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Holy Friday or Good Friday?

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic precautions went into place, a group of friends from college holds a weekly phone conversation using Zoom on Saturday afternoon.  During the last part of our Zoom chat, the question came up, "Why do we call the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Good Friday?"  It does seem strange, and even more unusual to wish someone a "Happy Good Friday."

Why two Easters?

Why Two Easters?

As Orthodox Christians world-wide prepare to celebrate Pascha (Easter) on Sunday, April 19, 2020, I would like to shed some light on the reasons why the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ later than other Christians. While the issue can seem complicated, two factors often cause the difference in dates:  the use of different calendars and the adherence of the Orthodox Church to practices of the early Christian Church.

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The Prophet Vision of St. John of Krondstadt

While on a pilgrimange to Russia in 1994, I purchased a book at an open air market in St. Peterburg entitled, Miracles of 20th Century Russia. This book featured over a dozen spiritually uplifting stories and accounts about the Orthodox Church at the end of the Russian Empire, during the Soviet years of harsh persecution, and the fall of communism in the 1990's.  In 1995, I translated one of these stories, and it was published in a quarterly magazine.  Since that time, my translation has appeared in numerous blogs and other forums.  
I recently came across this youtube video where a narrator is reading the text while a series of illustrations accompany the words. Please click on the link below.

In addition, I discovered another youtube video where the text scrolls on the screen while Russian Sacred Choral Music is playing in the background.  Please clink on the link below.

Sunday of the Last Judgment-February 23 2020

The Church provides us with three preparatory Sundays before the beginning of Great Lent.  Each of these Sundays offer the spiritual tools necessary to begin our journey through the Lenten Season.  Our first Sunday shows us the way to combine the zeal of the Pharisee and the humility of the publican.  The gospel teaches us that we need to temper our zeal with humility-to dedicate ourfelves to Christ and His Church without boasting or bragging while reminding ourselves of how often we have fallen short through humility and forgiveness.  The prayer of the Publican, "Have mercy on me a sinner" is a shortened version of the Jesus Prayer, "O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner."  We ought to memorize this prayer and use it as a weapon against evil thoughts, unkind words, and foolish actions.  

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19 Sunday after Pentecost October 27 2019

The Gospel reading for today describes a man possessed by many demons.  When our Lord engages him in conversation, we discover that his name is "legion" for he has a multitude of demons living within his body.  One might think of this demon-possessed man as a representative of all humanity since each of us battle some demon in our life.  Some of us battle addiction disorders while others suffer from unpredictable behavioral outbursts unable to control the physical response to emotionally charged situations.   For those who suffer mental illness, the battle takes on numerous complexities as daily routines become nearly impossible, and we feel trapped-chained, abandoned, and alone-isolated much like the man in today's gospel who lives as an outcast.  

18th Sunday after Pentecost-The Rich Man and Lazarus

What is the opposite of love?  Many think the answer is hate, but that is only partially correct.  We find the answer to this question in the indifference or apathy toward our fellow human beings.  This inertia renders us lower than the other creatures who, in scientific studies, often demonstrate great compassion and love toward those of their species who are sick and dying.  Experts relate that chimpanzees will often spend time with a member who is sick and dying offering comfort such as gentle stroking and compassionate kisses on the forehead and cheek. 

17th Sunday after Pentecost-October 13, 2019

Our Gospel for today is well known, and we know that only the seed that falls on good soil will take root, grow, and yield a bountiful harvest.  For some of us, that scenario in life is a daily occurrence- we live a life that is completely in line with the teachings of the Gospel.  We pray, we fast, and we are generous to those in need, and we try to live a Christ centered life.

15th Sunday after Pentecost-September 29, 2019

As the month of September comes to a close, we are blessed with "seasonable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth and 'relatively' peaceful times."  Our weather has been quite spectacular with warm days and cool nights.  The roadside fruitstands have been filled with late harvest vegetables and a bounty of autumn fruits including apples, pumpkins, squash and other comfort foods. 

13 Sunday after Pentecost-The Cross in our lives

Today we celebrate the feast of the Elevation of the Holy and Precious Cross of the Lord.  For some, it may seem odd to celebrate the instrument of suffering and pain on which our Lord died.  It may conjure up images of hardship, pain, injustice, and a God who lacks love and compassion.

10th Sunday after Pentecost-Some words on faith

This Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew reminds us of just what the Lord requires from us in matters of faith: “If you have faith as a grain of a mustard seed…” Many of us believe that we are unworthy or unable to achieve our goals because we do not possess the right amount of faith.  In our Lord’s eyes, the smallest amount of faith can literally move mountains.  We must be willing to do our part and work in cooperation with our Lord offering up what we have and trusting that the Lord will hear our prayer and provide what is needed for the good and salvation of our soul. 

5th Week of Great Lent-Words from St. Ephrem the Syrian

As we enter the last week of Great Lent and begin our journey into Holy Week with our Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, I thought about the great saint of the 4th century, Ephrem the Syrian.  He is one of the greatest writers in the early church. He served as a deacon in the Syriac speaking churches historically located in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.  While we know little of his life, we are blessed with a wealth of his writings.  Here is an excerpt from Psalm 2 in the, Spiritual Psalter-a work based upon the Old Testament Book of Psalms.
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Fourth Sunday of Great Lent-St. John of the Ladder

Today is the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. This day is devoted to memory of Saint John of the Ladder. John of the Ladder was a great hermit, a great monk of Sinai monastery. He lived in the sixth century and by request of his brethren monks, wrote an instruction which is called the Ladder of Paradise. In this work he described the steps of man ascending to God, the degrees of spiritual perfection.

Third Sunday of Great Lent-Adoration of the Holy Cross

“For through the Cross, Joy has come to all the world.”

How strange it must seem to hear these words.  How can we associate Joy-the feeling of sublime happiness-with the symbol of the Cross?  The cross, that instrument of torture and death used by the Romans to punish those convicted of crimes against the state, now serves as a source of joy to all the world.  Where do we find the joy in the cross?  How do we accept the cross that comes into our lives?
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