DO YOU SEE THE LIGHT??

We humans don’t like the dark. When it is dark, we stub our toes as we try to navigate and we hear noises that we can’t identify the origin of. We need light! The human body needs the full spectrum of light supplied to us by the sun to function and stay healthy. And for those night owls that function best at night, they still need light to read, drive cars, work and so forth. We are not like nocturnal mammals that have rods in their retinas that make enhanced night vision possible.

 
For our safety and comfort we can easily flip a switch and enlighten our lives. It takes energy to create light. Illuminating light within our homes is usually 25% of the monthly electric bill. I have been excited to purchase and install only LED light bulbs in our cabin. Although the price of the led bulb is still a little high, the savings on my monthly electric bill and the savings in energy use was the determining factor for us. The old incandescent bulbs only converted 2% of their energy usage to light and the rest was wasted in heat. The new LED bulbs use about 15% of the electricity needed to produce the same amount of light as the old bulbs and generate a lot less heat. And NIT is currently developing a new light source that will be 40% efficient.

 
But the best attempt that we humans can generate to cross-glowing-1acreate light has a great loss of energy. Even with the new 40% bulbs, we will still be wasting 60% of our created source of energy! But God’s energy is different! The word energy means “working in” and the uncreated energies of God are always working! There is no power outage!

 
At home if we don’t pay the light bill, our energy provider disconnects us and our home goes dark. God’s energy is uncreated and ever-present. You can turn your back on God and deny His existence and allow darkness to overshadow your soul, but His existence is all around you. Everything that is, is His!

 
The energies of God enlighten our souls. We participate in God’s energy, described numerously in scripture as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We see God’s energies in the sacraments of the church, the forgiveness of sins, miracles and the healing of our soul and body.

 
We marinate in His energy like bathing in the sun, becoming more and more like Him. When you are in the sun, you will fill the warmth and your skin will darken and freckle. I can still picture my Grandmother Hazel sitting on the back porch with her meat hammer, pounding the toughness out of what we were having for supper. God’s energies are pounding out my head-strong gristle intertwined with my deep-deep well of free will, bringing me with my stubborn feet dragging into His tenderness of grace and His everlasting light. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:9) I must be a really tough piece of meat! Don’t give up on me Father, keep on pounding!

 
The uncreated Light and the knowledge of God “illuminates every man that cometh into this world.” God’s act is pure light, and when the Lord appears to us, he always appears as Light. In Holy Scripture we read: “In Your Light we shall see light.” Don’t let the divine energies running through body and soul be wasted! Deny power interruptions from the evil one and flip on your switch and let Him shine!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11/20/2016

Puppy Dog Kisses

What caught my attention in the Gospel reading today was in verse 21: “even the dogs, which came were licking his sores.”[Lk. 16:21] Now I am sure that we have all heard the suggestion made to let Lassie lick our wounds 22222222221for a faster healing. Is it a fact that dog saliva can help heal human wounds? Scientific research has concluded that there are compounds in dog saliva that act against infection and encourage healing. However, in contrast to the healing ability, dog saliva also has a risk of causing serious infection introduced from the bacteria and organisms also found in a dogs’ mouth. Maybe after Lassie used some mouthwash it would be safer???

 
But in the Gospel story, dogs were licking Lazarus’s wounds because his sores were exposed and not hidden. Saint Kyril writes: “They licked his wounds, and that, as it seems was not to injure them, but rather as sharing in his suffering and attending him.” [Commentary, P.G. 72:358AB (col. 828).] God’s created, caring for God’s created, truly man’s best friend. Sorry cat people.

 
The Orthodox Fathers tell us that Christ is also referring to sins when he speaks about these sores. Lazarus’s sins were exposed where as the rich man sins were well hidden in his self- righteousness and wealth. He has covered his shortcomings with layers of worldly distractions. When we go to confession, Saint Gregory the Great writes: “holy teachers give us instruction during the confession of our sins, they are touching the wounds of our hearts with their tongues.” I suppose Mouthwash is optional there as well!

 
In the Gospel reading, the poor beggar was known by God because his name is recorded here in the scripture. The rich man, however, has been too busy indulging in the riches of this life and abandoned his relationship with God and therefore his name is not known! Is wealth a sin? Saint Ambrose tells us: “Lazarus was a pauper in this world, but a rich man before God….Yet not all poverty is holy or wealth sinful, but as excess dishonors riches, so sanctity commends poverty.” [Ib., Bk. VIII, § 13.]

 
The beggar Lazarus teaches us that to truly love God is a life-struggling act of humility. The first shall be last, love others more than ourselves, and do not cling to things of this earth which at the end of our time on this earth, have no heavenly value. And just maybe one day if we reach the depth of humility and Theosis as did the servant Lazarus, we too might find ourselves being carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham!

 
May our Lord God bless us, keep us and have mercy upon us!

Fr. Gabriel 11/16

LINE IN THE WATER

As I stood there along the bank of the lake I instructed the youth that were fishing with me: “You can’t catch a fish if your line is not in the water.” After all, there is a difference between catching fish and fishing! And since results were not happening fast enough, my companions had a tendency to keep reeling in their line to make sure bobbertheir bait was still on the hook! And it usually was unless the youngins threw it off the hook with one of their many casts into the water showing off all their bionic strength! As far as catching fish that day, with all of the casting activity on the surface of the water, the fish probably swam away to safer waters.

 
Well, perhaps I was lacking as a fishing instructor! After all, I have never been a great fisherman or hunter, but not yet quite a vegetarian either. You see, in the red neck dictionary the definition of a vegetarian is “one who can’t hunt or fish!” But here in our Gospel reading today, these men were professional fishermen, making their living and feeding their family by the filling of their nets! These men knew every way and everything there was to know about catching fish!

 
Peter and Andrew were having a tough time fishing. They patiently fished all night and did not catch a thing. There nets remained empty. But after a fishless night, the grace of Christ made what was impossible, possible. Not only were the nets filled but they were full of fish even with tears in the nets. And there was enough fish caught to fill two boats and the boats were overloaded and began to sink!

 
In my life, my nets have known emptiness too! There have also been times when I didn’t even get in the boat but chased empty pursuits that did not sustain me! I also know there have times in my prayer life when my nets have continually been empty! As Christians even when our nets are empty, we need to continue fishing. “If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12).” – St. Ambrose of Optina.

 
We need to keep our lines in the water with disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship and charity even we it seems all hope is lost and our harvest is fruitless. The measure of a Christian is most accurately measured during these times when we have exhausted all of our efforts and our nets seem empty! Therefore, by resisting and fighting evil, we help to establish the Kingdom, or more correctly, we enter it and take possession of it.

 
We have one goal in life, seeking and serving God. And as God’s servant we are to be fishers of men. So many times we get distracted by worldly goals and get ourselves blown around by the storms of life. Yet we can be successful even with holes in our nets! We just need to remember the basics, keeping our equipment ready and maintained, our Christ-like bait fresh and on the hook, and of course keeping our line in the water with constant prayer and worship! And with the grace of Christ, our boats will be filled. We’ll catch ‘em and He’ll clean them!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-9-2016

YARD SALE!

This week as we prepared for the church yard sale I tookyard-sale a moment and reflected upon the effort needed to have a successful sale. Scheduling was a big problem for us this year with the many things in our lives we are so busy with. Matushka finally was able to corner me into setting a date and making a space in my hectic schedule.

 
And of course we needed items donated to sell and folks willing to give their precious time to price the items and also to help work the sale. We needed to advertise so we placed a small ad in the newspaper, the bulletin board and even placed yard sale signs on the street in front of the church. Matushka went to the store and found special yard-sale price tags and we had to go to the bank and get some small change to keep on hand.

 
On Saturday in the early morning before the roosters began crowing, we had to set up tables and moved all the donated items out front to the street. It sure took a lot of preparation to get rid of unwanted things we had kept in our lives and then we settled for pennies on the dollar. But the money raised will be put to good use!

 
Matushka was pricing items on Friday when a local woman happened into the church, lured by our new bright yellow yard sale signs. She looked around and quickly realized she was in unfamiliar territory. The church hosting this yard sale was not like any church she been in before. She immediately wanted validation as to why we had icons of the saints and why we honor the Mother of God so much. She wanted proof between the black and white pages of the constantly re-translating solo in the scripture, she believes is the Bible!!

 
This woman had the “I’m not in Kansas anymore look” about her. That saying came from a great musical the-wizard-of-oz-12679entitled The Wizard of Oz and it involves an enormous tornado devastating the farmland in Kansas, and sending Dorothy and her dog Toto to a make-believe dreamland while the untamed winds scattered and lost all the families’ treasures. Interestingly enough, I parallel that imagery to the church in the West, only some of the treasures remain but many have been scattered and picked through or lost. Perhaps that great scattering wind originated in the lungs of the big bad wolf, the evil one.

 
Which brings me to the wedding banquet mentioned in the Gospel reading today, what does it mean to have our wedding garment on? Just like the yard sale, it takes a lot of work. You see it takes a time commitment, our God is a jealous God, keep the Sabbath Day holy! I have heard some people tell me that they are Orthodox but they don’t attend or rarely attend Church. Perhaps they have become OTHER-ODOX? They are just too busy chasing there tail around in circles instead of clinging on to the pursuit of everlasting life. They’re heart has become blind and darkness is looming!

 
And then there is the great wedding banquet which has been prepared. Is there a dress code to attend such a great banquet? Yes, we should wear our best! And how many people have been invited? Everyone has been invited but how many are prepared to receive the Great Feast? It takes preparation. You need confession, repentance and you must take time to say the pre-communion prayers which help us reflect upon our sin thirsty nature!

 
That brings me to the next point, how often should someone receive the Holy Gifts? And the answer is: as often as one can. If you are Orthodox, you need this prescription to heal. You need this Gift to make ready your soul for the life everlasting! It should be at the very least of least once a year! It really should be as often as you can, it should be as though you’re very life depends on it!

 
Some folks have convinced themselves that they are way too unworthy, they are convinced that there worth has diminished to only pennies on the dollar! Some folks may say that they are serving a penance. Here at our church, please come to your priests and let’s have a talk. We want you to receive all the great treasures that the true church has to offer!

 
Every week, you are invited a grand wedding. Jesus desires you in marriage. You are the church! He wants a commitment from you! It will take a great effort and it will not be easy, but you know way down deep in your heart that it will be worth it!

 
Come, won’t you come? Don’t be an OTHER-ODOX!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9/25/16

POWER OUTAGE

lightning1As we enter into the summer season, I am reminded of the many fierce lightning storms we will encounter. It is the time of year when lights flicker and some people will occasionally loose power for hours. This energy loss effects folks lifestyle by changing normal routine behaviors and returns them back to a simpler time of life when candles and oil lamps produced our light and cooking was done on a wood fire or gas flame, and of course there was no instant messaging or tweeting. It seems as though when this unharnessed source of energy strikes and interrupts our man-made source, we find ourselves disconnected wishing for some bit of normalcy to return to our world.

As Orthodox Christians, we also need an unwavering power source. In order for us to have a constant connection to sustainable energy, we must pay our bill. We must pray without ceasing, support our church faithfully and financially, study, and give service with our time and talent to our neighbor. But if we chose a worldly power source instead and avoid being a stable part of the church, we certainly seek a course for destruction and instability. There is only one source of power you can trust. It is the authority of God and His power handed down to the church by Christ. It is here in the church that the sheep are cared for and protected. “For the word, that of the Cross, on the one hand, to those who are perishing is foolishness, but on the other hand, to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” [1 Cor. 1:18]

We need to stay connected to the teachings of Christ. We must constantly be reminded of the Holy Scriptures and make our choices in life putting God first with our time, talent and treasure. Saint Basil the Great writes: “You will find that the world was not devised at random or to no purpose, but to contribute to some useful end and to the great advantage of all beings. It is truly a training place for rational souls and a school for attaining the knowledge of God.” [On the Hexaemeron, Hom. 1(6) in FC 46:11.] The word “power” is found over 30 times in the New Testament alone and in the Gospel reading today; Christ identifies our source, “But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” [Mt. 6:33]

Without the power of electricity, our refrigerated
perishables begin to decay, without the power of our Lord in our lives, we too decompose and the stench of sin becomes our aroma! Don’t be a stinker, stay plugged in, pay your bill, and when the fierce storms of life are hovering above you, stay connected to the steadfast source of power, our Lord Jesus the Christ, who chose to give of him-self so that we sinners will not perish. Glory to Thee.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7/10/2016

All Saints 2016

Today we celebrate all the Saints of the church. Who are these Saints? Saints are not created by the people of the church, the church recognizes as saints those whom God himself has glorified, seeing in their lives true love for God and their Christ-like love of neighbors. From the Latin word sanctus, a saint is one who is holy or set apart for God’s service. It is a person who has cooperated with God’s grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt.

 

From the beginning, the Church recognized the righteous ancestors of Christ, Forefathers, as grace-filled men and women whose lives were pleasing to God. Also the Prophets who predicted Christ’s coming and the Apostles and Evangelists who proclaimed the Gospel were assumed to be saints.
Next the Martyrs and Confessors who risked their lives and shed their blood in witness to Christ were also recognized as saints. And in time, Ascetics who followed Christ through self-denial were numbered among the saints. In more modern times, Bishops and Priests who fought against heresy and proclaimed the true faith are recognized by the Church as saints. And then today, holy people, in all walks of life, can be recognized as saints.
While the glorification of a saint may be initiated because of miracles, it is not an absolute necessity for canonization. The Roman Catholic Church requires three verified miracles in order to recognize someone as a saint; the Orthodox Church does not require this. There are some saints, including Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and Saint Innocent of Moscow who have not performed any miracles as far as we know. What is required is a virtuous life of obvious holiness. And a saint’s writings and preaching must be “fully Orthodox,” in harmony with the pure faith that we have received from Christ and the Apostles and taught by the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.
In the epistle to Corinth, Apostle Paul writes: “to the Church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all those calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours.” [1 Cor. 1:2] And also, “Do you not know,” Saint Paul asks, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).
You and I are too called to become Saints! Three times in the Book of Leviticus (Ch 11, 19 and 20) God tells us to be holy, because He is holy. We must consecrate ourselves, for we are His people. Saint Peter reiterates this commandment in the new testament, challenging us to obey God’s commandments and submit our will to His will (1 Pet 1:16). We read about great life story conversions such as St. Mary of Egypt and the Apostle Paul and yes we too by the Grace of God and the structure of His Holy Church can change and become selfless and Christ-like! In the last book of the holy bible we hear: “Here is the patience of the saints, the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” [Rev. 14:12]
Every Sunday as you walk into this church, I want you to remember the love of Christ shown by the great saints of this church in their sacrifice and service they have made. And then take that mindset back out into the world. And in the ranks of the church faithful, we will leave NO ONE behind. We will surround everyone with the fragrance and peace of Charity, Hope and Faith that is only found in the sweetest love known to mankind, the love of Christ!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6/26/2016

FIRE AND 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]

woman at the well
In today’s news stories, a lot of time is devoted to eyewitness reports about peoples’ lives being drastically changed as the result of fire and water. We here about the destruction of homes and forests by violent fires; and in other areas, we here about heavy downpours causing floodwaters to rise and wash away homes and businesses, and we also here about people getting caught in these powerful catastrophes and losing their love-ones. Fire and water are two very powerful forms of energy.

 
Spending my adolescence years in Tidewater, I grew to respect the authority of water. The ocean is massive and ever surrounding the land. If you’re not careful, the waves can knock you off your feet and pull you out into the swift current! But water is also a force that can give us positive things like electricity from our hydroelectric plants, nourish our food supply, a means of transportation, and water is necessary to maintain our lives and cleanse us free from dirt and sin.

 
Fire can be destructive but it also has positive attributes such as cooking, refining minerals, illumination, and the warmth of heat to name a few. I am speaking today about these two forms of energy because Christ describes the Holy Spirit as both fire and water. Fire gives us the warming property of grace and the power of destroying transgressions; and in our baptismal water we are cleansed and our minds renewed.

 
Verse 14 of the Gospel reading today speaks to us about these two energy sources in a different aspect. At the well, Christ instructs the Samaritan women (Svetlana) about the Holy Spirit. The description includes a motion started by the Holy Spirit that then keeps regenerating, it is contagious! Saint John Chrysostom describes the grace of the spirit as a source of energy that purifies and refreshes us. Just as a source of energy cannot ever be fully contained, the Spirit is constantly causing a reaction within us. The Lord is asking us to be good stewards of this precious lively gift. Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Orchid and Bulgaria, instructs us not to bury this talent as did the servant in the parable found in Matthew 25, but to put it to work so it will increase.

 
We Orthodox receive the Holy Spirit at our Crismation and this is our personnel Pentecost where God pours out His Spirit upon our flesh. In the Book of Acts, Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12 and 14-17). The oil of Chrism seals in the Holy Spirit which we find rooted scripturally in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now the One Who establisheth us with you in Christ, and Who anointed us, is God, Who also sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

 
The Samaritan woman at the well spent the rest of her life contagiously preaching the Gospel of Christ. In her sixty-sixth year, Svetlana was tormented and thrown down a well. We celebrate her memory on March 20th as the holy Martyr Svetlana or Photina in Greek. The powerful energy that was given to her in the Holy Spirit was not hidden or repressed but she chose to increase it and spread the Gospel. She allowed the energies of fire and water to consume her life and spread from her temple outward as a beacon on a hill and as a raging storm that could not be contained. Maybe I can one day be like this great saint! “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Mt. 28:19].

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-29-16svetlana

Holy Myrrhbearers Feast Day

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 the following sunrise 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 many 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 could not put a value on God’s love. Christ’s 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 world 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 elite Roman guards would certainly have used any force necessary to prevent them from entering the tomb. But the lovers of Christ were not paralyzed with the danger and great risk, and they took action!

 
There is a powerful lesson here for all of us. For all of us profess our faith in Christ, do we possess the fearless, trusting, unhesitating faith of the Holy Myrrhbearers? Too often, despite our initial good intentions, we allow ourselves to be discouraged 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, out of love for Christ. 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 teachings of the Gospel.

 
Pride, Vainglory and Perversion of our created sexuality have been the demise of many great civilizations and have now 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 wide open arms, it is a yes we love you but we must separate ourselves from marinating in Lucifer’s sewage and placing our youth on a path of self-destruction. We need to speak out loudly and we need to speak out now. Do not hide your light under a bushel but be the salt of the earth, seasoning everything you encounter with the teachings of the Holy Church!

Pray to God for us, Holy Myrrhbearers!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-15-16

PRO-LIFE SUNDAY (Palm Sunday)

“And on the morrow, after they came out from Bethany, He hungered. And having seen from afar a fig tree having leaves, He came, if perhaps He might find something on it. And after He came to it, He found nothing except leaves; for it was not the season of figs. And Jesus began to speak and said to it, “May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever.” [Mk. 11:12-14]

 
I start here with this Gospel reading hopefully placing our feet on the road Palm Sunday4from Bethany as we make our way to Jerusalem, the Great City of Peace. Jesus comes upon a fig tree along the trip and Saint Kyril of Jerusalem writes: “The first act after the fall was that of Adam and Eve clothing themselves with fig leaves [Gen. 3:7]. So now Jesus is making fig tree the very last of His wondrous signs. Just as He was headed towards the Cross, He cursed the fig tree—not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic significance—saying, ‘May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever’. In this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was being reversed.” [Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 13(18), in FC, 64:16.] .

 
And in the Gospel today, we hear more about Lazarus. He had been dead for four days. His body was decaying and then Jesus said: Lazarus, come forth”. And the one who was dead came forth. “Jesus saith to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” [Jn. 11:43-44] Christ has power over life and death. Just as Christ restored to life Lazarus, so too can he also heal our deadness in sin, just as he withered up the dormant fig tree.

 
We heard in the vigil service last night: “And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, toward the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent forth two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village, the one opposite you; and straightway ye shall find an ass which hath been tied, and a colt with her.”… Now all this came to pass in order that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Sion, ‘Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek, and mounted on an ass, and a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” And the disciples went and did even as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments upon them, and He sat down upon them. And the greater part of the crowd spread their garments in the way; and others were cutting branches from the trees and were strewing them in the way. And the crowds, those going before and those following, were crying out, saying, “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And after He entered into Jerusalem, all the city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is Jesus the Prophet, the One from Nazareth of Galilee.” [Mt. 21:1-11]

 
The very One who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, healed and restored life to Lazarus is now coming to Jerusalem as a sacrificial lamb. “As a sheep He was led to slaughter; and as a lamb dumb before him who sheareth him, thus He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation, His judgment was taken away; but who shall describe His generation? For His life is being taken away from the earth” [Acts 8:32-33]

 
On Palm Sunday, we use palm branches and pussy willows to signify a great victory. So what is this great victory? We will hear later this week on Great Friday: “You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.” (Great Friday Evening Service, Fifth Ode) And Saint John writes: “And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not.” [Jn. 1:5]

 

 

“When You, the Immortal Life descended to Death, it was then, that You put Hades to death by the lightning of the Godhead; and when You raised up the dead from the infernal depths, all the Heavenly Powers cried aloud: “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You.” (Matins of the Resurrection) Death can no longer restrain mankind! Jesus conquers death by death!

 
Jesus is on His way to free us from death! We will hear later this week about the suffering he endured for us! Notice how I use the word us? You say that was over 2000 years ago, how could it be so personal? Jesus Christ knew us personally and chose to be crucified for me, and for you! You see we hear the Creator telling the prophet Jeremiah in Chapter one: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee!” That is why you should be PRO-LIFE because it is not the man and woman that make a baby, it is the Creator! Now I can take lumber and build a deck but I did not make the trees! I can take flour and water and make communion bread, but man did not create water or wheat! God knew us before we formed! He chose us! And the Lamb knew that I would have a tendency to be attracted to sin like a big magnet at the metal-scrap yard and yet He loves me so much that He gives His life for me!

 
Dearest Lord, is this soul of such a sinful man really worth your absolute love and your long-suffering? “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”Glory to Thee, oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/24/16

Cracker Jacks

Back in the days before I could grow a beard, I use to enjoy a tasty snack cracker-jack-1oz-box-22known as Cracker Jacks. Now there are two reasons why I yearned for this succulent treat, there was a prize in every box and my taste buds were addicted to the sugary taste, and did I mention there was a prize in every box!

 
In every box I opened, the prize was always in the bottom of the box. The prize was never anything great but it still was a prize! I won!! So I had to ingest the 420 calories of sugary delight quickly or share with my sister or best friend to uncover the treasure buried in the bottom of the box. I always offered my accomplices the following disclaimer, “the prize is mine”!

 
Today as I continue on in life in pursuit of the American Dream, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” I sometimes find myself more attracted to the sugary instant rewards in life rather than the prize in the bottom of the box. After all, it takes so much work and patience to retrieve the great prize of life and I have so little time! Saint John Climacus said: “Let us seek to discover the things of heaven through the sweat of our efforts, rather than by mere talk, for at the hour of death it is deeds, not words that must be displayed.” The prize that I am digging for is a one way ticket to rest in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At the end of our time in this life that prize is salvation.

 
The sugary distractions in life are not healthy for me and separate me from the work I must do to be more virtuous. And we all know that too much sugar leads to decay. “For, as St John Climacus said, God reveals Himself, not in response to our exertions, but in response to the humility and simplicity that come through faith, that is, through the contemplation of the Scriptures and of created beings.” (St. Peter of Damaskos, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 32216-20) And we read this in the letter to the churches in Philippi, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things “ (Phil 4.8).

 
My American dream has been fulfilled! The life I seek is not of this world! The liberty I seek I submit to God and the pursuit of happiness I find is in the joy that comes from loving and serving others. To God be the Glory, Amen!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-10-16