When is Enough, ENOUGH?

In these times of economic instability and the constant insistence of doom and gloom, the question arises as to when have we put away enough to keep and protect our families for the future? I see many seniors that worked hard all their lives now struggling to survive. We see inflation exploding and the uncertainty of our economic retirement plan, social security, being there when we need it. Health care costs and the expense of aging continue to climb. And while we are still able, we contribute to our IRA’s and retirement plans or make investments in property or collectables with the hope that they will increase in value faster than what it is going to cost to live. So I ask this question that is entertained on everyone’s mind, when is enough, enough?  

Should we fear tomorrow and what will come in the next decade and should we hoard our monetary earnings in preparation for the future and everyone we have been entrusted to care for? Our Lord gives this reminder today in the Gospel of St. Luke: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” [Lk. 12:19-20]

You see, the greatest thing of value you own is not gold or your stock portfolio, it is your time and how you have spent that time! We hear it week after week after week, love thy neighbor! Although love of neighbor is not becoming an enabler, because an enabler can harmfully disable someone, which is another question we humans struggle with, just where is that line of help versus abuse that we shouldn’t cross. Love is not always giving blindly; it is taking the time to care enough to get a glimpse of how we can truly help, and usually not just a short term fix!  If your favorite reclining chair is well broken in like mine, then maybe you too have built some bigger barns and not given enough of yourself to your neighbor. (Luke 12:18) Well, that is real hard for an introvert but a necessity for salvation. Less of me, more of Him! Maybe your open wounds are continuing to ooze and you feel insecure about afflicting them with more traumas; try binding your wounds tightly with the burial shroud of Christ and fear not. Love thy neighbor!

Saint Basil gives us these helpful instructions on living the Christian way: “Do not sell at high prices and take advantage of those in want. Beware of waiting for a famine before you open up your storehouses. Do not look to famine to make money, nor to the common want for your private gain. Do not become a dealer in human misery. Do not try to make money out of the anger of God. You with your eyes ever on money, do you never take a look at your fellow man? You know well the face of a coin, and you can tell a true from a false one, but you know not your brother in his time of need.” [Ib., III:328, § 3.]

There is no sin in wealth but there is a sin in being a stingy, self-centered miser, blinded of thy neighbor in need. There is also a sin of trusting in oneself more than the Creator. YOU ARE NOT god; QUIT BEING STINGY WITH HIS STUFF!  In the parable of the talents our Lord tells us to invest wisely. If we can be entrusted with wealth and use some of that wealth to care for the folks in need, He will increase us. (Matthew 25:14-30) After all, everything that is, is His!!

The Apostle Luke directs us in this way: “Cease being afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not become old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief draweth near nor moth destroyeth; “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Lk. 12:32-34]

 

Are you building a much bigger barn and if so, when is enough, enough? Let me end with this reflection from St. Theophan the Recluse: “Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.” (St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain- Unseen Warfare)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-5-2021

Christmas Decorations Already?

We now find ourselves ever so slightly over the line passing the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. As I drove around this week from the northern border of Tennessee to snow flurrying fields near Jordanville NY, I noticed Christmas lights already up and glowing into the night, disturbing the ever so consuming darkness. Of course our retailers started the transition into the holiday season at the end of August, pushing the line ever so slightly earlier and earlier each year, but for me it is the homes and their decorations that begin to center my attention on the Nativity and the birth of our salvation.

Well brothers and sisters, so it is too at our cabin on the mountain. My wife loves the season. Our family likes to start to decorate the twelve foot tall Christmas tree at Thanksgiving. Everyone that can be is there and the grandkids like to help! It is a joyful time as we reflect on the birth of Christ as we begin to navigate into the Nativity fast.

With the struggles we have all been through over the past years, it seems as though people want to start this season earlier this year, after all, a love so Divine is greatly sought out and in great demand. And especially in this season we can also find the worst and the best in all of us! For those who get caught up in the pressures of life and the failures of living the American dream of consumption, are too busy to see the wounded and the hungry. With great mercy our Creator sent His Son to tend our wounds and feed our souls. St John of Kronstadt said: “It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.”(St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ) We were all made in His image but have allowed evil to prosper and choke out the treasured fruit. The fruit of mercy is much needed in this confused nation where evil has been disguised as good and good has been redefined as hate.

How do we Christians act in this world being steered by hate, hate of God and His teachings? St. Basil instructs us: “He who loves his neighbor, fulfills the love he owes to God; for God accepts this love as an act of love offered to Himself. ‘For I hungered and ye gave Me to eat; I thirsted and ye gave Me to drink…[Mt. 25:35]’; and then He goes on to add, ‘insofar as ye did it to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it to Me.” [Mt. 25:40].’” [Ib., III, 1, in Toal, IV: 39.]

Saint Kyril of Jerusalem reminds us: “Human beings choose their own way of life and are entrusted with the reins of their own intelligence, so as to follow whatever course they wish, either toward the good or toward the contrary. But our original created nature has implanted in it a zealous desire for whatever is good and the will to concern itself with goodness and righteousness. [Eph. 2:10.]  For this is what we mean by saying that humanity is in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26], that the creature is naturally disposed to what is good and right.” [Doctrinal Questions and Answers 2, Select Letters, 188, in ACC, VIII:135.]

It is the excitement of the coming season that reminds us of His great mercy. And in that mercy we need to show the sick, the suffering, the hungry, the lost, those afflicted and even the wicked an unquenchable magnetic light, disturbing the darkness, offering hope and love beyond the barriers and limitations we have placed in the way! And empowered from the words of Christ: “Go on thy way, and be thou doing in like manner.” [Lk. 10:37]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-28-2021

LEFTOVERS

This morning, I wanted to talk a little about Crumbs and leftovers. The Gospel reading speaks about “crumbs falling from the table” and I wanted to share a few of my crumby experiences with you. (Luke 16:21) Now, back in the day, the mice rarely found a crumb in our home! Growing up poor, I can assure you that I also never let leftovers go to waste, with the exception of Brussels sprouts and liver with onions! But that is not the type of leftovers I wanted to focus on this morning.

Back in the early 90’s I started my own business. This was before Orthodoxy got a hold of me, but I was at that time a faithful church going father. I was always putting a twenty in the collection plate when it came by, helping to keep the lights on and the such. Now there were a couple weeks when I didn’t get paid but the business eventually slowly began to increase and start paying down its debts. After about two years, I hired a helper who had just graduated from the community college with the same focus that I had in electronic servicing. In my business, we install and service electronic burglar alarms, fire alarms, camera surveillance systems, electronic locking access control systems and poultry environmental monitoring systems.

Well one day I sent my helper down to Page County to install a system at a chicken farm. As he was driving there, a nice looking Ford pickup truck passed him with a for sale sign on it. The truck slowed down and pulled into the turning lane and this young technician tried to get the phone number from the for sale sign hanging in the back window. While jotting down the phone number, he failed to see that the stoplight had turned red and he plowed through the intersection t-boning a Chevy conversion van and then running off the road. The conversion van was occupied with a mother and her two young children. Thanks be to God that everyone walked away from this crash but the two vans were totaled. The mother had sprained her ankle as she jammed the brake pedal to the floor and the son sitting in the front seat was hurled into the windshield bruising his head, and my helper was shaken but not scratched.

My vehicle insurance took care of the vehicle losses. But a couple of months later I was notified that I was being sued for 3 million dollars! By the way, that is a three with six zero’s behind it! Well at that time, a half million was the normal amount of insurance a business carried so where was the rest of the money going to come from. The business was already in the hole forty thousand the first two years from start up costs and I couldn’t even cover that! My bank then informed me they no longer wanted to honor my business loan and I needed to find a new bank. We had been unprofitable!

Six months went by and the stress level I was under was enormous! I was able to find a new bank but I didn’t know if I was going to continue to be in business or if my family was going to lose their home and the shirts off our back! It was then that I finally surrendered and prayed that God’s will be done. I’ll serve YOU first from now on!! Everything that is, is His! I had been putting other things ahead of Him, like family, work and everything else.

You see, I had been in charge and only been giving God what was leftover or barely the crumbs falling from my table of gluttony!  I started to set a budget for my family’s income which had my tithe offering as the number one priority. The truck payment, house payment, utilities and everything else was less important than church! At that time we were barely tithing at 2% and I was determined to somehow make it 10% as God commands. So each year I increased the percentage and each year our needs were mystically met! The Apostle Luke records: “And ye, cease seeking what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, and cease being anxious. For all these things the nations of the world seek after; and your Father knoweth that ye need these things. But be seeking the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”  [Lk. 12:29-31]

I am reminded of this story this morning as the Gospel writer describes just how rich the beggar really is. (Luke 16:11-19) However, the guy wearing his wealth who was used to the finer things in life was spiritually broke. Saint Kyril writes: “The poor man, He says, was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, but of the rich man there is nothing of the sort, but only that he died and was buried. For those who have hope towards God find in their departure from the world a deliverance from anguish and pain….The rich man was going from pleasure to torment, from glory to shame, from light to darkness.” [Hom. 112, Commentary, Ch. 16, 455, 456.]

Life is simply about priorities. There can only be one number One! Set a budget and make sure that you tithe, it will help free you from this world. It needs to be your first and best fruit. (Ezekiel 44:30, Prov 3:9, Exodus 34:26)If you don’t, you will basically never ever have enough! In conclusion I want to leave you with this wholesome truth taken from the Holy Profit Malachi that will save your very life: You simply cannot out give God! (Malachi 3:10)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-7-2021

Does Your Definition of Wrong Make It Right?

I’ll start today asking the question: Why are you Orthodox? Before I found the Orthodox Church, I was being pulled into the ministry. I found myself in a seminary class amongst a host of folks from other western faith traditions. We spent a good bit of time studying scripture and its origin. Time and time again, backed by different interpretations of the original text, we argued as to what the writer originally meant. After all, the belief that the Word of God is living and adapting to the changes in the world was prevalent in that setting. We were all seeking the same thing, weren’t we? Or were we trying to prove our limited understanding within the confines of our little pea-brains and find divine acceptance for the crooked path we were on? We remember St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all be speaking the same thing, and that schisms may not be among you, but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same sentiment.” The early defender of the faith from the fifth century, Saint Vincent of Lerins is quoted: “The apostle says, ‘God set for Himself some in the Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers [1 Cor. 12:28].’… Whosoever, therefore, shall despise these, who had their appointment of God in His Church in their several times and places, when they are unanimous in Christ, in the interpretation of some one point of catholic doctrine, despises not man, but God, from Whose unity in the truth, lest anyone should vary, the same apostle earnestly protests. ‘I beseech you, brethren, that ye all be speaking the same thing… [1 Cor. 1:10].’ But if anyone dissent from their unanimous decision, let him listen to the words of the same apostle: ‘God is not a God of confusion, but of peace [1 Cor. 14:33]. [A Commonitory, Ch. XXVIII(73) in Nicene, 2nd Ser., 11:153.]

I ask these questions because if you are totally okay with the person you are right now and see no need for improvement, you’ve come to the wrong hospital! You have a contagious deathly condition better known as MTIG or Me-Thinks-I’m-Great. People inflicted with this type of virus quit coming to the clinic and are usually a self-made authority on their definition of life and faith and everything in between. Their definitions or understandings may contain some truth but it misses the mark or at the very least one tire is in the ditch on the narrow road to eternity.   

Now believe you me, we all run off the eternity road every once and a while but this MTIG virus is deeply rooted in the evil one and it deplenishes your energy to do good and causes a momentary or extended loss of the divine light that normally illuminates the path on the narrow road to salvation. Perhaps a simpler way of defining this condition is to ask this question: DOES YOUR DEFINITION OF WRONG MAKE IT RIGHT? If so, you are showing MTIG symptoms!

Let’s hear how St. Maximus the Confessor draws our attention to this condition: “As man I deliberately transgressed the divine commandment, when the devil, enticing me with the hope of divinity (cf. Gen. 3:5), dragged me down from my natural stability into the realm of sensual pleasure; . . .” (Philokalia II, p. 167) Yes, the MTIG virus is drowning in self-pride, after all we are justifying our actions as if we were the great Creator! And we then read St. John Climacus [of the Ladder] who writes: “Pride is denial of God, an invention of the devil, the despising of men, the mother of condemnation . . . the cause of falls. . . .” (p. 138).  And then St. John goes on to tell us” Where a fall has overtaken us, there pride has already pitched its tent: because a fall is an indication of pride.” (p. 139). This condition left untreated leads to this deathly disease.

As a Christian battling the many voices blowing in the wind, sometimes it is hard to discern which voice smells like wolf breath. The wolf is clever and cunning and attacks a good Christian lamb like you and I by suggesting a slight deviation from the teachings of Christ; after all we are to love our neighbor, hugs and kisses, warm and fuzzies  and everything is great! [Lk. 10:3] However true compassion does not couple or encourage choices or behaviors that stray from the exact teachings of Christ! Sin is sin! Only deep repentance can help cure the Me-Thinks-I’m-Great virus.

It is also important to know that we are all made in the image of the Creator and have a great value. But we must realize every hour of every day that are two paths in life, the straight path of inclination and the crooked path that many times leads us around in circles chasing our tail like a dog impressing his master. The wolf is the master of the crooked path leading us to the slaughter, and the Great Sheppard is the Lord of the Straight and narrow path that directs us towards salvation. Listen to the instructions from St. Kyril: “How can a sheep prevail against a wolf? How can one so peaceful vanquish the savageness of beasts of prey? ‘Yes,’ He says, ‘for they all have Me as their Shepherd—small and great, people and princes, teachers and taught. I will be with you and aid you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts, I will change wolves into sheep. I will make the persecutors become the helpers of the persecuted….For I will make and unmake all things, and there is nothing that can resist My will.’” [Hom. 61, Commentary, Ch. 10, 264.]

So, does your definition of wrong make it right? The answer is definitely “NO”! But through self study and surrender, repentance and confession and loving God more than who you have become, healing can be found in the Chalice.

Glory To God!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-24-2021

CLICKY

It seems that we naturally migrate towards like-minded people. At an early age when we strayed away from our support peers we felt out of place or someone would notice our differences and make a comment or an unfriendly glance. It sure is safe and warm when we find ourselves nestled in our bed of comfort with our peeps!

Back in the late 70’s at my high school we had groups or clics of like minded people. We had the jocks, the preps, the snobs and the stonies and so on. Iwas in the band, although on the much cooler spectrum of that clic! I played the bari-sax in marching and concert band. Mr. Gonano also included me in the stage band. The bari-sax was big and heavy and did not fit on the school bus, which limited my practice time at home. However Mr. G had after school practices very frequently which explains how we won so many competitions.

Within the corral of my mind, certain personality people played certain instruments. They had their own group within the confines of the larger group of band members. Yet, when we all came together in some kind of harmony and under careful direction, our music was might near flawless and moving. We worked together and had the same goal. Our differences made us complete. In that setting it was not about our individuality, but about achieving the same goal which usually meant a trophy or an award or at the very least an “A” on my report card amongst a loud chorus of “C’s”! If nothing else, we identified with our school mascot. We were the “Patriots” and I am still am!

Our Lord instructs us in Luke 6 to spend time out of our clic or comfort zone: “And if ye should love those who love you, what kind of thanks is there to you? For even the sinners love those who love them. [Lk. 6:32]  Instead of noticing differences in people and sheltering within our fortress of contentment, we need to be looking for our next opportunity to help someone. And then our Lord goes on to say: “Therefore keep on becoming compassionate, even as your Father also is compassionate. [Lk. 6:36]

Just how do we love our enemies and forgive those you harm us? St. Silouan teaches us that at least we must not hate our enemies curse them or snub them, but we should refuse thoughts of anger against them. In that way at least progress is made towards love. For St. Silouan, in love of our enemies one supposes that they forgive them their offenses and pray for them. Yet forgiving is not yet loving; prayer can precede love and not yet be a manifestation of love: “When I was still in the world I liked to forgive with all my heart,” he said. “I forgave easily and I liked to pray for those who had offended me, but when I came to the monastery, while I was still a novice, I received a great grace and it taught me to love my enemies.”

St. Silouan goes on to explain: “The Lord teaches us to love enemies in such a way that we will feel compassion for them as for our own children.” We must, says the Saint, be compassionate not only for our own enemies and the enemies of truth, but for the demons who suffer infernal pains for turning away from God and denying Him in their voluntary denial of heavenly goods, their refusal to love God and to be loved by Him. “Taught by the Holy Spirit, one will feel compassion even for demons for they are separated from goodness, they have lost humility and God’s love.”

“The Spirit of God teaches us to love all that exists, and the soul feels compassion for each being, and also loves enemies and pities demons, because in their fall they were detached from the good.” Compassion makes no exceptions! “There are people who wish damnation and the torments in the fire of hell for their enemies or enemies of the Church. They think in this way because they haven’t learned from the Holy Spirit to love God. He who has learned love, weeps for the whole world. You say: ‘Let him burn in the fire of hell!’ But I ask you: ‘If God gave you a good place in Paradise and that from there you could see in the fire the man to whom you wished this torment, wouldn’t you feel pity for him, whoever he is, even if he is an enemy to the Church?’ Or do you have a heart of metal?” “We must only have one thought,” says St. Silouan, “that all be saved.”(1)

It simply begins and ends with prayer! Practice, practice, practice! Prayer is the peaceful harmony you all are seeking!

Glory to Thee who has shown us the Light!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-17-2021

 

 

 

(1)https://www.orthodoxpath.org/saints-and-elders-counsels/but-i-say-to-you-love-your-enemies/

 

 

My Wife’s Big Fish!

My Matushka and I were vacationing a decade or so ago in Mexico and we had the opportunity to go deep water fishing. We boarded a 32-footer and trusted our journey to the good captain Carlos as we headed out in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a lengthy journey as we rounded the coast of Cuba and headed into the Gulf Stream. The first mate baited the hooks and we patiently waited for anything to bite. After watching my milky skin turn reddish as we waited and waited and watching the day draw nearer to a close, all of a sudden the fishing reel begin to sing as a fish grabbed the hook and plunged deep into the gulf waters. My wife took her turn first as the first mate strapped her in the fighting chair on the back or stern of the boat. After 20 or 30 minutes, Matushka was tired but keep on fighting, that’s theIrish in her! When the sail fish would leap out of the water, Matushka would get reenergized and keep on cranking in the line bringing this big fish closer to the boat. Finally after a 45 minute battle the fish was in the boat. We donated the meat to the local restaurants but keep the bill and fin to have a plastic fish replicated and mounted so we could look back over the years and recount our great adventure. My wife chose to take the mounted fish to work and hang it on the wall for all the men to see and drool over her expertise! After all, I did not boat a fish, but that is another fishing story!

Unlike the Gospel reading today, Matushka had no net; her goal was to catch one fish at a time! It did take all day and we only caught one fish, but that one fish was a whopper!! We stayed the course; after all a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work! For those folks that haven’t fished or don’t like to fish, Christ has a different fishing proposition for you! Our Lord has promised to make us all fishers of men. (Luke 5:10) You catch them and He will clean them! It does seem to be a lot like fishing in that you have to put the time in and you need to be in the water. And of course, sometimes you have a bite and sometimes you just enjoy nature and become radiant in His presence.

Archpriest John Moses said many times, that people wanting to be caught in the net of salvation are like herding cats. Cats and people have their own agenda and have to make a daily decision to swim into the net or go around and be free in their worldly choices. But let me convince you to take the time to fish for our Lord’s sake! Our Creator made us all keepers in His image. Some of us have been in the net before but escaped His love as our woundedness escalated our need to escape and be unattached. Being unattached is another word for saying that they are very vulnerable to deception.  Listen to wisdom of St. Diadochus of Photike: “All of us who are human beings are in the image of God. But to be in his likeness belongs only to those who by great love have attached their freedom to God.” These attached folks are not only in the net but are now in the boat!

Blessed Theophylact reminds us: “Merely to hear the word of God saves no one and is instead a condemnation. After hearing, one must do.”(Explanation of the Holy Gospel of St. Luke; Chrysostom Press pg. 86) You really do have what is desirable to be a great fisherman. Different types of fish are attracted to different type of bait, or in other words, the gifts you have been given will attract different fish than others. That is why you are needed. The whole world needs a Savior!

You have been given the greatest net to catch with as well! Listen to His instructions: “’But I say to you,’ the Lord says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.’ St. Maximus asks: Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.” (St. Maximus the Confessor)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-10-2021

Our Creator loves His creation!

The device that was used to execute condemned criminals is now used to bring life for wayward sinners like you and I! This piece of wood that held the dead body of our Lord could not and did not consume the Alpha and the Omega; no, this Holy Cross is our beginning of life without end, a life encompassed by the loving embrace of our Procreator. Our Creator loves His creation!  

 

We celebrate this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at the beginning of the church year and at the beginning of another school year! The Church reminds us that only through humility can we embrace salvation and our Lord showed us through His example throughout His time in the flesh. For the Lamb was slain not to pay our debt but to rescue us from our fallen condition and offer us sinners a relationship with God. Just how hard it is for this mortal man to understand the kind of love that is perfect and not flawed by our human woundedness and wickedness. Our Creator loves His creation!   

 

And although I have tasted the sweetness of salvation and felt the warm embrace of God, my habitual frame of mind tends to return me to sinfulness, like a dog seeking his vomit, finding deathful rest in the comfortable surroundings of my past frequent worldly choices, again and again.(Prov 26:11) And when I finally come to my senses and realize my emptiness, I then fall down at the cross confessing my sinfulness and lack of trust in anything other than myself, and in that humility I regain and realign my path to eternity, and my Father welcomes me home. Our Creator loves His creation!

 

Hear the words of the golden tongue, St. John Chrysostom: “But we are able to see Christ’s inexpressible love for man not only from the cross itself but also from the words which He spoke while upon the cross. At the very time when He was nailed and they were mocking Him, deriding Him and spitting upon Him, He said: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34)… At the same time that they were saying, “If You are the Son of God save Yourself,” He was accomplishing everything necessary to save these same ones who were reproaching Him. …He did forgive them, if they wished to repent, because if He had not forgiven them this sin, Paul would not have become an apostle;’ if He had not forgiven them this sin, the three thousand and the five thousand, and the many other thousands, would not have immediately believed.” Our Creator loves His creation!

 

Perhaps you too are feeling overwhelmed by the dark shadows of this world. It is time for a change! You are not alone! You are a member of this family. Our God begs you: “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is good and My burden is light.” [Mt. 11:28-30] Our Creator loves His creation!

“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. For God did not send forth His Son into the world in order that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” [Jn. 3:16-17]

You are His creation and God yearns for your return. You have been called, come, won’t you come? Glory to God who has shown us the Light! Our Creator loves His creation!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-26-2021

 

Bolted Down & Torqued

I spent a lot of the past two weeks spinning nuts on bolts and tightening them down until they hollered, or maybe the hollering was from me groaning as these middle-age bones and muscles were exerting physical labor and pushed to their maximum ability. Or maybe it was the impact hammer drivers’ gears screaming as the nuts were tightened to the correct specification. With these nuts and bolts, in the past two weeks our new church has taken a vertical position on the horizon. Progress has definitely been made as we have put a hedge around our vineyard! Glory to God!!  

I can imagine the vineyard workers in the Gospel reading this morning were also making progress in harvesting the fruits of the season, but not enough progress was being made to suit the boss. This boss was not the owner but someone entrusted to care for the harvest. An owner typically has more to lose and therefore expects more from the folks harvesting the fruit.

All of us still living and breathing have our very own vineyard to maintain. If we do not spend time weeding, maintaining and fertilizing our vines, they will wither and not produce much fruit. We are the boss; our eternal life to come depends on how we spend our time in the vineyard. Don’t expect someone else to do the work for you; this is all on you, and of course assisted by the grace from our creator, the owner. But it takes more than grace. Don’t be lazy or careless!

Jesus asks us in Matthew 21:42 if we have built our vineyard firmly on His foundation, or have we rejected Him? This is the thought I want to dwell on this morning. When our choices separate us from the vineyard, the fruit will spoil, the wild animals will dig up our roots and our vine will wither and not produce good fruit. What obstacles have you put in the way?  

Neglect of our fertile harvest for most of us comes in the way of deceit from the fallen one. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “The devil makes small sins seem smaller in our eyes, for otherwise he can’t lead us to greater evil!” (St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2:94) Martyred Priest Daniel Sysoev sums it up this way: “We are saved not only by means of good works, however, but also through receiving the sacraments. This is why those who have not entered into union with God through the sacraments will perish. They perish through being rejected by God, when God says:”You wanted to live without me, so go.” This is how they perish.”

We simply must continue to remember, we are not the owner! Everything that is, is HIS! You belong to Him! We have a very brief time in this flesh to produce good fruit. This is job #1, get your bolts and nuts tightened down and torqued, ready for the storms of life! Listen to the instructions of St. Theophan:“ Every Christian is chosen—chosen for similar deeds, namely: to be with the Lord, through unceasing remembrance of Him and awareness of His omnipresence, through the preaching and fulfillment of His commandments, and through a readiness to confess one’s faith in Him. In those circles where such a confession is made, it is a loud sermon for all to hear. Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities—not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul—that is, sins and sinful habits—and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them. Do this and you will be an apostle, a fulfiller of what the Lord chose you for, an accomplisher of your calling as messenger. When at first you succeed in all this, then perhaps the Lord will appoint you as a special ambassador—to save others after you have saved yourself; and to help those who are tempted, after you yourself pass through all temptations, and through all experiences in good and evil. But your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God. He who humbles himself shall be exalted. ( St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year: According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-19-2021

LABOR DAY

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and was established in 1887 by President Grover Cleveland. Labor Day is an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country! In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution here in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven days a week just in order to merely survive. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. When the workers pushed back, Chicago became the setting for the bloody Pullman strike of 1894, which catalyzed the establishment of an official Labor Day holiday in the U.S.

There is another Labor Day we Christians celebrate and it happens more frequently! We, the laborers for our Lord are given one day week as a day of rest. The commandment given to Moses says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it”(Ex 20:8-11)

In the ancient Jewish and Orthodox liturgical times, the next day begins at sundown. For the Jews the day of rest is Saturday. For us Orthodox people the day of rest begins after Great Vespers Saturday evening and completes Sunday evening well after the reception of the Lord’s Supper. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In Genesis we read: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Gen 2:1-3)

The Sabbath day is an important day. The One, who formed us from the clay and breathed His breath of life into us, clearly knows what is beneficial for our health. This day needs to be a day of rest and a day that is holy or set apart for God. “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. [Mt. 11:28] People that struggle with keeping the Sabbath Day holy say they just can’t take care of everything during the week and these folks will continue to struggle with not having enough time. The devil has tricked them into being so busy with stuff, that in their busyness they cannot find God!

Without keeping this day holy you will eventually find yourself in the hospital when you are overcome with worldly stress and your little world is falling apart, or you will build a wall separating yourself from God, placing many obstacles in the way of your salvation and keeping you away from your church attendance. We must stay on the road to salvation and return to God weekly with penitence and humility and be renewed by the Body and Blood of Christ! If we think we do not need this day of rest then we are placing ourselves above God! “But if thou art willing to enter into life, keep the commandments.” [Mt. 19:17]

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to Corinth: “For we are God’s co-laborers; ye are God’s cultivation, ye are God’s building.” [1 Cor. 3:9] May you have a blessed labor day this week and a blessed restful Sabbath day each and every following week!

Fr. Gabriel Weller Revisit

TURTLE-WARRIOR

Turtles seem to live a pretty long life, except the ones that like to cross the road! A turtle when it feels threatened retracts its’ vulnerability back into its shell; and you know I am the same way! I have always considered myself to be an introvert, as I spend a lot of quality time in my shell, cozy and safe. In becoming a priest, it has challenged me a bit. The things that pushed me back into my shell now get in the way of building God’s church.

Overall, I am a broken man in need of a Savior! I am the chief of sinners; please do not put me on a pedestal! My poor wife knows all too well, or all too Weller! I am the product of a broken home. I grew up mostly without a father but had many great godly family men in my life. I was a wayward, wild and crazy youth that finally realized something was missing! There is no man that sinneth not! (1 Kings 8:46) I stand before you as your priest but am unworthy of the position. It is simply that I love God more than that loud panicky voice that cautions me, and I force myself into the altar and out of my safe shell, trembling before the mighty hand of God at my many failings and my priestly duties! My life now is constantly changing as my shell of an ego or inner child get in the way of my need to love and too weep with you in your struggles and pain.

To say that these last 16 months or so have added a challenge with the biological warfare released on us is to put it mildly. I reflect back to my parents and grandparents enormous life-changing struggles they lived through with a new appreciation. At my house, we have turned off the news and its many misleading stories and so called experts. We read science reports now with an untrusting temperament and realize a contradicting study is just a day or two away. We have pushed forward trusting in God more and honoring our bishop. I don’t wish to cause Vladyka any harm or anguish. Our beloved bishop is a prayerful man whose love for us is without measure. As you know, ROCOR is a very conservative jurisdiction and is slow to change or to be pressured by society, and our hierarchs are always thirsting for your prayers!

During this time frame, my wife and I religiously consumed the elderberry and zinc supplements, but agent Wuhan still found us! This past lent on Clean Monday, I was blessed to experience this new variant for myself. It was a time to reflect on how temporary life on earth is! I wondered if this was it for me and if I would see us celebrating our first Divine Liturgy in Cross Keys, Va. in our new church. And of course like a good Christian, I shared it with some of you. The version I had allowed me to recoup quickly but I know many have struggled severely and lost loved ones to this virus. Most of the folks that I contaminated struggled more than I did and I weep for their pain. And I certainly didn’t want to take this home to my 85 year old mother either, who already struggles with another biological warfare agent called Lyme disease!  But I have chosen thus far to stay organic and weather the storm!

Trying to navigate these stormy waters amidst the regulations and daily reports of doom and gloom with your wellbeing in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers was our goal. Our concern is focused more on the life to come than this circus we are attending now. I didn’t want our un-Godly big-brother’s spotlight singling us out for amplifying this disease either. And I surely didn’t want anyone to suffer from their attendance here a church! But this toxin seems to have a mind of its own. The first folks in our church family that contacted the bug early on did not pass it on to their families or coworkers. The dirty bug I contracted, I believe at work, was more contagious. But we cannot fear death, it comes for us all!  

But understand this, there is absolutely no poisonous death awaiting you here at the chalice! The Body and Blood of Christ is Life and are here to strengthen and heal you! Are you a believer? As long as I am breathing and able, I will also be here for you!  Christ is either your God or you have surrendered to the pagans of this new world order! “The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us,” says St. Sophrony. It is the Church’s greatest mission! In this great work, the Lord’s work, the same Saint says, “We feel His Divine presence within us,

 

outside of us, at the highest grandeur of the universe, in the face of man and in the radiant intellect. And in the hours that the unwaning light illumines, our hearts we realize we will not die.”

St John of the Ladder writes, “Above all, you should leave the integral faith and the pious dogmas as a legacy to your children, so that not only your children but your grandchildren too will you manage to guide towards the Lord by walking the path of Orthodoxy.” (Saint John of Sinai, On the Shepherd 97, edition Holy Monastery of Paraclete, Horopos Attica, 1946, p.402 (PG 88, 1201A).

So where do we go from here? As the Commies try to take over this country with a devilish love, rooted in greed and power, we will find ourselves even more secluded. The True Church has already seen this sinful illness before and weathered the great storms of the past! When our governing body expects you to accept sin and pride as the new norm and allow our children to be warped with non-biblical teachings, our once godly nation has been hijacked and placed on a road to damnation. Love is not acceptance of sin, but a hope for salvation of all of the created on the single lane highway to heaven.

Many of our new politicians go to Washington and become millionaires controlled by delusional sick filthy rich people seeking to become king, and seeking to take our Constitutional rights away so they can gain more power! Satan is winning many battles now in this country! Great nation’s fall when they turn their attention from the true God to watered down theology created by man to allow man’s sinfulness to be made acceptable to mankind. It will not last! There is only ONE truth! History will confirm this for you.

Don’t pull your head back into its shell and hide either, get busy! A little while ago, St Paisios warned us saying: “If Christians don’t begin to witness their faith, to resist evil, then the destroyers will become even more insolent. But today’s Christians are no warriors. If the Church keeps silent, to avoid conflict with the government, if the Metropolitans are silent, if the monks hold their peace, then who will speak up?”

The Orthodox Church has given you all the weapons you need to defeat this attack and this brain washing of mankind. But you must come to training camp. You must practice our special diet. You must pray like your life depends on it, because it does! You must study the words of truth found in the Holy Scripture and realign your family’s vehicle on the single lane highway that offers no rest stops in the diminishing time we have left. And most of all; be about your Father’s business, hold firm to the wood of the Holy Cross, love your neighbor but protect your children from heresy and supporters of paraphilia, and above all, be Orthodox 24 hours a day! Live it, Breath it, Die Orthodox! Glory to Thee!!!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-8-2021