Friday, June 27, 2014

Keeping The Great Feast of the Foremost Apostles

Dear Parish Faithful,

"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."  (PHIL. 3:8)

"Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.  As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls."  (I PET. 1:8-9)

The Apostles Fast is drawing to a close as we prepare to commemorate the Feast of the Apostles Peter & Paul on Sunday, June 29.  As a liturgical principle, a great and meaningful commemoration is preceded by a period of fasting - as we  prepare for Nativity, Pascha, Dormition.  The Apostles Peter & Paul are perhaps the two greatest figures in the spread of the Gospel in the early decades of the Church's existence.  They "sealed" their respective apostolic ministries by giving their lives as a witness to Christ.  Thus, they died as two of the earliest and greatest martyrs of the Church.  The most reliable witness to this comes from St. Clement, bishop of Rome, in his Epistle to the Corinthians (known today as I Clement)  from around the year 96 A.D.  St. Clement writes the following:

Let us have the good apostles before our eyes.  Peter through wicked jealously endured not one or two hardships but many, and after having thus borne witness went on the place of glory which was his due. On account of envy and strife Paul gave an example of the prize of endurance: seven times imprisoned, driven into exile, stoned: he preached in the East and in the West, and won noble renown for his faith. He taught righteousness to the whole world and went to the western limit of the earth.  He bore witness before the rulers, and then passed out of the world and went on to the holy place, having proved himself the greatest pattern of endurance.  I Clement, v-vi.

From then to this day we keep the sacred memory of these great apostles on June 29.  Since the feast falls on a Sunday this year, the commemoration will be all the greater.

Yet, the liturgical cycle of the Feast begins with Great Vespers on Saturday evening.  It is in this service that the majority of the hymnography to the apostles will be sung; and it is at this service that we will bless the five loaves and then be anointed with the blessed oil, signifying the joy of the feast. 

I encourage everyone to venerate the two great apostles Peter & Paul by making every effort to participate in the full celebration of the feast, beginning with Great Vespers on the eve. Honor the apostles by your presence.  Choir members have the added responsibility in their ministry to the parish of helping to make the feast days as festal as possible by "singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart."

I am aware of the fact that many churches have their summer festivals at this time of the year, including the upcoming weekend.  But for the Orthodox (and for Roman Catholics) this is the weekend of commemorating the two great apostles.  This is where our focus belongs.  If you make the choice of attending such a festival for "food, fun and entertainment"  (or anything else of like nature) while the celebration for the apostles is going on in the church, then you are not prepared to receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning, and it is my pastoral position that you do not approach the Chalice.  Choices have consequences.

However, I am confident that the church will be filled for the full cycle of services and that we will "keep the Tradition" by offering  our veneration, respect and love to the holy Apostles Peter & Paul.

Saturday - Great Vespers with the blessing of loaves and oil at 6:00 p.m.
Sunday - Hours at 9:10 a.m. Liturgy at 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Too Busy Not To Pray

Dear Parish Faithful,

In case you are interested ...

Here is an older meditation of mine that has recently been posted on the OCA website.  Be that as it may, I believe that the issue dealt with below remains an urgent one that needs our attention.

Fr. Steven

* * *

Too busy NOT to pray!

While looking through a catalogue recently from a Christian publishing company, I came across a rather intriguing title: Too Busy Not to Pray.  I say intriguing because this is a theme that I think about often and one that I have raised with others before. Read that title again carefully, because it does not say Too Busy to Pray, but precisely Too Busy Not to Pray

Either title could serve as an invitation to a book that assumedly addresses the contemporary Christian’s struggle to maintain a regular prayer life amidst his or her busy schedule.  However, the title as it stands captures the urgency of the issue much more effectively.  I would express that urgency in the following manner:  If we are indeed “too busy,” then the only way that we can prevent our lives from spinning out of control—or of losing a God-directed orientation or reducing prayer to moments of danger and stress—is for the “busy person” to be ever-vigilant about praying with regularity to guard such spiritual catastrophes from occurring.

We always need to pray with regularity—“pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17].  But it strikes me that the busier we are, the more urgent it becomes for us to pray. In other words, the busy person cannot afford not to pray.  Busy people indeed need the nourishment of prayer.  Otherwise, the spirtual dangers are immense. 

The “business” of our lives make us too busy to ... do what?  We are certainly not “too busy” to socialize, to seek entertainment, pleasure and diversion—all necessary to one degree or another because of the pressures of work and other responsibilities.  And these diversions are layered onto lives that already feel the strain of “multi-tasking” the endless activities that keep our children educated, developing, healthily-preoccupied, etc.  (A social commentator recently wrote that mothers have been reduced to the roles of domestic caretakers and chauffeurs.  And is this why we still read such nonsense about the very “need” of fathers?)  Therefore, most people carefully construct their schedules so that these extra social and diversionary activities are not terribly neglected.  We can cast this under the rubrics of “leisure time” or “recreational time.”  (This all gets a bit sloppy when we go further and speak of “vegging out”).  It is the careful, calculated and natural integration of such activities into our lives that leaves us with the overwhelming certainty that we are “too busy.”  And “too busy” leaves us “too tired.”

And at that point, we just may be. 

The question then arises again, now with a certain persistence:  to busy to ... do what?  To pray, to read the Scriptures, to assist a needy neighbor, to visit someone who really needs a visit, or even to call someone we know who is lonely?  We are “too busy” to integrate the life of the Church into our lives beyond Sunday mornings.  We are “too busy” for Vespers, Bible Studies, Feast Days, etc.  Perhaps, finally, we are “too busy” for God!  How often do we postpone our relationship with God until we have more time?  “If only my life would slow down a bit, then I could turn my attention to God, beyond the perfunctory rushed prayer of my busy, daily life—if I even get to it.”

Is this dilemma unavoidable and irresolvable?  Every Christian who does face—or face-up—to this dilemma must search his or her heart and ask, “how is it that I am ‘too busy’ to pray?”  Whatever honest answers we come up with, I am convinced that we, indeed, are too busy not to pray.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pentecostal Renewal or the Summertime Blues?

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Last Sunday was the First Sunday After Pentecost.  All of the subsequent Sundays of the liturgical year until the pre-lenten Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee sometime next year will be so numbered.  Thus, this coming Sunday will be the Second Sunday After Pentecost. This is not intended to help us count better. 

The purpose is to keep before our spiritual sight the overwhelming significance of Pentecost in the divine economy. 

The New Testament era of the Church began its existence on the Day of Pentecost with the Spirit’s descent as a mighty rushing wind that took on the form of fiery tongues alighting upon the heads of the future apostles (ACTS 2:1-13).  The Church has always existed, but the Church as a remnant of Israel that would flourish and grow with the addition of the Gentiles began its final phase of existence with the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, Who, seated at the right hand of the Father, would send the Holy Spirit into the world and upon “all flesh” on the Day of Pentecost.  As St. Epiphanius of Cyprus wrote in the fourth century:  “The Catholic Church, which exists from the ages, is revealed most clearly in the incarnate advent of Christ.” 

The simple calendar rubric of numbering the Sundays after Pentecost is one way of reminding us of this essential truth of the Christian Faith.  The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and in and through the sacramental life of the Church we experience something like a permanent pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It is this outpouring of the Spirit "on all flesh" that offers the possibility and the promise of human holiness.  The fact that so many men, women and children throughout the centuries of the Church's existence received this gift with joy and gladness is revealed to us in the lives of the saints.  It is these "holy persons" that we commemorated last Sunday on the Sunday of All Saints.

However, as we embark upon the Sundays of Pentecost we immediately encounter a prevailing tension between the "rhythm" of the Church and the "rhythm" of our personal lives.  We begin these Pentecostal Sundays just when summer is also beginning - and our summer schedules often minimize our participation in the Church. 

So, as we receive the Spirit of renewal and re-commitment to the Church as the source of authentic life; as we pray to the Heavenly King and Spirit of Truth to "come and abide in us;" we more-or-less settle into our church summer schedules that have something of a lazy-hazy approach to the Church.  There seems to exist an Orthodox version of "the summertime blues!" 

This can especially afflict Orthodox parents who equate "summer vacation" from school and summer vacation from church school.  The notion of  "we're off until the Fall!" can translate into sporadic attendance at the Lord's Day Liturgy, let alone any other services or events in the church.  Fortunately for us, God's providential care for us is not seasonal.

Thus, the tension between Pentecostal renewal and the beginning of summer.  If anyone gets the urge to just stay home on Sunday for leisure purposes or for no particular reason at all, my pastoral response is:  that is a temptation that must be resisted.

The Lord's Day cycle for the Second Sunday of Pentecost - when we commemorate the Saints of North America - begins with Great Vespers on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and culminates with the Hours and Liturgy on Sunday morning at 9:10 and 9:30 a.m. respectively.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Become What You Are!

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Come, O believers,
Let us celebrate in song today,
Glorifying the memory of all the saints:
Hail, O glorious apostles, prophets, martyrs, and bishops!
Hail, O company of all the just!
Hail, O ranks of holy women!
Pray that Christ will grant our souls great mercy!

(Sunday of All Saints, Aposticha, Vespers)

The Sunday of All Saints fittingly follows the Sunday of Pentecost, for the saints of the Church are the “fruit” and manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence among us.  They are the living icons that are transparent to the glory of God that shines in and through each of them as a gift of the Holy Spirit.  The saints (literally, the “holy ones”) have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of passion and become partakers of the divine nature” (II PET 1:4).  Created in the image of God, they “are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another”  (II COR 3:18).  In the Book of Revelation, St. John has recorded his incomparable vision of the saints in heaven:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all the tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”  (REV. 7:9-10)

Since, in the one Church of Christ, the heavenly and earthly realms are united, the saints are “the great cloud of witnesses” that surround us and exhort us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (HEB. 12:1-2).  At the most basic level, the saints are the true friends of God:  “But to me, exceedingly honorable are Thy friends, O Lord” (PS. 138:16, LXX).  The saints put Christ above all else in the fulfillment of their Master’s words:

"He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."  (MATT. 10:37-39)

The words of the Scriptures are the seeds that nourish the life of sanctity which results in the slow transformation of a human being, made in God’s image, into the very likeness of God, so that this particular person becomes by grace what Christ is by nature.  The saint is thus a scriptural man or a scriptural woman, inasmuch as he/she hears the Word of God and keeps it – meaning acting upon and living out what is heard.  The saint has responded positively to the paradoxical admonition:  “Become what you are!”

Now, as we like to say today:  “No pain – no gain!”  If we were “bought with a price” (I COR. 6:20), then we could say that the saints “bought” their sanctity at “a price,” abandoning security, comfort and safety which, we acknowledge, are so central to our own understanding of life.  (It is rather easy, though it may go unnoticed, for Christians to be transformed in Epicureans over time:  avoid pain and seek pleasure).  Being “destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated” they “wandered over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”  As such, God has revealed that “the world was not worthy” of them. (HEB. 11:37-38)

The “diversity” of the saints is remarkable:  fathers (and mothers), patriarchs (and matriarchs), prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith,” culminating in “our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

On the Sunday of All Saints, we do not commemorate only the saints whose names have been included on our ecclesiastical calendars; those, in other words, who have been officially “glorified/canonized” by the Church and whom we remember and venerate by name. We remember all of the saints, that vast multitude, both known and unknown, (symbolically numbered at 144,000 in the Book of Revelation; a multiple of 12 that signifies an incalculable figure as well as wholeness and totality – much to the dismay, I would imagine, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) “who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (REV. 21:27).  Perhaps this will include our own ancestors who lived modest and humble Christian lives.

All of the saints, therefore, intercede before the throne of God on our behalf.  They are with us and not cut off from us by death. Rather, they are now more alive than ever and being “in Christ” are present wherever Christ is present.  The earthly lives of the saints become sources of inspiration and models of emulation for us, teaching by examples of faith, hope and love; of long-suffering, perseverance and patience; of lives steeped in prayer, almsgiving and fasting.  They do not discourage us because they attained what may seem unattainable to us; but rather they encourage us to struggle to overcome our weaknesses as men and women who did precisely that in their own lives.  They were not born saints or privileged from birth.  They became saints by co-operating with the grace of God.  We, in turn, simply need to become what we already are:  saints of God through Baptism and Chrismation and membership in the Church!

Many of us are deeply impressed by the total dedication, perseverance, training, commitment and love of the sport exhibited by today’s athletes.  (Possible envy of their great wealth and fame is a different subject).  Many may shake their heads in disbelief or nod in admiration.  Hardly anyone will call these athletes “fanatics.”  But if someone is that single-minded and intent upon the life in God, that is a word that will inevitably ring out.  But the saints are not fanatics – they simply have a passion for God and put the Gospel and the Kingdom of God above all else.

To be inducted into any particular Hall of Fame – from baseball to Rock ‘n Roll – is considered to be a great human achievement and a goal only an elite few could even aspire to.  However, these Halls of Fame are the secular and rather pale – if not pitiful – reflections of an earlier age’s striving for the heavenly realm of the Kingdom of God.  The saints looked beyond the fleeting and temporal “glory of men” to the unchanging and eternal “glory of God.”  That seems to be the vocation of all Christians and the Lord’s desire for us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Holy Spirit's Presence in the Church

Dear Parish Faithful,

We are drawing near to the close of the (fast-free) Week of Pentecost.  This is something equivalent to Bright Week following Pascha.  The "fast-free" nature of these weeks reveals the bright and festal nature of Pascha and Pentecost, which in turn reveal the Church as Feast; as the "place" where we rejoice in all that our God has done "for us and for our salvation."  As is often the case, it is the Apostle Paul who articulates this truth to us in a passage of deep encouragement and comfort:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (ROM. 15:13) The Leavetaking of Pentecost is tomorrow, and the Apostle's Fast (Sts. Peter and Paul) begins on Monday.  This is fitting, in that the two great apostles were clearly vessels of the Holy Spirit in their fruitful ministries to both the circumcised and uncircumcised, respectively.  Here, I would simply like to share a fine passage from Fr. John Breck who wrote a summary paragraph of the role and work of the Holy Spirit in the divine economy, and in the life of Christian believers.  This passage gives us a sense of the extraordinarily rich and varied aspects of the Spirit’s presence in the Church which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  I am breaking down Fr. John’s paragraph in a more systematic manner:

The Spirit …

+  Prays within us and on our behalf (ROM. 8:26).

+  He works out our sanctification (ROM. 15:16; I COR. 6:11; II THESS. 2:13; GAL. 5:16-18).

+  He pours out God’s love into the hearts of believers, enabling them to address the Father by the familiar and intimate name, “Abba” (ROM. 5:5; 8:15-16; GAL. 4:6).

+  He confirms out status as “children of God” through His indwelling presence and power (ROM. 8:16; GAL. 4:6).

+  He guides and preserves the faithful in their ascetic struggles against the passions (GAL. 5:16).

+  And He serves as the source and guarantor of our “freedom” from the constraints of the Law, a freedom which enables us to behold the glory of the Lord  (II COR. 3:17-18).

Looking up these passages in the Bible may further prove to be helpful in gaining a sense of the ongoing and endless gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to the Church and to our personal lives.


To add a little bit more to these “fragments,” I would like to include a passage from Veselin Kessich’s book The First Day of the New Creation.  In his discussion about Pentecost, Prof. Kessich offers a good summary of the Orthodox position concerning the issue of the filioque.  As Orthodox Christians, we continue to recite the Nicene Creed in its original form, without the interpolation of the filioque, the Latin term that means “and from the Son,” when proclaiming the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.  Prof. Kessich summarizes the Orthodox position based upon a careful reading of the Scriptures.  The “filioque controversy” remains to this day a divisive point of contention between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches respectively – and those Western churches that also use the term.  The point to be made is not about remaining entrenched in a polemical position, but to try to come to some understanding as to why the Orthodox have never embraced this later addition to the Nicene Creed.  In the words of Prof. Kessich:

“It is equally true that the Fathers sends the Spirit (JN. 14:16, 26).  The Son sends the Spirit, but the source of the Spirit is the Father, for the Spirit proceeds from the Father (JN. 15:26). The verb “proceed” that is used in JN. 15:26 is ekporeuomai.  When it is said that the Son “comes forth” from the Father the verb is exerchomai.  St. John consistently uses the latter verb whenever he speaks of the Son coming forth from the Father (8:42: 13:3; 16:27f.; 16:30; 17:8).  The Spirit and the Son have the same and only origin.  They are two distinct persons.  Their missions are not identical.  Although the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified (JN. 7:39), yet it is nowhere stated in St. John’s Gospel that the Spirit “proceeds” from the Son as he proceeds from the Father.  Therefore, there is no filioque here.”

Nothing like some good biblical exegesis to make’s one day brighter and more glorious!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Last and Great Day of the Feast

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Pentecost Sunday is also called “Trinity Sunday.”  The One God is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  One God, therefore, worshipped in three Persons.  Pentecost is the final realization of that truth, following many "hints" of God's Trinitarian nature in both the Old and New Testaments.  We are not Unitarians, but we believe in, worship and adore the “holy, consubstantial, life-creating, and undivided Trinity.”  To believe otherwise about God is to place oneself outside of the Orthodox Faith.  Although primarily concentrating on the nature of the Holy Spirit, the following sticheron from the Vespers of Pentecost magnificently reveals God’s Trinitarian nature:

The Holy Spirit was, is and ever shall be
Without beginning, without an end,
Forever united and numbered with the
   Father and the Son.
He is Life, and life-creating,
The Light, and the Giver of Life,
Good in Himself, the Fountain of
Through whom the Father is known
   and the Son glorified.
All acknowledge one Power, one Order,
One worship of the Holy Trinity.

And then, even more explicitly, we hear another profound hymn to the Trinity in one of the aposticha for the Vespers of Pentecost:

Come, let us worship the Tri-Personal
The Son in the Father with the Holy
The Father timelessly begets the co-
   reigning and co-eternal Son.
The Holy Spirit was in the Father,
   glorified equally with the Son,
One Power, One Substance, One God-
In worshipping Him, let us all say:
Holy God:  who made all things
   through the Son,
With the cooperation of the Spirit.
Holy Mighty:  through whom we know
   the Father,
Through whom the Holy Spirit came
   into the world!
Holy Immortal:  the comforting Spirit,
Proceeding from the Father and rest-
   ing in the Son.
O Holy Trinity:  glory to Thee!

A hymn such as this one offers us an inexhaustible text for reflection and meditation upon the mystery of the Trinity.  It also offers a superb commentary on the Trisagion Hymn that is an essential component of our liturgical and personal prayer on a daily basis; meaning that not a day goes by on which we do praise and glorify the Holy Trinity.  Thus, glorifying and praising the Holy Trinity is such an organic and indispensable element of our ongoing prayer life.  As St. Gregory the Theologian wrote:  "When I say God, I mean the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."  And that holds true for every Orthodox Christian to this day.  

Christ referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Paraklete” (Gk. Paráklētos) often translated as the “Comforter” (other translations include “Counselor” and “Advocate”).  The Holy Spirit comforts and consoles our restless hearts with the presence of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we ascend to the Father.  The Holy Spirit comforts us with the peace and joy of God in a world filled with much sadness and anguish.  He comforts us with a living sense, here and now, of a bright and glorious world – the Kingdom of God – that awaits us when we leave this one.  The Holy Spirit is the “pledge” of our future inheritance. As the Apostle Paul put it:   

"In him (i.e. Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory"  (EPH. 1:13-14).

We need to make room for the Holy Spirit in our hearts, by cleansing our hearts from any evil presence.  Just as no one would pour a precious ointment or perfume into a jar that reeks with a stale odor; so God does not send the Holy Spirit into hearts that reek with sin and the stench of innumerable passions.  Actually, the Holy Spirit assists us in that very cleansing process, if we so desire that purification with our entire being.  We pray on a daily basis to the Holy Spirit, the “Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth” that the Spirit would “come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity.”  The Holy Spirit will make us “Spirit-bearers” and not merely “flesh-bearers” if we seek the Spirit’s presence with faith, hope and love.  The Holy Spirit overcomes our weaknesses on our behalf:

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself interceded for us with sighs too deep for words.” (ROM. 8:26)

Ultimately, we pray to the Holy Spirit:  “and save our souls, O Good One!”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Attending to the Scriptures

Dear Parish Faithful,

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."  (II TIM. 3:10)

The new topic for this Monday morning is the upcoming Summer Bible Study that will begin on Wednesday evening, following Vespers at 7:00 p.m.  Every year I make an effort to "recruit" new members for our Bible study in addition to our core group that for the most part returns on an annual basis.  (An interesting line of pursuit would be to examine why our core group continues to return on an annual basis.  What is the "draw?").  I am confident that if you find the time and make the effort you will be very glad that you did, and find the over-all experience more than a little satisfying.  This year, I would especially like to appeal to those of you who have been in the parish for many years, but have yet to come to the parish Bible Study - some never and some perhaps on a rare occasion.  Before you say "I don't do Bible Study," I ask that you think it out a bit first before dismissing the possibility.

To both challenge and inspire everyone, I would like to share a passage from St. John Chrysostom about the great need that Christians have for reading and studying the Scriptures. St. John may have lived in the 4th c. but "life is life" and he understood well some of the reasons - that he, frankly, would dismiss as poor excuses - that we invoke as to why we can't "find the time" for the Scriptures.  St. John, of course, was a tireless Scriptural scholar of his day, and his reading and interpretations inform our own understanding of the Scriptures to this day as Orthodox Christians.  Be that as it may, here is what St. John said:

Do not let anyone say to me these vain words, worthy of a heavy condemnation, "I cannot leave the courthouse, I administer the business of the city, I practice a craft, I have a wife, I am raising children, I am in charge of a household, I am a man of the world; reading the Scriptures is not for me, but for those who have been set apart, who have settled on the mountaintops, who keep this way of life continuously."  What are you saying?  That attending to the Scriptures is not for you, since you are surrounded by a multitude of cares?  Rather it is for you more than for them.  They do not need the help of the divine Scriptures as much as those do who are involved in many occupations ...; but we, as if tossed in the midst of the sea, driven by a multitude of sins, always need the continuous and ceaseless aid of the Scriptures.... For it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved without continually taking advantage of spiritual reading.  Actually, we must be content, if even with continually use of this therapy, we are barely able to be saved.  But when we are struck every day, if we do not use any medical care, what hope do we have of salvation?

Even allowing for St. John's use of his wonderful gift of rhetorical eloquence, his point is well-made and it remains a fair assessment to this day:  We ignore the Scriptures at great expense to our spiritual lives. Of course, you can read the Bible on your own.  But participating in the Bible Study will commit you to reading through three of the Apostle Paul's wonderful epistles over an extended period of time. This, in turn, could help you form a new practice and begin a new much-needed dimension to your spiritual life that will out-live the extent of the Bible Study.  And no one, on his or her own, can possibly come up with so many insightful interpretive points as found in a large group discussion; as well as discuss the application of the Scriptural word to your own life situations.  In fact, this summer we will be studying the most "parish-oriented" of St. Paul's epistles.  All in all, it's a "no-brainer!"  It just demands resolve and commitment - and a desire to be nourished by the living Word of God.

If you have never been to one of our parish Bible Studies; or, if you are newer to the parish and want a more well-rounded experience of the parish - and if circumstances allow it - now is the time to begin.  As my mother would tell me when I was reluctant to try a new food:  "Try it, you may like it!"


On Wednesday evening, I will provide some background to the Pastoral Epistles of I & II TIM. and TITUS.  Then we will begin Ch. 1 of I TIM.  There is some excellent background material posted on our parish website from Fr. Thomas Hopko. A possible question to discuss:  What is meant by calling these particular epistles, "pastoral?"   Also, in Ch. 1, we will read a "confessional passage" from the Apostle Paul:  "... that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  And I am the foremost of sinners."  (v . 15)  Where do you recognize this from and what does St. Paul mean by this?

I am looking forward to Wednesday evening!

Vespers - 7:00 p.m.
Bible Study in the education center - 7:45 p.m.