4 am Feeding

I used to rise at 3:30 in the morning and head over to the farm while the sun was still sleeping behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. My first chore of the morning was to turn on the feed conveyors and start the silo unloader. We normally would add a wheel barrow full of a grain topper we had mixed by hand as the feed conveyor sent the corn silage from the silo out to the cattle troughs. Just the sound of the equipment running and the feed-room lights cutting through the darkness would wake the sleeping milk cows and set them on their feet and on the path to the gate below the barnyard. When the trough was full and the equipment turned off it was time to greet the girls and open the barnyard gate and let them into the pen just below the milk parlor.

 

Most of the cows were eager and always waiting and ready. There was always a little pushing and shoving as they hurriedly made their way into the milk line as the fragrance of corn silage stimulated their stomachs. And there were always a few I had to walk out to the pasture and drive to the barn usually with a cane; some of the milk cows had their own agenda and their own schedule. Once milked, it was time for them to eat and out of the parlor they went wasting no time as they found a place at the feed trough. The cows needed feed to sustain them and to be productive!

 

As for we humans, what is our routine? We go through the week and we all know the weekend is approaching. The Great Supper will be prepared and yet we tary to and fro playing around in the open fields of life. Will we chose to prepare ourselves on the path that leads to the Golden Gate and partake of the Great Supper, or continue to romp around with the devil in the open pastures?

 

Here in the church we hear the sounds of bells and the chanting of the Psalms that alert us that something great is coming. We smell the incense and see the preparations being made for our Lord’s Table. Won’t you come? There is nothing you have done that is greater than God’s forgiveness, you are all invited! For we all need the Bread of Life to sustain us and the Great Herdsman is looking for you, hoping you are willing and waiting at the gate.

 

Even the most stubborn of milk cows would eventually come into the barn and receive the necessary nourishment to sustain their existence. And we here our Lord in the Gospel reading this morning say: “Then the master of the house, having been provoked to anger, said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and maimed and lame and blind.’ [Lk. 14:21] Saint Ambrose wrote: “He sends to the streets, because He sent them to sinners, that they should come from the broad paths to the narrow way which leads to life [Mt. 7:13, 14].’” [Ib., Bk. VII, § 203.] We all need the Body and Blood of Christ to sustain Us! What are you waiting for, the Lord is calling, come, won’t you come?

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/30/2019

Count Your Many Blessings!

Here lately I misplace things. And even worse, sometimes I intentionally put something somewhere thinking I will certainly remember where I put it when I need it and then can’t remember where it lays awaiting! This time last year in the spirit of giving, I hid a present I had bought for my loving wife and I forgot where I put it and much worse than that, I forgot what it was that I hid! But I do remember hiding something and apparently really well! It certainly will be a surprise for the both of us one day!

 

Perhaps in these days, I am more distracted with life and its’ buffet of stuff always distracting me. I may go into the garage to get something and then get distracted by a thought or a phone call or the wife’s instructions and return to the house empty handed. It seems so hard to stay on point! It appears that there are so many things that need some of my attention and it is just too hard to juggle them all. I struggle to prioritize all of them wisely.

 

Perhaps my brain is not getting enough oxygen from my blood or my serotonin level is low due to the amount of toxins my body has absorbed over the years as a working man, or there is a lack of sunlight my desperate body needs causing my neurotransmitters to misfire. These things of course could be to blame for my lack of memory.

 

Perhaps I am just taking for granted all the things I am doing because they have become routine and somewhat boring and I have become careless? Groundhog Day, over and over again, but at least as we age our routines change as our body’s age and even the misplacing of things or the absence of memory is a new adventure daily, free of charge!

 

Is there is a difference between forgetting and forgetting to be thankful? Maybe if we suffer most of lives with such a nasty disease as leprosy we may be a bit confused as to why now and on this day we were finally healed? (Luke 17:12-18) What about last week or last year and what about all those lepers that were not cleansed of their disease?

 

As I read the testimony offered by Hieromonk Synesios this week I was reminded of a benefit of suffering, yes, a benefit. The testimony speaks about an eighty year old man in his last days experiencing excruciating pain as cancer is devouring his body. And as each pain crescendoed like a summer storm violently shaking the earth, he praised God. Time after time, day after day! A patient nearby witnessing his last days clearly stated: God ‘does exist, my child, and He is also a most loving Father, because with all this illness and pain, He cleanses me from my many sins. If you had worked on some rough task, and your clothes and your body stank, would you not need a rough brush to clean all this dirt? Likewise, God is using this disease as a balm, as a beneficial cleansing for my soul, in order to prepare it for the Kingdom of Heaven’. ( Life Events/Life and Death and tagged dying and after life story, terminal cancer story.)

 

The Son of God when in the flesh suffered as well but His suffering was for our salvific benefit. Do we remember to give God thanks for the many cleansings we receive? St Mark the Ascetic writes: “Consider the outcome of every involuntary affliction, and you will find it has been the destruction of sin.”(SL 67) So I ask: Have we forgotten that we are not of this Earth and belong with Him in an unspoiled state? With each trial that comes our way, remember to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) for God is working for our good and our eternity. (Romans 8:28)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-23-18

You Scrooge!

What does it mean to love God? The rich man in the Gospel reading today thought he had it figured out. (Luke 18:8-27) He followed the law letter by letter but was a scrooge with his wealth. Well, many of us set boundaries with our Christianity that are a bit too safe and end up building an idol separating us from God. But there is nothing wrong with wealth, however there is something wrong about being stingy and there is something wrong with loving something or someone more than God.

 

Some years ago when I joined the work force in a full-time position, my older colleagues started to impress on me the need to start saving for my future. In our country we have a government program called social security which is supposed to be a federal insurance program to help care for the retirees. But even in my generation there has been doubt that it would not still exist when I reach my golden years. And even if when the time comes and if it has not been robbed of all the monies that have been deducted out of our paychecks, will it then be enough to meet all our financial needs as the cost of living continues to soar. When is enough, enough?

 

So where is this line between overfilling my storehouse (Luke 12:18) and investing my five talents (Matt 25:20-21) wisely? We are to be people of moderation with the exception of our love for God. St Issac the Syrian says: “He who is master of possessions, is the slave of passions. Do not estimate gold and silver only as possessions, but all things thou possess for the sake of the desire of thy will.” (“Six Treatise on the Behavior of Excellence,” IV, Mystic Treatises By Isaac Of Nineveh )

 

Be about your Father’s business all the time and as St. John Chrysostom writes: “Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.” In addition, St. Luke instructs us to: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) And for those of us who say they have barely enough as it is Saint Dorotheos writes no one can say: “I am poor and hence I have no means of giving alms.” For even if you cannot give as the rich gave their gifts into the temple treasury, give two farthings as the poor widow did, and from you God will consider it greater gift than the gifts of the rich. And if you do not have as much as two farthings, you can take pity on the sick and give alms by ministering to them. And if you cannot do even this, you can comfort your brother by your words. “A good word is better than the best of gifts.”

 

In this season of the St. Philip’s fast as we make our way to Bethlehem to prepare for the birth of our Savior, let us remember that we were all born without possessions. And although we had nothing, we had everything! We were born with the greatest possibility, the greatest treasure known to mankind. We were born with the wealth of love from our Father and the path to that wealth is the return to our unstained birth, free from the wounds life has brought us. And this return is by faith, trusting in the One who loves us and has been working for the good in our lives. Don’t be a sour-faced scrooge! Surrender, and let Him touch your brokenness. Surrender, and love your neighbor. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts.” Surrender, “and with faith, draw nigh!(James 4”8)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-16-2018

 

HELL-BENT

The Gospel writer today tells us about the woman that suffered eighteen years and not only suffered but was bent in two from her affliction. The psalmist foretold of this figuratively: “I have been wretched and utterly bowed down until the end [Ps. 37(38):8(6)]” and here in this Gospel we see it literally come to pass.

 

And yet the suffering woman although inflicted or as St. Cyril of Jerusalem remarks: “is said to have suffered this from the cruelty of the devil” continues to come to the Synagogue and worship God! She was said to be a regular churchgoer and on this day the Great Physician sees her and heals her. The One who loves cast out the great hater of mankind and the suffering woman was no longer hell-bent and “immediately she was set straight again, and was glorifying God. [Lk. 13:13]”

 

For those of us that are not folded over and do not have to stare at our feet all the time, whenever we choose to repeat our sins we too are utterly bowed down and hell-bent, choosing to be in fellowship with the evil one instead of the All-Mighty One. Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Our repeated sins bind our hearts, so that we cannot rise to an upright condition.” [Ib., 253, 254.] We then regain our posture when we come with heartfelt repentance to confession and receive absolution. And we are then healed from our infirmities when we touch the Masters Body warmly waiting for us on the communion spoon. The prophet Isaiah writes: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” [Isaiah 6:6-7]

 

The hell-bent woman could in no way lift herself up on her own, she needed help. We too need help to straighten our selfish immoral temptations that separate us from God. And here in the Orthodox tradition if we choose to practice the spiritual disciplines made available, we can become a more-perfect upright example of a God-seeker.

 

During this season of the Nativity of Christ I challenge you to leave your comfortable routine and increase your quest for salvation by spending just a little more time with God. After all, it tis the season! And the season is about “the Incarnation of the Word was manifested to destroy corruption and death, and the hatred of the devil against us. (St Cyril of Jerusalem) The season is about a loving Creator wanting you to be with Him. Some people have chosen to give their entire lives to Christ after all, what in the world is more authentic and important!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-9-2018

The Basics Of LOVE

The song “Let’s get back to the basics of love” was blasting out of my triaxial speakers and my 8-track player was humming as I was cruising in my 1970 Camaro many years ago; this was at the beginning of my redneck conversion. In this song, Waylon and Willie were pleading with their love to simplify and refocus their relationship. The distractions of things of this earth had come between them and had separated them from each other. Life had become complicated and the relationship was heading for sure disaster.

 

This relationship each and every one of us has with our Creator is also a love story! Have the complications of life separated you from God; He is longing for you! Although at times we feel God has abandoned us and left us out for the buzzards and every blow that life delivers we land squarely on the chin because we chose to fight alone and not keep our guard up.“Put on the full armor of God, for you to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; because for us the wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the cosmic rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of evil on account of the heavenly things.” [Eph. 6:11-12] Saint John Chrysostom writes: “Having said that the enemies are vehement (intense) and violent, he adds further, that they defraud us of great things. What are these? The fight lies in the heavenlies. It is not about riches, nor about glory, but about our being lead to enslavement…. The rivalry and the fight are more intense when great interests are at stake; it is not in order that they may gain anything by the conquest, but that they may defraud us….He is doing his best to cast us out of heaven.” [Hom. 22, P.G. 62:169 (col. 159).]

 

God does not make mistakes, but He allows us to. And most of us tend to repeat our mistakes over and over again like the Pete and Repeat riddles we used to tell! The great deceiver is constantly trying to divorce you from your marriage with Christ! It takes a dedicated person in Love with their Creator to overcome their passions and redirect their life story. And we must never forget that God is a jealous Bridegroom and has provided for us all the tools necessary for us to restore our relationship with Him! It takes some work!

 

Just as Waylon and Willie sang, we need to get back to the basics of love! We can do this each and every day focusing on the following basic priorities: Belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord, God and Savior with His Father and the Holy Spirit; Daily prayer- morning, noon, or night; develop a rule that works for you, pray without ceasing; Weekly worship- Vespers and Divine Liturgy; Love of Neighbor- Everyone is your Neighbor, Almsgiving- sacrificial giving to the needy; Fasting- weekly- Wed and Fri and Sunday before communion and our seasonal fasts; Sacramental- Regular Participation in Confession, Holy Communion and Holy Unction; Reading Scripture- daily, lectionary, study and memorization; Education- study the lives of the saints, bible study, pilgrimages and seminars; Support the Mission of the Church- stewardship of time, talents and treasure; Ethical/Moral- Practice & Purity- transforming our thoughts, words and actions.

 

I pray that our relationship with our Creator grows stronger as we age each and every day and the love in us can be perfected in His light! Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-10-13; 12-2-18