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