“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

Sin- Smorgishboard

buffetI am overweight. My physical body has ingested too many carbs, too many complex sugars, and too many deserts! The only exercise I am getting is pushing the buttons on the remote control and turning the steering wheel to the right and left! I seem to only find time for my definition of survival in this world. But worse than that, I am suffering from another weight problem that is different than my love-handles! I am weighted down with sin!

It only makes sense if you recognize that my failure to maintain my body as a temple carries over to my failure for my mind to pursue holiness! I am glad that I am an Orthodox in progress! Years ago when I entered the Holy Church, I could not fast! My body convinced me that it could not live without Wendy’s or steak, and eggs, and bacon and…. My sugar level would swing and my grumpy face would overcome my ability to smile and my ability to appreciate God’s creation! Now during the fast, peanut butter and jelly becomes a tiresome norm for lunch and snack and trail-mix packed full of nuts and berries remedies my body’s dips in energy. The fast creates a change in diet but if we prepare, we can be successful. But is also important to recognize that our bodies all have chemical differences and some may need to choose other areas of their lives to fast from. Apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to the church in Rome in chapter 14 verses 1-4: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.  Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.  Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

I love to unwind by playing computer games. During the fast, I refrain from the computer games. And they’re other areas of your lives that you can make a conscience decision to abstain from. It is important for us to reshape our behaviors during fasting times. Calling on our minds to make conscience decisions to do without, strengthens our ability to consciously say no to sin! Sin is heavy baggage that prevents us from reaping all of God’s rewards!

St Theophan the Recluse says: (The Path to Salvation, pg 129)  “that our soul is covered with layers of habits and inclinations that imprison a person in sin. The first layer is self-deception, insensitivity, and carelessness. This is the layer that blinds a person to the danger of his condition and reduces his will from wanting to change. The outer layer consists of instruments that magnify and support our sinful condition. This layer consists of absent-mindedness and much-caring and worry. The body burdens the soul with scattered thoughts and concerns. So we must apply ascetic practices such as restricting indulgences, decreasing the usual amount of food, or lengthening our time in vigil or prayer”.

Now remember, not all are called to be monastic, I repeat, we are not all called to be monastic, but we are all called to overcome our sinful fallen nature and this requires re-training our mind and body to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. The saints did not reach sainthood overnight so we too must be patient and yet diligent as we surrender our will and become stronger in the faith.

But know thou this, that in the last days difficult times shall set in; for men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, incontinent, savage, not lovers of the good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of piety, but denying the power of it. Turn thyself away from these. [2 Tim. 3:1-5]

As Oliver Cle’ment wrote in his book titled The Roots of Christian Mysticism: “The purpose of ascesis (effort/exercise) is thus to divest oneself of surplus weight, of spiritual fat. It is to dissolve in the waters of baptism, in the water of tears, all the hardness of the heart, so that it may become an antenna of infinite sensitivity, infinitely vulnerable to the beauty of the world and to its sufferings of human beings, and to God who is love, and who has conquered by the wood of the cross.” Let us take this upcoming fasting time to reshape our priorities and reconnect with the Orthodox weight loss program.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2009

 

Death of a Salesman

This past week I found myself at a convention for my secular job in electronic security. One of the seminars I attended was taught by Tom Hopkins, a pioneer in training a sales-force with millions of successful folks trained here and abroad. Speaking on various topics including his latest book entitled When Buyers Say No, I began to not only think about how some of his methods could improve sales in my secular business but also how these skills could help us all to increase Christianity in our day to day relationships.

"Hee Haw"Junior Samplescirca 1980© 1980 Marv NewtonA good salesperson works hard practicing their skills and they set a goal for themselves. We as Christians should also continually polish our skills by embracing everyone with love, reading our Bibles, practicing forgiveness, being patient and tolerant of God’s creation, and setting our goal on Christ and His Kingdom.

So, how can we all build the Body of Christ? Tom Hopkins says: “You begin by always expecting good things to happen.” That sounds good for Christians as well! We all need to possess a positive attitude about our relationship with God, don’t we? If we are not happy and rejoicing in our confidence that Christ died for our sins and loves us even though we are all flawed, how can we be positively contagious?

Similar to my secular job in electronic security, our relationship with God is a relationship of trust, security, value, confidence, peace of mind and a better quality of life. These items I am speaking about are not just secular but eternal! I know that I want a better quality of life in Christ, don’t you? Things of this world can only offer temporary pleasure, but true value can only be found in seeking the Kingdom of God first, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21)

Another quote from Tom Hopkins is: “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you.” That sounds like “Again and Again in Peace” which we continually hear in the litanies and also the many repetitions of prayers we are taught to say at home and in unison here at church. “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you!”

Folks, we only have a limited amount of time on this Earth, have we met our quota yet? After all, we have set our goal on salvation haven’t we? Our Lord loves us so much that he became man and taught us how to live and believed in us so much, that he gave His life so that we may live and share His love, just as the father overflowing with joy and love for his son whom was lost in the bowels of the world came home empty handed and repentant. But thou, be watchful in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. [2 Tim. 4:5] God loves you and wants to spend eternity with you, share His love!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-8-15

Tainted Water

After the heat of the day, my wife instructs me to water the thirsty flowers that surround our deck. The water where we live is known to be some of the best water in the Valley. But on occasion, I like to give these plants a little bit of a boost by adding miracle grow to the watering can, conforming the water to living water or water with nutrients. This added substance increases the flowers blooms which brings joy to my wife! Happy wife, Happy life!

Adding miracle grow to the watering can is easy! And we Americans like big rewards with little effort. I consider us to be the drive-through-remote-control generation. This new found comfort is in contrast with my upbringing of being a paperboy, farm hand and apprentice brick mason! In all that early formation, I learned that with much labor came big rewards.  

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus says: “The one who believeth in Me, even as the Scripture said—rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly.” [Jn. 7:38]  Do I believe enough to have living water flow from my belly? Jesus said: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.  [Jn. 14:15]  By that measure, water pollutionI know that I fail keeping His commandments and therefore allow tainted water to flow from my belly, poisoning those around me!

And then there is this church thing, sometimes I focus on my needs instead of coming to the worship service to serve, and I find ways to criticize others! “Jesus saith to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, hast thou affection for Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Hast thou affection for Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I have affection for Thee.” He saith to him, “Be feeding My sheep.”   [Jn. 21:17]  Again I fail! I water His sheep with tainted water, water that has the stench of sin! And I fail to quench His thirsting fruit because of my polluted selfishness. “Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire. Then surely by their fruits ye shall fully know them.”  [Mt. 7:19-20] Forgive me a sinner!

On this day we remember the birth of the church. It was a time when people risked their lives for their faith! Saint Chrysostom writes: “What is this Pentecost? The time when the sickle was able to be put to the harvest and the in-gathering of fruits was made.” [Hom. 4, P.G. 60:32 (cols. 41, 42).]  What is our mission? By the example set by Christ, it must be service to others first and then our church will be set on a firm foundation!

Well then, how will the church meet my needs? Our Lord answers this very question: For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all of these things. But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” [Mt. 6:32-33] The comforter has come to perfect our love! So, how do we love?       

Feed My Sheep!”

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2014

Holiday Gathering

The holiday season always takes me back to fond memories of gatherings at my grandparents’ home. All of my cousins and aunts and uncles would come to the farm where their young roots were once nourished. We kids keep busy while the vittles were being prepared by playing softball, card games, mother-may-I, carom and checkers, and listening to the family story tellers recap tales of the old days. As one of the youngest in the group, Grandma would often prescribe God’s cure for a young lad with ADHD, which was to go outside and play! Grandad RufusGrandma usually had to repeat this treatment to calm my high energy level. And when the meal was ready we all gathered for a prayer of thanksgiving and then filled our plates with home cooking. The food was so good it made my tongue slap my brain around trying to get at it!

The holiday season has changed for me and reinvented itself over the years. Some of the pillars of the family are now gone and new folks have been added. New memories are being created and the food is just as good, although I now need to limit how much I eat. Some folks say “blood is thicker than water.” Maybe that is based upon a responsibility we feel for our names sake and the love we have for each other. We are family!

Here at Holy Myrrhbearers, we too participate in a holiday gathering. If you think about it, we spend holidays together at Vigil and Liturgy. We share meals together, prayers of thanksgiving, and stories and happenings that are current in our lives. We weep with each other in times of trials and of triumphs. And we count on each other and remember each other in our prayers. This tends to prove the “blood is thicker than water” declaration, for it is by His blood that we share and care for each other.

Our church family is anchored by a genuine love for us all. We here in the book of Psalms: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50: 10-15)

I am thankful for such a loving Father. In the Gospel of John we read: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” [Jn. 1:12,13] My brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are family!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/1/13

3 Blind Mice

Some years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, my oldest sister was perusing a degree in music at VCU in Richmond. I was the Baritone Saxophone player for my high school concert band, marching band and stage band. The bari-sax for me was the cool factor just like the leather jacket was for the Fonz, Heyyy! One winter break, I was invited to sit in with the VCU pep band for the Christmas Basketball Tournament. The usual bari-sax player had to be away and they were desperate to fill the slot. My sister believed that I could handle the demands of the music and I agreed to spend my Christmas Break on Campus with the VCU pep band!

One of the things I remember most vividly about the tournament was the song the pep band played when the referee’s and umpires were introduced. The band eagerly played the old childhood nursery rhyme: “Three Blind Mice”. Every true sports fan recognizes that the human condition is not 100%accurate and we all have seen the instant replays that sometimes contradict the referees’ vision.3 Blind Refs

Even with what we describe as perfect eyesight, we are deceived at times by differences in lighting, colors, textures, distractions and previous data that our brains have stored from past experiences. Our other senses offer information that travels to our brain and helps us process what we truly perceive. And many of us have some dysfunction in one or more of our senses and thus we learn to overcome those dysfunctions with increased use of our other properly functioning sensors.

For the man born without eyes in the Gospel reading today, he did not know what he was missing having never seen light or darkness. The blind man never saw the beauty of creation but he also never struggled with the passions the eyes can tempt us with. We can choose to fill our eyes with spiritually edifying things or we can let them imprison our soul with debauchery and waste our time on this earth with distractions that separate us from God.

When we travel to monasteries to visit we can surmise that everyone dresses similarly and a separation is present that protects the monastic community from the outside world. This is done so everyone can spend more time with Jesus in His light. Saint Nikolai Velimirovic describes the darkness created by the lack of Christ in the following manner: “The human soul without Him becomes hell; a people without Him becomes a pack of famished and ravening wolves; a school without Him becomes a poison-factory of folly; a workshop without Him becomes a place of grumbling and hatred … hospitals and prisons without Him become dark caverns of despair!”

We tend to take for granted the blessings of our senses and waste too much time in pursuit of worldly treasures. Christ said: “Whenever I may be in the world, I am the light of the world.” [Jn. 9:5] Blessed Theophylact paraphrases Christ’s words in this way, “By healing the blind man’s eyes and giving them light, I shall enlighten the souls of many. I am the light, and I illumine both the senses and the spirit.”

The next time I hear the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”, I will hopefully weigh how blinded by darkness I have allowed my eyes to be and how much more they need the Light of Christ!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-9-13

Mr. Impersonator

This past weekend as my wife and I approached the checkout line at our nearby Costco, out of the corner of our eyes we caught a glimpse of Elvis! I walked over to where Elvis was standing and asked him if my wife couldElvis ay Costco get a picture with him. After all, some people believe that Elvis is dead! He warmly agreed and I thanked him, I thanked him very much!

The gentleman we saw at Costco was only imitating Elvis, or just a small part or a few characteristics of Elvis. He was dressed as Elvis would dress and was sporting a black wig that resembled Elvis’s hair but there were some differences as well. I noticed that his voice was not the same and I doubted that he could muster the energy and vocals needed to convince me of his authenticity. It must take a lot of preparation and practice to imitate Elvis, the king Presley! Some impersonators take years of vocal lessons and a few even have cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance in a more Elvis way.

Well, as far as being an impersonator I don’t know about you, but it is a full time job just being me! I spend all of my time being a husband, parent, boss, businessman, dog walker, mister fix-it, and church servant. But with all the different roles I play, I am supposed to be a reflection of Christ and His teachings all the time!

We here in the Epistle reading this morning that: “Therefore, I beseech you; keep on becoming imitators of me.” [1 Cor. 4:16] At times we all are great imitators of Christ! It is visible in our outpouring of love. Our Epistle instructs us to keep becoming or keep practicing the examples Jesus gave us.

Then, I would have to say that I am a poor impersonator. Like the Elvis we saw, at times I have some characteristics, I wear a cross around my neck and have some Christ-like similarities but find myself missing the mark in my day to day imitation of the One who loves. I constantly fight feelings of anger, resentment and pride, just name a few! It seems though if I truly love myself, I would surrender once and for all these imperfections I take refuge in.

And in looking at my journey thus far, I will certainly continue to fail as I cling to my passions that I have spent years practicing. But I will attempt to be a better imitator of Christ and try to remember to seek first the Kingdom of God. The more I struggle with my thorns, the closer I draw near the Original, for “we are weak, but ye are strong!” [1 Cor. 4:10]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8/17/14

Vestis Facit Virum – Clothes Make The Man

Mark Twain said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society!” We here in the Gospel reading this morning that “if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into an oven, shall well dressed manHe not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore do not become anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’For all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all of these things. But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” [Mt. 6:30-33]

As I think back to my 7th grade Latin teacher teaching us the Latin phrase “Vestis facit virum” or clothes make the man. I felt even at that age there was some substance attached to this Latin saying. This motto tells us that people will judge according to the way we dress! And yet we here of very wealthy people dressing as peasants instead of adorning themselves with the latest fashions, maybe hiding their status or perhaps feeling that even with all their wealth, a since of unworthiness.

There are many clothing references in the Bible. I’ll begin with the clothing of a priest. While the priest’s clothes don’t make the man, they symbolize what the man should be. Scripture consistently uses the image of new clothes provided by God to stand for our righteousness in His eyes. Consider first Isaiah 61:10: “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” Salvation and righteousness are clothes that God provides. And he not only provides them but also dresses us in them.

The profit Zechariah has a vision of Joshua, the High Priest, standing in God’s presence, but dressed in filthy clothes. And Satan is at Joshua’s right hand, accusing him. But listen to the verses of Zechariah: “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. And the angel spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head. So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by.” Zechariah 3:3-5

And then we see in Proverbs the quality’s we should look for in a wife: “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:25-31

Sojourners on the path to salvation, clothes do make the man, not the store-bought kind, but the kind of covering that only comes from seeking God first! So cover yourself fully with the Orthodoxy of God and all your needs will be added to you!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-29-14

Digging Thistles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the greatest enemies of farmers is the increase of weeds amongst their crops. To help fight the infestation of this unwanted vegetation, a lot of time is spent in the preparation of the soil before seeds can be planted. Things have changed over the years and new planting methods have been introduced but still the best soil preparation is done by way of tilling the soil, breaking up the clumps with a disc and dragging the ground to gather rocks and provide a smooth surface for planting.

Tilling the soil is important to eliminate the deep roots of unwanted weeds. The weeds steal all the nutrients from their surroundings and are not a nutritional source for the farmer to feed their animals. However, tilling the soil leaves deep furrows which would not allow a bountiful harvest, so the farmer orders the ground with a disc and harrow to break up large clumps of dirt and eliminate the deep furrows left behind by the plow. And then if necessary, a drag can be pulled over the dirt smoothing out any low spots and catching the surface rocks.

Not all of the farm land is tilled. Some acreage is set aside for pastor and hay. Many times in my youth I was sent out into the pastor and hay fields with a sickle to engage in hand to hand combat with the deep rooted tall weeds called thistles. Since these fields were never plowed, the weedy thistles developed deep roots and became more frequent and multiplied like rabbits in the fence row.

Now my Uncle Bob had another method for eliminating thistles. He would go out to his field with a shovel and a feed sack. Instead of just cutting off the weed at the surface with a sickle, he would dig deep into the soil and pry the root out of the ground eliminating its reoccurrence in the next season. Uncle Bob would place the thistle and its root in the sack and when the sack was full; he placed the sack full of thistles in the burn can and eliminated their very existence by the consumption of the burning fire! “Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire.” [Mt. 7:19]

As Christians we must be good ground” (Lk.8:8) by preparing the soil of our heart with the labor of repentance. Confession of our sins is much needed in eliminating the spread of our sinful thistle seed, but it will take the work of true repentance to thrust sins deep roots from our rich passionate flesh. We need to nourish our seed of love by feeding our hearts with prayer, focusing our mind on God with spiritual reading and the words from our gospel. We want to attend church services regularly as a watchful farmer protecting our crop. We should continue to focus on improving our relationship with God and not allowing the world’s glitter to distract us. And with God’s grace falling down like rain on our dry seed and the warmth of the love from His Son, His harvest will be healthy within us.

FR. Gabriel Weller 10-14

The Stench Of Sin

This past spring, we had a family of groundhogs move into our barn and start tunneling in and around the foundation. Last winter we had repaired all the holes in the lath siding and we had hoped to make this barn a dry and safe place to store things. So I borrowed a live trap to catch the critters and haul them far away. After catching two groundhogs, I reset the trap to ensure all the varmints were removed! Much to my surprise, the next morning as I walked to the barn I noticed the trap was sprung again! As I drew closer I could see that this groundhog had a much darker coat of fur, and I could even see a white stripe down his back.Skunk

Upon arriving at the trap, I concluded that the animal in my live-trap was a skunk, or better known around these parts as a pole-kitty! Oh my, what to do? Well of course I grabbed my smart phone and asked Goggle how to best handle the situation. I then circled the trap, away from his tail, and using a stick, I partially covered the trap with a tarp. After about 10 minutes, I returned to the barn and completely covered the trap with a tarp, placing the stinker in total darkness. An hour later, I gently lifted the cage and leaving the tarp on the trap, carefully placed the rascal on the back of my pickup hoping not to set off the skunk’s detonator.

We then took a ride to an unpopulated area and I removed the critter from my truck and placed him on the ground. I slowly removed part of the tarp and placed a stick in the doorway providing him a clean get-away. After a couple of minutes, I removed the tarp and waited. It did not take long and I felt very relieved as he exited the trap. I then returned to the barn and set the trap one more time. Guess what? The next morning I was surprised to see another black and white animal in the trap. This one was much smaller and seemed nervous; in hindsight I should have been more attentive! I unfortunately was not as smooth with my approach and the little fellow hit one out of the park, landing his vile spray on my face, arm, jeans and right shoe! My nose burned as the smell populated the air! Is there anything more potent then the odor of a polecat? Well, the damage was done but I proceeded to complete the mission of getting him loaded onto the truck.

Before climbing into the cab of my truck I realized that I needed to remove the toxic chemical from my clothes and skin. I needed a bath, and some clean clothes! With my wife’s help and scrubbing my skin with lye soap, I was able to remove most of the smell and then was able to take the little fellow to the same unpopulated place I had taken his kin-folk. After many days, the trap remained empty and the stinky stain diminished over time. It sure takes a lot of effort to eliminate that type of stench!

There is another type of bath that we can take that removes even more vile smells and stains than lye soap. It is the spiritual bath of baptism that restores us to perfection. However, if we then chose to trap the devil in our heart and continually embrace the vile stench of sin, we will need to recleanse ourselves often with confession and the reception of the Holy Gifts.

I pray that our sinful nature be as distasteful as the wicked smell of a skunk and frequently wash ourselves in the blood of the Lamb. And in this season of Theophany, we need to prepare for Great Lent and have our homes cleansed as well!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/18/15