Luke 12:13-21
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
What a terrifying and yet encouraging parable. It’s perfect for the Nativity Fast and the Christmas Season. Just like the Carol “Good King Wenceslas” teaches us the virtue of generosity, today’s parable teaches us, or really warns us, about the evils of covetousness and avarice. The first thing presented to us is the fact, that the riches of this man were honestly acquired.  "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop." He is portrayed as an honest, hard-working man, like any of us, whose labor was blessed by God with abundance. With the increase of his wealth, however, there was no corresponding increase in his heart. Even though God was very generous toward him, that generosity was not reflected in his behavior towards others. Rather, "He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my goods."
"He thought to himself!" Doesn’t that say it all? How easy it is for us just to think about important decisions and rely on our own judgments. How easy it is for us to be deceived or misdirected by our own passions or even demonic suggestions! Instead of “thinking to himself,” what should the rich man have done? Pray to God. First he should have given thanks. He didn’t. Next, he should have prayed to God seeking how he might distribute this great abundance. He didn’t. It never once dawned on the rich man that he was God’s steward, and that every “good gift and every perfect gift” comes down from Him, as the Lord’s brother says (James 1:17). As God’s steward he was supposed to disburse those riches rather than hoard them as if he were God’s banker! So, he selfishly decided, "I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods." St. Ambrose of Milan comments on the rich man’s perplexity about "having no place to store my crops." He writes, "What do you mean, you have no place?" "You have many barns already! The bosoms of the needy; the houses of the widows; the mouths of orphans!"
By thinking to himself, he thought only OF himself, and so it didn’t occur to him to relieve the poor, or the sick, or the widows or orphans. Accumulation of what he assumed was his wealth consumed all his attention, and so he says to himself "Soul, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry!" He thought he had it made. He had no cares in the world. He would lead a long and comfortable life. He was going to live on “Easy Street.” He didn’t think at all about death. No. Death was for others: the poor, the sick, the old. To human eyes, his future looked ideal, perfect, in fact. His heart was encased in gold, and his mind was very far from God. The man who has everything, has very little need for God. That’s why the Lord said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
This is the world’s illusion of a happy life. There used to be an ad on television a couple of years ago for an online company called “Wayfair.” It’s jingle included the words: “Wayfair, just what I need. Everything for my house. Everything for me!” The message almost seemed to be: Everything is out there. I need it all, and it’s ALL FOR ME! This is the mind of the rich man in the parable. In this state of peace, plenty, and pleasure, his thoughts stretching out into the future, and his plans maturing to perfection, he is suddenly, shockingly, aroused by the voice of God, saying unto him, "You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
What a startling announcement this is! The death knell of the soul--extinguishing every light of hope and of joy, leaving it in the depths of darkness forever! He was a "fool" to imagine that the soul needed no preparation for the translation to the next world. He was a "fool" for supposing that his soul would be satisfied with the wealth or pleasures of this world. He was a "fool" for believing that life had no other purpose than self-gratification, no other ends than comfort. He was a "fool" in thinking that his riches were his own, to hoard in barns, rather than entrusted to him as a steward to disburse to the Lord's poor, and for the Lord's service. Instead of building for a barn him, they will nail a coffin and dig a grave! Instead of having "much goods laid up for many years,"he has nothing laid up for eternity! Instead of his soul taking ease and being merry, he was destined to  dwell in everlasting sorrow. How mighty is the wreck of wealth--when God calls the sinner to his judgment. In the language of St.Theophylact, "Fearsome angels, like pitiless exactors of tribute, required of him, as a disobedient debtor--his soul." His departure was like that described by Job: "The wicked go to bed rich but wake up to find that all their wealth is gone. Terror overwhelms them like a flood, and they are blown away in the storms of the night. The east wind carries them away, and they are gone. It sweeps them away. It whirls down on them without mercy" (Job 27:19-22). To the rich man thus swept away in his wickedness, Jesus well asks, "Who, then, will get what you have prepared for yourself?" David answers in the Psalms, “Surely man walks in a shadow; nay, he is disquieted in vain: he lays up treasures, and knows not for whom he shall gather them” (Psalm 39:6).
The Lord concludes His parable with this moral: "So it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Isn’t this the lesson of Ebenezer Scrooge? Scrooge hated Christmas because he was a selfish miser who thought it was a money-sucking waste of time. Dickins was a professed Christian, and his tale “A Christmas Carol” was exactly a call to Christian virtue. Three spirits (dare we say “angels?” After all, “He maketh His angels spirits!”) visited the evil old man in order to bring about repentance and a true change. To the last angel Scrooge finally says, “Spirit, hear me! I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this if I am past all hope? Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life! I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach! Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.” The stone, the gravestone, of course represents eternal death. When Scrooge is returned to his own bedroom, he exclaims: “O Jacob Marley! Heaven and Christmastime be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!...and his face was wet with tears.” This is the meaning of A Christmas Carol and it is the same 2,000 year old message delivered by our Lord in the parable of the Rich Fool. Those who store up riches for themselves but are not rich toward God in their giving will inherit sorrow. But to those who care and give, they will be like Ebenezer Scrooge whose “own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him...and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God bless us, everyone!” Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Well, I’m back from Scotland – exhausted, jet-lagged, but with a mind full of wonderful experiences and memories. One memory I’d like to share with you is something that I saw everywhere I went in Scotland – unicorns. Unicorns seem to be omnipresent; every castle, every palace, on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms, everywhere. You know, unicorns are mentioned in the Bible. Not once, not twice, but many times. More than ten. Are unicorns real? Or were they real? The ancient Jews and the early Christians certainly thought so. But that’s not what I want to talk about this morning, but rather, I want to talk about what unicorns mean. What do unicorns symbolize? I asked one of the docents in Stirling Castle, the Royal Palace of the Stewarts, what is the meaning of the unicorns? He told me that unicorns were an important symbol to the Scots because of their Christian significance. According to the legend, a unicorn could be killed, but it would then revive. It could die, but then it would rise again. The link here to our Lord Jesus Christ is obvious. He went on to tell me that the Scottish people saw in the unicorn a type of themselves as well: Often crushed, but never defeated; slain, but rising again.
As I was reading this morning’s Gospel I couldn’t help but think about the unicorn. Why? Because this morning’s Gospel on Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood also speaks about the resilience, or the “rising” if you will of two peoples – the Jews and the Gentiles. Oh, the miracles are real enough. The healings really happened. Let’s not doubt that for a minute. This is not a parable or a story made up to illustrate a point. Not at all. But the miracles always have something to teach, something to say beyond what appears on the surface. And that’s what I want to explore today. Let’s look at what happened. A ruler, that is, a rabbi comes to Jesus. His twelve year old daughter is dying. Jesus agrees to go with him to see her when He is interrupted by a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years. Because of her deep faith, she is healed. Jesus then continues on His way with Jairus and the disciples. Word comes: your daughter is dead. Jesus says to the father “Don’t be afraid. I will come and heal her.” They arrive at the house. Scoffers, those who ridicule the pronouncement of Jesus that the girl merely sleeps, are thrown out of the house. Only Jesus, the parents, and His disciples remain. Jesus takes the hand of the dead daughter and says to her, “Little girl, arise!” and she rises from the dead. So here we have a miracle within a miracle. And the order goes like this: The little girl is dying and then dies as an older woman, who is ritually unclean, literally crawls up behind Jesus with great faith, and is healed. Then, at last, the little girl is, herself, raised from the dead. What is the deeper meaning of this text and what can we derive from it that instructs our own souls in righteousness? Let’s look for some clues.
Numbers, as I’ve always told you, have significance in the Scriptures. Notice, first of all, that the young dying girl is twelve years old. Also notice, that the older, very sick and crawling woman has been afflicted for precisely twelve years. The number twelve figures in both. What does the number twelve signify? Well, think about it; twelve apostles, twelve patriarchs, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve months in a year, 12 baskets full, etc. The number twelve signifies the fullness of a thing. So let’s examine further what the number twelve means in the miracles today. The young girl comes from the synagogue leadership. She represents Israel, God’s people, the Jews. In their fullness, in their twelve-ness, if you will, they are still immature, still not fully grown in their faith. Even though Jesus is coming to save them from death, they are mostly rejecting Him, mostly scoffing at His Good News of resurrection from the dead and eternal life. The result is, they are thrown out of the house. That is, they are removed from the House of God as His own particular people. In the meantime, another comes crawling. This is the woman with the 12-year hemorrhage. She represents the Gentiles. In fact, Eusebius tells us that she actually was a Gentile! The Gentiles were far away from God, worshipping idols and living in every kind of uncleanness. That is their fullness, their twelve-ness. These are the ones who will first demonstrate their faith and prostrate themselves before Jesus. These are the ones who will be the overwhelming majority of believers in the Church. But wait, is that the end of the story? Not at all! Faith will be found among the Jews. This is represented by the parents and the disciples who remain in the House, meaning the House of God. These are those who will come to the Church. Jesus will take the hand of the young girl, the hand of His first people whom He knew and loved, and He will raise them up. The Lord will not only raise them up, He will give them eternal life. And what else? He will raise them up, give them eternal life, and give them food to eat. What food? That same heavenly bread and divine cup that we shall receive this very morning, the Holy Eucharist. The Lord confirms, in these miracles this morning, that He has not rejected His people forever, but waits for them, patiently. He waits for them to come to faith. He waits for them until just before He is ready to return and gather us all to Himself.
God revealed to the Holy Apostle Paul a great mystery: Israel's hardening of heart and separation from the Church will last only until the "fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25). Then what? According to St. Paul “All Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26).” Now we cannot know the exact nature of these things. We are not told when the fullness, the twelve-ness, of the Gentiles will be complete. We haven’t been told when the fulfillment of the promise to Israel, the “twelve-ness” of Israel, will begin, or if it is already beginning. Perhaps one of the signs of its beginning is occurring in our own time, with the conversion of many Jews in Russia and many more in Israel, to the Orthodox faith. Did you know that was happening? Well it is.
So, this is all very interesting, but what does it all mean to me? What do I take away from the deeper meaning of these miracles? Well, it’s pretty obvious, really. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”(John 11:25). The woman was healed because of her deep humility and very strong faith in Jesus. The little girl was resurrected from the dead because of the faith of her parents and of the apostles. The conversion of the Gentiles began with the faith of one. The restoration of Israel will begin with the faith of one. My own rising from the disease of sin, and my own resurrection from spiritual death begins right here – with me, and my faith in Jesus. Even though the world crashes in around us, even though the world conspires against us, keep in mind what Jesus said: “These things have I spoken to you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Amen.

In today’s Epistle we read: “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6: 5-7).
Although the Apostle is speaking to slaves in particular, the principle applies to all of us. Our jobs, occupations, vocations, all of them need to be looked at in a different light, with different eyes. If we look at our jobs as being a drudgery, or a waste of time, or a crucible of unhappiness, then we aren’t looking at them correctly. Our jobs are our monastery, our cell, our cave, our martyrdom, our...yes, crucible. What is a crucible? A crucible is a dense, cup-like ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted down in order to produce something new. That is why God allows us to to have some of these jobs, for our correction and spiritual growth. St Paul, in another place, wrote this: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
St. Paul is very wise. He instructs his spiritual children to be content with their lot, but even more than that, he tells them to “do everything to the glory of God” including their jobs (See 1 Corinthians 10:31). In another place he writes, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). This new way of looking at things turns our work into a sacrament, rather than a scourge. It is our chance for disciple and the acquisition of virtues, rather than a chamber of tortures. If our job is our chance to be closer to Christ, isn’t it worth a little pain and suffering? Now, we all know that there are some jobs which turn out to be positively demonic. No one should have to endure physical or psychological abuse in the workplace. I’m not talking about that. And some jobs just aren’t a good fit. It’s not a sin to look for a new one. But while we are there, that’s where God wants us to be for that moment. Make it an opportunity to gain grace, to shine some light, and to please God.

Fr Brendan's Excellent Homily

Aha!  We have all had experiences in life, when the little light bulb appears above our head, and we really get something in a new way.  I still remember, as if it were yesterday, an experience like that in eighth grade, encountering a word from today’s Gospel reading.

The Gospel reading for St Sergius of Radonezh begins immediately after Jesus calls His twelve disciples.  A huge crowd of people from near and far have come to listen to Jesus, and to be healed.  St Luke’s Gospel tells us “the whole multitude sought to touch Him: For there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.” (Lk 6:19)

This was not just an isolated occurrence, but a constant in Christ’s earthly ministry.  In fact, St Luke mentions it again, a few chapters later.  Jesus is walking to the home of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, to heal his only daughter, who is lying on her death bed.

On His way there, seemingly in a tangent to what He was doing, He crosses paths with a woman with an issue of blood.  She had suffered for twelve years, and spent her entire life savings on doctors who were unable to help her.  But she had unwavering faith that Jesus could heal her.

By Jewish law she was considered ritually unclean, and forbidden to leave home, much less to mix among people in public, so she kept a low profile.  She didn’t even ask Jesus to heal her.  Instead, she sneaked up behind Him, touched the hem of His garment, and “was healed immediately.”

What happened next, to her surprise?  Jesus asked “Who touched Me?”  So much for low profile!  Peter and the disciples were flummoxed.  In the midst of a crowd, with people moving about, bumping and pushing each other, He asked “Who touched Me?”!  Jesus explained: “Someone hath touched Me, for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me.”

By now you have figured out that virtue is the word from my “aha! experience.”

To me, as an eighth grade boy, the word virtue seemed like something from a Victorian novel, somehow combining “thou shalt not’s” with Miss Manners!  All of these are good things in their place, just not too engaging or compelling to an eighth grade boy.

Then one day in Latin class, we encountered the word vir / virtutis, with the definitions “virtue, power, manliness.”  I was amazed to “get it” that our words virtue and virility both came from this word.  With the help of the little light bulb, I could picture the virtue / power / authority flowing from Our Lord to heal the afflicted!

My perception of virtue (both the word and the quality itself) had been transformed from something static and passive into something dynamic.  Speaking of dynamic, the same word in the original Greek Gospel is δύναμις.  We get our words dynamic and dynamite from it.

In the Greek rubrics for Liturgy, at the end of the Trisagion, the Deacon boldly proclaims / exhorts: “Dinamis!  With power!” and the choir repeats “Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal, have mercy on us!”

Strong’s Concordance gives us a wealth of meanings: miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself); ability, meaning, might, mighty deed, power, strength, violence, mighty / wonderful work; from the verb “to be able.” (1411 in the Greek Dictionary of Strong’s Concordance)

Why did Our Lord ask “Who touched Me?”  He knows everything!  He certainly knew of the woman and her healing.  He was really asking not just “Whose hand touched My clothing?” but “Who reached out and touched Me in faith?”  He wanted Jairus, and the disciples, and all of us here now to know the witness of her faith!  It is this woman’s faith that opened the door for the virtue / power / authority of Jesus Christ to flow out of Him to heal her.

Blessed Theophylact points out that Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the source of this miraculous power.  The prophets and saints did not have “power that went out of them.”  Rather, through their faith in Him, the virtue / spiritual power / spiritual authority of Jesus Christ filled, informed, and empowered their mission, their service to others.

Today, as we are serving others [at the parish’s annual food festival], each in our own unique way, may we be mindful to reach out in faith, to touch the hem of Our Lord’s garment, and receive the virtue / power / spiritual authority which comes only from Him.

September 25, 2016  PDn Brendan Doss



In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Brothers and Sisters, what is it that inspires people to do horrible and wicked things? The vinedressers, or "husbandmen" as they are called in the King James Bible, had everything they could ever want. They had a beautiful place to live, they had all the food they could eat, a job that kept them busy but didn't over-burden them. They also had a kindly boss. He gave them the land to cultivate, only asking for a portion of the grapes, raisins, and wine that would result from their efforts. That's all. But when the boss sent messengers to the vineyard to receive his portion, what happened? The vinedressers killed them. They killed the first group of messengers, and they killed the second group of messengers, and finally they killed the son and heir. Now we haven't forgotten the context of this parable. Jesus is teaching in the temple. The religious leaders are furious with Jesus and question his authority. We know that the parable is addressed to them, that the vineyard, the hedge, the winepress, the tower all refer to all the good things that God had given to His people. The land, the vineyard, is the Promised Land, the hedge is the Law of Moses, the winepress is the altar of sacrifice, and the tower is the temple. We remember these things, don't we? And the vinedressers represent the religious leaders, the priests, etc. who were responsible for caring for it all. But time after time they abandoned God, worshipped idols, defrauded the poor and the widow, killed the prophets, and eventually would cause the death of their own Messiah. This is the primary teaching of the parable. It is a rebuke that is designed to get those religious leaders to wake up and see what they were doing, and see what they were thinking. In other words, Jesus sought to shake them up so that they would repent. But it was not to be so.

As a secondary meaning, many have seen a message about tithing. Right? God has given us everything, but He expects us to give our portion, our "tithe" back to Him. He has given us the Church, which is the vineyard. He has given us the Good News of the Gospel, which is the hedge. He so loved the world (which means, in Greek, the "people") that He gave His only-begotten Son to die on the Cross that we might have eternal life, which is the wine-press. And what do you think the tower is? In the Song of Songs in the Bible we hear of a person who "is like the tower of David, built for an armory, on which there hang a thousand shields, all shields of mighty men." Who might this person be, who is provided to the Church for her defense? What do we sing in the Church? "Thou art a gold-entwined tower." The Mother of God, the Most Holy Virgin is the Tower whom our Lord and Master has placed to watch over and protect the Church. So the Lord has given us everything for our salvation and eternal life. He expects us to render Him His portion, as is due. That is the connection with tithing.

But another meaning to the parable lies in what I asked at the beginning: "What is it that inspires people to do horrible and wicked things?" In our lives there can be many things that cause us to do sinful or evil things, but today's parable wants to think about one particular thing. And what is it? The parable makes a point to say that the Master "went into a far country." This means that he, the Master, was not physically present there with them, he was far away. Remember what the Lord said to Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe." The situation here at the vineyard was something far worse than "when the cat's away the mice will play." This is "while the Master is away we will forget about Him altogether."

St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain once said that "When a man is too happy in this world, he forgets God and forgets death.” Too much attention to the fallen world, it's pleasures, it's attractions, it's comforts, and our mind, and our focus easily disconnect from God. To the holy fathers, the forgetfulness of God is one of the worst possible sins that human beings can commit. To the late Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel laureate, Orthodox Christian author, and Russian dissident, the cause for Russia's disasters in the last century, and the disasters that loom for the West in this century are due primarily to one thing: "Men have forgotten God" (See A. Solzhenitsyn, “Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag”). If the vinedressers had reminded themselves daily of the care and love that the Master had bestowed upon them, they would have reciprocated that love and care. But they forgot him, as we often do God. Someone once said "Most Christians live their lives and behave themselves as if God didn't exist at all." This is the deep meaning of the parable for us today. The Lord wanted to shake up the religious leaders in the temple for their repentance. He wants the parable to do the same for us! Remembering God is vital for our salvation. St. Augustine, in his work "On the Trinity," wrote about the remembrance of God. He says that before we can know and love God at all, we must first remember Him. Another holy father, St Peter of Damascus, says that we must:

"Be mindful of God at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance. For no matter what you do, you should keep in mind the Creator of all things. When you see the light, do not forget Him who gave it to you; when you see the sky, the earth, the sea and all that is in them, marvel at these things and glorify their Creator; when you put on your clothing, acknowledge whose gift it is and praise Him who in His providence has given you life. In short, if everything you do becomes for you an occasion for glorifying God, you will be praying unceasingly. And in this way your soul will always rejoice, as St. Paul commends (cf. I Thess. 5:16).”(+ St. Peter of Damascus, “Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Vol. 3)

And St Herman of Alaska famously said: “And I, a sinner, have been trying to love God for more than forty years, and cannot say that I perfectly love Him. If we love someone we always remember them and try to please them; day and night our heart is occupied with this. Is that how God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always remember Him, do you always pray to Him and fulfill His holy commandments? For our good, for our happiness at least let us make a vow that from this day, from this hour, from this minute we shall strive to love God above all else and to fulfill His holy will.'”

Let's do our best, dear ones, to struggle against the distractions of this world, the bright, colorful, flashing lights of the fishing lures of Satan, and, instead, wrestle our minds back to the remembrance of God. It isn't easy, and it must be aided by God's grace and much prayer, but we CAN do it, if we choose to.




In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

"If you want to enter into life," said Jesus to the rich young man, "keep the commandments.” The young ruler said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 'Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth up."

Jesus says to the rich young ruler, Just keep the commandments and you will inherit eternal life. Simple, right? Absolutely! But the young man wants to make sure WHICH commandments are most critical. He asks, "Which ones?" What he really wants to know is which commandments are essential, and which are not. What he really wants to know is can he ignore the "non-essential" ones and just focus on the big ones? I remember years ago seeing a copy of an Orthodox Prayer Book in English. I forget now who published it, but I do remember looking through the various prayers and seeing asterisks next to some and not next to others. "How odd," I thought, so I hunted around the book for an explanation. In the front of the book there was a little note saying that the asterisk indicates the prayers that "must be said." I saw the same thing once in a little service book for the Sacrament of Holy Unction. Asterisks. These prayers are essential, and presumably, the others may be skipped. I wondered to myself, "Who makes these decisions? Who decides which prayers are sufficient and which may be discarded? The rich young ruler wanted to know from Jesus, which commandments have the asterisks? Which commandments are sufficient and which may be discarded?

Jesus gave the answer: The basic commandments of the Law, the Ten commandments, and the additional one to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Now here's a little interesting aside. I don't know if you noticed, but when Jesus listed the Ten Commandments, He left out all the ones with reference to God. In other words He left the first part, the first 4, if you will. He left out Number 1.) "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," Number 2.) "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," Number 3.) "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," and number 4.) "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." He only gave him the moral laws, the second part, or the second tablet. Also, remember, He only gave him the second part of the two greatest laws given by Jesus in Matthew 22: 36-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." He omitted the first half, the part about God. Why? St Jerome, earlier in his commentary, says "But because he had styled Him Good Master, and had not confessed Him as God, or as the Son of God, He tells him, that in comparison of God there is no holy person to be called good, of whom it is said, "Confess unto the Lord, for he is good; (Ps. 118:1) and therefore He says, "There is one good, that is, God.""

So, perhaps the Lord is pointing out, in a didactical, pedagogical way, that the rich man has a relationship with rules, but not with the Ruler of heaven and earth. He has a zeal for God, but not according to any direct knowledge of God, to paraphrase St Paul (see Romans 10:2). He has no idea that he is talking to God incarnate. He has no idea that he is speaking to the Messiah, the Saviour promised by God. He is pursuing asterisks. He has no idea that the Living God is pursuing him! So what does the rich young man do next? He says to Jesus, "I have kept these commandments; I have obeyed these commandments from the time I was a small child. What am I lacking?"

Sometimes, no, all the time, when we are trying to learn from the Scriptures, we have to look at the context of the reading. Especially, we have to look at what came just before our reading. Do you know what happened just before this rich young man approached Jesus? It'll blow your minds. Listen to what happened just prior to today's reading: "Then there were brought unto him (Jesus) little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples tried to turn them away. But Jesus said, "Allow the little children, and do not forbid them to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them, and departed from that place" (Matthew 19: 14-15). This placement is no accident. This chronology speaks volumes. Here the little children are seen flocking to Jesus and He blesses them. The rich young man boasts that even from his childhood he did everything right, he assumed that he lacked nothing. But in fact, he lacked everything! There was nothing he needed to DO, no asterisks to search out, no information to be gathered. All he needed to do was to become like one of those dear little children and run to Jesus, be embraced by Jesus, be blessed by Jesus. But, he didn't do that, did he? In fact, he walked away from Jesus, in sorrow. And why did he do that? Because Jesus showed him who he really worshiped. Jesus showed him who his "god" really was. And perhaps this, above all other reasons, was why Jesus left the "God" bits out of His list of commandments given to this rich young man. Why? Because he himself had left God out. And why had he left God out? Because his "god" was his possessions. His "god" was his wealth and his easy life. Listen to what St John Chrysostom says: "Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest. (For a Christian) to be engrossed with the present life is foreign to our confession and calling...To some their a god. Are not these too idolaters?" Solomon in Proverbs says, "Those who trust in their riches will fall" (Proverbs 11:28). And St Paul, writing to Timothy, says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not... to put their hope in wealth...but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything" (1 Timothy 6:17). The rich young man walked away sad because his heart was with his treasure, rather than with God (Cf. Matthew 6:21). He missed out on the one thing needful, to sit at the feet of Jesus and cling to His every word, like Mary, the Sister of Martha and Lazarus (see Luke 10: 39-41). St. Ignatius Brianchaninov makes this observation, he says: "It is only necessary to seek one thing: to be with Jesus. The man who remains with Jesus is rich, even if he is poor with regard to material things. Whoever desires the earthly more than the heavenly loses both the earthly and the heavenly. But whoever seeks the heavenly, is Lord of the whole world." (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, Patericon). Amen.


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!

This morning's Gospel reading talks about two slaves. The translations say "servants," but when I think about "servants" I think about Downton Abbey - Mr. Carson or Mrs. Hughes; free men and women whose job is to perform domestic duties or to act as a personal attendants. But that isn't what's going on here. These are slaves in the parable. They are owned by the Master. They belong to him. They are responsible and answerable to him. One of these slaves is very highly placed in the household, isn't he?  He not only has lots of authority and power given to him by his master, but he has complete access to the master's assets. The other one is lower in the slave hierarchy. He is under the direct authority of first one. We know that because he has no means to resist the abuse of the first one. What else do we know about these two slaves? We know that the first one is a huge criminal, having embezzled a fortune. It was only discovered when the master began to go over the books, as the parable says. The second slave borrowed a modest amount of money from the first one. To understand how much money was stolen by the first slave, let's look at it like this: He would have to work for 20 years to earn one talent of silver. He owed 10, 000 talents. The second slave borrowed the equivalent of three months wages for a common laborer. Why did he need the money? The parable doesn't tell us, and it really doesn't matter, because the "money" isn't about money at all. It's about sins. The parable is basically about two things: sins and narcissism. I know: you're going to ask, "but isn't it about forgiveness?" Of course it is, and I'll explain how it still fits into these two categories.

First let's talk about sin. The Master represents God. He sees that we human beings are steeped in sin, overwhelmed by sin. We are powerless to overcome the enormity of our sinfulness either by force of will or even by the Law of Moses. Yet, our Master, Christ, comes and He forgives us all our sins. He simply erases them by means of holy baptism and by the Mystery of Confession. But the question of the parable is how do we regard the nature of this forgiveness. What impact does that forgiveness have in our lives and in the way that we regard the sins, or the failings of others. Let's look at this in another way. Let's look at driving. How many of us become angry, even furious, when someone cuts in front of us in a dangerous way - no signal, no nothing. We're startled, we hit the breaks, and then, there it is, fury, gestures, thoughts, words. But what about when WE do it? What about when we rush through the intersection, the traffic light decidedly pink? Or WE cut quickly in front of someone because "Oh, I'm going to miss my turn, or, I can't be late for my appointment. What excuses we find for our own behaviour! This is what I consider a kind of spiritual narcissism. That is the second theme of our parable. What is narcissism after all? It is extreme selfishness, an almost erotic self-centeredness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents, abilities, worth or importance. It is egoism to the max. It is what the holy fathers call the passion of "self-love." We are all over someone else for their sins, but we forget entirely about our own. We'd love to take those drivers, those family-members, those co-workers by the throat and throttle them, but with our own sins we are mild, gentle, forbearing, with every lame excuse making perfect sense to us. How can we not be forgiving, brothers and sisters, considering how many sins we have been forgiven by God? How can we not be forgiving of others considering how many sins God continues to forgive us?

St John Chrysostom says: "What are you doing, O man? Do you not perceive that you are making the demand upon yourself, you are thrusting the sword into yourself, and revoking your own pardon, your own gift of grace? But none of these things did he consider, neither did he remember his own state."

Some people think that the Orthodox Church, the services, the Prayer Book, everything is too dark, too negative. They think we spend WAY too much time concentrating on our sins and failings. Look at all the "Lord have mercy's" in the services; look at all the penitential type prayers in the prayer book; look at Great Lent! But believe me, the weapons must be strong and they must be durable, and employed continually if we are to have any success at all in the battle against our sins and against our spiritual narcissism. After all, when Adam first transgressed in the garden what did he do? He made an excuse for himself and he blamed somebody else!

According to St Theophylact of Ohrid, the unmerciful slave does not represent just one man, but all of humanity. Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov writes that each of our sins is significant, since each offends God. Our sins are as numberless as the talents in the parable. The 10,000 talents are our sins against God's Ten Commandments, our total debts of ingratitude for God's countless mercies toward us. We live in sin and each day increase our debt to God. This is one of the reasons, for me anyway, that I prefer the translation of the Lord's Prayer that says "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." It reminds me exactly of this parable. St John Chrysostom says that the Master in the parable had no intention of selling that first slave. He only wanted to frighten him into recognizing his state. He writes: "He only wanted to make the servant understand how many debts he was forgiving him, and through this means to compel him to be more lenient toward his fellow-debtor... having realized both the weight of his debt and the greatness of his forgiveness." May this parable, and this our little reflection on it this morning, accomplish the same in us. May the Lord grant us to "see our own transgressions and not to judge our brother." May the Lord free us from our own spiritual narcissism, that we might conform more closely to His loving and forgiving likeness. Amen.


Homily: Do Demons Really Exist?

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
In this morning's Gospel reading, from the King James version, we heard the father of the afflicted boy diagnose his child's malady by declaring to Jesus, "He is lunatick." On the OCA website it utilizes the New King James version which says "he is an epileptic." The New International Version says "he has seizures." Most English translations use one of these three words: lunatic, epileptic, or seizures. Only one of these is accurate according to the Greek original, and that is lunatic. Of course we think of the word "lunatic" as someone who is crazy, out of control, psychotic. But what it meant originally was moonstruck, someone affected by phases of the moon or malevolent moon beams. Only Matthew uses this word and he only uses it one other time, and that, too, is in connection with healing (see Matthew 4: 24).

The problem here is that none of these words are accurate when it comes to defining what was causing this child to throw himself into the fire and into the water. None of these words explain why he fell to the ground, foamed at the mouth, gnashed his teeth or went rigid, as St Mark describes (see Mark 9:28). The father blames it on the moon. Modernist translators, who are ever eager to demythologize all things supernatural, want to blame it on physical diseases. But the truth is quite different. The boy was afflicted by demons. He was demon-possessed. Do we believe that demons exist? Of course we do. Jesus does, the Church does, and we do.

Brethren, it's important to note that the ancients were not nearly as ignorant as we might mistakenly suppose. They certainly DID know about mental illness. The ancient pagan Greeks also knew about it, and had developed therapies to treat it. The early church fathers also were quite aware of mental illness. Mother Melania of Calistoga once wrote: "The Church Fathers routinely refer to medical treatment of the insane with no hint of disapproval...This confirms that the Fathers generally believed in mental illness and that it was distinct from demonic possession." St. John Chrysostom says, “Physicians, when they are kicked, and shamefully handled by the insane, then most of all pity them, and take measures for their perfect cure, knowing that the insult comes of the extremity of their disease." No mention of demons at all.

However, there is no doubt that the Lord Jesus not only believes that there are demons, but He also teaches that a good part of our spiritual life must be dedicated to warfare against them. How do we know this? Because when He taught His disciples to pray, He ended that prayer with the words "deliver us from the evil one!" The Church also believes in the reality of demons and demon-possession, and provides us with many weapons to use against them. Examples? Three prayers of exorcism are read over any candidate, even wee babies, before they are baptized. (Question: You might ask how a forty day old infant might be afflicted with demons? Answer: Not through any sin of its own, but by means of a demon-attracting life lived by its parents, or found in its environment. This is what the Scriptures mean when they say the "sins of the parents are visited upon the children" (Deuteronomy 5:9). What other weapons does the Church give us to fight against the demons? The Great Prayers of Exorcism given in the Trebnik. These are read by the Bishop or priest over someone afflicted by or possessed by demons. Sometimes these prayers have been read over a multitude of people, or even whole towns. There is an amazing story that I heard on the Holy Mountain back in the 90's, and was set down my my friend and classmate Archimandrite Vasileios (Bakoyannis) in a little booklet called "Weapons Against Satanic Influence."

He writes:

"There was once a famous sorcerer who went to Kolwezi, a town in Zaire, in 1984, and set about curing people of their afflictions. Hieromonk Meletios, a missionary priest from the Monastery of Gregoriou on Mt. Athos, was an eye-witness to the events that took place there and related that in October, 1994, the sorcerer returned to the same town, preceded by an extensive publicity campaign. Banners were stretched over the main streets and loud speakers announced his arrival. They said that "the Savior" is returning. They had also set up a platform on one of the main roads where the sorcerer would stand. Lots of people hurried to make their way there to present themselves before him in order to be cured of their diseases. The "savior" arrived. There was pandemonium. His timetable was such that he would remain in the town for a whole week.

On the first day he went to the platform to heal the sick that were waiting anxiously. He said his prayers but nothing happened. Three hours went by and still there were no healings. On day two, he said his prayers again. But again he had nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, the loudspeakers on the street continued to announce his presence in the town. On the third day, he still had nothing to show for his efforts. The people began to feel uneasy. On day four, there was still nothing happening and the people began to get angry.

But all hope was not lost because there were still three days left. He did everything he could, but still without affecting any result at all. And then, on the last day, overwhelmed with confusion, he was forced to admit to the disappointed crowd that this was the first time that anything like this had happened to him and that it had happened there in Kolwezi. Well, what really happened?

Fr. Meletios, the Orthodox missionary, had not been idle. He had used the visit of the sorcerer as an opportunity to shame the devil, to demonstrate the power of the Orthodox Church and to glorify God. Every time the shaman mounted the platform to do his "healings," Fr. Meletios and all the Orthodox Christians gathered in the Church of St. George and chanted the Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God, and then read the prayers of exorcism of St. Basil the Great. In confessing that this was the first time that anything like this had happened to him, the famous shaman did not know that he was being opposed by the spiritual weapons of the Orthodox Church."

So what are some other weapons given to us by the Church to combat Satan and his evil spirits? The Sign of the Cross. Each time we make the sign of the Cross, either on ourselves or on others, we perform a small exorcism. The devil flees from the sign of the Cross. At baptisms when the water is blessed crosswise by the bishop or priest, he says: "May all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Thy Cross!" What else? The Holy Mysteries: Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion, Holy Unction, all of these are given to us as a means to drive out Satan. All of them repel the demons, but they also free us from the sins that cling to our souls and give ground in us for those demons. Are there more? Well, what did we learn in today's Gospel? "This kind (of demon) goes not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17: 21). We saw the power of the Church praying together in Africa - how the demonic powers of the sorcerer utterly evaporated. This is only one of many reasons to be in Church more frequently rather than less. But also our own private prayers, and our prayers in the Prayer Book, these are very effective in driving away the evil spirits. Take, for example, in the Evening Prayers: "thwart the enemies, fleshly and bodiless, that war against me. And deliver me, O Lord, from vain thoughts and evil desires which defile me." And again, "O Jesus, Good Shepherd of Thy sheep, deliver me not over to the sedition of the serpent, and leave me not to the will of Satan, for the seed of corruption is in me." And again, "O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of Thy most honourable Mother, and Thy bodiless angels, Thy Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist, the God-inspired apostles, the radiant and victorious martyrs, the holy and God-bearing fathers, and through the intercessions of all the saints, deliver me from the besetting presence of the demons."And who can forget the prayer that we say right before sleep? "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified on thee." Listen to these. Do we often neglect our evening prayers? When we do, we drop our own weapons, given to us by God, and leave them behind. The Church also provides us with many other tools; the Prayers Against Demonic Snares, the Prayer Against the Evil Eye, Prayer for a Home Troubled by Evil Spirits, all of these are read by a Bishop or Priest. But probably the best and simplest means of thwarting and driving away evil spirits is the Jesus Prayer. The Holy Fathers call the Jesus Prayer "the Whip of Christ" which drives away the "moneychangers" of evil spirits and their intrusive thoughts. This is why the holy fathers, and all contemporary elders, spiritual fathers and mothers, all recommend to us the use of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" every day as part of our prayer rule. Brothers and Sisters, may we never bury these talents of tools and weapons in the earth, but use them, increase them, and employ them each and every day in our lives. By doing so, our combat will be well-pleasing to God, and salvific for our souls. Amen.



August 21, 2016

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Beloved, here's your quiz. Do you remember what I said to you some months back about who was the first person to see the risen Christ? Not Mary Magdalene but someone else? Yes, the fathers say clearly that it was the Mother of God. Others didn't recogize Him, they thought He was the gardener. But the fathers say that the Theotokos saw Him first and recognized Him immediately. There are many texts in the Gospels that speak of people "seeing" Jesus, or wanting to "see" Jesus. For instance, Luke 19: 2-3 says: "And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature." And in John 12:20-21 it says: "And there were certain Greek-speakers among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, ...saying, Sir, we would see Jesus." This is SO funny, because these out-of-towners came to Philip in order to see Jesus, but the Lord Jesus chastises this same Philip for not "seeing" Him at all. The Lord said: "“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?"

In today's Gospel we encounter a similar problem. It says: "Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear (Matthew 14: 25-26). What happened? These are Jesus' disciples; they know him better than anyone. They know what Jesus looks like. Their eyes were not confused because of the storm, the wind, or the waves. It says that "when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea." Not "when the disciples saw a form gliding toward them" or "when the disciples saw something that looked like it might be Jesus walking on the sea." It says "when the disciples saw Him." And when the disciples saw Him what did they say? "It is a ghost!" They are not comforted by the sight of Jesus. St Matthew says they were "troubled" or at least that's the word that many translators use. But the word in Greek (ἐταράχθησαν) is actually much stronger. It's closer to something like "shocked with terror." So why are they terrified at the sight of Jesus walking on the water? Hadn't they seen Him work many miracles - even raising people from the dead?

Yes, of course they had. But they had never been separated from Him like this before, and the very moment that they stepped into the boat, they were afraid. That's what the fathers say. The disciple were not happy when Jesus "compelled them" to enter the ship without Him. They were fishermen. They knew the weather. They knew the signs, they knew the treachery of the water. They felt secure and protected as long as He was physically with them. But now they were afraid, and this is precisely what the Lord wanted! He wanted them to develop their faith, and not to rely solely on His physical presence with them. St John Chrysostom said:

"(The Lord) allowed for them to be tossed the whole night, exciting their hearts by fear, and inspiring them with greater desire and more lasting recollection of Him; for this reason He did not stand by them immediately, but...(instead) teaches them not to seek a speedy riddance of coming evil, but to bear manfully such things as befall them. But when they thought that they were delivered, then was their fear increased, whence it follows, 'And seeing him walking upon the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a vision, and through fear they cried out.' For the Lord always does this; when He is to rescue from any evil, He brings in things terrible and difficult. For since it is impossible that our temptation should continue a long time, when the warfare of the righteous is to be finished, then He increases their conflicts, desiring to make greater gain of them; which He did also in Abraham, making his conflict his trial of the loss of his son."

So what does this mean in English? It means that the Lord allowed this "test" for His disciples in order to strengthen their faith in Him. He said to one of them on another occasion: "Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." "The love of Christ is tested by adversity" says St Mark the Ascetic, and St John of Karpathos says that "God who watches the contest, often allows us for some definite period of time to be trampled by our enemies, but it is the mark of a noble and courageous soul not to despair in adversity." The disciples had to learn not to despair. They had to learn not to fear, but instead to have faith, to believe, and to have confidence in Christ - even when He is invisible, even when your mind deceives you and your thoughts make you afraid. And this is the same lesson that all of us need to learn.

Peter was the chief of the disciples. He too had been terrified. He too saw Jesus with his eyes, but his fallen brain told him that this had to be a spirit, a phantasm, a specter. But when Jesus identified himself by using the Divine Name "Be not afraid - I AM" Peter's thinking was jolted, it was dragged from the earth back to heaven, and He was able both to see and to know who Jesus was. That is what gave him the courage to call Him "Lord" rather than "a ghost." Real faith only comes by means of trials. As the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord, says, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and whole, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4). The Apostle Paul says "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5). And a last quote from St John of Karpathos again: "He allows us to suffer adversities so that in the end He may give us eternal joy and glory."

So, what does it mean to be whole and perfect? What does it mean to acquire eternal joy and glory? It is the ability to see Jesus, as He truly is. It is the fulness of faith - which has every confidence that no matter what our situation, no matter what our trials, no matter what our sorrows, Christ will come to rescue us. He may not come immediately, and He may not always come in the way we want Him to, but He will come and He will save us. Amen.

DORMITION - St Gregory Palamas
HOMILY ON DORMITION - St Gregory Palamas (extracts)

Who can describe in words your divinely resplendent beauty, O Virgin Mother of God? Thoughts and words are inadequate to describe your attributes, since they surpass every human mind and all human speech. Still, it is appropriate, and we are compelled to sing hymns of praise to you, for you are a vessel containing every grace, the fulness of all things good and beautiful, the tablet and living icon of every good thing and every righteousness, since you alone have been deemed worthy to receive the fulness of every gift of the Spirit. You alone bore in your womb Him in Whom are found all the treasuries of all these gifts, and you became a wondrous tabernacle for Him. Having transitioned from us by way of death to immortality, you were also translated from earth to Heaven, as is proper, so that you might dwell with Him eternally in a super-celestial abode. From there you diligently care for your inheritance eternally, and by your unsleeping intercessions with Him, you show mercy to all.

To the degree that she is closer to God than all those who have drawn near unto Him, by that much has the Theotokos been deemed worthy of a closer hearing. I am not speaking about human beings alone, but also of the angelic hierarchies themselves. Isaiah writes with regard to the supreme commanders of the heavenly hosts: "And the seraphim stood round about Him" (Isaiah 6:2); but David says concerning her, "at Thy right hand stood the queen" (Ps. 44:8). Do you see the difference in position? From this comprehend also the difference in the dignity of their station. The seraphim are round about God, but only the Queen of All is close beside Him. She is both wondered at and praised by God Himself, proclaiming her, as it were, by the mighty deeds enacted with respect to Him, and saying, as it is recorded in the Song of Songs, "How fair is my companion" (cf. Song of Songs 6:4). She is more radiant than light, more arrayed with flowers than the divine gardens, more adorned than the whole world, visible and invisible. She is not merely a companion but she also stands at God's right hand, for where Christ sat in the heavens, that is, at the "right hand of majesty" (Heb. 1:3), there too she also takes her place, having ascended now from earth into heaven. Not merely does she love and is loved in return more than every other, according to the very laws of nature, but she is truly His Throne, and wherever the King sits, there His Throne is set also. And Isaiah beheld this throne amidst the choir of cherubim and called it "high" and "exalted" (Isaiah 6:1), wishing to make explicit how the station of the Mother of God far transcends that of the celestial hosts...
Hence, as it was through the Theotokos alone that the Lord came to us, appeared upon earth and lived among men, being invisible to all before this time, so likewise in the endless age to come, without her mediation, every emanation of illuminating divine light, every revelation of the mysteries of Deification, every form of spiritual gift, will exceed the ability of every creature to contain. She alone has received the all-pervading fulness of Him that "fills all things," and through her all may now contain this fulness, for she dispenses it according to the power of each, in proportion and to the degree of the purity of each. Hence, she is the treasury and overseer of the riches of the Divinity. For it is an everlasting ordinance in the heavens that the inferior partake of what lies beyond being, by the mediation of the superior, and the Virgin Mother is incomparably superior to all. It is through her that as many as partake of God do partake, and, as many as know God understand her to be the enclosure of the Uncontainable One, and as many as hymn God praise her together with Him. She is the cause of what came before her, the champion of what came after her and the agent of things eternal. She is the substance of the prophets, the principle of the apostles, the firm foundation of the martyrs and the premise of the teachers of the Church . She is the glory of those upon earth, the joy of celestial beings, the adornment of all creation. She is the beginning and the source and root of unutterable good things; she is the summit and consummation of everything holy.

"O divine, and now heavenly, Virgin, how can I express all things which pertain to you? How can I glorify the treasury of all glory? Your feast day sanctifies whoever keeps it, and a mere movement towards you makes the mind more translucent, and you elevate it straightway to the Divine. The eye of the intellect is, through you, made clear, and through you the spirit of a man is illumined by the fleeting touch of the Spirit of God, since you have become the steward of the treasury of divine gifts and their vault. And this is not in order to keep them for yourself, but so that you might make us poor creatures rich with grace. Indeed, the steward of those inexhaustible treasuries watches over them so that the riches may be distributed; and what could confine that wealth which never decreases? Richly, therefore, bestow your mercy and your graces upon all your people, your inheritance, O Lady! Dispel the perils which trouble us. See how greatly we are worn out by those within and those without, by our own and by those not from among us. Uplift us all by your might: calm our fellow citizens with one with another and scatter those who assault us from without-like savage beasts. Pour out your assistance and healing in proportion to our sufferings. Distribute abundant grace to our souls and bodies, sufficient for every necessity. And although we may prove incapable of containing all your bounties, augment our capacity, and in this manner bestow them upon us, so that being both saved and fortified by your grace, we may glorify the pre-eternal Word Who was incarnate of you for our sakes, together with His unoriginate Father and the life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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