic card. Grace is an energy mediated to mankind by a loving God through the works of the Holy Spirit. We say in the Trisagion prayer: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, the Treasury of good things and Giver of life…” The Holy Spirit’s general ministry towards all of creation in which He fills all things with the energies of God in His role as the Divine Agent of Him by Whom “all things have come into existence”. (Col. 1:17)

We know that sin entered into the world with the first-made, Adam. In Romans 5:17 we read: “For if, by the offense of the one, death reigned through the one, much more they who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 5:17] Saint John Chrysostom describes it this way: “He does not here say ‘grace,’ but ‘abundance of grace’ (perisseivan th“~ cavrito~). For it was not as much as we must have to do away the sin only, that we received of His grace, but even much more….For Christ paid down much more than we owe, even as the boundless sea is much more than a little drop.” [Hom. 10, P.G. 60:522 (cols. 476, 477).]

We put on Christ at our baptism rejecting Satan. It becomes very specifically the act of a person’s death and resurrection in and with Jesus. Christian baptism is man’s participation in the actual event of Pascha. It is a “new birth by water and the Holy Spirit” into the Kingdom of God (Jn 3.5). We then chant the words of the Apostle Paul as the newly-baptized is led in procession around the baptismal font three times as the symbol of his procession to the Kingdom of God and his entrance into eternal life: “For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia” (Gal 3.27).

But just as I misplace my plastic gift card, I can also choose to turn my back on Christ and His grace and allow my baptismal garment to be stained. Saint John Chrysostom writes:“If He “lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” how is it that so many continue unenlightened? For not all have known the Majesty of Christ. How then doth He “light every man”? He lighteth all as far as in Him lies. But if some, willfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that Light, their, darkness arises not from the nature of the Light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. ‘For the grace is shed forth upon all,’ turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike, and inviting with an equal regard. And those who are not willing to enjoy this gift, ought in justice to impute their blindness to themselves; for if when the gate is opened to all, and there is none to hinder, any being willfully evil remain without, they perish through none other, but only through their own wickedness.”

The gift of grace is as valuable now as it ever was! With every stain I paint on my baptismal garment, His grace washes it clean with my sinfulness confessed and His Body and Blood ministering to my wounds. St. Clement of Rome states it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Christ’s Blood and understand how precious it is to His Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.” Even if you have misplaced your faith and turned your back on God, His grace for you is still there, awaiting you. God’s love for you and I is so intense but yet He leaves the gate open, it is your choice to surrender your brokenness and failures and let Him bind your woundedness with His selfish grace that yearns for all of mankind to come home. We need you and want you! He needs you and wants you! We are family!!!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-26-2020

Birth of Goodness

We often romanticize about the birth of Christ and the Christmas story. We reflect on the angels, the most pure virgin, the obedience of Joseph and the lowly manger. We quickly forget that God took the form of flesh during a time of unrest and persecution. His arrival was not met with parades and shouts of jubilation throughout the world. Parts of the world reacted with evil as we heard in the Gospel reading this morning. (Mathew 2:13-23) His birth story sounds familiar as we remember the birth of Moses and the wicked orders given by Pharaoh from the time before the great Exodus:  “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (Exodus 1:15-22)

Listen to the horrific recount of today’s Gospel story from our dear saint, Nikolai Velimirovich: This frightening command of the king was carried out to the letter. His soldiers beheaded some of the children with swords, smashed others against stones, trampled others underfoot, and strangled others with their hands. And the cries and wails of the mothers rose to heaven, lamentation, and bitter weeping; “Rachel weeping for her children” (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18), as had been prophesied.

Herod asked the High Priest Zacharias about his son John, so that he might kill him, since he naturally thought that John was the new king. As Zacharias did not turn John over, he was slain in the Temple by order of Herod. After murdering the children of Bethlehem, Herod turned against the Jewish elders who had revealed to him where the Messiah would be born. He then killed Hyrcanes, the high priest, and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin. Thus, they who had agreed with Herod that the new Child-king must be killed came to an evil end. After that, Herod murdered his brother, sister, wife and three sons.

Finally, God’s punishment came to him: he began to tremble, his legs became swollen, the lower part of his body became putrid, and worms came out of the sores; his nose became blocked and an unbearable stench emanated from him. Before his last breath, he remembered that there were many captive Jews in prison, and he ordered that they all be killed so that they would not rejoice in his death. Thus, this terrible ruler gave up his inhuman soul and handed it over to the devil for eternal possession.  (Saint Nikolai Velimirovich)

Listen now to these words, God does not fear evil, it is the other way around. That is why Herod and Pharaoh acted as they did. That is why we today struggle so much to be a Christian nation. Evil reacts to separate us from God, from our salvation. Evil loves power and money but our Lord was born into the flesh poor and humble. It is easy for good people too lose their vision in this walk of life as evil distorts truth, folks identifying as Christians find themselves supporting wickedness or perhaps the lesser choice of evils, abandoning the laws given to mankind by our Creator. Our actions are causing us to react with evil choices!   

After the Nativity, 14,000 innocent children lost their lives as evil reacted to the birth of Goodness. Is it a wonder that we here today struggle along the narrow path with such cunning wickedness always seeking opportunities to cast darkness over our attempts to climb the ladder of divine ascent? Is it a wonder that we still today believe our understanding or our translation of what a Christian is suppose to be instead of submitting to the Almighty’s light of perfection and judgment. Sin is sin, and we are all in need of a Savior and the birth of Goodness in every corner of our lives! Christ is BORN!  Will you glorify Him?

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-12-2020

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