SPLINTER

[Rom. 13:12] The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

 
When you work with wood you enviably get splinters in your flesh. I have been working on our log home frequently and have come to know this all too well. I keep plenty of Band-Aids and electrical splintertape in my truck for administering first aid.

 
In order for me to remove the splinter I need plenty of light and a knife or pair of tweezers to aid me in digging the splinter out of my flesh. I also need plenty of light and I now, with my failing eyesight, need my reading glasses to magnify the injury!

 
If I can’t see the splinter, I can feel that there is something foreign under my flesh. Sometimes I realize this immediately depending upon the size and nature of the splinter. However, sometimes I am unaware that I have acquired a splinter until an infection sets in and my skin turns red and it becomes tender to the touch.

 

I also suffer the effects from another type of splinter, but this one lodges in my heart and adheres to my soul. These splinters are foreign objects and should not be found in my temple of God, but I have even grown accustomed to their existence and chose to continue on in life ignoring the soreness and the infections they have caused.

 
These splinters are sin and they hide in the darkness of my self-justifying intellect. I like to feel good about myself and my actions and therefore ignore their existence! I allow the sinful splinters to separate me from the loving embrace of my creator which is the beginning of a life-threatening infection. Their existence distracts me from the light of Christ and I cling to the darkness seeking a place to hide them.

 
Saint John Chrysostom says: “As a wound, so long as it is embedded 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 healed darkness? Hast thou not then his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? For no one hides a blameless (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).]

 
When I realize I have caused someone pain, I need to examine my flesh for the splinter. Seeking Christ’s-aid by self-examination and exposing the splinters to the Light by study, confession, prayer and fasting, and then applying a heaping amount of the antibiotic of heartfelt forgiveness frequently.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3/13/16

Attracted To Distraction

It’s fourth and ten with a minute to go and you’re down by seven. The very next play, the next snap of the ball will determine if your year was a success or a failure. Yes, it is time for the Super Bowl. If only life were a game and a great big pay check awaited us despite the outcome of our next decision, win or lose.

 
After church today, Super Bowl 50 is expected to generate some 620 million dollars in revenue. And according to the American Gaming Association, people will gamble away 4.2 billion dollars on Super Bowl wagers. That’s a lot of dough for entertainment!

 
The events held in the coliseums offer us a fresh bouquet of life in the midst of our grey day to day struggles with health, wealth, happiness and purpose. And let us not forget the advertisements that tempt us and seduce us into wanting things we don’t need and can really live without!

 
We are all attracted to distraction. And as for me, even when I’m not beDistracteding entertained by sports, my mind often leaves reality behind in pursuit of dream weaving. I find myself struggling throughout the day reflecting upon my woundedness rather than counting my blessings, or I use my vivid imagination entertaining myself in the land of “what ifs”.

 
All of our senses gather information from our surroundings and send that information to our brain for processing. This information can be vital for our survival and makes us want to seek out new information or makes us attracted to distraction and new surroundings. And it seems these days with our new electronic gadgets; we are allowing ourselves to be seduced more and more away from reality and away from God.

 
And then there is my prayer time when my need to center myself on God is interrupted with an attack of distraction. As long as my brain is healthy, it will continue to generate thoughts and ideas and it will seek out distractions. But I can dismiss them by turning my attention back to my prayer offering and making the sign of the cross from the top of my brain to the bottom of my heart to reapply my attention.

 
When most folks go to sleep they turn off the light and turn off the distractions. We need a time of quiet and peace. We need a time to turn off the world! To continually allow ourselves to be distracted is choosing to separate ourselves from God. Saint Gennadius of Constantinople wrote: “Do not forsake prayer, for just as the body becomes weak when it is deprived of food, so also the soul when it is deprived of prayer draws nigh to weakness and noetic death.” (St. Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 44)

 
Before the age of the Super Bowl, Facebook and the internet, Saint Paul’s warns the folks in a letter to Corinth: “And this I say for your own profit, not that I might cast a noose upon you, but for that which is seemly, and for constant waiting on the Lord without distraction.” [1 Cor. 7:35] And we hear from the words of our Lord: “Without Me you can’t do anything.”(John 15:5) I pray in this New Year we can all seek out the Kingdom of God firstly and be less attracted to distractions in our hot pursuit of the Kingdom of God.
Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/7/16

ONE FIST OF IRON, THE OTHER OF STEEL

baby-fist1“If you see me comin’, better step aside A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel If the right one don’t a-get you, then the left one will”

 
In 1994, Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded a song titled Sixteen Tons. This song spoke about becoming hardened and calloused in the rivers of life. With one fist of iron and the other of steel, Tennessee Ernie became tough after being bumped and bruised along the path of life, and fightin’ and trouble became his middle name.

 
Saint Paul gives us a different example to follow than the one Tennessee Ernie spoke of. And let the peace of God be presiding in your hearts, to which also ye were called in one body; and keep on becoming thankful. [Col. 3:15] That is much easier said than done. When the bumps and bruises of life inflict pain and suffering, it usually takes our minds away from being peaceful and thankful. We find ourselves entrenched in a state of panic and despair, gasping for help.

 
How many times I have longed to alleviate the suffering I see other folks going through or I hear of in the confessional. And in my limitations as a man, sometimes the best I think I can offer is a tear or an encouraging word. For alone, we are helpless! But as a family, hand in hand, we are strong! And as God’s church, we are unbreakable!

 
When someone in a family or group catches a cold, everyone gets sick. The sick person spreads their germs just as we the church share our struggles and failures, our dust of the Earth sharing in life with your dust. We do not wish to infect others with our problems but to be reassured that we are not alone. We are thankful that we love people who care, and thankful that they love us enough to care, to share, to remember each other and our families in their prayers. A kind word, a hot meal, a hug or a pat on the back connect us all to the same body.

 
When my left eye is tired, my right eye increases, when my right foot limps, my left foot caries my load. And so it is in the body of Christ. From the dust of this earth we have been wonderfully made and to the dust of this earth we will return and what really matters is what we do in between those dots on our road map of life. Let the peace of God be still the rage of hurt and failure than rise up against us and tries to prevent us from loving His body, and loving our member that has gone limp and is sometimes prickly with pain. Don’t be offended so easily!

 
It takes strength to reach out. And it takes an effort to be a servant like Christ! Take up your cross and follow the great healer, the greatest lover of mankind, and the biggest servant of us all! “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. [Mt. 11:28] We are family, we are one body, and we are the church! Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/20/15

Pentecost

white water raftingI have always had a great respect for water. It started at an early age for me at the Boys Club in Norfolk where I was abandoned in the indoor pool in an effort to teach me how to swim. And then about that same time I witnessed Hurricane Camille and Agnes as they swept ashore in Tidewater with their flooding waters and fierce winds, and then even more recently I experienced the great forces of water as I helplessly tumbled around in a hydraulic on a white water rafting trip on the gorge on the New River in West Virginia. Water is a mighty and powerful creation!
We here today on the feast of Pentecost many references to water, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink” [Jn. 7:37] and “rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly” [Jn. 7:38]. Water is a very universal part of our faith! We are all baptized in water; we consume water with the Blood of Christ, and throughout the year we are sprinkled with water and our homes are even blessed with water. Water is a very important element not only in our worship of a loving God but also in our very earthly existence.
Water is such an important necessity of our lives. Our body is made up of 60% water and our body uses it to regulate our temperature, cushion our brain, spinal cord and fetuses from shock trauma and water helps keep our joints moving. Water is vital to our existence and scientist say that we can only live 3 days without it.
But we cannot live without Living Water as well. The Holy Spirit is our living water. “But whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him in no wise shall ever thirst. But the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing into eternal life.” [Jn. 4:14] Our Lord chose to use water as an image because we cannot exist without it. And you see, without the Holy Spirit, we can exist on this earth but not in eternity! We will not live a life in abundance without the outpouring of love flowing from a heart that is full of the Holy Spirit and a life without God is not truly living but merely temporarily existing.
We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit after our Baptism after we put on Christ at our Chrismation. Our forehead is marked signifying the sanctification of the mind and thoughts. The anointing of our chest signifies the sanctification of the heart, or desires. The anointing of our eyes, ears, and lips signifies the sanctification of the senses. The anointing of our hands and feet seals their sanctification to good works and walking in the way of His commandments. We were given all that is necessary to conquer the demon!
May mighty and powerful rivers of living water gush forth from your belly like a white water rapid helplessly entangling everyone you meet in the apostolic fishing net of Divine love!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-31-15

“X” MARKS THE SPOT

old treasure map

As a young lad, I had quite the imagination. Being influenced by stories about “Huckleberry Fin”, “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island”, you might find me looking for treasure maps and digging holes in the back yard. Although, I think our dog was usually blamed for the holes in my empty searches. But I could easily imagine how my life could be so much greater if I could only uncover the hidden treasure buried somewhere beneath the earth in my numerous searches. And I still today occasionally ponder about all the gold and jewels that were hidden by the pirates and has that plunder been accounted for? I have a shovel; does anybody have a treasure map?

Today I want to speak about a different kind of fortune. It is a treasure from God. It is the story about how our Creator loves us so much, that he sent his Son to show us how we should love by his actions, and then showed us how much our Father loves us by his Son’s death! It is so hard to comprehend that kind of love when our love for each other is so corrupted by vainglory, anger and pride.

Since the fall of Adam, mankind has perfected deception, self-love, sexual perversion in many shades of grey, and hate for all God’s creation. How can a vessel that was created by the very hand of God become so worthless? It is simply by our choice, for it is much easier to be carried down-stream by the flooding rivers of this fallen world than to cling to the olive branch of hope and fight the mighty currents of our perverted humanity.    

We must cling to the mighty words of wisdom found in the arsenal of Orthodoxy. When anger and resentment take root in us, we can look to our great Desert Father, Abba Dorotheus, who says that we can be healed of the sickness of resentment “by prayer right from the heart for the one who has annoyed us. We can pray such words as, ‘O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.’ In this,” says Abba Dorotheus, “we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother’s prayers. [7]”

We alone can only make these changes by seeking assistance from above. And we can find help in these times of fasting as we voluntarily make small sacrifices and spend more time seeking God. By removing ourselves a little bit more from the world, we can spend more time in reflection and prayer, asking forgiveness for the many short-comings we have and “bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving one another,” (Eph 4:32) just as Jesus bore our sins on the wood of the Holy Cross.

St. John of Kronstadt wrote:“Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, suddenly my sin falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find myself free… For the faithful, the Cross is a mighty power which delivers from all evils.

Here, on the Cross of Christ lays your life preserver. When the muddy waters of life are consuming you, reach for the Cross. The Cross bears our life-blood. All our passions can be cleansed away at the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Saint Irenæos wrote: “He destroyed the handwriting of our debt and fastened it to the Cross, so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.”

Fellow treasure hunters, my youthful exploration for hidden treasure has finally come to fruition.  I have followed all the clues and finally found my riches! The precious fortune that I have discovered will not perish and will not waiver in the plunging markets of life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life. [Jn. 3:16]  I have found my treasure, and the “X” of the Cross marks the spot! Glory to Thee; Oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-15

Fool’s Gold

Granddad Walton was a road-builder. He helped build I-81 and parts of the Skyline Drive. He was a road grader operator. My parents took me one day to visit him at work and actually see him operate that big piece of machinery. After pushing some gravel to grade, he climbed out of the cab, with his Beechnut Chewing Tobacco in his flannel shirt pocket, and with a big grin on his face, handed me a rock. This rock had big specks of glittering gold nuggets in it!grader86sm

As a young boy, my mind began to race with stories of pirates and treasures and such. I then started thinking about a new bicycle and oh my, the many paths my mind began to race down in a mere matter of seconds were countless!

Granddad let me dream for awhile and then brought me back to earth by telling me that he had just given me a worthless rock, a piece of Fool’s Gold. My dreams of treasure had now deflated like a 7 day old birthday balloon. What seemed to be a priceless treasure had no value!

Now many years later, at times I still let my mind race down paths of my imagination and dream of the “what-ifs”! I waste away my life a couple of minutes each hour imagining about the “if only I had” or “if I only could” thoughts. Still not seeming satisfied with what God has blessed me with and still not focusing on that which truly is priceless! How can I become a seeker of this precious treasure? We look to St. Theophan the Recluse for guidance and he gives us some helpful advice on how to be profitable with our time and our thoughts:

One must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.
In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day.

Beginning anything, for example, say “Bless, O Lord!” When you finish something, say, “Glory to Thee, O Lord”, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart.
If passions arise, say, “Save me, O Lord, I am perishing”. If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: “Lead my soul out of prison”. If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, “Set me, O Lord, in the way”, or “do not give up my feet to stumbling”.

If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. 

Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, “Lord, have mercy”, “Most Holy Theotokos save us”, “Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me”, or other such words.

Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them comes from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

Glittering things of this world are worthless; they are a fool’s gold! What we should center our life on is the pursuit of the One who gave His life so that we can experience pure love, without omega. Ridding ourselves of all our sin and wanting to be a fool-for-Christ with an eternal value and not settling for the worthless glimmering rocks that this world values!

Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller

1/23/13