Abiding to Eternal Life

Relationship:  It is the basis of reality and existence.  The Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the source of all relationships.  The Son is eternally begotten of the Father.  The Holy Spirit eternally processes from the Father.  From the Divine Liturgy we confess, “…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:  the Trinity one in essence and undivided.”  The three Persons of the Trinity exist in an eternal relational union.  From this Trinitarian relational union all of creation is brought forth and in which we are to dwell.  All is meant for relationship.

In St John 14: 10 – 21, Jesus informs the Apostles of his relational union with the Father.  “I am in the Father and the Father is in me…and the Father is abiding in me” (St John 14: 10).  He continues to discuss an extension of divine relationship to include humanity regarding the upcoming sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:  “And he shall give to you another Comforter that he might abide with you forever” (St John 14: 16).  Elsewhere, in St John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches of his abiding in those who believe in him.  “If you should keep my commandments you abide in my love” (St John 15: 10).  We also have these words of our Lord regarding the Eucharist.  “The one who is eating my flesh and is drinking my blood abides in me, and I abide in him” (St John 6: 56).

Menein (the infinitive form of the verb) is the Greek verb used in St John’s Gospel.  It is to be translated as “abide”, “dwell”, but can also be translated as “remain”, “last”, or “endure”  For the believer, this abiding, or dwelling speaks of a relational union which is to result in the entrance to eternal life.

By means of the Incarnation all of creation is gathered together into union in Christ (see Ephesians 1: 10).  Hence, every thing has, to some degree, benefit from the acts and ministry of God incarnate.  By the Cross the Lamb of God takes away the sin of humanity (yet all of creation, in some manner, is a beneficiary of the Cross).  By the Resurrection all of redeemed humanity is glorified and is given eternal life (and again all of creation is a beneficiary).  By the Ascension into heaven, all that is redeemed, glorified, and given eternal life is carried into the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven (and all of creation, in some manner, is a beneficiary).  Regarding the Ascension we have the words of one of the feast’s hymns:

When you had fulfilled the dispensation for our sake, and united earth to heaven you did ascend in glory, O Christ our God…not being parted from those who love you, but remaining with them…

Just mentioned were the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.  This brings us to the part of the Divine Liturgy call the Anamnesis.  Sts Paul and Luke use this word in their accounts of the Last Supper — or the Institution of the Eucharist.  The word is generally translated as “memory” or “remembering”.  But the word actually has as its meaning a “calling into presence.”  It can have the meaning also of “invocation”.  In the Divine Liturgy the Anamnesis reads as follows,

Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us:  the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into Heaven, the Sitting at the Right Hand, and the Second and Glorious Coming.

The Holy EucharistAll the saving actions by Christ come into our presence.  They are to abide with us and in us as we abide in them.  Mysteriously they are around us always.  Though unseen and unperceived they ever ring and sing throughout the universe.  They condense upon our offering of bread and wine:  “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto Thee on behalf fo all and for all.”  They are offered to God the Father.  Then in the Epiclesis (here we have another invocation) the Holy Spirit is called upon to be with us, and to bring Jesus Christ present to us in the Eucharist.  With this invocation, Christ re-presents himself to us in the bread and wine which become his Body and Blood.

He (and they) are to abide, dwell, in us and with us as Christ is formed in us by faithfully abiding in him.  He (and they) indwell us as we indwell in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All are to endure in relational union as they bear us to eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven and the decent of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21: 2 – 3).  We read from some of the concluding words of The Apocalypse (Revelation):  “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Truly I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22: 20).

The following is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr Irenaeus

Progressing in Forgiveness

In the Orthodox Church the Sunday before Lent — the very day before Lent — is called Forgiveness Sunday.  This day calls us to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a spiritual necessity and is necessary for our own forgiveness by God.  Our salvtion in Christ depends on it.  The Gospel reading for the day comes from the sixth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel:

For if you should forgive men their trespasses, you heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (St. Matthew 6: 14 – 15).

There is no getting out of it, and it is not optional.  Our Lord demands we forgive others.

Offenses, insults, injuries occur to us all.  Living in this world system and interactions with other fallen human beings will lead to such offenses.

Allow me to offer an option to taking offense:  Ignore it.  We are free to turn the other cheek.  We are free in Christ to drop it and let it go.  We are also empowered and free to not respond in like manner.  We can take the attitude that “You are free to think of me in any way you choose, but I am free to bless you.”

But forgiveness can be difficult — very difficult.  The memory of the offense can abide in our minds for years, even decades.  Forgiveness is clearly a process in many cases.  Here is the dividing line with two options.  First, is the memory of the offense and resulting anger, bitterness, and even hatred held fast and treasured?  If this is the case then there is spiritual danger, and one exists in darkness.  The other response is one of struggle.  Here the person knows forgiveness is needed, and is willing to forgive, and asks God to help when the memory is triggered, but the memory and the resulting response persists.  If one is on the side of struggle, then one is entering into light and life no matter how much stumbling accompanies the process.

Memories of the offense may have triggers, or may arise in a random nature.  But in either case there is an element of time travel.  We travel back to the past event.  So, there is a question:  where does the past exist?  It exists only in one place — in our minds!  We are the masters of our minds, and thus our memories when we exist by faith in Christs.  In this reality we are in control!  Let me give an illustration.  I use the analogy of a pond with over hanging trees.  Every autumn the leaves fall from the numerous branches and settle to the pond’s bottom.  There, the leaves decay.  This process will often release a bubble which rises to the surface.  Such is the memory of the offense.  When the “bubble” rises to our consciousness we have two options:  we can allow the “bubble” with its stench to reside on the surface of our consciousness and, then, we spiral out of control.  Or, we can pop the “bubble” with prayers of blessing and mercy  for those contained in the “bubble.”  When we pop the “bubble” we are fasting from resentment and anger.  With this action we engage the process of forgiveness with our Lord guiding us to healing.


Additionally, the process of forgiveness can lead to transformation.  We move from pain to healing that we may become sources of healing, and are able to extend care to those who have suffered also from injury and offense.  St. Paul offers this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1: 4 -5).

Therefore, as we allow God to work his gift of forgiveness into us, we can move into joy and thanksgiving.  We do not give thanks for evil done to us or anyone, but in God, evil is transformed to good in us.  For this we can rejoice and give thanks!  As St. Paul also writes,  “Rejoice always.  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in [with and for] all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:  16 – 18).

Forgiveness is a process of struggle.  When God is invited to enter into our struggle we will, in time, enter into its freedom.  I pray this brief posting is of some value.  I add the following sermon given Forgiveness Sunday, 2023:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Nutrition

Rich Man and Lazarus

St. Luke’s Gospel gives us the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19 – 31).  We learn that the rich man was well dressed and feasted sumptuously every day (Luke 16:  19).  In stark contrast, there was a poor man named Lazarus who lay outside his gate.  He was full of sores which dogs licked.  He desired to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table (Luke 16: 20 -21).  Lazarus was grossly malnourished, and was likely in the end stages of malnutrition.  Death would soon take him.

In this posting I will depart from the typical commentary one would read about the rich man and Lazarus.  Instead, I will focus on food, nutrition, and malnutrition — both physical and spiritual.

Food.  The Scriptures are filled with the topic.  The life of the Church also involves food.  There are feasts, festivals, and also seasons of fasting.  The Church has many blessings for food and drink.  Before each meal there is the blessing (which can be given by a priest or layman):  “Christ our God, bless this food and drink to your servants, for you are holy now and ever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.”  There are blessings for wells, the sowing of seed, herbage, threshing floors and barns, herds and flocks, bees, beehives, and honey.  There are blessings for vineyards and wine, fishnets, meat, eggs, and cheese.  The things of agriculture and the garden, etc., are blessed that our physical lives are nourished and sustained by God’s gifts of food and drink to us.

The food and drink of nature sustains natural life, and only natural life.  A few years ago on a warm summer afternoon I was sitting on my back patio.  I was either reading, or playing a guitar when I noticed a lovely garden spider.  In her web was her catch, her prey, which provided her nourishment that sustained her life.  The capture of the insect led to its death.  Later that year she would die.  No further eating would prolong her short life.  For us, as for the garden spider, our physical food, generally, derives from the death of another physical, mortal creature (even the uprooting of a carrot ends its life).  Death, when consumed, leads to death.

The rich man and his brothers ate the best foods and drank the best wines.  As with a physician’s descriptive progress note, they would be described as “well nourished, well developed males.”  Yet, he and they were spiritually malnourished.  They were spiritually emaciated and were wasting with open sores in their souls.  To nourish his soul, apparently, all he had to do was to cleanse, clothe, and feed Lazarus.  This was not done.  Spiritually speaking, he was a “Dead man walking!”

Let’s turn now to the subject of spiritual food as is found in the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.  In this chapter we read of the account of Jesus’ meeting of the Samaritan woman at the Well of Jacob (John 4: 1 – 42).  We read this from their conversation.  I quote our Lord’s words:

Every one who drinks of this water [the water from the well] will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4: 13 – 14).

Jesus speaks of a supernatural, spiritual water.  He speaks of the water that is the Holy Spirit.  Then, later in the fourth chapter, we have this exchange between Jesus and his disciples:

Meanwhile, the disciples were asking of him:  “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to hem, “I have food (brosis) to eat of which you do not know.  So the disciples were saying to one another, “did someone bring him something to eat?”  Jesus says to them, “My food (broma) is that I might do the will of the One who sent me and to complete His work” (John 4: 31 – 34).

The Greek word brosis / broma refers to a food of substance such as a meat.  Such a food requirers chewing (trogo, trogon) to break down the food for proper digestion.  From this we learn that the holy works of the Father are a source of spiritual nourishment.  It was true for Christ; it is true for us (see Phillipians 2: 12 – 13 and Ephesians 2: 10).  Spiritual nourishment forms our souls.  Throughout the centuries, the Church Fathers teach that the human soul has both a type of substance and form.  The human soul is not an amorphous blob of energy.  Further, they state that a human soul is recognizable and follows our present physical form.  All the more reason to be feasting in a spiritual manner.

The holy works of faith both nourish and form our souls.  But what is the greatest spiritual food?  It is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I now quote extensively from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel which contains the Bread of Life Discourse given by Christ in the synagogue of Capernaum (John 6: 22 – 59).  I focus on verses 4: 48 – 56:

I am the Living Bread.  Your fathers ate the Manna in the wilderness and died.  This is the Bread which is descending from heaven, that if someone might eat of it he shall not die.  I am the Living Bread which descended from heaven.  If ever someone might eat of this bread he will live for ever, and the Bread which I will give is my flesh [given] for the life of the world.

But the Jews were grumbling with one another saying, “How is he able to give us his flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in yourselves.  The one who is eating (trogon) my Flesh and drinking my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him in the last day.  For my Flesh is true food (brosis), and my Blood is true drink.  The one who is eating (trogon) my Flesh and is drinking my Blood abides in me and I in him (John 6: 48 – 56).

We are nourished by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  By this spiritual food Christ is taken into us — into every cell of our bodies — and into our souls.  He is formed in us and lives in us as he abides in us by this Sacrament.  By it we have a true, relational union with him which is our salvation.  We do not consume death by this Sacrament as with natural food.  The supernatural food and drink of his Body and Blood give us eternal life because we consume his divine life contained in the Eucharist.

Our souls are also nourished by the Scriptures, faith, the works of faith, prayer, the Divine Liturgy, and all the services of the Church (Matins, Vespers, the Hours, etc.), and other sacraments of the Church.  By these the Triune God is in us and we are in the Triune God.  We have this relational union.  This union is formed, sustained, and strengthened by all these forms of spiritual brosis. 

In conclusion, let’s return to the rich man and Lazarus.  We know from the words of Christ regarding the Last Judgment that we will be judged by our Lord on the basis of how we treated our fellow human beings is this material life we all live (Matthew 25:  31 – 46).  It is clear that the rich man failed this one great test.  He ignored Lazarus in his suffering.  So, we all have to ask ourselves this very serious question:  Who is Lazarus in our lives?  Who do we pass by and ignore?  With the time remaining in our short, mortal lives let us feed, cleanse, and clothe Lazarus that our souls may be nourished and strengthened for the eternal life of the blessed in Christ!

This is a link to the corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

153 Fish

The Gospel set for the Second Sunday after Pentecost comes from Matthew 4: 18 – 23.  In it we learn of the calling of four fishermen:  Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  This event is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and here, Peter, Andrew, James and John are told they will become “fishers of men.”

In the Gospel of John (21: 1 — 14) a contrast is found.  It is near the very end of all the Gospel accounts, and occurs after Christ’s resurrection.  Here, we read of the miraculous catching of 153 fish in the nets of those apostles with Peter that day.  The number of fish caught is important.  153 is the number of all known nations according the the accounting of the Ancients.  Thus, symbolically, the number corresponds to the peoples of all nations, races, and languages.  The people  of all these nations (and even more nations) will be drawn by the nets of the apostles into the Church, and into relational union with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  Further, all of the created realm is included in this relationship with humanity and God!  St Paul writes of this in Ephesians 1: 9 — 10:  

“…declaring to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he intended for him — for the plan of the fullness of time — to gather together all things (ta panta) in Christ; those things in heaven and those things on earth in Him.”

These words of St. Paul bring us to the theological concept of recapitulation.  Recapitulation, meaning a gathering into unity, is at the heart of   the salvific model called Christus Victor.  To understand its theology we must go back to the account of creation, and to the Garden.  God had created the heavens and the earth and then filled the creation with animals, insects and plants.  Then God created his image bearers, vice-regents, prophets, and priests.  Humanity was commissioned to maintain and cultivate all of creation into a glorious order and loving relationship between God, man, and creation.

But, unfortunately we come to the Fall.  The serpent successfully deceived our first parents.  With the subsequent rebellion of Eve, and the capitulation of Adam, all was scattered and lost to sin, death, darkness and alienation.  In this horrid state of chaos we became prey for the serpent.

Jesus Christ Conquers

However, we were not left without the promise of salvation.  In the fullness  of time salvation arrives.  We are given a New Eve.  We read of her appearance — the first step of our rescue — in St Luke’s gospel (Luke 1: 26 – 38).  This pericope concludes where Mary (the New Eve) speaks there words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).  Mary’s obedience to the call of God undoes the binding knot of the first Eve and allows the entrance of the Second Adam into creation.  The God-Man, the Savior, is born into his own creation.  And by his Incarnation all that was lost and scattered to death, sin, darkness, and alienation is gathered back together in Him.  All was regathered into relational union in Christ!

St. Paul expands his teaching in another Prison Epistle, his letter to the Colossians.  Colossians 1: 15 — 20 reads,

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, those things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things are held together in their proper orders…For in him all the fullness [of creation] was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things — things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross.

Elsewhere, St. Paul declares this in 2 Corinthians 5: 17:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is passed away.  Behold, all things are new!”  We, too are renewed and restored.  We as Image Bearers, vice-regents, prophets, and priests are now in Christ.  By this renewal, we are to extend Christ to all and all things, and to subsequently gather all into relational union in Christ.  This is who we are and what we are to be doing!

Let’s observe where we are this Lord’s Day.  We have come from our homes to our Orthodox Churches (perhaps with a bit of chaos along the way, and arrived just in the nick of time!).  We have gathered together in relational union in Christ to worship the Triune God.  Also, we have gathered together in Christ to have this saving relational union strengthened by the central act of our worship — to commune of his Body and Blood of the Eucharist.

Yet, we don’t linger too long.  The Divine Liturgy comes to its conclusion with these words:  “Let us depart in peace!”  We are commissioned by these words, and depart back into the world.   In our various settings and situations, as image bearers, prophets and priests, we are to bear Christ to all and all things we encounter.  We have Christ in us and we are to unfold him to all we encounter.  St. Paul informs us that we can do this by “rejoicing always; praying without ceasing; and giving thanks in, with, and for all things, which is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5: 16 – 18).  These are our regal, prophetic, and priestly actions.

We return to the Church on the next Lord’s Day.  We regather together bringing our offerings —all we have done in Christ — back into the Kingdom and its relational unions.  And the Divine Liturgy moves us to this important point in the anaphora where the priest or bishop declares, “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto Thee in behalf of all and for all!”  It is necessary to note that as these words are spoken, the gift offerings of bread and wine are are elevated and presented to God.  

Soon after this, the Divine Liturgy will soon move us to the Epiclesis.  Here the Holy Spirit is called upon (the meaning of epiclesis) to come upon our offerings of bread and wine to make them the Body and Blood of Christ!  All is again gathered together in Christ in the Eucharist!  With this working of the Holy Spirit a re-presentation of the Incarnation and its recapitulation occurs in sacramental form.  In the Eucharist we, our works in Christ, and all creation are taken to Christ and incorporated into him.  Thus, we are gathered together in Christ and are taken into the Kingdom prepared for us.

So, let us be mindful fishers of men.  Let us be purposeful image bearers, prophets, priests, and vice-regents to the glory of the Triune God.

The following is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

She Touched Christ!

The woman with the flow of blood (a menorrhagia) is the subject of the Gospel reading for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The text comes from St. Luke 8: 41 – 56. He informs us: “…a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8; 43). This woman approached Christ from behind likely out of not only humility, but also shame since her bleeding made her unclean, thus removing her from the majority of social interactions. Though the experts of her day gave no healing, she turned to one more. She turned to the Physician — God Incarnate — Jesus of Nazareth: “If only I touch his garment I shall be made well.” Upon the touch, “…immediately the flow of blood ceased” (Luke 8: 44). When her healing occurred she was part of a large crowd that pressed in upon Jesus (Luke 8: 45). He asked who touched him. “Someone touched me, for I perceived power going out from me” (Luke 8: 48)

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.

Luke 8: 47 – 48

Again, this daughter of Abraham had tried all methods prescribed by the physicians practicing in the Greco-Roman tradition (i.e., the Galenical tradition) of the day. In spite of their best (of far less than best) efforts she encountered futility and failure. What is exposed is the limitations of solely human effort.

In addition to being an archpriest in the Orthodox Church, I am also a clinical pharmacist educated in the western allopathic medical tradition, as are the great majority of physicians practicing medicine today. Good comes many times — many times. But I have observed, also, failures, and have heard of patients’ frustrations and complaints along with anger and tears.

Futility is not only found in medicine. It is found in law, finance, engineering, and any human practice — especially in politics. All can make their promises and claims yet can still fail patient, client, and country. Human wisdom and effort have their limitations! I am reminded of the the psalmist’s advice: “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation (LXX Ps 145: 3). I also refer to a sentence from the Greek Orthodox form of the Eucharistic Confession of the Divine Liturgy, “for it is good for me to cling to you, my God, and to place my hope of salvation in you.”

Touch Christ and cling to him! Touch him and cling to him by icons and by prayer. Touch him and cling to him in the Church’s sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. I direct you especially to the Eucharist! As a communicant you receive the Body and Blood of Christ (John 6: 50, 51). You receive, thus, healing and the forgiveness of sins. You receive our Lord’s victory over sin and death, and the pledge of Christ of eternal life (John 6: 54). Come to him with the same faithful intent of the woman healed of menorrhagia as you stand in line to receive his sacrament and are touched by him!


Fr. Irenaeus

The following is a corresponding homily:


The Parallel Society

The year was 1989, and it was one of the most significant years of the past century. This year brought about the political collapse of the Iron Curtain, and an end to the Cold War. The first totalitarian communist nation to fall was Poland. In Poland, the ground work to upend the communist government had been underway for some years. The archbishop of Krakov, Karol Wojtyla, had become Pope John Paul II in October, 1978. He was a source of moral, faithful resistance for the Catholics in Poland. Also, the electrician Lech Walesa formed and led the independent Solidarity labor union for workers in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. The communist government under General Wojciech Jaruzelski fell by the courageous and determined efforts of these two leaders and the unbreakable will of the Polish people to be free. Walesa would soon become the first democratically elected national leader in Polish history.

Vaclav Havel

Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and other nations also broke free from communist totalitarianism in 1989. There was another hero of this time that I admired greatly, the Czech author and dissident, Vaclav Havel. As he and his fellow citizens were suffocated by the tyranny of communism, Havel was active in creating a parallel society with its own parallel cultural structures. A definition is provided,

Parallel society refers to the self-organization of an ethnic or religious minority, often but not always immigrant groups, with the intent of a reduced or minimal spatial, social and cultural contact with the majority society.

Havel would go on to be the president of the free Czechoslovakia. Other heroes of the resistance to communism can be named, among them the great Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. All of the above named people suffered along with millions of others who resisted communism, and many millions died as martyrs for freedom and faith.

I return to the parallel society with its parallel structures that served as a spiritual, moral and intellectual haven for those who resisted the iron grip of the communist parties of Eastern Europe. In this confusing and troubling time in the western world, parallel societies are needed to stand against a growing illiberal, censoring, and controlling social and political climate with its aspiring tyrants in control of politics and media. Contemporary parallel societies and structures are now needed to offer fellowship, support and community to those of traditional faith, and uphold true liberal ideas of a free society. These parallel societies are to be places of welcome and support for those who now must seek such havens.

Fortunately for Christians, whether Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, The parallel Society has existed for two thousand years — the Church. The Church has experienced and weathered horrid persecutions over the centuries. Though She has her Confessors and Martyrs, She has survived.,As The Parallel Society, The Church, and I will concentrate on the Orthodox Church as model, is to be welcoming. The Church is to be caring and loving while at the same time stand in peaceful opposition to the dark, dominant secular society. The Church is to be supportive and offer provision to the faithful as need arises. St. Paul offers these words to the Church:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up

Romans 15: 1 – 2

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others.

Phil 2: 3 – 4

Now we urge you brethren, to warn the idle, encourage the faint hearted and help the weak. Be patient with all. Do not repay evil with evil, but always pursue the good both for one another and for all. Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thes 5: 14 – 18

If the western cultural descends into further (and intentional) confusion, lies, and chaos, the grip of totalitarianism will close in upon us. Hence, such supportive apostolic guidance is to be practiced by clergy and faithful alike. Again I quote St. Paul: “Welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God” (Romans 15: 7).,

Ultimately, the Model for such welcoming is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. We encounter his welcoming touch in every Divine Liturgy’s celebration of the Eucharist which itself is a re-presentation of the Incarnation:

By his Incarnation, God the Son came to us as one of us. He gave himself to us, not only on the Cross, but in every act of his ministry. As one of us, he received us, or welcomed us to himself. His self-giving and other-receiving continues throughout the centuries in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist he again comes to us as he is present in the Sacrament: he gives to us his cleansing, victorious, and life-giving Body and Blood. He welcomes us, receives us to himself once again in the relational intimacy of Communion. Within the context of each Divine Liturgy and its Eucharist, Christ is manifested to the faithful anew — his Incarnation is re-presented to us. Recall what we declare to each other: “Christ is in our midst!” with the reply, “he is and ever shall be!” Here, we receive one another and welcome one another.

Fr. Irenaeus Williams from the post “Welcome One Another”
Christ the Bread of Life

However, unlike a reclusive parallel society, a ghetto, the Church is to be for all. The Church, as is Christ, is to be self-giving and other-receiving while calling all to enter into the life and culture of the Church — even to those who would wish us harm. Note again St. Paul’s words noted above, “Do not repay evil with evil, but always pursue the good both for one another, and for all.” Remember the words that conclude the Divine Liturgy, “Let us depart in peace.” We leave to extend the Eucharist to this darkened world around us. We are to live in such a way that we (by our actions and words) re-present Christ to all and all things around us, and then draw all and all things to Christ in the Divine Liturgy and its Eucharist and worship of the God who welcomes us into his eternal Kingdom — his holy welcoming Parallel Society!

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in one accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15: 5 – 6

Here is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus Williams

Guitar Review: Rainsong N-JM1100N2, AKA the Nashville Series Jumbo

Nashville Jumbo

Inimitable. Now, that is an adjective that is not commonly used in everyday speech. Its definition: “so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy.” I would use this adjective to describe Rainsong’s new Nashville Series Jumbo (N-JM1100N2). I also use the adjective exquisite to describe this guitar in review. Over several years I’ve played three other guitars that I would describe as exquisite in tone and quality: a Breedlove dreadnought, and Breedlove grand auditorium, and a Martin HD-28. All guitars were well above my price range, and I completely shut them out of my mind, thus giving them no further thought or attempt at pursuit of purchase.

Serendipity. Now, that’s a noun not commonly used in everyday speech. Its definition: “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” (Its adjectival form is serendipitous.) Several months ago at Tacoma, Washington’s Ted Brown Music I had a serendipitous encounter with an inimitable and exquisite Rainsong guitar — the Nashville N-JM1100N2 — a jumbo bodied guitar with a beautiful, glossy tobacco burst finish.

Prior to my serendipitous meeting, I had noticed an ad in Acoustic Guitar for Rainsong’s new Nashville series lineup. This series, as well as the company’s Vintage Series of guitars, has a unique “double top” construction:

“A thin spruce soundboard fused with a unidirectional carbon fiber top [offers] rich crystalline carbon sound subtly colored by spruce…and impervious to temperature and humidity changes.”

I have been aware of, and appreciated Rainsong guitars for many years. In fact I have reviewed this Nashville’s cousin, the Rainsong JM1000N2, elsewhere in this site (Guitar Review: RainSong JM1000N2 ).  They are great guitars, and offer many advantages to the traditional wooden guitar. They also come with a price tag that is beyond the reach of many, many guitarists.

I interject some details on this Rainsong guitar. As previously noted, it is a jumbo bodied instrument: its lower bout measures 17 inches in width. The nut width is 1.75 inches, and scale length is 25.4 inches. It stays in tune between “play dates”, I imagine because, not only due to its tuners, but the overall structural stability offered by carbon fiber. To add, it is incredibly comfortable and its playability is fantastic. The LR Baggs electronics (see the photo) are solid, and the output is great when the guitar was played through my Fishman Loudbox Mini-charge amplifier. But, the tone unplugged is its strength — this inimitable guitar is truly exquisite! It offers sustain and good volume, but also a rich palate of secondary tones not found on the only-carbon Rainsongs displayed.

Allow me to continue with my serendipitous experience. The Ted Brown store I frequently haunt is a distributor of the Rainsong brand, and they have a sizable portion of one wall in their acoustic room devoted to the brand’s offerings. The Nashville jumbo caught my eye, and she began her call to me. A few strummed chords were followed by a progression of arpeggios, and then some of my favorite chordal riffs. I was stunned — the guitar quite literally took my breath away! Several more minutes were spent thoroughly enjoying it. I compared it to the Rainsong jumbo JM1000N2 also displayed — very good, but no comparison. I compared the Nashville jumbo to some Taylor guitars — all very good, but no comparison. But, then comes the cold slap of reality: the price tag! $3,499. Ouch! Unlike the other noted exquisite guitars, I could not get this one out of my head. What was to be done? Well, why does a guitar player sell a guitar? To buy a new guitar. So a small number of my guitars were sold over a period of time on Reverb.com. Then, a great price was found on a Nashville N-JM1100N2 on Reverb.com, and the purchase was made.

The Nashville jumbo is inimitable due to its construction, and its subsequent voicing is exquisite! I would encourage you to find one and try any Rainsong Nashville or Vintage Series guitar. Sell off the needed number of guitars, save up a bit, and go for it! I am thankful to own this treasured instrument!

Here is a link to Rainsong’s fusion top processing:

Keep on playing!
Fr. Irenaeus

Signs of the Times


The gospel reading established for the Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgment (the final pre-Lenten Sunday in the Orthodox Church) is an amalgam of verses which come from chapter 21 of St. Luke’s gospel. The subject matter of these verses addresses the last days and Christ’s second coming. I break these verses into three sections and offer a commentary on them.

LUKE 21: 7 – 9

And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.

Our Lord states there will be false Christs that present themselves to the faithful to deceive and to gather to themselves followers to support their egos and pride. We are all aware of the “Moonies”, the Branch Davidians, and the now long dead “disciples” of Jim Jones. These and other frauds all met their ends, and any survivors may still cling to their lies. But, we are to know better. In many places within the Divine Liturgy, and even in greetings among Orthodox Christians, we say, “Christ is in our midst!” The reply to this is, “He is, and ever shall be!” By this declaration we inform ourselves that Christ is found among us in the Divine Liturgy, in the services of the Church, in the reading of the Scriptures, our prayers, and our hymns — and especially our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. We know that Christ is found in the Church until the day of his second and glorious coming!

LUKE 21: 25 – 27

“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and its waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

These words of our Lord speak of political and social turmoil, and they prefigure the words from St. John’s Apocalypse. Signs in the sun, moon, and stars speak of the disruption of the standing of angelic Powers and Principalities of the heavens and the nations — there is a shift toward chaos and upheaval. The “sea and its waves” refer to masses of humanity reacting in distress, and even violence, to the political and social troubles of the day.
We have a tendency to see our days as the most pivotal and important — all else pales in comparison to our present experiences and circumstances. However important these times of the early twenty-first century may be, we are not the only generation that has lived through calamity, evil and distress. Think of the Black Death that swept through so many places in Europe and Asia over so many centuries. One in three died from both bubonic and (the more lethal) pneumonic plagues. Death and despair were ever present, and this Plague brought and end to the european feudal system. Think of the horrors of World War I, the brutal chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution, the terrors brought about by Hitler and Stalin, and the global violence of World War II. Our days and their troubles may, or may not, lead to the Parousia, the second coming of Christ. In any case we are to heed Jesus’ words: “…Now when these things begin to happen, look up and raise your heads, because you deliverance is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28).

LUKE 21: 33 – 36

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be on your guard lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of everyday life, and the day come upon you suddenly as a snare; for it will come upon all who inhabit the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Given its place in the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church, we find ourselves on the threshold of Great Lent. We are about to reenter its disciplines, prayers, and actions. Yet, these disciplines are to have a place in every day of our lives (as are the joys of Pascha!). The troubles and trials of these days, when approached with faith, watchfulness, prayer, and thanksgiving, can be used to transform us if we encounter them in this manner. By so doing, no matter what these days bring to us, Christ will come to us and manifest his presence in us more fully and completely. Our relational union will be made more sound and whole, and Christ will be our destiny!

The following is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus


Doxology comes from a Greek word: Doxa. It is generally translated as “glory”, or “splendor”.  It can also be translated as “praise” or “honor”. The epistle reading set for the 35th Sunday after Pentecost comes from St. Paul’s first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. The final verse puts forth a doxology (set forth in italics):

The saying is sure and worthy of all acceptance, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” of whom I am the foremost. However, it was for this I received mercy — in order that being the foremost, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his patience for an example to those who are about to believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Tim 1: 15 – 17).

Prior to these three verses, St. Paul lays out his condition to St. Timothy, “…though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim 1: 13). St. Paul describes not only himself, but every human being’s existence prior to coming to faith in Christ and receiving his mercy and forgiveness. He embraced Christ, “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1: 14).

St. Paul’s response to the grace and mercy given to him by Christ was to evangelize a great portion of Rome’s territory. He lived and proclaimed Christ everywhere he went. He also, in response to the grace and mercy he received, gave praise to Christ and to God the Father as we read in the above verses. We too are to be doxological in our lives’ responses to the mercy, forgiveness, light and life given to us in our salvation. This apostle, in his letter to the Ephesians, gives us his guidance:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (Eph 5: 15 – 20).

In response to our salvation our lives are to correspond to the ways of Christ in both conduct and attitude — wise, holy living is to be coupled with joy, love and gratitude. A prayer from the First Hour can become a personal prayer: “Let my mouth be filled with your praise, O Lord, that I may sing of your glory and majesty all the day long.” Live doxologically!

The link is to a corresponding homily given 2/7/21:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

By the Blood of Christ

In his epistle to the first century Christians in Ephesus, St. Paul informs Gentile converts to Christ of their spiritual condition prior to coming to the faith:

Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision in the flesh by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus your who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2: 11 – 13, emphasis added).

The Gentile Christians of Ephesus now being in Christ have relationship which was gained by the life giving blood shed by Christ on the Cross.
Then, in another epistle written by St. Paul while imprisoned in Rome, he make this declaration:

He is before all things, and in him all things are held in their proper orders. He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the firstborn from among the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him the fulness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, those things on earth and those things in heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross (Col 1: 17 – 21).

All people and all things are gathered together in Christ, and in him all things once scattered into alienation are drawn into relational union in him. All and all things can now live in peace — in spite of those aspects of life which would otherwise separate us from one another and cause enmity.

Elsewhere, regarding the shed blood of Christ, St. Matthew records these words of Jesus during the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the Covenant, the [blood] which is being poured [ekchunnomenon] out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 28). The Greek word in the passage above is a present, passive participle. The present tense, or better aspect, of a Greek verb / participle generally imparts the meaning of ongoing action. In other words the action is without an implied end. Here, Jesus is stating that his blood contained in the chalice in the Upper Room is continually being poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and, by adding in the meaning of St. Paul’s words fund in Ephesians, it is being poured out for our peace and reconciliation with one another. Where, then, do the faithful of Christ encounter this poured out blood of our Lord? This continually poured out blood (and continually broken body of our Lord, see Luke 22: 19 – 20) is encountered in the Eucharist! When the Church, in faith, gathers together in eucharistic worship of our Lord, we are a living picture and reality of the peace won for us by the shedding of his blood.

I return to the epistle to the Ephesians:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us [Jew and Gentile] both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two [Jew and Gentile], so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end (Eph 2: 13 – 16).

In the day of the writing of the New Testament there was no greater social divide in the mind of any Jew, including St. Paul, than that between Jew and Gentile. And throughout the New Testament this division, and its end, is laid out to the reader.

All and all things once in alienation, sin, death, and darkness are gathered together in peaceful relationship, holiness, life, and light in Christ Jesus as St. Paul informs us. But, he knew that this union in Christ must be manifested in the life of the Church: Jewish and Gentile believers must live in loving union — even with all the potential flare-ups of conflict and misunderstanding. Life in Christ means life in union in spite of differences. There is only one Church.

In this third decade of the twenty-first century, societal divisions exist, and they are profound. We as a nation are living on a societal powder keg with far too many people — of all political persuasions — are playing with matches. The political divisions are so great we may face, if a center is not found, a civil war. As a priest I have heard comments such as this: “I don’t even want to be around so-and-so because of his / her politics.” Unbelievable, as if politics can hold any truth or salvation!

Twenty-first century divisions are to be dissolved in the life of the Church — the Body of Christ — as his Body comes together in peace to receive his Body and Blood of the Eucharist. St. Paul teaches us again from his letter to the Colossians: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which [peace] also you were called in one body. And become thankful [kai eucharistoi ginesthe]” (Col 3: 15). Let me add — become eucharists!


In Christ and in Peace,
Fr. Irenaeus

Through the Narrow Door

In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul informs us that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” St. Paul writes of the saints of the Old Testament, and those — perhaps even recently martyred by the Empire — of great faith in the early Church. This cloud of witnesses has expanded over the centuries of the Church. No matter in which country or era, the saints have one thing in common — a heroic faith in Christ that allowed them, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, to deny themselves, and strive to have Christ formed in their lives as they grew in the Christian faith.

Their holiness didn’t come about by binge-watching a Netflix or BritBox serials ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The formation of Christ in their lives came with difficulty, great struggle, and many frustrations, as they moved to ultimate victory in our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the thirteenth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel we read this: “And someone said to him, ‘will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, ‘Struggle [agonizesthe] to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not able to enter.’” (Luke 13:23 – 24). The Greek verb found in the text, agonizesthai, can be translated “to struggle”, “to fight”, to “compete” (as an athlete). Think of great athletes and musicians who succeeded in accomplishing their goals. There were tears of anguish, setbacks, failures, aches and pains. But they continued in discipline and struggle that others wouldn’t (or couldn’t) attempt. Their rewards were their recognized victories.

As we move on in the gospel text, Jesus continues,

When the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us.” He will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!” There you will weep and gnash your teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south and sit at table in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13: 25 – 29).

Jesus speaks against those who presume — in this case many Jews of his day. But such deadly presumption is found elsewhere and among others today, perhaps even in ourselves.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we do, we cannot presume that all things will “be just be fine.”

Jesus Christ conquers

Jesus Christ conquers

Again we must struggle and fight — against such lazy presumption — to grow in faith, purity, and love. We must all struggle in accordance with the measure of faith given to us. Also, we must understand that while we compete in this struggle we will fall down and fail many times. When this happens we have the sacrament of Confession by which God lifts us up and cleanses us to continue on our way through the narrow door. We are also given the Liturgy’s movement to the Eucharist where, by the Body and Blood of Christ, we are, by faith, nourished spiritually, cleansed and forgiven, and we receive our Lord’s Light, Life, and Victory to continue on through the narrow door. We must know that, by faith, God empowers us by his presence within us: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who is working in you to will and to work in behalf of his good pleasure” (Phil 2: 12 – 13).

Additionally, we are also struggling and competing together — not against one another — but for one another. We encourage and help each other by our prayers and presence while we struggle to enter through the narrow door to enter into the Kingdom of God.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

…But Christ Lives in Me

In his letter to the Church in Galatia, St. Paul wrote these incredible words: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal 2: 20). This declaration comes after his arguments are made against the teachings made by certain Jews who came to faith in Christ. These Jews demanded that Gentile Christians take on circumcision and live according to the Law of Moses. St. Paul firmly states the opposite: salvation only comes through faith in Christ, not by adhering to the Law: “…a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ…” (Gal 2 16).
St. Paul, after the above statement, continues,

For I, through the Law, died to the Law, in order that I might live to God. I was crucified together with Christ: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith through the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2: 19 – 20).

“I was crucified together (sunestauromai) with Christ…” These words imply union. When Christ died by crucifixion on the cross St. Paul was also there in that moment. He too was suspended on that wood. And so are we who live today. His and our union with Christ’s crucifixion is brought about by the sacrament of Baptism. We read this in St. Paul’s letter to the ancient Roman church:

Therefore, we were buried together (sunetaphemen) with him through baptism (dia tou baptismos) [this phrase in the genitive case shows that baptism is the agent by which this union is brought about for us], in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

We can walk in newness of life because Christ is living in us through faith and by sacrament.

St. Paul is speaking of a true relational, ontological, union: We are in Christ; Christ is in us. This is an abiding relationship. It is the ultimate good for humanity and creation: we are to be in Christ! Yet, we cannot leave this as simply a theological truth. If left as such, this profound existence becomes a meaningless abstraction. Being in Christ must have a goal. This goal is to have Christ manifested to the world by our lives! This is a lofty goal; a tall order.

This expression cannot be brought about by vain human effort. Christ manifested by our lives can only come about by the fact that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit resides in us by faith and sacrament. By God working in us is this accomplished. We cannot be passive. We must cooperate with the God who dwells in us. We must do to become.
Let me give a physical illustration. I play the guitar. Simply buying a guitar did not make me a player of the instrument. I struggled (and still struggle to be better) to acquire the needed skills. New neuromuscular connections and pathways had to be created, and are still being created by practice. Whatever the goal, we must work and struggle. This leads to PRAXIS — what one does, because this is who you are.

St. Paul gives this command to us: “…with fear and trembling work out your salvation, for God is the one working (energon) in you both to will and to work (energein) in behalf of his good pleasure. The word in italics, work, implies the divine work of God himself in us — it is his energy. This is possible because the Triune God indwells, touches, and transforms us when we cooperate with this will and working of God.

To my Protestant brothers and sisters let me be clear: we Orthodox Christians do not teach that we merit the salvation given to humanity by all accomplished by Christ when he walked this earth. Salvation is a free gift from God. But, Christ’s salvation and life is to be worked into us that Christ might expand in us, live in us, and be recognized in us by what we do in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus


The Feeding of the 5,000 – A Typology and Unity

In this eighth week after Pentecost, we have as the Gospel reading St. Matthew’s account of the miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mt 14: 14 -22). This miracle comes after the execution of St. John the Baptist. Upon hearing the news of his cousin’s death, Jesus, by boat, departs to a deserted place alone with his disciples. But his solitude did not last long — a large crowd followed him from the surrounding towns and villages. Looking at the crowd’s condition, Jesus has mercy on them and heals their illnesses.

The hour grows late, and the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd that they might buy food in the surrounding villages. But, Jesus has something different in mind. He offers a surprising and perplexing suggestion to them: “You give them something to eat!” Only five loaves of bread and two fish were in in the disciples’ possession. This limited supply did not hinder our Lord’s next action: in that grassy area he commanded the crown to sit down. Jesus not only healed their illness, but intended to feed them to their satisfaction. He served them not only the simple staples of bread and fish, but gave of himself (in typological fashion) to those reclining to be filled and sustained. The five loaves of bread point to him because Jesus the Bread of Life. Additionally, the two fish also refer to him: the Greek word ichthus (fish) was understood by the early Church to serve as this acronym, Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.

With what is laid out at this point, I ask one to think of the Last Supper (which serves as the institution of the Eucharist). Jesus’ actions are similar in this miraculous feeding. He takes the gifts offered to him, and after he looks up to heaven, he blessed them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute to those awaiting a meal. I find in agreement with this understand of this miracle in the words an apostle who was with Christ that day. St. John, in the sixth chapter of his gospel, sees this parallel and alters Jesus’ actions in the Feeding of the 5,000 to correspond directly to his actions in the Last Supper. If one examines St. Mark’s account of the Last Supper, one will note that St. John has Jesus’ words and actions to correspond to his actions and words found in St. Mark’s recording of the Last Supper (refer to another posting of mine which details this subject in detail Brief Commentaries on St. John Chapter Six, Part One: The Feeding of the 5,000 (6: 1 – 15)). With the above in mind, we can imagine Jesus saying quietly to himself: “Take, eat, this is my Body which will soon be broken…”

The Eucharist offers its own similarities: the actions of bishops and priests are the same with the Bread which has become his Body for our holy consumption. We have this from the Divine Liturgy in the part of the Anaphora knowns the Fractioning: “Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God: broken yet not divided; ever eaten yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake thereof.”

There are other parallels. As that crowd assembled from differing places to be before Christ, so do we assemble before Christ from differing places. We assemble together to come before Christ as the Body of Christ. Here, in and as the Church, the assembled ONE Body of Christ will receive by faith the ONE Body and Blood of Christ.  We assemble together before Christ: young, old; male, female; tall, short; working, retired; of varied races, ethnicities, and life experiences. We share the Peace of Christ together as ONE Body to receive his ONE Body and Blood.

Let’s examine St. Paul’s epistle which was read and heard today (1 Corinthians 1: 10 – 18). In this reading we learn that in ancient Corinth there were divisions stemming from the question, who was baptized by whom? The faithful in that city were missing the big picture: no matter who baptized them, they were all baptized into Christ. St. Paul calls them out on their divisions as he would call us out on today’s cultural, societal, economic, and WORSE — political divisions. Such divisions, especially political divisions, have no place here, and will ultimately be of no importance when we stand before Christ enthroned!

Recently at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church two of our deacons’ sermons have addressed divisions, opinions, and the need to uphold and support one another in our common life together in Christ. We are all in Christ, and make up his one Body, the Church. So, whether assembled together for the Eucharist, or scattered back to homes and work places, we are to uphold one another in spite of differences. This is our calling, that we, the ONE Body of Christ can, in love, peace, and strength, always come together to receive in love and peace the ONE Body and Blood of Christ who is our Lord, God, and Savior.

The following is a link to the corresponding sermon:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

Sunday of the Blind Man — Seeing with New Eyes

Today is the sixth Sunday of Pascha, and we read from St. John 9: 1- 38, and learn of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. This restoration of sight is the sixth sign that is reported in St. John’s Gospel. This miraculous sign occurs “that the works of God might be manifested in him.”

His healing takes place in a sacramental manner: Jesus “anoints (chrismates)” him from clay made by the mixing of Jesus’ saliva (the saliva of God) with clay on the ground (we have the union of divine and material). Jesus then instructs him to have his eyes “baptized” by washing off the anointed clay from his eyes in the Pool of Siloam. “He went and washed and came back seeing” (9: 7). With his new vision he encounters Christ:

Jesus heard that they cast him out [of the Synagogue], and when he finds him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And he answered and said, “And who is he, Lord, that I might believe in him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” And he said, “I believe, Lord!” and he worshipped him (9: 35 – 38).

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Brief Commentaries on St. John Chapter Six, Part Four: The Poetic Parallelism of St. John 6: 50 – 51

Ancient authors wrote differently than modern authors of poetry, prose and narrative. The ancient authors wrote using fixed forms that aided in imparting meaning and emphasis. These forms were also employed to aid in memorization of their works. These fixed forms abound in the Christian Scriptures — both Old and New Testaments. One such literary form is parallelism. Parallelism is found throughout the poetry of the Old Testament, and then especially in the Psalms. These poetic structures can also be found in the New Testament, and one such example can be found in St. John 6: 50 – 51. Before examining this text, let’s first consider the three basic types of parallelism found in the Scriptures: synonymous, antithetical, and synthetic/stair-step (although scholars can define other types in addition to these three). I quote from Psalms — Reading and Studying the Book of Praises by W. H. Bellinger, Jr. (Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 13.

Synonymous parallelism. The second line enhances the thought of the first by way of closely related statement:
What is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him? (Ps 8:4)…
Antithetical parallelism. The second line may complete a thought by presenting a contrast to the first line:
For the wicked shall be cut off;
but those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land. (Ps 37:9)…
[Synthetic] Stair-step parallelism. The second line may continue the thought of the first and take it a step further:
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods. (Ps 95:3)

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The Kingdom of God Is In Your Midst! A Brief Commentary on St. Luke 17: 21

Christ Enthroned

Well over a decade ago I encountered a man who was rejecting the Church (though he was not a parishioner of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church which I serve as an assisting priest). He quoted a verse from St. Luke’s gospel to justify his departure from the Church. The verse that was shoved in my face comes from St. Luke 17:21, “…The Kingdom of God is within you.” Knowing Greek I tried to offer a correction to his misapplied verse. It did not work. Justifying himself he left the life of the Church and will not return. His conviction was that since the Kingdom of God was within him he needed no one to instruct him, and had no need to follow the ways of Christ within the context of the sacramental life and teachings of the Church. He wanted spiritual autonomy simply because he wanted to continue in an adulterous affair.

This verse from St. Luke’s gospel has been and is misused by many to justify many things — none of them come to any good. With this posting I offer a much better translation and interpretation of St. Luke 17:21. Let’s begin with the context. Jesus has gathered around him both Pharisees and his disciples: he is in the midst of this gathering. Given this setting we read this,

Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, He answered them, “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ Behold the Kingdom of God is in your midst (he basileia tou theou entos humon estin).

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The Rich Ruler (A Man Who Could Not Give)

We read of a wealthy ruler’s encounter with Christ in St. Luke’s gospel.  He begins a conversation with him by his question, “What shall I do that I might inherit eternal like?”  By their dialogue we learn that he kept all the rules. However, Jesus moves deeper: “Yet, there is one thing you still lack.  Sell everything you have, and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me” (18:22)

This wealthy man had to give.  But, he had to give from the core of his being.  His whole identity was in his wealth. He was defined by his wealth.  His wealth sheltered him, clothed him well, fed him well. By it he was able to move through life with status, privilege, ease, and comfort.  But the cost was too dear.

We are asked to give — usually not to the same extent — but we are to give.  We can write a check, contribute on-line, or drop some cash in a box. Quite easy, and we don’t break a sweat.  But, as was the wealthy ruler, we are sometimes asked to give from a deeper place, a costlier place. What might this mean?  Let’s look to Jesus for the answer. He gave himself, he emptied himself — all done that he could receive us to himself in relational union with him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

What prevents us from giving in this manner?  Self preservation. I refer to Jesus’ words found earlier in St. Luke’s gospel:  “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (St. Luke 9: 24).  It seems then, that ultimately we must give from that place we keep locked up tight and secure for our self preservation. It is from this vault that we need to reach into when called upon from time to time.

Again remember our Lord:  he was self-giving, and other-receiving.  This transaction of self is eucharistic.  In the Eucharist, Christ gives himself anew to us via the bread which becomes his Body and the wine which becomes his Blood.  In the Eucharist we have Christ welcoming us to himself as we move to his Banquet Table. We, by consuming his Body and Blood, have Christ entering into our being, and we are joined more fully to Christ.  Thus, when we give of ourselves to and for others, and we receive others to ourselves, we extend to Eucharist to all and all things. Ultimately by this type of giving we receive Christ more fully into our lives.

I am reminded of the words of St. Francis:  “It is in giving that we receive…” The wealthy man, had he given, would have received far more in return than that which he had to give up.  He would have received Christ in return. Let us give eucharistically that we may gain Christ more fully.

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

The Thankful Leper

ten-lepers-iconSt. Luke’s gospel gives us the account of Jesus’ healing of ten lepers (17: 11 – 19).  They stood at a distance as he passed by — they were unclean, excised from society by their disease from all relationships and cultural participation.  They were exiles in their own land. Yet, by faith, they boldly call out for God’s mercy to come upon them. And Jesus responds to their plea: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  St. Luke comments, “And as they went they were cleansed.” Their bodies were restored, and their stigma was washed away. They were restored to family, community, and communal worship.

All obeyed.  They did precisely as they were told.  Let me be clear, obedience to God’s command and will is always good!  But, we should be honest with ourselves: sometimes it is minimal and superficial.  It can be as a child’s response, “If I have to!”

As the text moves on we read,

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.  Now, he was a Samaritan (17: 15 – 16).

The tenth, now healed, leper awakens to his salvation, and he responds to his healing with praise, worship, and thanks.  This foreign leper responded to Jesus eucharisticallly. Jesus observes the contrast and remarks,

…Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?  And he said to him, Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well (17:17 – 19).

Let’s consider obedience and duty in the context, first, of the worship of God in the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.  We have responded to the call to worship when we assemble within the walls of the church. This is good — neither did we sleep in on a Sunday morning, nor stay home to relax, or watch the game.  This is good. But as stated above, sometimes our obedient assembly can be minimal and superficial. We need to be mindful that by our presence in the Divine Liturgy we’ve assembled to worship and praise the Triune God, and to give thanks to our God.  We read this dialogue between priest and the faithful from the beginning of the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy:

Priest:  Let us lift up our hearts. 

People:  We lift them up to the Lord.

Priest:  Let us give thanks to the Lord.

People:  It is proper and right.

The priest then continues,

It is proper and right to hymn You, to bless You, to give thanks to You, and to worship You in every place of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.  You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us Your kingdom which is to come. For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that you have bestowed upon us.  We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands…

From this we learn that we are to give thanks to God not only during our assembly for worship, but also “…in every place of your dominion.”  Now, in this second context, we are to give thanks to God everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances in which we find ourselves. St. Paul instructs us from his first letter to the faithful in first century Thessalonica:  “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all things; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thes 5: 16 – 18). By this attitude and these actions we extend our worship of God from the context of the Divine Liturgy to the context of our every day lives.  We are to rejoice, pray, and give thanks to God in every situation: the pleasant and the uncomfortable; the exciting and the mundane; the happy and the sad; in ease and in frustration.  

By living doing so we live eucharistically.  By doing so we are transformed more fully into the image of God — Christ is form fully formed in us.  By doing so we manifest Christ into the circumstance and transform it. By doing so we live as the thankful tenth leper.

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

Confess or Deny

With this posting, I am either a few weeks late or several months early. Its text comes from a portion of St. Matthew’s gospel appointed for All Saints Day (the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Orthodox Church), and I focused on Mt 10: 32 – 33 which reads,

Therefore, whoever shall confess me before men, I also shall confess him before my Father who is in the heavens. But, whoever might deny me before men, I also shall deny him before my Father who is in the heavens.

Homologein is the Greek word for “to confess.” It can also be translated as admit, declare, promise, and even give thanks / praise. Beyond this lexical fact, however, there is a class of saints known as Confessors. These are men and women who did not deny Christ under the conditions of persecution, trial, torture, or any form of adversity. St. Maximus the Confessor is one who comes to mind. But, whether confessor, martyr, or one who died peacefully, all the saints confessed Christ by their holy lives.

In the Great Litany we find this prayer: “For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger and necessity, let us pray to the Lord.” We don’t want a climate of persecution, trouble, or adversity because we may fail. We may deny Christ in these situations. Though we pray that overt trials, persecutions, etc., not come our way, yet small trials, testings, and troubles come our way daily. These trials may come in the setting of family, work, in traffic, in school, or in the marketplace. When such small trials come our way, how do we respond? Do we confess Christ with joy, peace, prayer, blessing, and thanksgiving? If so, this is the response of faith and of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Or, do we respond with anger, cursing, and frustration? If so, this is the result of the corruption that still resides in us.  With such responses we deny Christ.

We always have the power to confess Christ. Christ is in us, and we are in Christ — this is a relational union of God’s presence in us — and this is our salvation. Thus, his Life and Light are to prevail in our lives. Hence, we are to confess Christ with kindness, patience, blessing, peace, and thanksgiving before all who witness these confessions of Christ before mankind and all creation. We are to confess that we too may be saints!
St. Paul writes these words in his first letter to the Thessalonian church:

See that no one repays evil for evil, but always pursue the good both for one another and for all. Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things. For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thes 5: 15 – 18).

To confess Christ is always our goal, and by this Christ is more completely formed within us. Many litanies conclude with these words: “Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us O God, by your grace.” Let this be our prayer in all settings, and let us confess Christ daily.

Below is the corresponding homily.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus







The Light of the World

Annually in the Orthodox Church there are commemorations of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. There were seven of them. This Sunday, July 14, 2019, I served as a substitute priest at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Bellingham, Washington for Fr. Michael Tervo. The Greek Orthodox Church focused on the Fourth Council — the Council of Chalcedon — and its Definition of Chalcedon, as penned by Pope Leo the Great. The key statement of this Council involved the hypostatic union — that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. These two natures (divine and human) exist in the one Person of Jesus Christ in an indissoluble union. These two natures, while in union, are, at the same time, never in confusion. This definition is in response to the false teaching of Nestorius. This heretical bishop essentially made Jesus into two separate persons: one divine and one human. There could be no union of the two natures in his mind. Nestorius tried to give the Church a Christ with a multiple personality disorder. His view was rightly rejected and judged as heresy. Jesus is NOT an “either-or,” he is a “both-this-and-that.”

The gospel reading put forward by the Greek Archdiocese comes from Mt 5:14 – 19. Verse 14 grabbed my attention which quotes Jesus: “You are the light of the world…” Elsewhere, in St. John’s gospel, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8: 12). Both statements from the Scriptures are true. It is not an either-or proposition, it is “both-this-and-that.”

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